Monday, August 20, 2007

"But fondly overcome with Femal charm..."

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles
"και αδαμ ουκ ηπατηθη..."
(Image from Wikipedia)

When I was about 12 years old, I heard our pastor at First Baptist Church of Salem, Arkansas, David Keyes, give a sermon on 1 Timothy 2:13-14:
13. αδαμ γαρ πρωτος επλασθη ειτα ευα 14. και αδαμ ουκ ηπατηθη η δε γυνη απατηθεισα εν παραβασει γεγονεν (Textus Receptus 1550/1894)

15. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (King James Version)
Pastor Keyes presented his view that Adam, not being deceived, had chosen to eat the fruit of knowledge because he loved Eve and did not wish to be separated from her. At the time, I found this interpretation surprising, but as a mere 12-year-old kid, I didn't know what to make of it.

Yesterday, I heard Pastor Jack Peters, of Seoul International Baptist Church, present a similar message, but he started with Romans 5:12-14:
12. δια τουτο ωσπερ δι ενος ανθρωπου η αμαρτια εις τον κοσμον εισηλθεν και δια της αμαρτιας ο θανατος και ουτως εις παντας ανθρωπους ο θανατος διηλθεν εφ ω παντες ημαρτον 13. αχρι γαρ νομου αμαρτια ην εν κοσμω αμαρτια δε ουκ ελλογειται μη οντος νομου 14. αλλ εβασιλευσεν ο θανατος απο αδαμ μεχρι μωσεως και επι τους μη αμαρτησαντας επι τω ομοιωματι της παραβασεως αδαμ ος εστιν τυπος του μελλοντος (Textus Receptus 1550/1894)

12. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (King James Version)
Peters noted that the term in Greek for word "figure" in verse 14 is τυπος, or "type," meaning that Adam was an antetype of Christ (i.e., "him that was to come"). So far, so good. He then argued that in the clause "them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression," Paul refers to all human beings after Adam, for Adam was innocent until he sinned, whereas all others are born flawed by original sin already prior to their first sinful decision.

I'll return to this point later, but let me finish the minister's argument.

Peters then turned to 1 Timothy 2:13-14 and presented a reading similar to the one that I had heard from David Keyes back in Arkansas when I was about 12. But he took the argument a bit further. Adam was a "type" of Christ because prior to his fall, he was pure in body, soul, and mind, and he chose to 'sacrifice' himself out of a pure love for Eve because he could not bear being separated from her and believed that God would ultimately redeem Eve (and humanity).

Peters said that he has come to this interpretation because he was trying to determine the way in which Paul meant that Adam was a type of Christ, and he concluded that Paul meant that Adam's choice to join Eve in her fallenness was made with his perfect, unfallen thinking, for as the text states, "Adam was not deceived."

Variants upon this interpretation seem to have a history in Protestant exegesis (and possibly Catholic as well?), for John Milton presents a similar reading in Paradise Lost 9.888-1015 but with an important distinction, as is made clear in lines 990-999, when Eve hears Adam's decision to accept the fruit of knowledge:
So saying, she embrac'd him, and for joy [990]
Tenderly wept, much won that he his Love
Had so enobl'd, as of choice to incurr
Divine displeasure for her sake, or Death.
In recompence (for such compliance bad
Such recompence best merits) from the bough [995]
She gave him of that fair enticing Fruit
With liberal hand: he scrupl'd not to eat
Against his better knowledge, not deceav'd,
But fondly overcome with Femal charm. (
PL 9.990-999)
Both Adam and Eve imagine that Adam chooses to accept the fruit of knowledge as a sort of self-sacrifice (as the larger context would make clear), but Milton tells us that Adam is "fondly overcome with Femal charm," and in Milton's day, "fondly" meant "foolishly."

Milton thus seems aware of an interpretation that reads Adam's choice as a sort of noble self-sacrifice, but he rejects that reading in favor of a Medieval one whereby Adam is 'seduced' by Eve's feminine charms.

I wonder if the interpretation that has Adam choosing to sacrifice himself for Eve out of a sense of nobility owes something to the Medieval Romance tradition in which the knight boldly faces death in the willingness to give up his life for his lady. That would be an interesting twist on a Hegelian cunning of reason! That the Romance tradition, which Milton rejects, might have influenced some Protestant readings of 1 Timothy 2:13-14!

At any rate, I find Milton's reading more psychologically nuanced than the fascinating sermon that I heard yesterday, for if Adam were choosing to join Eve in her mortal condition out of purely noble motives, then we're confronted with the difficulty of explaining how a still-perfect, undeceived Adam could have made such an astoundingly bad decision as to disobey a divine command given him directly by God.

Milton sees the problem and shows Adam reaching his decision by degrees, each step taking him further along in ever more fallacious reasoning toward his fall. Remaining undeceived in his better knowledge, Adam nevertheless foolishly allows his judgement to be overwhelmed by Eve's charms.

Peters began his sermon by searching for the analogy mentioned in Romans 5:14 between Adam and Christ, but his understanding of the analogy breaks down if Adam and Christ make their choices in dissimilar ways, and the clearest difference is that whereas Christ is presented as accepting death as God's will for him, Adam can only be understood as choosing 'death' against God's will, for he breaks an explicit, divine command.

