Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1996
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 2: Buried Truths of Origins
Chapter 4: The Fall: The Buried Truth of the Origin of Evil
Lesson 14 – Comparing the Biblical Fall with Pagan Myths:
Similarities and Contrasts with Genesis
1 Feb 1996
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
At the fear of repetition, let’s go back to getting the big picture of where we’re going. We’re working through the Bible event by event, so we’re really looking at major episodes in Scripture. When we started we said it was a little different in that we wanted to cover the text of the Scripture but at the same time we’re going through the text of Scripture we’re also engaging deliberately and antithetically the thought of the world around us.
We said that the world around us the Scripture characterizes as of the flesh, another term is the word “pagan.” That is a provocative term, people don’t like that term, but historically it is a valid term because the word “pagan” simply defined refers to anyone who does not worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; in other words, a non-monotheist.
Theoretically, for example, a Muslim cannot be accused of being a pagan because giving lip service, as he does, to the God of the Bible he’s sort of an aberration from the Scriptural position. But basically I use the word “pagan” as a comprehensive title to expose the agenda. That’s why I use that provocative term, it exposes the agenda of the culture around us, making it non-neutral, it can’t sit there and hide and pretend it’s religiously neutral when it isn’t religiously neutral, it has a built in presupposition antithetical to Scripture.
We said that the first event, creation, has powerful implications for our view of God, our view of man, and our view of nature. Those implications are critical and we review them because they are basic to all else; that there’s basically only two world views in the human race. One is the biblical position that there’s the Creator/creature distinction, and the antithetical to that is the obvious, that there isn’t a Creator/creature distinction, namely the Continuity of Being, that gods, men, angels, animals, rocks, molecules are just sort of in a spectrum of being, but there’s no absolute difference, God is not distinguished over and against His creation. He’s part of the great mystery.
Those are the two positions, and what turns out is that the biblical position, the Bible is the one that gives us an infinite personal Creator, and it’s critical that we remember infinite, personal Creator. There’s a person behind the universe, not a gas cloud, whereas in the pagan side of the house when you go out ultimately you go out into the impersonal background.
The Greeks knew this and they called it Fate. The ancients knew this and they called it the dark chaos. Modern people refer to it as the grand mystery. But whatever the vocabulary term it’s always the same thing, that ultimately furthest back is the impersonal, it’s not anything personal, there’s no meaning there, and all kinds of things follow.
We’ve been trying to be careful in exposing some of the implications for man, and for God. We also said, as a result of this there’s another distinction, the distinction between man and nature. We have drawn the conclusion that God’s attributes, the characteristics that He has, the Scripture says He has, that those are not qualities existing in and of themselves, they’re God’s character, and since God’s character determines His handiwork, and we are His handiwork, it follows that the universe has character traits that are similar to God’s characteristics. So His attribute of eternality is reflected in time, our concept and our experience of historical time is a finite and limited version of His eternality. We went on through each of the attributes and showed this.
Tonight we move to page 51 where we deal with the fall, because now we start another part of the Scripture. All we’ve done so far is draw out implications of Genesis 1–2. What we’re going to do tonight is go through some of the New Testament texts that interpret the story of the fall, and then we’re going to look at an ancient text. I’ll repeat what I did two chapters ago. When we dealt with creation, the event of creation, we said let’s compare how the Bible treats origins with how the world of the time in which the Bible was written treats origins.
We went through Enuma Elish. Why did I pick Enuma Elish? Because Enuma Elish is the most famous ancient Near Eastern text of the cosmological literature. Why do we want to do that? Because we want to go back at the same time and place in history that the Bible was, we want to go back to Moses’ day, when Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit edited and composed the Pentateuch in its final form, drawing upon source materials from Genesis, probably from Noah, Adam, when Moses did that, at that point in history we claim as Christians God inspired him to write an inerrant text, and we flippantly talk all the time in our Christian circles about God inspired the Scripture, etc.
What I’ve tried to do for you is take a non-inspired text, dating from the same general era, and put it side by side with the Biblical text so you can see what inspiration does. That’s why we said on one hand we had Enuma Elish text, on the other hand we had Moses’ text, and if you put them side by side you see tremendous differences, and what those tremendous, observable, measurable differences are is the difference between the Holy Spirit overcoming man’s propensity to sin and Enuma Elish where the Holy Spirit was unrestrained and the authors had free reign to generate out of the power of their own carnal imaginations their ideas of origins. If you take the difference between the pagan literature and the Bible it’s a study in human depth psychology. It’s a study of what the Spirit of God does to restrain sin, and vs. what the carnal mind would come up with.
We’re going to do the same experiment, we’re going to take Genesis 3, you know the story of the fall, and we want to work our way through a contemporary piece of literature to see what the pagans do with the fall. If you learn to think this way it’ll protect you. This is like taking a vaccine because the world around us is toxic, it’s full of toxic spirituality, and the way you immunize yourself against it is to look at that toxic spirituality under controlled conditions, where you can keep it bracketed and controlled by the Word of God. Then you begin to build up an immunity to these ideas.
