Our First Parents
God created man in the state of original justice, with preternatural gifts: bodily immortality, integrity, and infused knowledge. Preternatural gifts are above the order of human nature. Supernatural gifts are above the order of created nature. Angels, created beings, have preternatural gifts such as natural immortality. However, they do not have supernatural gifts such as the ability to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Our Father next commanded his first created son, “Of the tree of the knowledge [hadaat] of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” Gen 2:17. The Hebrew word hadaat tells us that the knowledge was the intense intimacy of God’s inner life, which determines what is good and what is evil. St. John Paul II, in Dominum et vivificantem § 36, told us, “‘The tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ was to express and constantly remind man of the ‘limit’ impassable for a created being.” It was a sign and presence, in effect a sacrament, a promise of God’s loving care and support, comparable to the gift of supernatural beatitude that he offered to the angels.
God told our first parents, “Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” Gen 1:28. Then he taught Adam how to have dominion, by naming them. “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name” Gen 2:19. We can name only those whom we have authority to name. The rabbis taught that Adam had an extraordinary intellect because he could assign an onomatopoeic 1:25 Hebrew name to each animal species. They believed that a name was much more than a label; it actually reflected the core identity of the named creature. St. Thomas Aquinas expressed it, “God led the animals to man, that he might give them names expressive of their respective natures.”1
Then, separately, to highlight that man was different from the animals, God created Woman. Adam used the Hebrew word basar, which describes the closest possible kinship: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh [basar] of my flesh [mibesari]; she shall be called Woman [isha], because she was taken out of Man [ish]. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become [l’basar ekhad] one flesh” Gen 2:23–24. In Hebrew the letter bet (b) in “flesh [basar] of my flesh [mibesari]” has a subtly softer sound for her basar than for his mibesari.
Even in this word basar our Father prepared the way for his Mashiakh. The Hebrew word besora (gospel) comes from the same root as basar to highlight the connection: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” Jn 1:14.
Be Fruitful and Multiply
“Be fruitful and multiply” Gen 1:28. When an ish and an isha come together to fulfill God’s command they become one flesh. Esh, from the same Hebrew root as ish, is fire, suggesting the fiery erotic love between a husband and wife in the heat of passion. “Now Adam knew [yada] Eve his wife, and she conceived” Gen 4:1. This Hebrew idea of “knowing” one’s wife teaches us that in becoming “one flesh” we know one another in an extraordinarily intimate way.
Our first parents participated in the life of the Holy Trinity as each gave to the other in sexual union, that ecstatic self-giving of persons which creates new life. “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed” Gen 2:25. In the state of original justice they were free to live in joyful transparency with God, with themselves, and with each other, to know and be known, to love and be loved.
The first woman was not called Eve until after she had been kicked out of paradise. “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” Gen 3:20. Mother of all living! Eve’s name in God’s original Hebrew was khava. It summarized her identity as woman, mother of all khai, all life.
Eve gave birth to three boys whose names we know, Cain, Abel and Seth, but also to girls. Cain and Seth had to have relations with their own sisters to fulfill our Father’s command, “Be fruitful and multiply” Gen 1:28. We may speculate that he did not tell us about these because he would later prohibit relations with our own sisters Lev 18:9 and did not want to confuse us.
Our Father had commanded Adam, not Eve, and explained, “Sin came into the world through one man.” “He shall rule over you” Gen 3:16. Rom 5:12. “The husband is the head of the wife” Eph 5:23 But the Israelite sages observed that the Father did not create her from Adam’s feet to be his doormat, nor from his head to be on a pedestal, but from his rib, to be at his side close to his heart.
Till the Garden and Keep It
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” Gen 2:15.
The Hebrew grammar here is very ancient and unique. God commanded the man to “till her and keep her.” Garden is female in Hebrew grammar. The Hebrew verb shamor is the root of the word leshomra, here translated “keep.” It means “take care of,” do all that a garden needs, such as watering. God took care of watering Eden. “A mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground” Gen 2:6, and “a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden” Gen 2:10. He even provided a distribution system, “and there it divided and became four rivers” Gen 2:10.
God had already commanded the man, “Be fruitful and multiply” Gen 1:28, so we may speculate that God also was commanding the man to fertilize the woman he would soon make. Leshomra would also mean take care of all her needs.
