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Would Adam have lived forever if he had not fallen?


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#1 Patrick

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 10:33 PM

This post is divided into two parts.

PART 1

I always understood that Adam did not eat of the Tree of Life. Eating from it would give eternal life.

If Adam never ate of Tree and never fell, what would happen? Death entered through sin, but only eating of the Tree would you have eternal life. So, I just wonder what would happen if he never fell and if he didn't eat of the Tree of Life.

PART 2
I recently bought the Chrysostom Bible commentary on Genesis, and something I read really confuses me. First of all, is this series truly from writings of St. John Chrysostom? The way it's written does not anywhere seem how he'd write, I can't explain it; it's just a feeling I have about it. For example, one thing that strikes me as odd. The author/editor (whatever he is) makes very extensive use of Hebrew. He gives Hebrew roots and words for many things. This seems strange to me as St. John Chrysostom would be using Greek instead.

This part I read really confuses me as it contradicts everything I've been taught on the subject.

The fact that man was not forbidden to eat from the tree of life meant that he was eating of it before he contravened God's command to abstain from eating of the tree of knowledge. It is important to remember this point in order to avoid the erroneous teaching that, had he not transgressed, man would have lived eternally on earth

This is what brought about my first set of questions above.

More on what disturbs(?) me.

In Genesis 3:19 it is not death that is instated, but rather the difficulty of life. Death is assumed as a given: "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground [emphasis in original], for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return".

This seems (to me) to say that death was already around before the Fall or that man knew about death before the Fall.

Lastly on this subject

So, in order to give a wake-up call, the Lord God forbids him to eat from the tree of life...as a reminder that he cannot live forever as the deities do. The man is dust to dust and remains so.

My understanding is that God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden after the Fall because he didn't want them to eat of the Tree of Life and have sin be immortalised. That is what my Spiritual Father taught me, and what I've always understood on the subject. However, these excerpts just seem to contradict all of this.

So, these questions basically boil down to, were these truly excerpts from St. John Chrysostom? Can this be trusted? Or, was my and my SF's understanding on this subject wrong?

#2 Father David Moser

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 11:04 PM

I always understood that Adam did not eat of the Tree of Life. Eating from it would give eternal life.

If Adam never ate of Tree and never fell, what would happen? Death entered through sin, but only eating of the Tree would you have eternal life. So, I just wonder what would happen if he never fell and if he didn't eat of the Tree of Life.


No where does it say that Adam and Eve did not eat of the tree of life in the garden, nor is there any indication that the tree of life imparted immortality. The tree of life is Jesus Christ. He is the only source of life. Creatures cannot ever be "immortal" by their own nature for we are by nature dependent upon some outside source for our life. When Adam and Eve were banned from the Garden, they could no longer partake of the tree of Life to sustain themselves and thus began (ever so slowly) to die. They staved off their own death by the death of other parts of creation (plants and perhaps animals) and thus surviving on the life contained therein - but even so corruption was not to be denied and so this dying life could not sustain them forever and finally their "life" ran out and they died.

Now I admit that the above is a bit simplistic and treats "life" as a finite substance but it makes a nice metaphor. God did impose death upon Adam and Eve so that sin might have an end, however, this is not necessarily connected to their expulsion from the garden. We who are now alive in Christ partake of the "Tree of Life" for we partake of Christ Himself and we are enlivened. But we are also sinners but our partaking of Life does not immortalize sin, rather it helps to purge sin from us. Jump now to the Apostolic injunction not to partake of the Gifts unworthily and that because some have they have fallen ill. If the fruit of the Tree of Life (the Holy Mysteries) do not immortalize sin but burn it out, then when we partake without preparation, they act in ways that are beyond our strength. So also Adam and Eve were not prevented from partaking of the Tree of Life because it would "immortalize" their sin, but rather because they were unprepared to do so and such premature partaking would be to their detriment rather than their benefit.

I'm rattling along here so please forgive the unconnected air of the comments. I hope that I haven't muddied the waters too much.

Fr David Moser

#3 Patrick

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 11:17 PM

I do believe that Genesis 3:22 implies that the tree of life would give immortality.
"Then the LORD said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"

While it the tree is a metaphor for the Cross, I don't believe it should be taken as only a symbol or metaphor. It should also be taken as a literal tree.

