I have been reading “Adam and Eve,” which is in The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden. The book is often known as “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan.” It is a Christian work, originally written in Arabic and translated into Ethiopic. Its date is uncertain, ranging anywhere from the fifth century C.E. to the ninth century C.E. (see here, here, and here.)
In reading “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan,” I was thinking of an argument that biblical scholar John Walton made in The Lost World of Adam and Eve (see here for my review). Walton
argued that the Garden of Eden was God’s sanctuary, where Adam and Eve
served as priests for humanity. By eating from the Tree of Life, within
the context of a relationship with God, Adam and Eve could be
immortal. Outside of the Garden of Eden, however, even before Adam and
Eve sinned, people and animals killed each other. After
sinning, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, deprived of
access to the Tree of Life, and thus got old and died; the implication
may be that they were inherently mortal even before the Fall, but they
could extend their lives as they continually ate from the Tree of Life.
Once they were expelled from Eden and cut off from the Tree of Life,
however, that possibility was closed to them.
This interpretation is an attempt to reconcile two concepts,
or at least to show that they are not mutually contradictory: the
Genesis 2-3 story about the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the existence of
killing and death for millions of years, even before the date of the
biblical Fall, which was only thousands of years ago (if there even was
one). There are many Christians who believe that there
was no death before the Fall of Adam and Eve, for Paul in Romans 5:12
states that Adam, by sin, brought death into the world.
Notwithstanding the Christian view that death entered the world only
after the Fall of Adam and Eve, numerous fossils appear to indicate that
death and killing were around much longer than that, for millions of
years. Is there a necessary contradiction between the biblical Fall
story and the existence of death for millions of years? Walton does not
think so, for he proposes a model in which the biblical story is
consistent with the existence of death even prior to the Fall.
According to this model, inside of the Garden before the Fall, Adam and
Eve were living by partaking of the Tree of Life; outside of the Garden,
there was death.
I heard a similar argument on the British radio program, “Unbelievable.” In the episode, “Is God the Best Explanation for Apparent Design in Nature?”,
the host, Justin Brierley, was interviewing Jonathan McLatchie and Cory
Markum. Markum is an atheist and a blogger, and McLatchie is a Ph.D.
student in cell biology who believes in Intelligent Design. McLatchie
was addressing the question of how there could have been death prior to
the Fall, and, appealing to William Dempski, he suggested that the
pre-Fall death was God’s retroactive punishment for the Fall.
Revelation 13:8 states that that Jesus was slain from the foundation of
the world, even though Jesus was actually killed later, in the first
century C.E. Many Christians believe that some of the redemptive
benefits of Christ’s death were applied retroactively, prior to Jesus’
life on earth and death, which would explain why God in the Old
Testament is in a relationship with sinful humanity rather than killing
all people for their sins. For McLatchie (if I am interpreting him
correctly), something similar is going on with the Fall: God is
retroactively punishing the world with death prior to the time of the
Walton in his book admits that there is not a whole lot of support
for his model in the history of biblical interpretation. Indeed, the
Jewish Book of Wisdom, in Wisdom 2:24, appears to imply that the Fall
brought death into the world. Moreover, Walton does not believe that
Adam and Eve were necessarily the first human beings, which would be
consistent with what mainstream science and history say about the
history of humanity. The history of biblical interpretation, by
contrast, tends to say that they were the first human beings.
Now for the question that the title of my blog post raises: “Does
‘The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan’ Agree with John Walton?” Is
this ancient Christian work an example from the history of biblical
interpretation that would agree with what John Walton and Jonathan
McLatchie propose? I have not read “The Conflict of Adam and Eve” in
its entirety, but I do notice overlap in what I have read so far, as
well as differences.
Allow me to highlight the overlap between “The Conflict of Adam and
Eve with Satan” and what McLatchie and Walton have proposed. First
of all, the “Conflict of Adam and Eve” maintains that God designed the
world in anticipation of the Fall. Even before God made the world and
Adam and Eve, God knew that they would sin, and God designed the world
accordingly. In 1:2-4, we read that God created a sea north of
Eden in which human beings could wash themselves, for God knew that
Adam and Eve would sin and leave the Garden. In 13:12-13, God said that
he made the sun so that human beings could work during the day, whereas
they would rest at night. But there was no day and night in Eden, for
it was always light there, and that is why Adam and Eve are struggling
to adjust to their new post-Fall reality, in which they have to deal
with darkness at night and the blinding sun during the day. God,
prior to creating Adam and Eve, created the sun and the moon knowing
that Adam and Eve would sin and leave the Garden. God fashioned the way
the world was with the Fall in mind. That somewhat resembles what
Jonathan McLatchie was saying about God retroactively applying the
effects of the Fall to the world before the Fall even took place.
Second, to repeat what I said above, life in the Garden is
different from life outside of the Garden. Inside of the Garden, there
is continual light. Darkness is not present there. Day and night are
irrelevant inside of the Garden. But day and night do exist outside of
the Garden; God, after all, created day and night, the sun and the moon,
prior to creating Adam and Eve. That somewhat reminds me of
Walton’s suggestion that Adam and Eve were living within the Garden of
Eden, whereas people and animals were dying outside of the Garden. And
what “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” presents may be
consistent with seeing the Garden of Eden as a sanctuary for God—-a
place that is apart from the world, a place that is timeless.
There are differences between “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” and Walton’s model, however.
“Conflict” presents Adam and Eve as the very first human beings,
whereas Walton does not. “Conflict” has Cain marrying his sister,
whereas Walton appears to lean towards saying that Cain was marrying
someone outside of his family (since, for Walton, there were more people
besides the family of Adam and Eve). Walton does not see Adam and Eve
as naturally or inherently immortal in the Garden, for their immortality
came from eating from the Tree of Life. “Conflict,” by contrast, seems
to believe that Adam and Eve lost something that was a part of their
original nature in the Fall: prior to the Fall, they were luminous
beings; after the Fall, they were flesh. In “Conflict,” the Fall of
Adam and Eve does have profound natural consequences (or that is
presented as a possibility): Adam and Eve after the Fall fear that the
animals will no longer be subordinate to them, as they were in the
Garden, as if the Fall changed the animals’ nature. Walton, by
contrast, would argue that the animals outside of the Garden were
already killing each other, even before Adam and Eve fell, which would
imply that the Fall of Adam and Eve did not change the animals’ nature
for the worse.
I do find the areas of overlap interesting, though.