This sixth Bible Study on the book of Genesis covers the creation of Eve on the sixth day of Creation. In it we discuss several relevant topics including the status of Adam and Eve in the Church, the meaning of Eve's creation from the rib of Adam, experiences of God in Scripture, relationships between parents and children, the makeup of man, the role of desire and pleasure in the spiritual life, and much more.
Below we present both the audio and text of the Bible Study:
Last time we talked about the creation of Adam. What do you remember?
Student: There is a huge difference between animals and people even in terms of how he was created.
Firstly, of course, because we have a soul from God. Animals have a life-force that lets them move about, but we have a soul that communes with God. Even in his body man is different, because, although man and animals both came from the ground, God shows that He has more care for us by saying Let us make man and taking dust and forming it with His own “hands.” And we said that the body of man is specifically suited to the soul of man which communes with God, which animals don’t have.
Sts. Adam and Eve
But we didn’t get to talk about the creation of Eve, our foremother. Even more than that, we can call her our holy Foremother, and Adam our holy Forefather. Did you know this? Adam and Eve are considered to be saints in the Church, and a lot of people don’t know this. On the two Sundays before Nativity we celebrate all of the righteous from the Old Testament and Adam and Eve are named by name in the hymns and in the Synaxarion. That means they were real people. As we emphasize a lot here, there are people who think they are just symbols, but that’s blasphemous because the Church says they are saints. You can even take their names in Baptism and have them as your patron saint. Does someone named Adam have no patron? St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the second century, says it was the teaching of Gnostic heretics that Adam was not saved, whereas the Church teaches his redemption. Of course they were the first sinners, but you can always repent. Obviously this means they are real people.
Let’s read about the creation of Eve:
2:21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 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. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
That man is greater than the animals
And we should say that right before this God had said that it’s not good for man to be alone and He brings the animals to Adam, but after that Eve is created. God showed all the animals to Adam and he realized they are unequal to us and cannot be our helpers. We talked about people who want to live today like animals, or think that we’re equal. Right from the very beginning we see that we are not equal. Man needed a woman, not animals.
Student 1: Have you noticed that there is a fashion now to make your face into that of an animal, with surgery, or there are programs where you can see how your face looks as an animal, and even in shop windows we see the bodies of humans with the heads of animals. There is a tendency now in the world to equate humans and animals. There is a psychology of this image subconsciously influencing us.
Student 2: But it’s not a new idea. You can see from ancient mythology mixtures of humans and animals.
Student 1: But those were terrible things. They had terrible qualities.
An important point is that Christianity came along and defeated these ideas. I’m sure they always existed somewhere, but Christianity made these silly ideas fade away, but now they’re coming back.
Student 2: Because the author is still alive.
Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh
Adam realizes the animals are not his helper so God creates a woman. A deep sleep comes upon him and she is taken from his rib. Just as we’ve said with all of the other creations, like animals and man coming out of dust, this is how it literally happened. She was taken not out of the dust but out of man. Later Scripture interprets this literally. 1 Timothy 2:13 specifically says that Adam was formed first and then Eve. This is clearly not a scientific process. We can’t try to understand the creation of man through natural processes. Obviously all of us came from a mother, but the beginning of mankind is other than that. Man came first. Feminists hate that, but Eve came out of his side, being exactly the same as him in nature. The Fathers say this shows she is equal. She is even shown to be man’s partner. We shouldn’t say she fulfills Adam, because God fulfills us, but Adam needs her. So this is totally literal—she came out of his rib.
 And then we all come from Noah as well, so we’re all distant cousins! This is important. You have to say this. When Satan fell and took one third of the angels with him, not all of the angels fell, but, when Adam and Eve sinned, all of human nature fell. Every person after them is fallen because of them, precisely because we all come from them and get our nature form them, whereas angels don’t descend from one another. Some people say there was a whole human population and Adam and Eve are just two people used to represent this group, but that means we don’t all come from Adam and Eve and we wouldn’t inherit their fallenness. We’d be more like the angels, with only those coming from the fallen ones being fallen, and maybe some other would fall later as well.
Student: If there would have been other people who didn’t sin, we wouldn’t see them because they wouldn’t have been exiled from Paradise.