This is from St. Gregory Palamas talking of the tree of knowledge.
Similarly, Gregory the Theologian has called the tree of knowledge of good and evil contemplation, having in his contemplation considered it as a symbol of this contemplation which is intended to elevate us; but it does not follow that what is involved is an illusion or a symbol without existence of its own. For the divine Maximus also makes Moses the symbol of judgment, and Elijah the symbol of foresight! Are they too then supposed not to have really existed, but to have been invented symbolically? And could not Peter, for one who would wish to elevate himself in contemplation, become a symbol of faith, James of hope, and John of love? (Defense of the Holy Hesychasts, Triad II, 3:21-22.)

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 12:02 AM

I do believe that Genesis 3:22 implies that the tree of life would give immortality.
"Then the LORD said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"


No, that does not suggest that the tree of life confers immortality by nature but rather it simply reiterates the idea that if we continue to eat from the tree of life, then we continue to live - cut off from the source of life so that it cannot be renewed, then the branch withers and dies.

Also if we use the common analogy of the "tree of life" as the Cross then we still arrive at the conclusion that the fruit hanging from the tree of which we eat and gain life is Jesus Christ.

Fr David Moser

#5 Jesse Dominick

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 07:01 PM

man only dies because of sin. i think the question of eating of the Tree is irrelevant in this regard.

#6 Anna Stickles

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 01:02 AM

man only dies because of sin. i think the question of eating of the Tree is irrelevant in this regard.


Man dies because of sin because sin separates us from the source of life. Our nature is not inherently incorruptible or immortal. It is only immortal through it's participation in God.
Separated from God our nature dies, it goes back to the nothingness from which it came into being. Eating of the tree is relevant as an analogy teaching us our basic dependency on God for a life and existence which is not intrinsic to our nature.

There are several different explanations of these verses, I think, among the different patristic authors, but this basic fact about our nature is universally taught.

#7 Georgianna

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 09:00 AM

Man dies because of sin because sin separates us from the source of life.


In Homily 1, "The Transgression of Adam and Our Redemption by Jesus Christ", St Symeon the New Theologian states:

But think now: Adam sinned with a great sin because he did not believe the words of God, but believed the words of the serpent. Compare God and the serpent, and you will see how great was the sin of most-wise Adam. In his great wisdom he had given names to all the animals (Gen 2:19-20). But when with his whole soul he believed the serpent and not God, then the Divine grace which had rested on him stepped away from him, so that he became the enemy of God by reason of the unbelief which he has shown to His words. ...

Adam, without having any need for this, took from the fruit of that tree (from which God had commanded him not to taste, threatening him that if he should only taste of it he should die); he tasted and died. One should know that since a man has a body and a soul, therefore he has two deaths also: one, the death of the soul, and the other, the death of the body. Likewise, there are also two immortalities, one of the soul and one of the body, even though both of them are in one man, for the soul and the body are one man.

Thus, in soul Adam died immediately, as soon as he had tasted; and later, after nine hundred and thirty years, he died also in body. For, as the death of the body is the separation from it of the soul, so the death of the soul is the separation from it of the Holy Spirit, by Whom God Who had created him had been pleased that man be overshadowed, so that he might live like the angels of God, who, being always enlightened by the Holy Spirit, remain immovable towards evil. Later, for this reason, the whole human race also became such as our forefather Adam became through the fall - mortal, that is, both in soul and body. Man such as God had created him no longer existed in the world. And there was no possibility that anyone should become such as Adam was before the transgression of the commandment. But it was necessary that there should be such a man.

And thus God, desiring to have such a man as He had created Adam in the beginning, sent in the latter times to the earth His Only-begotten Son, and He came and was Incarnate, accepting a perfect humanity, so as to be perfect God and perfect man, and thus the Divinity had a man worthy of It.