But Christians who don’t do this are often suckers for all kinds of stuff, they absorb it just unconsciously, someone in the classroom said, somebody on TV said, somebody in Time Magazine said, someone in the text book said, a college professor told me, I read this somewhere, and these ideas get inside unevaluated and they’re toxic. They’re like taking chemicals into your body and finally you begin to have unbelief, you have a difficult time in believing and trusting the Lord in various areas, you wonder why, because deep in your soul you have this garbage that’s come in from the pagan outside environment. So that’s why we’re trying to approach it from this point of view.
In Genesis 3 there are several key texts. We want to look at three sets of verses. In Genesis 2:16-17, those are the original commands of God and to do this little exercise if you write out by hand on a piece of paper, leaving three lines between each line you write. In another color pencil take Satan’s words, found in Genesis 3:1 and what he says in verses 4–5, and write in between the Word of God that you got from chapter 2.
Third, go back through it and take Genesis 3:2–3, what the woman said was going on, and write that parallel. So now you have the text on line 1, 4; then on line 2 and 5 you have what Satan said; and line three and six you have what the woman said. Write it out and observe. Observe the sequence of words, in particular circle adverbs, “surely.”
In the Hebrew you don’t have a lot of those adverbs but they are the translators device to try to bring over to English what the Hebrew emphasis is, because the Hebrew verbs have moods to them, imperative mood, infinitive absolutes, they have all these kind of forms and the way you bring it over to our language is you have to use syntax from the English. In these words you will notice if you check the adverbs and the negatives, watch what the “nots” are attached to, and watch what the adverb pattern looks like.
If you work your way through word by word you’ll begin to notice something. The first observation you’re going to see is that neither Satan nor the woman are talking about what God said. It sounds superficially like what He said, but there’s a massive distortion going on in the way they say it, and you pick up these nuances. Try to work that through and ask the Holy Spirit to give you illumination as you do that exercise in observing the text. That will be good because for the next 3–4 weeks we’ll be drawing implications out of this section of Scripture.
The other thing to notice in Genesis 3 is the sequence of the interrogation. After the fruit is eaten, in Genesis 3:9 what you have is the first counseling session. If you want a theory of counseling here’s what it looks like. You don’t have to go to Sigmund Freud for this. Watch how God deals with the problem, because God doesn’t change, and we basically haven’t changed.
Sin is still sin, then what you have here is an archetypical counseling encounter of how God deals with us. In particular it’s a pattern of how the Holy Spirit still today deals with us. That’s why this is important. In verse 9 do you notice something immediately about God’s first question? Do you notice that God doesn’t say “Adam you sinned, you screwed up.” God knows he screwed up, God knows he sinned. Ask yourself why does He use that particular approach in verse 9? Put yourself in Adam’s position, why do you think that’s more effective in how God starts the interrogation.
Watch the dialogue, notice in Genesis 3:9 God speaks, in Genesis 3:10 Adam responds, Adam responds in Genesis 3:12, passing it to the woman, then in Genesis 3:13 God moves over to the woman, and the end of verse 13 the woman passes it on to Satan, then the Lord says to Satan … watch the sequence of who’s talking to who, watch the buck being passed. He goes from Adam, to the woman, to the serpent.
The grand curse in Genesis 3:4–15 is directed to Satan, so the conversation starts: Adam, woman, Satan. God now reverses it. First He condemns Satan in verses 14–15; in Genesis 3:16 He comes back to the woman, and in Genesis 3:17, 18, and 19 He comes back to man. So it’s like a chiasm or a little valley. You have the man, the woman, the serpent, the serpent, the woman, the man. Watch the sequence.
The other thing that you want to notice is the irony of all this. There’s an irony to the design of the text, because if you look in Genesis 3:14-15 at the curse that’s put on the serpent, compare the content of the curse with what you saw in Genesis 3:1. He’s saying something to the serpent, He characterizes the serpents future live and compare that future characterization, post-cursing, to the characterization of the serpent in Genesis 3:1, and ask yourself what elements do you observe in verse 1 that are repeated in contrast form in Genesis 3:14–15? Do you see irony in that sequence?
In Genesis 3:16 when God turns to the woman He uses some verbs, watch the verbs. For example in the line “in pain you will bring forth children,” compare that with Genesis 1 with what He told man to do, “You shall be fruitful and you shall multiply.” What’s different? What’s the same? The last two clauses to the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you,” compare that with Genesis 1:26–28, also for the proper interpretation of that ruling in verse 16 go to Genesis 4:7 you’ll see the analogue in the original languages. Genesis 4:7 uses exactly the same Hebrew construction as that last part of verse 16 and if you observe that it will help you interpret. Going down further in the text, Genesis 1:17, 18, 19, observe the elements in that text.