That’s true, and maybe Paradise would still be on earth. These ideas create so many weird questions that make no sense in theology. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden, and we know that the Garden is not here on earth in the same way anymore, but if people were still in it maybe we could still go there and see it. It’s absurd. When Adam and Eve were kicked out, the Garden was still there, reminding them of what they lost, and some Fathers talk about them standing at the gate and weeping and lamenting and repenting of their sins, but eventually Paradise, as man forgot God, left the earth. It’s out there somewhere. Saints go to the Garden, but it’s not on earth in the same sense, although it was truly on earth.
From their sides come their brides
So God puts Adam into this trance or deep sleep, and from his side comes Eve, his bride. As with everything in the Scriptures this speaks to us of Christ. The Fathers tell us that sleep is an image of death, because it is when the body gets tired and worn out and needs to recuperate, and death is when the body is so worn out that it can’t recover. Sleep is like a little death. Adam is put to sleep and out comes his bride, and Christ is put to death on the Cross, which is the ultimate sleep, and when they stab Him with the spear out comes blood and water, and this represents the Sacraments and the birth of the Church. We enter into the Church through water in Baptism, and His Blood is the Eucharist which makes us ever more into the Church, like Him. In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ wept and sweated blood, which parallels to the Garden of Eden.
The Venerable Bede says,
In regard to the fact that the woman was made from the side of the man, we can suppose that it was proper for it to be done in this way for the sake of commending the strength of that union. But the fact that it happened to the man while he was sleeping, that after the bone was removed flesh was filled up in its place, was done for the sake of a deeper mystery. For it was signified that the sacraments of salvation were to come out from the side of Christ on the cross by the death of the sleeping one, namely the blood and water, from which his bride, the Church, would be founded. For if so great a sacrament were not to be prefigured in the creation of the woman, what need was there for Adam to have slept, so that God might take his rib from which to make the woman, who could do the same thing to him while he was both awake and not suffering?
God specifically put him to sleep and pulled it out of his side in order to prefigure what would come on the Cross. God already knew.
There is also a parallel in that Adam is put to sleep and awakes to find a woman, and Christ is put to sleep, in the sense that He dies, and He awakes to find the women at the tomb. And these faithful women, and especially His Mother, are a good image of the Church, because His disciples had fled while they remained faithful. And the Church is also feminine as the Bride. It’s another parallel between Christ and the Church.
Death that precedes life
As always, the Fathers don’t just tell us how everything happened, but use all as a means to glorify God. St. John Chrysostom marvels at how great is the power of God, if He can take just one bone and from it make an entire human being! Obviously we cannot do this. God can create people from dust and He can create people from ribs.
An ordered creation
Adam names her, just as he had named the animals. To give the name of something means to have dominion over and to be the head of. Although men and women are equal there is still an order. Man came first, woman came from him, Adam named her—there is an order in creation. Of course we like women; we’re just not fanatical feminists. And Adam didn’t just hand out names that he happened to like, but because of his closeness with God he had the ability to understand the inner essence and principle of all things, and to give a name that fits that.
Faith and science
Student: Have you seen some quotes from the ancient saints that prove that the earth is flat?
There is an important distinction that we need to understand, that we talked about in earlier classes. There are times where the Fathers refer to the science of their day. They were men of their times and knew the science. But whether the earth is flat or round has no theological importance, so even if they said it, they weren’t teaching theology as coming from the Church. St. Anastasius of Sinai and St. Basil and some others even specifically say that these questions about shapes and placement and movement of planets are not matters for the Church—the Church doesn’t care. They might use this information because it’s what people knew at the time. Interestingly, it’s when the Fathers refer to science that they tend to be wrong. Where they differ from the science of their day they say they are teaching theology, from God. Even if they thought the earth was flat it’s because modern science said so and it didn’t touch upon theology.
As we’ve said, Adam and Eve are literal saints, and as we’ve also said, they are symbols of all mankind, because they were the first people. When we interpret Scripture with the Church Fathers we don’t have to choose between levels of interpretation. But with modern science and evolution Adam and Eve cannot be literal, because evolution happens in whole populations, or you have to say that God evolved some ape-like animals and picked out two to become human. This is just clearly not what the Church says. The Church doesn’t make us choose levels of interpretation but rather harmonizes them all together.
Student: What language did Adam use to name all the animals?
I don’t know. We know the whole world spoke one language before the Tower of Babel, but I don’t know if the Fathers have an answer for what language they were speaking.
Student: And what does the name Adam mean?
It’s related to the word for ground, or red clay. Eve means “life” because she is the mother of all living.