The Hebrew verb shamor gives us another word, leshamer, spelled the same but pronounced differently, which has the sense of “preserve,” to keep the garden in its pristine condition, to protect it against intruders. God knew that the serpent would arrive very soon to corrupt the man and the woman.
The Helper Fit for Him
Still using the very ancient and unique Hebrew grammar, our Father used a remarkable phrase to describe the woman. Most of our English translations say something like, “I will make him a helper fit for him” Gen 2:18. But the original Hebrew for “helper” here is ezer kenegdo. Ezer is helper, in this context a helper corresponding to what he needs. The root ngd, a negative, gives us neged. But what can this mean? The Torah tells us, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” Gen 1:31.
God made Woman in the state of original justice very good. He knew that the primal issue with man would always be whether to live God’s way or his own way. He knew too that his first created children would soon fall from original justice. In this passage we may understand neged in terms of sin. Woman would be “help against his propensity to sin,” or more succinctly, “help against him.”2
God’s plan for the crown jewel of his creation was male headship Gen 3:16; Eph 5:23, so he made woman with a holy and beautiful influence over man. Since the Fall of Adam, a woman who helps the men in her life against their propensity to sin is on the side of the holy angels, a healthy woman. One who tempts the men in her life to sin is on the side of the fallen angels, a damaged woman. Her influence over him is corrupted to encourage evil rather than good.
This contrast with the Blessed Virgin Mary is important. God foretold a woman who would be at war with Satan until the end of time Gen 3:15. Ezer kenegdo completes the new Eve theology. The first Eve could only have failed if God had made her to protect Adam against his propensity to sin.
This is the mission of women, that they help protect us men from our own propensity to sin. Holy Mother Church speaks of § 721 “Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time.” Mary protects us from our sinful tendencies more than any other woman. She is the model for all women.
Father Hardon, in his homily on Mary Magdalene on April 2, 1991, declared,
The role of women over the centuries in the Church of God is to help men give themselves, as only a woman can, with their whole heart to the God who became man out of love for us. That, that is the real role of women: to inspire us men with selfless, extravagant—we men think it’s excessive—love for Jesus Christ so that we—more cold, more calculating—might be inspired to love our Lord not just with our whole head but with our whole heart.
Every garden needs earth, sunshine, and oxygen. The Latin word for earth is humus, from the same root as our word humility. “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground” Gen 2:7. And after the fall he told Adam, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” Gen 3:19. But in the end, Rabbi Paul told us, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” 1 Cor 15:49. The garden had sunshine for photosynthesis, but also for the “new Eve clothed with the sun” who would be Satan’s constant adversary. The garden also had oxygen. When God formed man of dust from the ground he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Thousands of years later Rabbi Yeshua “breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” Jn 20:22–23.
Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth, tells us, “The essence of ‘heaven’ is oneness with God’s will, the oneness of will and truth. Earth becomes ‘heaven’ when and insofar as God’s will is done there; and it is merely ‘earth,’ the opposite of heaven, when and insofar as it withdraws from the will of God.”3
God told us, “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers” Gen 2:10. Natural rivers are formed when many streams and tributaries merge into a single flow of water, but this one supernatural river in Eden fed four life-giving rivers. “The name of the first is Pishon;… it is the one which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold” Gen 2:11. In Hebrew, havilah means “sandy land,” which suggests that the Pishon meanders through a land without God’s living water. Rabbi Yeshua reminds us, “You cannot serve God and mammon” Mt 6:24.
“The name of the second river is Gihon” Gen 2:13. Gihon in Hebrew is written gikhon, but is everywhere transliterated gihon. It is the water spring that has kept Jerusalem alive as a city for more than five thousand years; pottery fragments around the Gihon are the first evidence of human activity anywhere near Jerusalem.4
“The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria.” Gen 2:14 The Tigris, the eastern river that defined Mesopotamia, brings water to some of the region where Eastern Catholic civilizations once lived.
“And the fourth river is the Euphrates” Gen 2:14. The Euphrates, the western river, gave water to ancient Israel Gen 15:18; Ex 23:31; Deut 1:7; 11:24. Its drying up would be a sign of the end times Rev 16:12.