Here’s a good way of doing this, copy this text on a copy machine, two or three copies, so you can use colored pencils, mark it up, it’s marking this and picking out relationships in the texts is where the Holy Spirit blesses you and teaches you that you’ve got to get into the text by way of direct observations, writing yourself little notes, diagramming sentences, figuring out where’s the subject, the verb, why is it structured this way, why is an adverb there. Those are the questions you want to ask the text and it’s thrilling to get into the text.
Once you do this you develop your powers of observation so you’re tuned to read this. Notice in verse 17, 18, 19, what elements in those three verses would you compare with what you saw in Genesis 2:15-16. In Genesis 2:15-16, as well as Genesis 1:26-30 Adam was told certain things. In Genesis 3:17, 18, 19 he’s told certain things.
Another question to ask yourself is why in verse 16 when He’s talking to the woman does He talk about a different subject than He does to the man in verses 17, 18, 19. Why is there a gender difference in this? Is that meaningful? Does this say something about where Satan loves to attack, where the greatest trials in life are going to be for each gender? Those are patterns you want to watch.
Genesis 3:15 is called the protevangelium, meaning that is the first place in Scripture that the gospel is presented, it’s the first gospel announcement. You want to think about the bruising on the head, a mortal wound vs. you will bruise Him on the heel, a non-mortal wound. What’s that all about? If you’ve read mythological literature if you look at Genesis 3:15 and read that curse on the serpent it ought to remind you of a famous Greek myth, the story of a Greek son who was held by his what? Part of our anatomy is named for it: Achilles heel. We see these themes of Scripture reappear in the myths of the world and all the while the skeptics are saying is what the Bible is, is just a compilation of myths. It’s exactly reverse; myth is a compilation of distorted biblical truths.
We’ve briefly looked at the text to look at the interactions, you want to also notice Genesis 3:20, why is the woman not called Eve until this point is reached, and why is it after verse 20 that you have the first death recorded in Scripture? Much to the chagrin of the animal rights movement the first animal that was killed in history was killed by its Creator. God killed the first animal. Why did He do so, and what was the cause of death of the first animal? This gives you another little insight about creatures.
Genesis 3:22, 23, 24 also are important because of the implications. That sentence in verse 22 is one of the rarest sentences in Scripture that’s never finished. Some of your translations have a little line at the end of that quote trying to show you that in the Hebrew the grammar is incomplete, what God is saying is “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever,”— there’s a series of consequences there that are never finished. When you stop a sentence either you’ve been distracted or the content of what you started to say you don’t want to finish. That’s the implication here, that God has begun to lay out certain consequences and they are so horrible that He does not want to even mention them, thus that sentence is unfinished.
In Genesis 3:24 you notice that man, from that point and apparently until the flood, was kept by angelic beings and the implication is that angels and men knew one another physically at that point in history. It says cherubs guard the way, Adam’s sons and his son’s sons might go up to that Garden, go back to where they had been created, and every time they’d go back they would face these armed angels that would prevent them. This is the world’s first military and police force that’s brought in, and the power of civil sword.
By the way, notice the flaming sword in verse 24, you’ll hear the word sword again in Scripture. The next time you see it, it will be the sword of the civil state, but prior to the institution of the sword of the civil state in Genesis 9–10 here you have the first sword, the first capital punishment, the first sign of judicial power and authority in the creature is vested not in men, it is vested in angelic beings who had some sort of communication with men in this era of time.
One other thing as we go into this section of the text is on page 51 where I say “Comparing the Biblical ‘Fall’ with Pagan Myths,” I ask you to read those New Testament texts. I want to take you to Revelation 22:1-3. I mention those New Testament references because they give you insight into how the Bible is to be interpreted. Let the Bible interpret the Bible. There’s a lot of nonsense written about the Bible, and it’s written by people who really don’t know it well.
One way to guard yourself against nonsense is to allow other portions of Scripture to interpret it. In Revelation 22:3 it says of the new heavens and the new earth, it goes on and describes it. In verse 1, “And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal,” notice in verses 2 and 3, what flows in the Garden of Eden? A river of water. There’s a river of water in the new universe, and where it’s coming from, “coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
Revelation 22:2, “in the middle of the street,” etc. “… bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Then it says in Revelation 22:3, “And there shall no longer be any curse,” short sentence, there will be no more curse. The fact that that curse is mentioned in the last chapter in the Bible tells you that that curse that’s imposed in Genesis is powerful, enveloping and universal; never to be taken away until the new heavens and the new earth are here. It tells you that when you read Genesis and you read things like God cursed the serpent, people say “aha, isn’t that a cute little animal story,” it’s more than that. The fact that those features that look trivial in the Genesis narratives are meant to be taken extremely seriously, as universals that control all the structure of human history. So you can’t over emphasize the importance of these little points in the text.
Now I want to take you to the pagan text. This is Enuma Elish again, the same one that we did when we were comparing the creation story. There’s a section in that text that has a faint parallel to the origin of sin and discord.