I’m always contrasting with the Fathers with modern science where necessary, but sometimes it really seems like the Fathers were already inspired to do this for us, not even knowing the modern science, although there were similar ideas. Clement of Alexandria specifically says that no mortal being was the father of Adam. So no human gave birth to Adam, and no almost-human animal gave birth to Adam. No mortal is his father. There were theories in their time that humans used to be animals. The Fathers know these theories and reject them as ridiculous. As we’ve been emphasizing, man and animals are totally different even just in man’s body.
Reverence for mystery and the lack thereof
Student: I think we cannot figure out how it really was because the material and everything was totally different when it was touched by God. So it’s stupid to make a picture of how it was done exactly. It’s like the Resurrection which we can’t understand and can’t go deep into. We have to take it on faith.
The Fathers say, as I’ve quoted them directly in previous lessons, when there are things that the Scriptures don’t tell us about, don’t try to figure them out. If you needed to know then the Scriptures would tell you. But people today love to try to figure out every little detail. But what’s the point? Even if these theories were true, what good does it do us? The only practical purpose to creating stories about the past is that it replaces the Christian understanding. For instance, you can understand how modern medicine works now, based on your research and experiments of our present time, and that can help us to develop medicine into the future, but you don’t have to take those understanding that we glean from our research and use them to create stories about the past. What difference does it make if I believe I’m related to an ape or not? To be a Creationist obviously doesn’t hinder me from studying the world as it is. So trying to figure out every single detail is something the Fathers tell us not to do, and the people who are doing that are doing it to replace Christianity. There’s no other purpose.
Parents and children
Student 1: A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife—this is interesting.
Student 2: I’ve met lots of fathers and mothers who say the purpose of their life is their children.
They need to be able to let their children go to form their own families.
Student 2: Yes, because the Scriptures say a man shall leave his father and mother and join his wife.
This is a very modern idea—what’s the point of your life? To reproduce. That’s an evolutionary mindset, because in that system what else is there? The purpose of your life is to make more people whose only purpose is to make more people. It makes no sense.
Student 1: Both the parents and children suffer from this understanding.
Student 2: And it’s curious that they should say their lives are their children, but at the same time they sometimes kill their children by abortion, because they’re not ready to live for this child now, but they want to prepare for another one.
We can see there that even if they say their life is about their child, it’s really about them. Pride is at the root; they can’t bring themselves to let go of their child, and in that instance they don’t want the responsibility of a child. It’s two manifestations of the same pride. This is the root of all of our problems. Adam and Eve fell because of self-will and pride. Satan tempted us because he’s proud, and we listened because we’re proud.
The makeup of man and the “theologumena” fad
So we’ve talked about the creation of man’s body and his spiritual nature, and depending on what you read, you can say man has either a di-partite or a tri-partite nature. And of course, even when it seems like the Fathers are contradicting they do not! They are just using different terms. Man has a material nature and a spiritual nature and there’s his two parts. Those Fathers who say that man has three parts of course agree that man is body and soul, but divide the soul into two aspects for examination.
Student: So what about theologumena [theological opinions]?
Dr. Christopher Veniamin, who was a spiritual child of Elder Sophrony and studied in Greece with Fr. John Romanides and then in England with Met. Kallistos Ware, and I also asked Fr. Theodore Zisis who used to teach at the University in Thessaloniki and is considered a strong, conservative Orthodox theologian, and is one of the ones now speaking out about the upcoming Council, and they both said this concept of theologumena is not a helpful one. The Fathers are saints and often clergy and their “job” is to teach what the Church says, so they don’t just go around offering opinions. They tell us what God says. It may look like they contradict but we can’t see the harmony because we’re not on the same spiritual level as them. A fundamental principle that Dr. Christopher taught us at seminary is that when we can’t understand a passage of Scripture or in the Fathers, or when it seems they contradict, don’t judge—just put the text down and come back to it later. First look at yourself and ask why you can’t see the harmony. Fr. Seraphim talks about this and this is one of the reasons I love him—he looks for the harmony first.
Student 1: So why is there such a term if we shouldn’t trust it?
It’s a very recent term. I think it’s maybe a hundred years old and it wasn’t an Orthodox theologian that came up with it.
Student 2: It was Harnack—a Protestant.
St. Maximus has a book called the Ambiguum where people would show him a passage from Scripture or from the Fathers, especially St. Gregory the Theologian, that were hard to understand. St. Maximus never says, “Oh, St. Gregory just made a mistake here.” He always finds a way to harmonize it with the other Fathers and the Scriptures. He doesn’t allow that St. Gregory made a mistake. St. John of Damascus has a book called The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. What did St. John of Damascus write that we don’t believe? I don’t think there’s anything. Do we question anything from St. Gregory Palamas? I don’t think so. If you think the Fathers contradict then blame yourself first. Go pray about it and talk to an elder, and repent. Maybe there are some minor differences, but don’t let that be your first thought.