On the Sunday of Forgiveness, we commemorate the expulsion of Adam from Paradise and embark on the journey of Holy Lent. It might be helpful to consider the words of St Symeon the New Theologian in Homily 45, "Adam and the First-Created World":

God gave the first-created ones a commandment, and commanded them not to taste of the tree of knowledge alone; but Adam disdained this commandment of God, not believing the words of the Creator and Master, Who said, "In whatsoever day ye eat of it, ye shall surely die," but respected as more true the word of the evil devil who said, "Ye shall not surely die. But in whatsoever day ye eat of it, ye shall become as gods, knowing good and evil," and he tasted of that tree. Therefore he was immediately stripped of that incorrupt garment of glory, and was clothed in nakedness of corruption; and seeing himself naked, he hid himself, and sewing together fig leaves he girded himself so as to cover his shame. Therefore, when God called out to him, "Adam, where art thou?" he replied, "I heard Thy voice and I feared because I was naked, and I hid myself." God calling him to repentance, said to him, "Who told thee that thou wast naked, unless thou hast eaten of the tree concerning which I charged thee of it alone not to eat?" But Adam did not wish to say, "I sinned," but said rather the contrary of this and placed the blame for the transgression upon God Who created everything "very good," saying to Him, "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate." And after him she also placed the blame upon the serpent, and they did not wish at all to repent and, falling down before the Lord God, beg forgiveness of Him. For this God banished them from Paradise, as from a royal palace, to live in this world as exiles.



#8 Aaron R.

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 05:14 AM

Canon 109 of African Code, (120 of Council of Carthage), ratified at Trullo and Nicea II.

That Adam was not created by God subject to death.
That whosoever says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal, so that whether he had sinned or not, he would have died in body—that is, he would have gone forth of the body, not because his sin merited this, but by natural necessity, let him be anathema.
Ancient Epitome of Canon CIX.
Whoso shall assert that the protoplast would have died without sin and through natural necessity, let him be anathema.



#9 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 01:22 PM

This is from St. Gregory Palamas talking of the tree of knowledge.
Similarly, Gregory the Theologian has called the tree of knowledge of good and evil contemplation, having in his contemplation considered it as a symbol of this contemplation which is intended to elevate us; but it does not follow that what is involved is an illusion or a symbol without existence of its own. For the divine Maximus also makes Moses the symbol of judgment, and Elijah the symbol of foresight! Are they too then supposed not to have really existed, but to have been invented symbolically? And could not Peter, for one who would wish to elevate himself in contemplation, become a symbol of faith, James of hope, and John of love? (Defense of the Holy Hesychasts, Triad II, 3:21-22.)



I am confused. Is the tree of knowledge really contemplation? What is the tree of knowledge today? Is eating of it now, after the fall still forbidden/harmful??

#10 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 07:20 PM

The point that St Gregory of Palamas seems to be making here is that though St Gregory the Theologian gave an explanation of the tree of knowledge explaining it symbolically as contemplation, nevertheless, the Tree of knowledge was a real tree, just as Moses was a real man. From context this seems to be taken from an apologetic affirming the physical and historical reality of the events recorded in Genesis against someone who saw them as purely symbolic or allegorical.

One does find in the writings of the desert fathers that often the spiritual life is described as divided into active and contemplative stages and there are lots of warnings about those who strive to enter the contemplative stages before they are ready and how this can open them to delusion.

As far as I understand it, spiritual pride is a real danger, Satan can still appear as an angel of light or at least subtly and invisibly draw people into obeying him rather then God. Advancing in contemplation is for those who have advanced in humility and a faith that is like the trust of a child in their relationship with God.

#11 John Martin

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Posted 12 August 2011 - 06:57 PM

In order to not reinvent the wheel I posted the paper I wrote on this subject on my blog. It basically says most of what Fr. David and Anna said, with the addition of citations from the Holy Fathers. Here is an excerpt:

St Athanasius paints a very vivid picture in Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione of the implications and aftereffects of the Fall. In partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve preferred earthly, fleshly things over the contemplation of God. When Adam and Eve realized their own nakedness and hid in the Garden, “They realized that they were not so much striped of clothing as stripped of the contemplation of divine things, and that they had turned their minds in the opposite direction.”



#12 Kosta

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Posted 12 August 2011 - 10:59 PM

Christ alone who fully assumed our humanity except for ancestral sin- the new Adam, indeed had the ability to be immortal. The Lord VOLUNTARILY went to his death, and a death achieveable only through violence. The canons of the african code are correct, Adam and Eve before the fall was destined to endure forever. Even the jews were taught this as they remarked:

"The people answered Him, We have heard from the Law that the messiah remains forever; and how can you say the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?"(John 12.34)

And it is after the fall that man took to his wife to procreate. A new method was needed to extend his lineage. Because of God's mercy no one man would need to endure forever in his sins, in an abused and evermore decrepit body.