“The divine brothers gathered together.
They disturbed Tiamat and assaulted (?) their keeper;
Yea, they disturbed the inner parts of Tiamat,”
The “inner parts” of Tiamat shows you that the god and gods in these texts were not thought of as ghosts, they were thought of as material entities. In some strange way they were both gods and goddesses, but also the earth, the water and the fire.
“Moving (and) running about in the divine abode (?).
Apsu could not diminish their clamor,
And Tiamat was silent in regard to their [behavior].
Yet, their doing was painful [to them].
Their way was not good.”
Here you have a certain chaos within the gods in the ancient past. Note the story: Apsu calls his helper, Mummu, to help him persuade Tiamat that all three of them should destroy the noisy progeny: here’s their argument, this is a husband and wife argument that’s going on here.
“Their way has become painful to me,
By day I cannot rest, by night I cannot sleep;
I will destroy (them) and put an end to their way,
That silence be established and then let us sleep!”
“Why should we destroy that which we ourselves have brought forth?
Their way is indeed very painful, but let us take it good naturedly!”
It goes on, Apsu tries to do that, he gets in a war with the gods, he is crushed so you have this constant chaos, struggle and fighting. That’s the pagan mind at work. Here’s a question, write it down because this is the kind of thing that you want to say, look, I am reading as a Christian the Genesis narrative which tells me very clearly that when the universe left God’s fingertips He said it was very good, there was no discord, there was no disharmony going on, and then there was at a certain point in time, but if you look at this, it’s kind of a mushy blend. You’ll also notice here man isn’t involved, but the gods and goddesses themselves are involved in the process of evil. We’ll come back to the implications of that.
Further in the notes, “Keep this narrative in mind as you consider the modern pagan story of evolution. According to the modern story, evil always existed in some form.” Note that, that’s an important sentence. “Indeed, natural evil in the form of death is the very means of natural selection so essential in the alleged eventual creation of man. The story of evolution is the maxim ‘blessed are the fittest, for they shall survive.’ ” Morally and ethically modern evolution, with regard to the problem of death, suffering and evil, is no different than the pagan stories of the ancient world, there is no structural difference between Darwin and Enuma Elish. It’s amazing, so obvious. Evil is always there.
Here’s an interesting observation: it is only in the Bible and certain biblically connected cultures where evil starts at a point in time. All other stories don’t really give you an origin of evil. So we’re going to deal first with the similarities of these stories in Genesis, then we’ll deal with the differences. Why are we doing this? Because we’re trying to show what the human mind would normally gravitate to in its carnality by way of explanations, theories and hypothesis, vs. what the human mind does when the Holy Spirit comes, controls that mind, and produces a godly thought, a true thought.
The similarities with Genesis: I quote the Babylonian Adapa Legend “in which a half-God, half-man being called Adapa is called to heaven to answer for something he did on earth. While he’s there he is offered ‘food of life’, the ‘water of life’ which, if he partakes of it, will convey to him immortality. He refuses and is sent back to the earth to die.” Man had the opportunity one time for immortality; that’s somewhat similar.
What was in the Garden besides the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? The tree of life, and that’s remembered in mythologies. Here’s an example, the Adapa Legend of the Greeks remembers that tree of life.
There are many other legends; I gave you another one from Southeast Asia, the Karen people, which is now in Burma, Siam, whatever it’s called today. “Y’wa formed the world originally.” Look at this text; it’s a remarkable story that recapitulates Genesis 3. “He appointed food and drink. He gave them the ‘fruit of trial’. He gave detailed orders. Mu-law-lee deceived two persons. He caused them to eat the fruit of the tree of trial. They obeyed not; they believed not Y’wa … When they ate of the fruit of trial, they became subject to sickness, aging, and death.” If that isn’t a copy of Genesis 3 I don’t know what is. But here’s the mystery; that story dates before the missionaries reached those people.
So the question, how was that truth preserved all the way from Noah down to 1850, close to 1900 when a researcher found this in that tribe. The only explanation we have for this kind of thing is that the Holy Spirit among many, many peoples on this planet preserved something of the truth of Noah to those people.
When you hear this story about oh, they never heard, oh yes they did hear; where did these people get this stuff from, they didn’t make it up. They had plenty of truth in life. So those are the similarities. We can see similarities and the explanation is found in Isaiah 40:21 when Isaiah says “this has been known from the beginning,” in other words Isaiah, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, says that mankind has been exposed to truth from the days of creation.
You can argue all the sociology you want to, but embedded in these primitive cultures are elements of the truth in every race, in every language, on every continent. Do you know why it’s there? Because that’s the only way people can be held accountable.
Now we come to the contrast of Genesis. There are some similarities, usually buried deeply in all the other garbage that goes along. These contrasts show us things that we have to be careful about in our own lives. These contrasts show what our natural mind wants to do to suppress the truth. So what traits do we observe in these stories? What were the traits that we observed in the creation event? There was the creation event and it became distorted through time.