Student: The teachings of di-partite and tri-partite complement one another. The division in two parts is a substantial division, and in three parts is functional—how man manifests himself in life.
I like that explanation. We can see that there are lower and higher aspects to the spiritual nature. Things like emotions and imagination are not material. You can’t point to anger. But there is the higher part of our spiritual nature that communes with God—the nous, the heart. There’s a part of man that speaks and learns directly from God. We learn from our senses and formulate ideas but when we open ourselves to God we get information directly from Him, noetically. So two-parts and three-parts harmonize.
On the soul
St. Gregory Palamas says that the soul is something great, wondrous and superior to the entire world. It overlooks the universe, it has all things in its care, is capable of knowing and receiving God, and has the capacity to manifest the sublime magnificence of the Master Craftsman. We can say this about nothing else in creation. Man has care for the whole universe because his spiritual nature makes him the image of God.
The soul itself can also be broken down into three parts or three energies or three functions. There is the intelligent, incensive/irascible, and the appetitive/desiring aspects. The incensive or irascible aspect is where we talk about wrath, anger, and malice. All of these aspects of the soul are meant to be used properly or in accordance with nature, including anger. How can we properly use anger?
Student 1: Against evil.
Student 2: Against our sins.
The proper way to use this aspect of the soul is against evil, demons themselves, and especially against our sins. The Scriptures say to be angry and sin not (Eph. 4:26). Usually when we think about anger it is a sin. I get angry because you hurt my feelings and really that’s because I’m proud and I don’t want to hear your opinion. But you can have righteous anger—anger that someone has blasphemed God. You should feel angry against blasphemy, and especially against our own sins. Do everything with prayer.
The intelligent aspect, or logistikon, which is related to “logos,” is meant to keep the other two in check, in balance. It should be the highest functioning part and ordering man. This is how Christ lived and how the saints lived and how Adam and Eve were, but in the Fall this was reversed. The highest part of our spiritual nature that communes directly with God was in control of all of us, but at the Fall we inwardly turned inside out and upside down, and now our baser, bodily needs and emotions and passions control us. I could become angry or sad or upset about something and say “Forget it! I’m going to bed without saying any prayers!” and so these lower aspects deaden our spiritual aspect.
Student: So either the higher or lower can be in control, but things like the emotions are in-between or neutral then?
Yes, they are neutral—it depends on which aspect you are allowing to rule. If anything is directed towards God it’s good. Adam and Eve were given fruit to eat and it was a pleasure for them, but it was a spiritual pleasure as a gift from God. They were grateful and exalted God in their minds and souls. They didn’t focus on the thing itself. This kind of pleasure is implanted in our nature at the Fall. We eat the fruit just because it’s delicious, but not because we need to eat or because we want to glorify God. This is a very easy sin of course. It’s not a sin to enjoy and have favorite foods, but we must always remember that God is so good.
On spiritual detachment
But it’s even higher to be detached.
Student: Not to take food for pleasure but just to live and say thank you to God.
Student: It’s impossible, I think.
It’s not impossible! Don’t say that! The whole point of Christ becoming man was to make such things possible. There’s a great story about Fr. Seraphim. Some people were visiting the monastery and helped prepare dinner. They decided to give everyone a scoop of ice cream for dessert. The monastery, and especially in Fr. Seraphim’s time, is very strict. When Fr. Seraphim cooked he would make spaghetti with plain sauce without any spices or herbs. He made what he needed to live. But these visitors decided to give everyone vanilla ice cream, but also to play a trick on Fr. Seraphim. Everyone else got ice cream, but they gave Fr. Seraphim a scoop of mashed potatoes, just to see how he would react. He just ate the mashed potatoes, without showing any signs of being disappointed. He wasn’t angry. He ate what was given to him. We could be that way.
There’s another story that he was on a trip and stopped at friend’s house for dinner, and they wanted to cook him something nice. Somehow they found out that there was some dish he especially liked and they made it for him. And he just ate it with thankfulness as if it was any other meal. He didn’t get excited and say “Oh, this is my favorite meal!”
Student: And were they disappointed?
They were edified. They learned a good spiritual lesson. And think—this is an American living just thirty years ago. If a modern-day American can do this, we can all do this. You can rise above ice cream!
