Did you ever wonder what life was like for Adam and Eve after they were exiled from Eden for eating from The Wrong Tree? Imagine having to leave paradise, a place where your feet barely skimmed the earth because the human body was more spiritual than physical then. Where your skin shimmered with angelic “bright nature” and your eyes were powerful enough to see beyond the stars and deep into the earth to marvel at hidden treasures there. Brilliance of mind and love of all creatures was effortless, and work was easy. No unrequited longings or doubts gnawed at each day’s bliss. You breathed in sync with the Eternal Now, while the One who had created you spoke with you face to face.
When you think post-Eden, think PTSD
Picture then Adam and Eve’s shock when the gates of Eden slammed behind them (metaphorically or otherwise). Their bodies were naked and coarsened, while shame, fear, back-breaking work and above all, remorse, now plotted their every step. They blamed the snake, each other, probably God. Did they ever recover from the shock of what happened? I’ve always wondered.
So when I discovered the ancient, pseudepigraphal work titled The First Book of Adam and Eve, a fabulous life-and-times account of Adam’s and Eve’s struggles outside Eden, I got a whole new bead on how those two might have responded to how bad it really was. The stories in this brief work have a larger-than-life quality to them (remember, our mythology is full of heroes, giants, and gods for a reason) and I’ve got a hunch we postmoderns with our blasé sensibilities might benefit from a dose of this kind of preoccupation with unholy shortcomings.
To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. On every page of The First Book of Adam and Eve, we feel the passionate sorry-ness of these two people in proportion to the gravity of their sin. For after all, it isn’t everyday somebody upsets the equilibrium of the entire cosmos with one act of disobedience. Here are a few of our forebears’ actions that moved me with their pathos and sweet sincerity.
Getting creative to show you’re sorry
- In chapter 5, God sends Adam and Eve into a dark cave for forty days, to symbolize the darkness they had brought on the universe and into their own selves. Adam prayed with such fervency that he fell into a sort of coma from the shock. “So he cried and beat his chest hard, until he dropped, and was as dead.” Is this a foreshadowing of Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the severity of his prayers against temptation caused him to sweat drops of blood?
- In chapter 32, after other adventures, Adam and Eve journey to a holy sea where they stand up to their necks, praying for 35 days. “And they stood praying; and besought the Lord to forgive them… and to restore them to their former state.” Notice that God didn’t remind them that they could never go back to Eden. He let them do what they needed to do. Maybe a month standing in cold water made them more sorry than ever for what they had done.
- Later, in chapter 72, fallen angels visit Adam, tempting him to “marry Eve,” and filling his heart with lustful thoughts. Though it’s suggested that God had intended celestial celibacy. Adam lays out his case as he asks God about it: “Because if you do not give us permission, we shall be overpowered, and follow that advice of Satan; and you will make us… perish.” God replies, “O Adam, if only you had had this caution at first, before you came out of the garden…” Adam was learning his lesson. One ousting from God’s graces was enough.
What ideas do you have about the Adam and Eve story?