Here’s Noah, in his day, and as the different races and tribes expanded across the face of the earth carrying the Noahic traditions with them, those Noahic traditions gradually were polluted, contaminated, mutilated, etc. So some tribes had a lot of truth, some had little, some had none, some had a lot.
There was one that God preserved which we call Israel and the sons of Abraham, and God infused additional knowledge to save the corpus of truth for the human race. But these different tribes had pieces of the truth, but though they had pieces of the truth, in each case there was a massive distortion so that percent wise maybe one tribe had 30% truth and 70% error; another tribe had 5% truth and 95% error, etc. There were these proportions of error that crept in.
As we look at these stories we ask ourselves, what does the error look like, and we said when we dealt with creation that one of the errors was that the Creator/creature distinction was lost. Not that they didn’t talk about God, not that they didn’t use the word Creator, they used the word Creator, it was just that they were using it out of context so there wasn’t this absolute distinction between them.
We said the second thing that was true of all this mythology is that there was a loss of a sense of a personal sovereign God. We saw all the fighting going on, there were multiplicities of gods, they were arguing with one another, it was a committee without a chairman. There was no one infinite personal authority; that was what was gone.
Look at this, element #1 and element #2. What we’re saying is that our sin nature, the carnal mind, likes to do that to the truth, and we can find it in our own hearts. When we’re wandering around spiritually, what do we do to God? We always diminish Him, we diminish His glory, we don’t believe His attributes, we insist that He answer to us, and all those things that we observe are just simply doing what the pagans have done for centuries. We’re just trying to cut God down to our size.
The other thing that we love to do is pretend that He isn’t in authority, that it’s all sort of “chancey,” after all, why do I dare to sin, because I think I can get away with it. Would I really think that I dare to get away with it if I was really convinced that God was sovereign, powerful, and personal? No, so I’ve bought into it when I do that. That’s what we did with creation.
Now what we want to do is do the same analysis, this time not looking at creation but we look at the event of the fall. Let’s look from Noah out to all these tribes, we’ve sampled their literature and we say again, what do they do with the Noahic truth passed to them originally of Genesis 3. What does Genesis 3 look like after it gets through being mutilated by the carnal mind?
The first thing we say, page 53, “Earlier we learned that there were two major areas of contrast regarding origins. There was a contrast between the Creator/creature ‘two-level’ view of reality and the pagan Continuity of Being ‘one-level’ view of reality”, we just covered that. Then the personal sovereign God was replaced by Impersonal Chance or Fate. God’s there, maybe, but He’s really not totally in control, there’s a little neutrality zone where I can flee.
Looking at The Fall literature, the first amazing thing we have, number1 on page 53, “Bounded Evil vs. Eternal Evil.” Let me show you what we’re talking about here. [blank spot] … all kinds of paganists, note the bottom diagram. In the bottom diagram good and evil always were there and more importantly always will be there, note that.
When you feel like you as a Christian have to apologize for your faith, think of that one. Would you like to believe that; that good and evil will always be here? Excuse me, I don’t think I’ve got the problem, I think you’ve got the problem, we ought to be saying. That is unbounded evil; that is evil that is part and parcel of existence like oxygen is. I couldn’t conceive of the universe without evil ever, ever, ever, ever again; it never was without evil and never shall be without evil, evil is a corollary to existence.
Suffering, death, and misery are a corollary to existence, there is no existence apart from a suffering existence, a dying existence, a horrible existence. That’s paganism. It has always had that answer, and it will always have that answer; it always has, always will. It can’t get out of it, it’s trapped. Evil is unbounded in every pagan view.
On the bottom of page 53, “it will always be part of existence. From Enuma Elish to Socrates to Darwin evil is an escapable component of existence.” Now watch the next sentence, critical. “To escape the horror of an eternal existence with evil, some forms of oriental religion devised the only conceivable escape: going into a state of ‘non-existence’.” Nirvana. You ask why New Age and Hinduism have these [can’t understand word] of drugs, we’re talking about the drug culture here, allied with the New Age culture, allied with Oriental religions. Why do they always do this? It’s sort of a suicide of existence.
The Hindus said this: my life is like a drop of water, it has form, it is limited, and it ends by dropping into the ocean. Now what happens when a drop drops into the ocean, what happens to its identity? It’s gone. So very cleverly, it’s a cute solution to this problem, the only solution you have if you believe this, if you in your heart really buy into this, the only solution you have is to destroy yourself. And that’s exactly what the drug culture does, that’s exactly what the New Age movement does, that is exactly what Hinduism and Buddhism have done over the centuries.
This same answer. It always comes out in a different vocabulary, somebody writes a new book, but it’s always the same thing. Learn to recognize that for what it is and rejoice that as a Christian you’ve been rescued from that.