Adam had been told to protect the garden against intruders Gen 2:15. Then “that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world,” Rev 12:9 entered the garden § 390. The Hebrew word for the serpent in Eden is nakhash Gen 3:1. God uses it elsewhere to describe a fiery serpent Num 21:6, Leviathan the twisting serpent Is 27:1, and something that bites like a serpent with venom Prov 23:32.
In Biblical Hebrew a livyatan is a twisting and coiling sea monster Job 3:8; 41:1; Ps 74:14. Isaiah speaks of the livyatan nakhash, the twisting serpent, associating livyatan with the nakhash, the serpent in Eden Is 27:1. The Psalmist also uses livyatan at Ps 104:26 to describe a whale, and so in modern Hebrew livyatan is a whale. As an English word, leviathan refers to a large and powerful government whose twisting and coiling shake its citizens as it exerts totalitarian control over them.
The core of the serpent’s challenge was deceit leading to disobedience. From an eternal perspective, perfect freedom exists only when we obey God, because he wills what is best for us, which we should want. The serpent implied that perfect freedom exists only when we disobey God.
Holy Mother Church teaches § 376 “As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die.” Only under the influence of Satan, who had already fallen in the angelic order, could man in the state of original justice see the tree of knowledge with fearful curiosity.
The nakhash Gen 3:1 began his deception by misrepresenting God’s command. When God had said, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden” Gen 2:16 he had placed limits only upon one tree. “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” Gen 2:17, but the nakhash misquoted God: “You shall not eat of any tree of the garden” Gen 3:1.
Our Father had reserved to himself the teaching of good and evil, “For in the day that you eat of it you shall die” Gen 2:17. God had meant by “you shall die” the only true death, death of the soul through separation from God’s friendship. “You are my friends if you do what I command you” Jn 15:14. But Satan deliberately misrepresented “death” as physical death. “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” Gen 3:4–5. Satan enticed Adam to commit exactly the sin that got him and his fallen angels kicked out of heaven, wanting to attain by his own nature and intuitions what can be attained only through God’s grace by a loving trust in God’s way.
But Adam had also exaggerated God’s command. Adam had told Woman, “God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’” Gen 3:3. God had said only, “You shall not eat” Gen 2:17. The Book of Genesis does not quote Adam telling Woman, “Neither shall you touch it,” but she could only have heard it from him. When we teach God’s word falsely, adding or taking away words even with good intentions, we open an opportunity for Satan to harm us.
Satan instantly took his opportunity to disprove, “Neither shall you touch it” Gen 3:3. The midrash on Genesis, Bereshit Rabbah, suggests that Satan pushed Woman into the tree. We may believe or not that Satan physically pushed her, but we are to understand that Satan ca,n easily disprove words God never spoke, and therefore that we must teach others precisely what God teaches us. When Woman did not die, she lost confidence in the other part of what Adam had said came from God, “You shall not eat” Gen 2:17.
Adam and Woman were there together. The nakhash used Hebrew verbs in the second person plural. But he addressed only Woman, defiantly bypassing the male headship God had established. The nakhash knew that she would be the ezer kenegdo, the more tenacious, the one he would have to break directly. She tried to resist but, childlike, unaccustomed to perfidy, fearful of the nakhash, she finally succumbed. Adam, responsible for guarding Eden, took the fruit without even a protest, seizing for himself God’s authority over good and evil.
Adam and Eve sinned by eating what they had been told not to eat, but were embarrassed because they were naked. The fruit “was a delight to the eyes.” The original Hebrew for “delight to the eyes” was nekhmad lemareh. The Hebrew root, khmd, from which nekhmad comes, also gives us takhmod, as in the Ninth Commandment, lo takhmod, “Do not lust.” She had lusted for the fruit! Satan enticed Woman through the appeal and beauty of the forbidden fruit.
They were made one flesh, not ashamed. But, after the Fall, Adam and Woman lusted also after one another. Lust is disordered emphasis on the physical over the moral and spiritual dimension of our lives, which denies our nature as God’s image and likeness and therefore separates us from God. A man and woman in disordered relations each use the other for their own pleasure. They do not seek to give life and joy. When God sends life, they are inclined to abort it. Our Father told us, “You shall not kill” Ex 20:13; Deut 5:17. His Son added, “With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged” Mt 7:2. Adam told God, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” Gen 3:10. When we become disordered we often do the same.