So the incensive property is properly directed against sin, which intensifies our desire for God. But when it’s not used this way and not controlled it leads to self-indulgent, disruptive thoughts. We think only about ourselves and this disrupts our spiritual life.
Becoming more person
The appetitive and incensive aspects are known as the soul’s passable aspects because they are more open to sinful passion and more easily controlled by them. The higher intelligent part is open to passion, such as pride, but just not as much. In all of this the ego is our worst enemy—our inflated, distorted, upside down sense of self. Our identity should be centered in Christ. Our personhood is according to His personhood and we are meant to partake and participate in all of His goodness. This doesn’t destroy our uniqueness. In some other religions you want to be absorbed into the one blob and lose your individuality. That’s an essential distinction—we never lose our personhood. Some people say that Orthodox and Buddhist monks are doing the same thing, but we want to be more person, and they want to be less person.
Student: And how do you understand this term “personhood?” I had a conversation with Fr. Joh n Behr about this in which he said that it is not an accurate term, because it expresses a generalization of something particular, which doesn’t exist really.
I don’t want to go into this, because I would not speak properly. This is one of the questions being debated right now around the upcoming Council. Met. Hierotheos Vlachos in Greece, a very well-known theologian, strongly disagrees with Met. John Zizioulas about what personhood means. I don’t know enough to speak about it. I personally incline towards Met. Hierotheos but I would make mistakes if I tried to talk about it, so it’s better not to. You have to be a much better student of theology than I am.
A bit of a rabbit trail
Student: What do you think about the Council?
It seems to be falling apart. Today Georgia said that they are not going, and Russia is probably not going.
Student: So it won’t be Ecumenical?
It certainly won’t be ecumenical. They’re always saying, “let’s show the world how unified we are!” but you don’t need a council to show unity. If you want to show unity—serve a Liturgy together.
Student: Some people have gone too far and stopped commemorating the Patriarch, but the desire to express unity is not a sufficient reason for calling a council. But the thing that they did wrong is thinking that therefore there must be some behind-the-scenes reason for the council that we’re not told about.
We already have our unity and don’t need a council for it.
Student 1: But they want to discuss some modern problems, right?
Student 2: But the problems that are more pressing to discuss were found to be too complicated. They couldn’t agree and decided not to talk about them.
Yes, some of the more important issues are not going to be discussed. But about not commemorating—I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong. They aren’t going into schism. They haven’t left the Church and formed their own synod but are making a form of protest. There’s a canon from the First-Second Council which allows this. Mt. Athos has done this several times in the past century. There were times where the entire mountain was not commemorating the patriarch as a form of protest, but they didn’t leave him and go join another group. There are people who do that, and that is a sin.
Student 2: The priest is the hand of the bishop. The actual actor is of course God, but the bishop is invisibly present through his blessing.
You’re right. I don’t mean that the priest should commemorate nobody, but I don’t know exactly how it works. But even though the priest serves on behalf of the bishop, he still has his own conscience. You are obedient to your bishop but you can’t follow him into heresy. If you believe he’s being a heretic then you have to stand on your conscience. I’m certainly not saying Patriarch Kirill is a heretic, but just that it’s not necessarily wrong to stop commemoration. Each situation would have to be examined.
Student: I was told that there is an option not to commemorate the Patriarch but it doesn’t mean they leave the Church. Where is it written?
If we would work on ourselves, get the three parts of our soul in order and let the highest aspect reign over us, we wouldn’t be bothered by these questions in the sense of being inwardly shaken, and we would probably know what to do in these contexts. Of course, saints still only know what God reveals, but we would be much more at ease if we were saints.
We talk about being dispassionate, but it doesn’t mean not caring about anything, but about being free of sinful passions. So we don’t want to suppress the passionate aspects of the soul but to heal them and direct them in the right way.
Student: It’s very difficult.
This is difficult. In the world it’s difficult. In monasteries it’s difficult, because since the Fall our gaze has been pointed downwards. Before the higher element ruled and we naturally saw the good things of God and saw God in the world, but now it’s very hard to see the will of God and to see creation glorifying God, but that’s the point of the Orthodox spiritual life. Christ makes it all possible.
Student 1: I think these three aspects of the soul can be correlated to the three ranks of clergy in the Church.
So would the deacons be correlated to the body, or how would you make the connection?
Student 2: In the early Church the deacons helped in earthly ways.