That is the only answer, the ONLY answer outside of the Bible, so we don’t have to apologize for the Scripture. It’s like Patton said in the film, he says don’t worry about them, you shoot them in the belly, we’re not worried about them shooting us, we shoot them. That’s where the non-Christian is weak, he yaks yaks endlessly about our problem with evil in Christianity. Hey buddy, you’ve got a bigger one than I’ve got.
So now let’s go back and I want you to see Heidel’s quote because something else is also true here. In the quote on page 53 by Dr. Heidel of the University of Chicago, “Of the Babylonians can be said what Cicero has said with reference to the poets of Greece and Rome: ‘The poets have represented the gods as inflamed by anger and maddened by lust and have displayed to our gaze their wars and battles, their fights and wounds, their hatreds, enmities and quarrels ….’ Since all the gods were evil by nature and since man was formed with their blood, man of course inherited their evil nature …. Man, consequently was created evil and was evil from his very beginning. How, then, could he fall? The idea that man fell from a state of moral perfection does not fit into the system or systems of Babylonian speculation.”
That’s coming from a man who is a reputed world authority in ancient literature. Dr. Heidel was Sr. Professor at the University of Chicago’s ancient oriental school for many years. This is not just a flippant, off-the-cuff remark he’s making.
I give you that encouragement, that the issue that we see between the Bible and outside in the world is the Bible has a bounded story. Look at this story, here we find creation originally good, at a point in time evil originates, and then there’s a point in which evil and good are separated, forever and ever, in the good which is the new heavens and new earth, that is never to be contaminated again, ever again, there will be no more curse, Revelation 22:3.
So it’s bracketed at the front end, it’s bracketed at the back end; evil is contained in the Scripture. That gives us hope. Paganism ultimately is hopeless; it is a hopeless mess, in the true sense of the word. Only in the Scripture do we have evil originating, people laugh at Genesis 3 and say ha, the story of man falling. Thankfully it’s there, because if evil never did start in the Garden, then it always was with us.
Second, on page 54, again quoting Heidel: “The problem of the origin of sin does not even enter into consideration.” He’s talking about these ancient pagan pieces of literature. “Consequently, it is a misnomer to call the Adapa Legend the Babylonian version of the fall of man. The Adapa Legend and the biblical story are fundamentally different, as far as far apart as the antipodes.”
This is my comment: “In Enuma Elish it was the original divine parents who selfishly abused their children, and mankind merely followed in their footsteps. Since evil was a corollary to existence itself, no personal responsibility for evil’s origin is given. Mankind is just a passive victim to what is.” So we have the second great characteristic between the pagan and the Bible. These are broad brush approaches, but they work.
Look again at the fall. The event of the fall as distorted by paganism, the fall is replaced by a denial of origins, there is no origin. Origin has been removed, evil always was there. Just like creation is always removed, the universe just always was there, so here. So that means that evil is unbounded vs. the truth where evil is bracketed and confined, and suffering is confined, and death is confined, and horror is confined.
This is number one; the second great idea that you want to train yourself to observe is between the Bible and the world system around us, is that the world system, because there is no fall, there is no blame, and so you remove responsibility for evil. And if you subtract responsibility you are left with a victim. That has always been the case.
In the Adapa Legend what happened? The guy refused to drink and so all mankind was the victim, no personal responsibility, everybody’s a victim, blame it on this, blame it on something else. To show that this is actually how we think, go back to Genesis 3. What was the dialogue like between God, Adam and Eve? The fact that these stories have this in show their reality. People don’t like the Bible because it speaks to our hearts, it’s a lamp that shines in a dark place and we don’t like what we see when the light’s turned on, that’s why we don’t like the Scripture. It brings too much of our dark hearts so we see ourselves for what we are.
If you look again in Genesis 3:12, is Adam accepting personal responsibility or is he claiming victimization? The woman, in Genesis 3:13, is she acknowledging personal responsibility for her choices or is she claiming victimization, always the victim, poor me, my mother dropped me on my head when I was a baby or something. This is the story, this always is the story and it always will be.
It’s not just funny trait, that’s what I’m trying to get at, there’s a powerful structure that’s operating here, this idea of kissing everything off as victimization is related to the other idea, that evil isn’t there because of us, it’s there because of something else, it’s in the molecules, it’s not me, I didn’t have anything to do with it. Even the most rabid environmentalist who will say that we’re wrecking the environment would never go so far as to say “Genesis 3 says,” would they? Talk about environmentalism, do you want an environmental text, Genesis 3 is a good one. Man wrecked the environment of the whole universe, that’s what Genesis 3 is saying, and I bet when you push that one on to an environmentalist, oh, whoops, I don’t mean THAT much responsibility.
So we bear ultimate responsibility for the state of the universe. Why is that? Adam and Eve, and ourselves corporately in them, we share the blame for the way the universe is. We share the blame for the death of animals. The animals had rights in one sense, but not like the animal rights people think. Animals suffer today because of our sin, going all the way back historically to what went on in the Garden.