The Hebrew word ladaat means both “to know” and “to have intimate relations.” Knowledge is yeda. “Now Adam knew [yada] Eve his wife, and she conceived” Gen 4:1. The tree of knowledge was etz hadaat. Our Father instituted the marriage covenant to reflect his triune image and his new and eternal covenant with us. Adam had called his wife, “Flesh of my flesh” Gen 2:23. Our Father added, “And they become one flesh” Gen 2:24. The marital act seeks to give life. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” Deut 30:19. A man and woman in marital relations each seek to give pleasure to the other, open to the transmission of temporal and spiritual life.
Let us reflect first on our first parents’ responses to Satan’s temptation.
Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For God knows that when 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, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. Gen 3:1–7.
Satan had told Adam, “You will not die” Gen 3:4. It was a lie, of course, but it did not appear so then. Adam and Woman remained physically alive, but spiritually dead. When we don’t accept God as our shepherd Jn 10:10 even on important matters, we are spiritually dead, and our fallen race remained so until Rabbi Yeshua came to redeem us. The lesson here is that we never talk to Satan. His preternatural intellect is far above ours, and he will always lead us astray.
Rabbi Yeshua’s Response
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”’ Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God'”’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him Mt 4:1–11.
Rabbi Yeshua‘s intellect is of course supernatural, far above Satan’s preternatural intellect. But Rabbi Yeshua is setting the example for us, so he does not engage Satan in conversation at all, but only quotes from the Bible, the Word of God.
Adam and Woman fell for Satan’s temptation, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” Gen 3:5. They were also cast out of paradise Gen 3:24, and the spiritual war continued on the earth. As we read the Hebrew Scriptures we see over and over where God’s people Israel struggled but again and again imagined that they were like God and became disobedient. St. Michael, reflecting God’s glory, was always obedient. St. Jude tells us that,“when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you’” Jude 1:9. Even after Rabbi Yeshua came to open an even greater paradise with his sanctifying grace, Rabbi Marcus‘ Gospel records a great many instances in which he had to exorcise demons from men. Even many Catholics, who have God’s magnificent gift of baptism, (§ 1213–1284), cast it aside and became sinful.
Once Woman had eaten, Adam had to choose. He still had his preternatural inner harmony with God, and may have concluded that as protector of the garden he would have to cast her out for her disobedience, to choose between the Father and Woman.
But Adam did not say, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this serpent from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” Instead, “She took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” Gen 3:6–7. Having cast off their garment of original justice, they were spiritually naked. So, “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” Gen 3:8.
Nothing happened when Woman ate. Only when Adam ate were the eyes of both opened. Therefore, “Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin” Rom 5:12. The effects of Adam’s original sin were catastrophic.
Satan, as the nakhash, had enticed our first parents to commit the very sin of pride that got him kicked out of heaven, the effort to replace God. He had said, “I will make myself like the Most High” Is 14:14 and was kicked out of heaven for it. Now Satan told our first parents, “You will be like God” Gen 3:5. They succumbed and were kicked out of Eden Gen 3:23–24.
Our Father had reserved for himself the knowledge of good and evil. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” Gen 1:31. He alone could see the events of every person’s life to their furthest consequences. Our first parents’ original sin was pride, believing that they could be like God, seeing each event of their lives all the way to its furthest consequences, and thereby knowing on their own what was good and what was evil.
Satan and his fallen angels had God’s friendship, and they had the angelic intellect, but they lost paradise forever for one mortal sin. Our first parents also committed only one sin. They never anticipated that it would cause their loss of paradise. They could never have anticipated that its effects would last until the end of time.
The original sin darkened our first parents’ intellects and weakened their wills. Its stain on their souls separated them from God and thereby deprived them of the original justice that had sustained their spiritual life, removed their preternatural gifts, and left them torn between love for God and involuntary hostility to God. They were also torn between love for one another and involuntary hostility to one another, as we see in Adam and Woman’s lust for one another, and in Cain’s murder of Abel.
Our first parents could not pass on to their children the original justice they no longer had. We inherit their fallen condition. This human propensity to sin is called concupiscence. Humility, the proper recognition of our relationship with God, is replaced by its opposite, pride, the sense that, “You will be like God” Gen 3:5. Love, which gives to the other, so easily distorts to lust, which takes from the other. Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” Is 5:20. Rabbi Paul described it, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” Rom 7:15.