#13 John Martin

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Posted 12 August 2011 - 11:48 PM

In Genesis 3:19 it is not death that is instated, but rather the difficulty of life. Death is assumed as a given: "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground [emphasis in original], for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return".


Following St. Athanasius and others, this is flat-out wrong.

#14 Daniel R.

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 03:22 PM

Looking around the website I believe the commentaries are not written by Saint John Chrysostom at all, but are written by modern authors attempting to write in his style and named after him. An easy way to be sure is read his writings (say on Romans) on C.C.E.L. and compare them to this series.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#15 Anna Stickles

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 05:07 PM

I hadn't originally followed the link and read what it had to say about the Chrysostom Bible, but in reading what the blurb on the link has to say nowhere does it claim to follow his theology. Rather what it claims to do is follow his method.

This commentary series does not intend to promote Chrysostom’s ideas as a public relation manager would do, but rather to follow in the footsteps of his approach


Although even this I think is suspect.

"Chrysostom’s virtual uniqueness is that he did not subscribe to any hermeneutic or methodology, since this would amount to introducing an extra-textual authority over te biblical texts. For him, scripture is its own interpreter."

This and other things in in that introduction you linked indicate that this person is getting his ideas of St. Chrysostom's method not from an understanding of the Orthodox worldview, but rather out of a mindset stuck in issues concerning modern debates on hermeneutics that would not even have occurred to the saint..

#16 Father David Moser

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 05:52 PM

the Chrysostom Bible, ... Rather what it claims to do is follow his method.

Although even this I think is suspect.


According to the life of St John, his "method" was that the Apostle Paul mystically stood beside him and explained the meaning of the words to St John. I do not think that this "method" is available to many others in this life.

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#17 A.C. Lumsden

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 04:10 AM

I rather think that the Book of Genesis is a Theological Story. Therefore, to take details like the "tree at the centre of the garden" literally i.e. an actual tree), and ascribe life-giving properties to it is a tad simplistic. What does this 'tree' represent? (1).

Then there is the whole event of the Fall which beggs the question, where was the locus of Eden? Was eden within heaven, or some antechamber therein? Was Eden and actual physical place like Lebanon or Tibet? If Eden was a place wherein man enjoyed an 'umbilical' relationship with YHWH, such that man was sustained for all eternity by Eternity Himself, then one can say that if man never fell, man would have lived forever. On the other hand, if this is as I suspect a part of

#18 Olga

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 04:17 AM

I rather think that the Book of Genesis is a Theological Story. Therefore, to take details like the "tree at the centre of the garden" literally i.e. an actual tree), and ascribe life-giving properties to it is a tad simplistic. What does this 'tree' represent? (1).


By a tree were Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise. Through another tree, the tree of the Cross, upon which Christ, the New Adam, was crucified, and, through this Cross, an instrument of death, but now giving life, He has restored the possibility of again entering Paradise to humanity. Orthodox hymnography is full of such references.

#19 Jesse Dominick

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 12:35 PM

theology and history are not mutually exclusive. obviously something literally happened - there has to be an actual history there, so why doubt that its the story given to us?

#20 A.C. Lumsden

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 01:14 AM

@Jesse Dominick - The Theological Story is a literary device used by the ancients to try and explain inexplicable events, e.g. the Creation. There were many creation 'myths' (another word Western Scholars use for the 'Theological Story') aroung the Fertile Crescent in the late stone age-early Bronze Age, e.g the Assyrian Epic of Gilgamesh. Peoples at that time tried to explain how they came into being and who created them. The Jewish race was not therefore alone in this persuit, hence there being two myths of the creation in Genesis. The Creation Myths (or Theological Stories) are meant to communicate deep theological truths, e.g. God made us, God made us at the summit of His creation and we a good, and that we, from the begining of our existence, were special and destained for greatness. However, we chose to sin, this caused a chasm between God and us - all mavellously represented by beautiful literary imagery, e.g. man walked with God in the cool of the evening.... and... man was cast out, and an Angel placed to guard the entrance to the garden with a firey sword.
Therefore, I would suspect that the actual events of the creation are lost in the mists of billions of years of history. What IS important is the theological truths that are communicated by the Creation Myth (some of which have already been mentioned).

In Domino Iesv Christe
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