The environment today is savaged by forces of the curse upon us, and if we are in this text, and we notice why in Genesis 3:17–19 the environment wreaks destruction, notice the language and nuance in verse 17 when God curses it, “In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” What had He said earlier? People look at that and say that means work. That doesn’t mean work? Look at Genesis 2:15, what was Adam supposed to do there? He was supposed to work.
Work didn’t begin with the fall, work began with creation. God was the first laborer, it took Him six days to make the universe, and He thought that was pretty slick, everything He built He looked at it and said, Hey, I like that. The first picture you get of God is He’s a worker, a laborer, a craftsman, who takes pride in what He constructs.
But then what we find is that in the curse of verse 17 God doesn’t say that work begins because the toiling in the Garden was in Genesis 2:15. Remember when God said to Adam in Genesis 2:15, He said “cultivate it and keep it.” And He said “From any tree of the Garden you may eat freely,” that’s a little tip.
I started the lesson and said write out the text and watch adverbs. This is what I mean. That little word “freely,” seeing if you can spot that one in what Satan and the woman say. There’s an adverb that gets dropped out of the discussion very quickly. Why is that adverb in verse 15? Doesn’t it show you something of the over-abundance of what God provided? And Satan’s trying to make God out to be a big stooge, so he drops off the adverb.
Look at adverbial effect in Genesis 3:17, it says “In toil you shall eat of it,” you can treat that as kind of an adverb, “toilsomely” you will eat of it, “toilsomely” you shall work. Why is the ground doing this? What is the hierarchy that you originally see in creation?
Think about the chain of command here. First you have God, then you have Adam, and Adam was to till the earth, and of the earth he was to bring forth fruit. Where does the curse strike man? I said watch for the irony in the text. What had Adam done here in this relationship? He reversed it, Adam said I will be as God knowing both good and evil, I will call the terms, and God says fine Adam, you want to be God try ruling your domain now.
So God curses this so the earth rebels against Adam. See its irony, man rebels against God so the ground rebels against us. And everywhere we see natural disaster, we’re talking natural disaster, not just human disaster: tornados, storms, volcanoes, earthquakes, and people say look at the innocent kids that are killed in Bangladesh every time a typhoon comes into that part of the Indian Ocean, horrible, horrible, horrible! How can God let something like that happen? It wasn’t that way originally. Where’s the ground cursed? Right here, that’s where it starts. This is natural evil, man chose to rebel so the ground rebels against man.
We summarize by saying the tail end of this thing in the fall is the pagan denies the origin of evil so that he has an unlimited evil, there’s no start and there’s no end. The Bible brackets evil because it has a starting point and is has a removable point. The second big idea to master from the Scripture is that paganism always denies responsibility, not flippantly, we all joke about it, but it has a real agenda to do that. It does so because evil to the pagan mind isn’t something originally brought in by us, I’m a victim of it, I didn’t cause it, if I didn’t cause it I’m a victim of it. I’m either active or passive.
The Bible says we are the active ones in the process of evil, we brought it in. The pagan says no we’re not, we’re the passive ones. The result is that the Bible accepts responsibility, and in the counseling session of Genesis 3, all that God does to Adam and all that God does to the woman He is trying to get them to confess their sin, and the confession of sin is simply acknowledging my responsibility, that I was not caused to do that, I chose to do that.
You see it’s very simple, the story is so simple, but the ideas are so powerful, they contaminate every area and affect every area of life if you look at it from the pagan point of view. In the Bible point of view we struggle as Christians with both of those. When we lose our hope we are basically abandoning it, stepping over to the pagan idea this evil will just go on and on and on, God doesn’t care about me, etc. and we lose sight of the fact that He has bracketed it. We lose sight of the fact that we are responsible. Not only for our personal sin but in Adam we are responsible for all of the world’s sufferings. It is not God’s fault.
That sets us up so that when we read further, next time you’ll see “Evil Under God.” We’re going to deal with God, man, and nature all over again, and with the relationships with God, what it does to that relationship; man, what evil does to man; and then what evil does with nature.
Question asked: Clough replies: Eve has a choice, she has a choice of trusting God’s Word authoritatively, and she doesn’t elect to do that, what she says in effect is I’ve got Satan telling me I’m not going to die, I’ve got God saying I am going to die, and what she’s really doing instead of doing this, by the time she’s dialoguing she’s already done this. See, she’s already got God and Satan on the same plain, and that’s all part of the origination of evil.
What the Bible presents is that … the Bible never tells us why God set history up to go the way it’s going, that question is not answered in the Bible, for a reason we’ll discuss, but the Bible does say that evil originated after the creation, and it was originated by the creature, not by the Creator.
Both in the case of Adam and in the case of Satan, because if we take the Ezekiel 28 passage about the King of Tyre, really the prophet is addressing Satan through that king, like often times in the Old Testament through David, like in Psalm 110 David stands up as a Messianic figure and it’s obviously greater than David that’s being mentioned in the Psalm, so you know the Holy Spirit is really talking about Christ even though He’s talking at David.
