Vol I No. 7
From the Quarterly

The Fall: Part Five

by William J. Martin


Detail of the painting "God reprimanding Adam and Eve", by F. Zampieri (1625)

It is interesting to note that once Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit they came to a kind of knowledge that they had hitherto not possessed. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. (Genesis iii. 7) Prior to their act of disobedience, Adam and Eve did not see or know themselves in isolation from each other or from the rest of the creation. In other words, they were part of a composite whole that was very good. In relation to the creation they were indeed naked, but their nakedness neither divided nor separated them self-consciously from a qualitatively good expression of being and knowing. They existed in communion with all other things. They knew themselves to be functional parts of an entity where all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose. (Romans viii. 28) They were self-conscious of their vocation to be stewards and servants of God’s truth as it should be applied to the creation. Each created substance was made for a particular purpose whose function was never to exceed the boundaries of its meaningful usefulness in the service of the whole. Man, though the mediator of Divine wisdom and intention, was made to actualize his nature within the proscribed limitations of his created being.

But man chose to challenge and transgress his nature as derivative and dependent. Whether or not man ate literally of physical and tangible forbidden fruit is of no consequence. The sign or symbol of the action reveals the inward spiritual origin of the sin. At one moment in time Adam disobeyed God. Disobedience is a knowing and willful severing of the self from the Divine truth and intention. Through it man decides to become independent and free of God’s willed truth. What is revealed exteriorly –in this case, eating the forbidden fruit, is caused by the inward and spiritual desire to know and will through and for a self that is unaccountable to God or creation. What is known and willed is isolation, alienation, a veritable severing of the self from the harmonious unity of particular creatures or substances whose cooperation, codependence, and coinherence alone reveal God’s will. The self-conscious feeling of being isolated, alone, and solitary –naked, is the just reward of desiring to know good and evil. Such knowledge is too much for man; he cannot handle it. He is powerless…and embarrassed.