Moreover, I think that Peters has misread Romans 5:12-14. Let's look again:
12. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
A careful, contextual reading of the clause "even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" would have it refer not to all people everywhere and every time but to the biblical period between Adam and Moses, the point being that even for those who did not sin in the same way that Adam had sinned, death still reigned. They did not sin in the same way that Adam did because unlike Adam, they had no law forbidding specific sins, whereas Adam had one overidding 'law': do not eat the fruit of knowledge. After Moses, human beings once again had God's law and thus sinned consciously, as Adam had done -- or so I take Paul to mean.

But now, I'm really curious where this Protestant exegesis that I heard yesterday comes from.

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12 Comments:

At 6:32 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I just cringe.

 
At 6:38 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, I can understand why.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Charles said...

I have been Protestant most of my life and never heard that before. I have heard of Christ being a second Adam (that is, created without sin), but never of Adam being a second Christ.

Milton's interpretation does sound more likely. Not being Adam myself, I guess I wouldn't really know, but human experience shows that we often make bad or wrong decisions in full knowledge of their badness or wrongness because we have allowed ourselves to be seduced--that is, we rationalize a decision we know is wrong.

 
At 9:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Or maybe the 'first' Christ?

Although unpersuaded by what Keyes and Peters preached, I did find Peters' interpretation to be an interesting one.

Many interpretations are interesting, of course, but nonetheless problematic.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:04 PM, Blogger eshuneutics said...

It is quite a loaded line from Milton isn't it.

OVERcome, the placement of mens/woman above ratio/man.

cHARM=magical charm, enchantment,
a word drawing upon the Romance tradition of Spenser where the good male knight is overcome by female deception. By bidding him to eat Eve also falls into the Circe myth.

This notion of "sacrifice" seems to be a wondeful male reading, maintaining the total nobility of the male gender. Ah, how we sacrifice ourselves for woman kind!
Even to the point of Death!

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Eshuneutics, you have a new icon! Or whatever that is. Nice. The old one was also nice.

Yes, you hit the nail on its proverbial head. The indulgent reading of Adam's 'sin' is precisely what I find problematic. It's too convenient, isn't it?

It's nonetheless fascinating, and it did give me something to blog about.

I think that Milton's hermeneutic, however, is closer to the truth ... or to what should be the truth.

Naturally, I would lay down my life for my lady, who happens to be looking over my shoulder at the moment...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:28 PM, Blogger D.C. Innes said...

I don't mean any disrespect for a man who may otherwise be a faithful shepherd of souls, but what you call your pastor's "interpretation" seems more like speculation, which (permit me to say) he should keep out of the pulpit. A sermon is an authoritative proclamation of "Thus saith the Lord," not a graduate seminar in English literature.

Adam is a type of Christ insofar as he is a federal head. Adam was the first human being of the old creation; Christ by his resurrection is the first of the new creation (firstborn - Col. 1:15, 18; the firstfruits - I Cor. 15:20, 23). As federal head, each was tested by God and tempted by Satan: Adam in the garden, Christ in the desert and on the cross. Whereas Adam failed, Christ was faithful. Thus, whereas "in Adam all die, in Christ shall be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22). Like Adam, Christ has a bride, the Church, though instead of being led into sin by her he redeems her out of sin and sanctifies her. The Adam-Christ connection pertains to the creation-recreation and fall-redemption themes in redemptive history. Thus, Christians are described as a "new creation" and the Book of Revelation ends with images that allude to the Garden of Eden. The parallels and their meaning are all right there in the text. The beauty of it all gives me goosebumps.

 
At 3:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

D.C., your comment falls more along the lines of how I would see the parallels. Thanks for the details.

By the way, have you seen this interpretation-speculation elsewhere? I'm curious since it corresponds to that sermon that I heard as a 12-year-old kid and has points of contact with Milton's literary treatment of the Fall.

That would give me material for a paper on Milton...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:26 AM, Blogger D.C. Innes said...

Sorry, I can't help you there. That reading came as a shock to me. And Milton is an embarrassing hole in my education.

David Innes

 
At 5:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

D.C., that it comes as a shock to you suggests that it's a rather obscure tradition of interpretation ... if even that.

But its very obscurity makes it more interesting for research purposes. Maybe I'll dig around a bit.

Thanks again.

(Meanwhile, you need to fill that hole with some Milton...)

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:20 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

I think D.C. has the correct understanding of Romans 5:12-14.

Adam's action was not a sacrifice, but a transgression; thus it did not serve to sanctify Eve, as might have happened if he had remained obedient (1 Cor 7:14).

Obviously Paul considered the marriage relationship as a possible source of distraction from God (1 Cor 7:32-35), for emotional rather than sensual reasons. It is a function of the relationship itself, regardless of its sanctity.

This would certainly lead to a reading of 1 Timothy 2:13-14 in which Eve's transgression was due to an intellectual weakness (being subject to deception) whereas Adam's transgression was due to an emotional weakness (caring for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife).

A sensitive preacher might modify this to make it more palatable, as in your example from Keyes.

 
At 5:43 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dave, I think that Milton, Innes, and you would agree on your interpretation, which makes more complete sense to me than the one that Keyes and Peters expressed, which seems based on a misunderstanding of Paul's parallel between Adam and Christ.

Jeffery Hodges

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