They administered to the poor and widows, collected and distributed money, and so on—that’s a great point! They were serving the more earthly needs while the priests and bishops served the Eucharist.
There’s a great appendix in Fr. Seraphim’s book on Genesis written by Fr. Damascene, who is now the abbot of the monastery that Fr. Seraphim started, and he edits Fr. Seraphim’s books. He himself wrote an article called “Created in Incorruption” which is included in this book, in which he examines plants, animals, and man before the Fall, so he has a lot of good information on the original condition of man.
To wear God like a garment
As we’ve said, according to the Orthodox Patristic worldview—our beliefs are not just a random set of ideas but should be our worldview—everything was made for man and man was made for union with God. St. John Chrysostom even says that “the glory from above garbed them better than any garment.” Adam and Eve were naked but wore Divine robes of grace. They were given the Holy Spirit and were full of virtue. St. John of Damascus says that in Paradise had the indwelling God as a dwelling place, so we dwelt inside of God and God dwelt inside of us. “And [we] wore Him as a glorious garment. Adam was wrapped about with His grace.” In Orthodox theology we understand that this doesn’t mean we were communing with the essence of God, but with the Divine energies of God. His essence is unknowable, so man was wrapped about in the energy, grace, goodness, and love of God, but not His essence.
Mortal and immortal
Man’s physical condition before the Fall was completely different as we’ve said. This is one of the times where the Fathers seem to contradict—was Adam natural mortal, immortal, or in-between? and the Fathers will answer all three ways. But do you remember how to solve this supposed contradiction?
Student: They were naturally mortal, but gracefully not.
That’s right—basically it depends on what you mean by “nature.” Man’s body and soul do not possess life as their own—that is only God’s. But man’s natural condition is to have grace, which we see from the first moment of his creation. Some people have the idea that man was created as a mortal being and then grace as added, but grace is a natural part of what we are meant to be. The natural condition of man makes him naturally immortal. But some Fathers say he was in-between, such as St. Theophilus of Antioch, because if man is naturally mortal because that means God is the author of death, and you can’t say that. And he’s not naturally immortal because then He is equal to God, so man is in a state without death but had the free will to move in either direction. He wasn’t completely stable, not having eternal life or death as a guarantee. No matter how the Fathers answer this question they all agree that man existed in state of incorruption because of grace, and that’s his natural state.
This is important in regards to evolution. When evolutionists seem man coming out of this long, natural process, the way that they understand man is how you and I are. They understand fallen human nature, but we see that from the beginning human nature was different. When they see fallen man coming out of this process they don’t realize that that’s not the original nature of man. When man was created he wasn’t like us—his body was even different. To place man in a line of evolution is wrong because they’re placing fallen man in the line. They don’t understand unfallen man. There’s so many ways in which it doesn’t make sense.
That God is not the author of death
Student: So we can call only God immortal?
He is immortal meaning He possesses it in and of Himself and can never lose it. He possesses it because of Who He is, and we possess it because He gives it to us. Some people will argue that even though some Fathers have taught that man was not meant to die that it’s not necessarily strict Orthodox teaching, and they don’t have to believe it. But, actually, it’s even declared by two Ecumenical Councils. First there was a local council in Carthage that teaches this, and the Sixth and Seventh Councils ratified it. It reads:
That whosoever says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal, so that whether he had sinned or not, he would have died in body—that is, he would have gone forth of the body, not because his sin merited this, but by natural necessity, let him be anathema.
Student: It is because in this way they blame God for all the malice and evil and death in the world.
There’s a verse from St. Paul that says because of the fear of death we are in bondage to sin (Heb. 2:15), so if God created death then He created us already in bondage to sin. It’s His fault that we fear death and it’s His fault that we sin. This teaching that they are condemning was that of Pelagius, an early heretic who St. Augustine and St. John Cassian wrote against. It’s ecumenically anathematized to say that man is supposed to die. But, who is enforcing this canon? We have theologians who write that man is meant to die, because they are evolutionist, and they are not anathematized. The bishop has his discernment and it’s up to him, but strictly speaking it’s anti-Orthodox.
Darwinism, St. Theophan, and the Sunday of Orthodoxy
Student: Is this read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy?