Our Father’s Plan
After the Fall, Adam changed his wife’s name. In Eden he had said, “She shall be called [isha] Woman” Gen 2:23. Now, “The man called his wife’s name [khava] Eve, because she was the [em kol khai] mother of all living” Gen 3:20. Mother of all living! Eve’s name, khava, her identity as Eve, was mother of all khai, all life. In all this our Father was, as always, planning far beyond what his children with their limited perspective could see. “God created man in his own image … male and female he created them” Gen 1:27. The man would be head of his family, but the woman would be its heart.
God would place each new soul within a woman’s body at the moment she conceived, as he would place his own Son within Mary’s body to enter the world, a magnificent honor. In pain she would bring new life into this world, as in pain her Son opened heaven for all her children. As her Son would be crucified in agony and resurrected in joy, so would Eve’s pain of childbirth be followed by the joy of seeing her newborn child. At the same time, the pain our Father imposed on Eve in childbearing, and on Adam in bringing home food, would help us to know the Mashiakh’s agony on the cross in preparation for eternal life.
§ 412 But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, ‘Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.’ And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good.” Thus Rabbi Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault, … which gained for us so great a Redeemer!’5
God told the serpent: “Because you have done this, cursed are you … upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life” Gen 3:14. To Woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” Gen 3:16. And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to … your wife, and have eaten of the tree … cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it … you are dust, and to dust you shall return” Gen 3:17,19. Rabbi Paul said, “Sin is not counted where there is no law” Rom 5:13, but God’s command for Adam was law.
Our Father knew from the beginning that his first created son and daughter would forsake him. Had the state of original justice continued, Adam and Eve would have grown to ever-increasing maturity in the garden, without work. The free gift of God’s grace and his presence in the garden would have been sufficient, and growth in God would not have required suffering. But it would have been eternal life in the natural world, giving only natural joy. God wanted to bring a vast number into heaven, with its supernatural joy, purifying us by the constant striving against pride.
Adam and all his progeny, as head of household, inherit our Father’s command in the garden to “till it and keep it” Gen 2:15. Our responsibility as men is to till our gardens, to be trail guides leading our families toward heaven and teach them what they need to know along their pilgrim journey. Our Father even promised loving protection, a mother who would at every moment be at war with Satan. Our Father told Satan, “I will put enmity between you and [ha’isha] the woman” Gen 3:15. Adam’s wife had been called Woman Gen 2:23 before the Fall. “The Woman” would be the new Eve, the new mother of all living. And, with the words, “Her seed,” he promised a virgin mother who would give birth to a Redeemer.
Our Father allowed us to keep the magnificent supernatural gift he had given; we remained God’s triune image and likeness, the Father’s sons and heirs. He allowed us for a time to believe that we would die because we saw bodies die. But he preserved each one of us in Sheol, waiting for a time when his Son would restore the faithful remnant with sanctifying grace.
The tree of life, of which our Father’s first children had been invited to eat, was now blocked by cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way Gen 3:24. The gate of paradise was closed. Our far-seeing Father knew that his first children would be inclined to eat the fruit of the tree of life, entering eternal life in a state of mortal sin, which would have been hell.
The sentence our Father imposed on our first parents was an act of magnificent love, a foreshadow of the Mashiakh who would enlighten our intellects, strengthen our wills, and reconcile us with him to open paradise in heaven for us.
The Hebrew Language
“The whole earth had one language and few words” Gen 11:1.
The ancient Israelite sages offer a more clear and comprehensive perspective than many modern scholars who call the language of Eden “proto-Semitic,” and say that after the Tower of Babel Hebrew emerged from the Semitic family of languages. The sages taught that God created the Torah before the world, not only the meaning but the actual Hebrew letters, word construction, even the numeric value of letters.
The names Adam and Khava (Eve) have clear meanings in Hebrew. Adam is “man,” all humanity. Khava was the em kol khai, mother of all living. Adama is “earth,” reminding Adam of all his days east of Eden, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” Gen 3:19. But Adam, spelled alef-dalet-mem, had a deeper meaning. The letter alef by itself means one or first. Adam was the first of our Father’s creatures to have an immortal soul. Dam is blood. Adam had become mortal, the life of his flesh was in his blood. Adom is “red” for the red blood in his veins, and for the red clay from which God created man and from which he would soon have to struggle to grow plants for food. Thousands of years later our Father would explain. “The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes the atonement, by reason of the life” Lev 17:11. A thousand years after that we would finally understand. “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Mt 20:28.
