7 Things: The Fall

Continuing our Year of Faith series “7 Things You Should Know About ________,” here are 7 things you should know about the Fall:

  1. The Hebrew word for serpent (nahash) can mean any long, slithery thing from a dragon to an earthworm. This explains why he’s usually understood as a snake in Genesis (3:1) but a dragon in Revelation (12:3). I wonder if we can take anything from that: while not changing from the evil nature he chose for himself, he did grow from something small into something large through the evil he caused in the world. Aside from that, here’s an amusing thought: What if the fruit of the Garden of Eve was an apple and Satan was the worm inside it?
  2. Nowhere does Genesis say that the fruit Eve took was an apple. The most common theory about this interpretation is that the Latin for apple (malum) is the same as some forms of the Latin for evil (malum). Fortunately for Washington, Minnesota, and Michigan, the apple industry doesn’t seem to be struggling from the association. Then again, sin is American as apple pie.
  3. Well, that myth’s been knocked over.

  4. The fruit was probably a fig. I don’t know about you, but if I was naked and ashamed, I wouldn’t have gone prancing around the garden looking for leaves that best accentuated my accessories. It makes sense that the leaves they covered themselves with were the ones right over their heads. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves” (Gen. 3:7). The crummy thing about fig leaves: the natural latex that comes from them irritates human skin. Itchy.
  5. Speaking of the fruit in the early chapters of Genesis, it’s a central theme to the whole story. When God first created man, He commanded, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) This is not just a nice way of putting it, the Hebrew root for fruitful here is the word for fruit, the same Hebrew root used in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were commanded to be fruitful. In some way, they “ate forbidden fruit” and were punished how? Eve would bear fruit in pain. Adam would toil and sweat to bring forth fruit from the earth. The fruit theme ties the whole thing together. As for the serpent’s punishment (eating dirt), what does Satan do but strike at man? What is man made of? Dirt, of course. (Yes, the same Hebrew word for dirt is used for both man’s matter and the serpent’s food.) Interesting, huh?
  6. Lust, greed, and pride existed right from the beginning as the primary temptations of man. Normally, it’s not bad to eat food because it’s “good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom” (Gen. 3:6), but when Eve pursued those ends against God’s will, she threw her priorities all out of whack. Following the desires of the body (“good for food”) against God’s will is lust. Acquiring what is pleasing to the eyes against God’s will is greed. Seeking wisdom against god’s will is pride. Fortunately, our Catholic faith gives us two sets of solutions to these 3 primal problems: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, which bring humility, self-control, and generosity to fight off pride, lust, and greed, respectively. If that’s not enough, you can always take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which are the 3 evangelical counsels.
  7. The protoevangelium (literally, first gospel) is Genesis 3:15. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at His heel.” In the entire Bible, this is the first promise of a Savior. I always loved the verse because the original wording leaves the gender open so that the last line could also be translated: She will strike at your head, while you strike at her heel.” Jesus and Mary, working together to defeat Satan, prophesied from the beginning.
  8. Adam and Eve had something in common with biker gangs. That is to say, they wore leather garments. After God found them, He dressed them in skins, i.e. animal hides (Gen. 3:21). That’s quite a stark contrast from the peaceful existence animals had previously. It implies that an animal has died, presumably as an atonement sacrifice. Like all sacrifices, those who offer it have to be connected to it in some way. Thus, Adam and Eve wear the skins of the animal. Likewise, we eat the Eucharist that is the selfsame Body of Christ once offered on the cross as our sacrifice. Unfortunate historical note: the Early Church Father Origen, who, though brilliant, wasn’t entirely accurate in his theology, interpreted skins in such a way that led him to believe in dualism, i.e. that Adam and Eve had been spirits, but after sinning, were imprisoned in flesh.

10 Comments

  1. Would you happen to have the reference for your line about Origen in point 7?

    • I’m afraid it’s a fact I retained from the lecture of a visiting professor at FUS during my time there. Perhaps another reader has the reference. I can tell you that since Origen believed in the pre-existence of the soul, it’s not hard to imagine he would’ve seen the body as an unnatural addition to the soul.

  2. Bettie Carmody /

    Scripture says it was God who provided the skins, not Eve.

  3. Francine /

    As to the last one, of God dressing them in skins, it could also mean (no, I don’t believe it, but I’m not accepting the snake being a worm, either!) that He gave Adam & Eve animal fur to replace their actual skin. How much ‘hair’ did they have before the Fall?

    I’ve always wondered what the snake’s abilities were before the Fall, if God’s punishment for it was that it would crawl on its belly and eat dirt (perchance instead of eating apples?).

    • I meant the snake as a worm to be humor only. ;-)

      A lot of Christian art depicts the serpent with legs before the Fall. That may answer your question. As for eating dirt, what is it Satan does for all time? He tempts man. What is man made of? ;-)

  4. I love this piece — it’s going to be something I keep with me as I work my lectio through Lent. Thank you! I linked to it here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2013/02/06/who-knew-john-316-answers-genesis-31-6/

  5. Mark Thompson /

    Actually, since snakes don’t eat dirt but worms do, translating the word as “worm” would cause God’s curse of that animal to make more sense.

    • I think worm is an unlikely meaning, but I suspect the thought of snakes “eating” dirt comes from their “licking” dirt, which, if memory serves, is really how they sense prey.

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