I don’t think so, but that’s an interesting question because St. Theophan the Recluse talks about the Rite of Orthodoxy, read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. He wrote about various bad teachings in his day, saying that Darwinism, with other godless philosophies from the West, is deserving of formal condemnation by the Church. He writes:
These days many nihilists of both sexes, naturalists, Darwinists, Spiritists, and Westernizers in general have multiplied among us. All right, you’re thinking—would the Church have been silent, would it not have proferred its voice, would it not have condemned or anathematized them if there had been something new in their teaching? To be sure—a council would have done so without doubt, and all of them, with their teachings, would have been given over to anathema. To the current Rite of Orthodoxy only the following item would have been added: “To Büchner, Feuerbach, Darwin, Renan, Kardec, and all their followers—anathema!” But there is no need, either for a special council or for any kind of addition. All of their false teachings were anathematized long ago.
He’s saying that Darwinism isn’t saying anything new. The things that formed his philosophy were already there in the early Church. There’s nothing new under the sun. You could legitimately add Darwin and his followers to the Rite of Orthodoxy, but it’s not necessary because Orthodox people already know that his teachings are wrong. But in our day we don’t know that.
Student: Also, they are outside the Church. Someone asked Patriarch Kirill if Pope Francis is a heretic or not, and he answered that it’s not necessary to judge because he is already outside the Church.
You can distinguish between “heretic” and “heretical.” What the Pope believes is clearly heretical, but strictly speaking he is not a heretic because he has never fought against the Church from within. Fr. Seraphim wrote about how we should be careful with this word “heretic” and not go around calling everyone a heretic.
The physical life of man in the Garden
Fr. Damascene has compiled a list of characteristics of man’s body before the Fall. He draws from Sts. Irenaeus of Lyons, Ephraim the Syrian, Athanasius the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Theodoret of Cyrus, John of Damascus, Maximus the Confessor, Symeon the New Theologian, Gregory the Sinaite, and St. Gregory Palamas—all of the major Fathers. He says that from them we know of Adam and Eve before the Fall that they were free of bodily need of shelter, clothing, and even sleep.
Student: Death came with sin, that’s why sleep is after the Fall.
It’s even in the Evening Prayer of St. John Damascene when we point to our bed and say “the coffin lieth before me.” Sleep is a little death. They had no sexual relations or sexual passions. There was a different means of reproduction. The passion and need for sex is from the Fall, when the lower aspects of the soul take control. Sex is given to us to reproduce, not to enjoy. It comes with pleasure but when pleasure becomes the purpose it’s a problem. St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain had a vision of when the Theotokos was conceived by Sts. Joachim and Anna, and he says that the Mother of God was so holy because they were so holy and passionless when they conceived her. They came together only to have a child, without passion, and the state of their souls influenced the state of her soul. This is not a widely-known teaching in the Church today. Someone objected to him and he says, “God showed me!” He insists upon it. They reproduced sexually, so it was still fallen, but passionless.
Fr. Damascene also writes that there was no emission of seed and their eyes did not produce tears—what’s there to be sad about in Paradise? They partook of incorruptible fruits—St. Symeon says even food was incorruptible when they ate it. Something different was happening, but they did not void bodily waste—you can’t have that in Paradise. They had no afflictions, infirmities, no weaknesses, illness, or disease or physical defects or maimings of the bodies.
They knew no difficulties, sorrows, labors, sweat, hunger or thirst. They did not experience physical pain, they were not subject to cold, heat, or the elements.
Desire and pleasure
Student: So why did they need food, then?
They didn’t need food. Fr. Damascene writes that St. Symeon says man experienced pleasure in partaking of the Edenic fruits, which means to experience pleasure without an irrational desire for them. It lifted their minds to God. It was something good that He wanted to share with us. Food wasn’t a necessity and wasn’t meant only to please the tongue.
Student: Do you think that they had children before the Fall?
No. They were meant to, but it just didn’t happen because they weren’t in the Garden that long.
Student: Why are you sure, since they had this commandment from God to multiply, and we know they had a lot of descendants?
Desire and pleasure have become mixed up. Pleasure should be God-focused. When it’s earthly-focused that’s a sin from the Fall. Eve looked at the fruit and saw that it was pleasurable to eat. She looked at it not in the right way.
Student: They probably would have had children without passion. It was possible but since they were there for such a short period, it didn’t happen.
Right. It was possible to have children. The Fathers ask how they would have had children if they had not fallen. They didn’t say it wouldn’t have happened, but ask how it would have happened, and they say it would have been some other way. After the Fall we’re given marriage and sexual reproduction because we die and we need this fallen mode in our fallen mode.