God places all sorts of things in his work for us to discover.
In the new Israel we are baptized with mayim, a plural word, meaning water. It is always mayim khayim, fresh water, water that gives life, the water we drink when we thirst, water than rains down on farm land to make crops grow upward from the earth. Rabbi Yeshua used mayim khayim to explain the supernatural living water he gives for our soul, appropriate for creatures with immortal souls in the image of Adonai. Khayim is also a plural word, suggesting both earthly and heavenly life. People recognize us by our face, and that too is a plural word, panim, suggesting our many facial expressions. In Hebrew, words describing an item in several parts are plural, suggesting that the whole Creation is a reflection of the Holy Trinity.
The Torah often speaks of ha-shamayim, “the heavens,” another plural word. “In the beginning God created the heavens [shamayim] and the earth” Gen 1:1. “Thus the heavens [shamayim] and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” Gen 2:1. And all the host of them! The Jews in Rabbi Yeshua’s day believed that God had created seven heavens. The Catholic Church does not teach that Jewish story, but Rabbi Yeshua did say: “In my Father’s house are many rooms” Jn 14:2. In this way, our Father lovingly prepared us from the beginning so that thousands of years later we would understand how it all fits together.
There is a mystic tradition that shamayim comes from esh, fire, and mayim, water, coming together as one Flesh in Rabbi Yeshua‘s fiery love and living water offered to us all. The Hebrew words esh, fire, and sham, there, are not grammatically related, but the Holy Trinity has come to us in images of fire and water: the Father in the burning bush, Rabbi Yeshua as living water Jn 7:38, and the Holy Spirit in tongues as of fire Acts 2:3. “I and the Father are one” Jn 10:30.
Our Father continued his teaching through “Moses, whom the Lord knew [yada] face to face” Deut 34:10. A thousand years after Moses, Rabbi Yeshua would teach, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” Jn 6:56. Our love for Rabbi Yeshua can never be lukewarm but has to be a fiery passion. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” Mt 3:11. “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire” Acts 2:3. Through the New and Eternal Covenant we are to know Rabbi Yeshua in an extraordinarily intimate way, with a fiery love.
Ancient traditions tell us that our Father had taught Adam and Eve spoken Hebrew. But soon he began to teach us the written words in which he would give the Torah. The Egyptians began to write using hieroglyphics, from a Greek expression meaning “sacred writing.” By Abraham’s time these pictographic characters had evolved into a proto-Canaanite alphabet in which each sign had its own sound. The patriarchs and others in their time used it to write in the Hebrew language, making it the Hebrew alphabet. Shortly before the time of Moses, just in time for the giving of the Torah, the Hebrew alphabet reached its final linear form.
Comparing Hebrew with Greek highlights the genius of each language. In Greek we find clear distinctions between past, present and future, appropriate to a secular way of thinking. Hebrew, by contrast, distinguishes time as between ongoing and completed actions. God lives in eternity, where past, present and future are all now. The distinction crucial to our salvation is between ongoing actions such as our journey to the Cross and our having reached it. Rabbi Paul shows us the moment of completion. “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” 2 Tim 4:6–8.
Hebrew is therefore focused on whether the appropriate time for an event has arrived. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” Eccles 3:1. In purgatory, souls do not experience time as kronos, clock time, but as kairos, season; their purgation is either ongoing or completed. So it will be with Rabbi Yeshua‘s Second Coming. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” Matt 25:13.
Catholic tradition holds that Lucifer, light-bearer, was brightest among the angels because, more than any other angel, he reflected Rabbi Yeshua’s superbrilliant light back to him and to all the other angels. Isaiah called Lucifer “Day Star” Is 14:12, because he reflected God’s light so brightly that he could even be seen from earth during early morning daylight. This is why heaven is said to be always brightly lit. God’s light shines on every soul, and every soul reflects God’s light back to him and to every other soul. But during the War in Heaven Lucifer led the fallen angels’ rebellion against God. At that moment he no longer reflected God’s light, so his intense light became intense darkness, and his name became Satan. The Hebrew word satan simply means an accuser, anyone who accuses another. But Hebrew adds the definite article, ha-satan, when referring to the satan, the accuser. We find the same use of the definite article, ha-isha, the woman, in the prophecy of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Gen 3:15, and again at Is 7:14, ha-almah, the virgin. In each case it means the one so extraordinary that there is no need for a name. Mary is the woman, so extraordinary that simply calling her the woman is enough. And Rabbi Yeshua calls her exactly that. “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” Jn 2:4. “Woman, behold, your son!” Jn 19:26.
