Blame

by , under church, readings

(Repost from 2008 but relevant every year.)

Here is a very good blog post about the Liturgy of the Presanctified.

First Friday. With the story of the Fall, one of my favourite bits of Genesis:

Genesis 2:20-3:20

So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
So the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

This is the New King James translation, which I usually like a lot. I have some issues with the translation of this section, though; especially the capitalisation of “your seed and her Seed … you shall bruise His heel” showing the translator’s bias. The Dutch translation I read from has the equivalent of “your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head and you shall bruise its heel”, which is more universal, less prophetic, altogether more sensible, in my opinion.

But that wasn’t the point I was going to make. The reason that I like this reading is the story-shape, the symmetry of it. The serpent tempts Eve and Eve tempts Adam; when God calls Adam to task, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. The serpent, poor thing, has nobody to blame so he gets the worst deal– not that Adam and Eve are all that much better off.

Note that Adam is also blaming God: “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” It sounds almost petulant. Almost? It does sound petulant. Adam, at this stage, is not an adult. I know I ought to consider the Fall a bad thing, but it did force humans to grow up.