Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Discerning the Word

One could study the Bible all their life and still not be able to fathom it.  When I think of my understanding as a teen, a young mother, and now as a grandmother, I am amazed at the different discernment I went through.  Surprising, also, is Bible exegesis.  It seems that the Bible grows, adjusts, and/or adapts to the time, culture, and/or need.

Recently I joined a Scripture Study for moms.  I'm the oldest. This has resulted in some new insights for me.  I'm so happy that I found this group.  I pray that I'm as valuable for them, as they are to me.

I'll take the story of Adam and Eve, for example.  Somehow, I had always blamed Eve for taking that apple.  I pictured her representing mankind.  We are weak creatures and easily seduced.

These young ladies introduced me to consider that the blame really lies with Adam.  Man was put in charge.  He was the keeper of the garden.  He was standing beside Eve, when the serpent appeared.  (I had to check three Bibles to assure myself that he was there beside her.)

The Bible I take to class is the Christian Community Bible.  I often cross check with the New American Bible, and the King James.  I checked all three and two intimate that Adam was beside Eve.  The King James version actually states that Adam was beside Eve.  Previously, I thought he wasn't.  I even pictured Eve looking for him with an apple in her hand.

The young ladies also pointed out, that if Adam was there beside Eve, why didn't he say something?  Why didn't he defend Eve?  Why didn't he defend God?  He was supposed to be protecting her.  And the most important question, why didn't he appeal to God, for help?

Because of Adam's inaction, he is the one responsible for the first sin.  Adam saw with his own eyes, God's goodness.  He saw God create Eve.  Adam had believed and trusted God; surely this should have enabled him to repel the serpent.  His unwillingness to say anything, or act, actually left Eve vulnerable. His silence influenced her.  His "NO!" would have ended everything.  Adam didn't help her.  Instead, she was alone in her reasoning.  And we know that it is not good for man to be alone.

This was interesting to me.  Both Adam and Eve were together in front of the serpent.  The serpent is speaking to both, although his attention is directed to Eve.  "He said to the woman, 'Did God really say...'"  Why did the serpent focus on the woman?  If Adam had the authority, then shouldn't the serpent go through him?  The Christian Community Bible has an interesting footnote:
             The woman temptress--isn't the reality, especially in a world where she is 
             riveted to an inferior state.  Perhaps the author in this remote age witnessed
             the exploitation of women and the art of exploited people to manage their
             masters.
The serpent saw that the woman was subordinate to the man, and he concluded that the woman would desire more autonomy.  Is the serpent correct?

Isn't that the original sin?  The disobeying of God's command was due to man wanting autonomy.  Adam and Eve chose their own "wants" over God, against the requirements of their respective statuses.   Adam's silence and inaction condemned them.

And for what?  Everything the serpent promised, they already had:

          You will not die.  They had that, already.  They were created for immortality
          Your eyes will be opened.  They had that, already.  Adam saw the woman...
          You will be like God.  They had that, already.  They were made in His image.
          Knowing good and evil.  They had that, and should have known it.  They knew that obedience                    
          to God was good because it meant life; they also knew that disobedience was evil, because it
          would cause their death.

Do you think Adam was intimidated?  I can just see Eve turning to Adam for some confirmation.  She keeps deferring to him and he doesn't respond.  At all!  The serpent seemed to have superior knowledge.  Are they too inexperienced in debate?  Was this a fair contest?

Wait a minute!  I'm looking at Adam and Eve like it's factual history.  It is not.  It certainly isn't a scientific treatise on cosmography.  Our Lord was talking simply to men of a certain time, and He used references in their experiences.  He made use of his writers' expressions and knowledge.  St. Thomas Aquinas interprets scripture as history written in mythic language--a poetic truth.  We are obliged to believe the fundamental truths expressed--that our first parents, tempted by the devil, committed a primal act of disobedience whose effects we still suffer (Catechism, no. 390).

I love to read the Word to prove my love and faithfulness to God.  I also have found, that the more I persevere, the more I understand, and my discernment grows.