The French poet Charles Baudelaire, famously said, “The greatest trick the devil ever played was to convince the world that he doesn’t exist.” However, the Catholic Church teaches firmly that he is very real. The Catechism affirms Satan’s reality in § 391-395. The Catholic Bible also repeatedly affirms the existence of demons. “Now the serpent [nakhash] was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made” Gen 3:1. The serpent is Satan: “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” Rev 12:9. “The LORD said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the LORD, ‘From going back and forth on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’” Job 1:7. Rabbi Yeshua declared, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” Lk 10:18. “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” Jn 8:44. There are also, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” Eph 6:11, and, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” 1 Pet 5:8.
First Consequences of the Fall
Eve named her first-born son cayen, the Hebrew word for “gotten,” emphasizing what she did, beget a man. Eve said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord,” Gen 4:1 pre-figuring the new Eve, who gave birth to the Mashiakh with the help of the Holy Spirit Lk 1:35. Cain fathered an evil line..
Their second son was Abel, a shepherd who brought the Lord fat portions from the first-born of his flock. Our
led his children to make sacrifice offerings to him from the very beginning. The Torah contrasts Abel’s generous sacrifice with Cain’s careless offering to show the importance of agape love for the Lord.
Cain murdered the good shepherd Abel, making Abel the earliest foreshadow of Rabbi Yeshua‘s sacrifice on the cross. Our Father also offered Cain an opportunity to go to Confession. “Where is Abel your brother?” Gen 4:9. But Cain showed no contrition. Instead, he defied our Rabbi Yeshua by lying to him. “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen 4:9. Our Father told Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” Gen 4:10. Rabbi Paul reminds us of, “[Rabbi Yeshua’s] sprinkled Blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel” Heb 12:24. Surely, when she heard of it, a sword pierced Eve’s heart. Perhaps, in the distance, she could still see the flaming sword that turned every way, reminding her of paradise lost Gen 3:24.
Eve’s third child was Seth, who fathered a good line, starting with Enosh when men “began to call upon the name of the Lord” Gen 4:26. After four more generations, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” Gen 5:24. In Cain’s line fathers taught their sons evil, so after six generations the rebellious Lamech killed two men and married two women. After that, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose” Gen 6:2. The nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. “These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown” Gen 6:4.
The Church Fathers understood the nephilim, “sons of God” as good men, the descendants of Seth who indiscriminately took as wives descendants of Cain, here called “daughters of men.” They became corrupt and joined the descendants of Cain in moral decline, visible as pride and abuses of marriage, preparing the way for the upcoming account of the flood.” The Douay-Rheims Bible translates nephilim as “giants.” Some Catholic scholars believe that most men before the flood were very tall and strong, in comparison with what men now are. But the corrupted men were not only tall and strong but also violent and savage.
Recalling Samson, we may speculate that their sons, “The mighty men that were of old, the men of renown” Gen 6:4, were made strong by their initial holiness, but after being corrupted became the most evil on earth. The Church has an ancient Latin motto, corruptio optimi pessima, the corruption of the best is the worst. The higher a man’s reputation, the more damage he can do once corrupted.
“The Canticle of Canticles refers to a ‘closed garden’ (hortus conclusus), the keys of which belong to God. He alone has the right to give these keys, and he has decided that they can only be given to a spouse in the holy sacrament of matrimony. How beautiful when the young bride can say to her husband: ‘with God’s permission, I give you these keys, knowing that you will penetrate into this mysterious garden with reverence and gratitude.’”
The evil women of Cain’s line seducing the good men of Seth’s line was a complete breakdown of God’s plan for women as ezer kenegdo. Then, Genesis tells us, “The Lord saw that that the wickedness of men was great in the earth” Gen 6:5, and he sent the great flood to wash away the evil that our fallen race had done.
Genesis tells us, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them” Gen 6:7. This is a midrashic way of explaining that our Father was grieved that his children had become separated from him. He prepared his children through death of the body to understand death of the soul.