St. Theodore the Great Ascetic says,
The first man could indeed, without any hindrance, apprehend and enjoy sensory things by means of the senses and intelligible things with the nous (mind, intellect). But he should have given his attention to the higher rather than the lower, for he was as able to commune with intelligible things through the nous, as he was with sensory things through the senses.
He could have spiritual experiences through this higher aspect of the nous and things of the world came to him through his senses, but the things communicated to him through the nous are what we should have focused on, but we focus on the low. He continues, “I do not say that Adam ought not to have used the senses, for it was not for nothing that he was invested with a body. But he should not have indulged in sensory things.” The fruit should not have been pleasing just because of its look and taste, but should have elevated their minds to higher things and to God. When it became purely sensory is when it became a problem.
The mind and memory and imagination
Fr. Damascene also talks about the condition of man’s mind before the Fall, having ineffable intelligence, and prophetic grace.
Student: He was the most intelligent man in the world.
He even prophesied when Eve was created and he says she is bone of his bone and that women will leave their parents and join themselves to their husbands (Gen. 2:23-24). He’s already prophesying about the condition in the fallen world, about fallen marriage. Man can naturally be a prophet.
There’s the question of memory and imagination. St. Gregory the Sinaite says that all of our faculties were originally, such as the memory, were originally “simple and one-pointed, but as a result of the fall its natural powers have been perverted: it lost its recollectedness in God and has become compound instead of simple, diversified instead of one-pointed.” We can say that our minds in general have been scattered all throughout creation. Ideally we would have one thought, one task. This is why the Jesus Prayer is called the prayer of one word, or one thought. We should be singly-focused on the name of Christ. We have to force ourselves to push out any other thought that comes. This is how man is originally meant to be. Today we value multi-tasking but usually it just takes any real attention away from each matter. Even our memory should be singly-focused on God.
Imagination is important to talk about. Imagination as creativity is of course not a bad thing, but when we get lost in fantasies, thinking about the beautiful girl you just saw and I trying to picture her, that is fallen—trying to picture things that aren’t really there. This is fallen and rooted in the lowest aspect of our spiritual nature.
Student 1: Can’t we think about the beauty of anything, since God created it?
Of course you can always be appreciative of the beauty of all that God created, but if I’m just sitting here idly trying to remember the taste of that cheeseburger I had last night then I’m not praying, I’m not singly-focused on God, but on earthly things.
Student 2: When you look in the mirror what are you looking at?
Student 1: To look at myself.
Student 2: That’s right—to look at yourself. You are not looking at the mirror. When you look at the beauty in creation which reflects God’s beauty, don’t look at the beauty of the mirror but at what it reflects.
Remember the Beauty. Everything that is beautiful is a sliver of God’s beauty. In Orthodoxy we say that the highest form of prayer is to have no images in your mind. The Catholics have spiritual exercises, and even with the Rosary you are praying one prayer but in your mind contemplating other things. We say prayer should be imageless. Of course it takes time to get there. Probably most people see Christ on the Cross in their minds on Holy Friday, but ultimately any image of Christ is not Christ. If you’re communing with that image you’re not communing with God Himself. It’s a wall between you and God.
St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, a great father of the eighteenth century who helped to compile the Philokalia says
The first-formed man, Adam, was created by God without imagination. His mind, pure and unified, functioned as mind and so itself acquired no impression or form under the influence of the senses or from the images of sensory things. Making no use of this lower power of the imagination, he did not visualize the outline, color, shape, or dimensions of things, but with the higher power of the soul, that is the intellect, he contemplated immaterially, purely, and spiritually only the bare, simple inner principles of beings.
These inner principles of beings are what we said Adam contemplated in order to name the animals.
St. Maximus offers us a good summary of the original condition of man to end with today:
Thus the first man had nothing between him and God which was obstructing his knowledge and was stopping his movement toward God, movement self-chosen out of love, from becoming a kinship. And because of this, he was called by the teacher, “naked in his simplicity,” as existing above all research into nature; and with a “life without arts and skills,” as being pure of all life in need of arts and skills.
Arts and science are not bad, but are simply unnecessary when your life is wrapped up in God. They had no
“covering or protection” since he was free of such impassioned intertwining of the senses with sensible things, to which things he as justly subjected to later on, when he fell short through defect—when he of his own choice preferred to become empty of everything rather than to be full, thus becoming inferior to those things to which he had naturally been superior.
This is completely different from the life we know. We are far from this, but this is the life we are meant to know, and even further. Christ is even beyond and higher than all this. But first we have to get back to this state and then move on, upwards towards Christ.