It’s the same thing In Ezekiel 28, God addresses the King of Tyre and He says you had all these riches and wealth and beauty, “until the day” that evil was found in you. Clearly there’s a time gap between the time he was created and the time this happens.
The other passage we have in Isaiah 14 depicts original sin, when Satan said “I will be like the Most High,” and when you look at those passages, the story of the origin of evil is very important because the origin of evil is the clearest picture of evil. When we think of evil 9 times out of 10 we’re thinking of some immoral social thing. Satan didn’t rip anybody off, it’s not theft, it’s not adultery, it’s not anger, it’s something else.
The essence of sin is that I will determine it, self-centered I. So by showing those little glimpses of the origin of evil, the Holy Spirit is educating us to this toxin, this awful thing that we have to face, that sent Christ to the Cross ultimately.
But evil came out of the creature, there’s no question in the Scripture, both in Ezekiel 28, “Until evil was found in you,” and the Garden it was the man and the woman who turned and God addressed them, He addressed the serpent who was obviously Satan already fallen, so you have a blame. So the origin of evil is within the creation. It’s not in the Creator. That’s the radical difference because in the Adapa Legend and in Enuma Elish, clearly the gods themselves were evil.
Question asked: Clough replies: In the notes I have for next time we get into the problem of evil a little more deeply, and I point out that while the Bible doesn’t tell us all the complete answer to evil, it really does not have a complete answer to evil, I’m not saying there isn’t a complete answer to evil, I’m just saying we haven’t been told the complete answer yet.
But I point out that when God comes to Job and Job’s been complaining about his suffering and sorrow, it’s remarkable that when you get right back down to the end chapter Job is not given the answer. Job would like to have an answer, why did I lose my sons? Why did I lose my wealth? Why did this happen to me? It’s the classic question, why did this happen to me? And if you watch the text, how God works with Job, it’s almost like He overpowers Job with His presence.
Job comes to see God in all of His glory in His presence and the question falls away, it dissolves. Job never asked the question again. All Job ever says is after he sees God he sees himself as being terribly foolish for even asking the question.
That’s the tantalizing answer the Scripture always … the Scripture leaves us dangling that way because we have to make a choice, do we trust, there’s an answer that God has in His heart that makes perfect sense, but He has not yet chosen to tell us, and He is asking us to trust Him and His character. In other words, He would say to us, you have got to trust Me, that I know what I’m doing, and you either trust Me or you don’t, and if you don’t you’re sinning, and I don’t owe you an answer.
Question asked: Clough replies: I don’t know, ask God. The thing you have to be careful of is that in the sentence of warning, God said in the day that you eat you’re going to die, and some have pointed out, there’s a verse in Kings, I checked this all out one time, laboriously going through every occurrence of that expression in the Hebrew and I found another place in the Bible where that same occurrence occurs, “in the day that you” blah blah blah, “you shall” da da da da “die.” And the mystery is why … Adam didn’t drop dead at that moment, and yet the Bible says “that the day that you eat thereof you will surely die.”
If you look at the analogue in 1 Kings it’s a case where a king sins and God says the day that you sin you die, in other words, you begin to die, at that point you are a doomed man, and his kingdom begins to fall apart and he ultimately dies. But the Hebrew emphasis is there that the wheels of judgment begin and they will roll and they will not be stopped, that you’ve doomed yourself is the way we would translate it today.
So obviously that involves also a spiritual aspect, that he died immediately spiritually and not for a while physically. But whatever that was, that’s why he didn’t seek God in the Garden, because it’s a part of us that revolts, that’s what’s so horrifying about sin is that sin’s effect on us is it turns us from wanting God. That’s the horror of it. It’s not all the little things we do, those are bad enough, but what’s horrifying about sin is it’s a revulsion, it’s an inner revulsion against ever wanting to come face to face with God.
And that’s what Adam was doing, he fled from His presence. And we do. This is why the early writers, 300–400 years ago kept referring to the Holy Spirit as the hound of Heaven, that’s where the expression gets started, God sends the hounds out, they were using Old English hunting, the hounds going after the foxes and it was a metaphor of the hunter, how they’d flush them out, so that’s how that got into Christian literature, the expression “the hound of Heaven,” because it’s the Holy Spirit reaching out, just like God in the Garden, God initiated the counseling.
The counterpart to your question would be what would have happened if God had not started the conversation, because left to themselves Adam and Eve would still be there, still hiding. But it was God who initiated and there’s the picture of grace at work. He didn’t have to do that because He told them up front what the story was all about, and they chose to hang. Sorry, too bad guys. But He went that extra, and then lo and behold, He has this neat plan; God had this all planned out.
The neatest phraseology I’ve ever seen for saying this in an economical way is that neat children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, I think it’s in the classic, the first one, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and there’s two chapters in it, watch the titles: one is “Magic From the Dawn of Time”, and it’s talking about the fall and the lands become all winter, winter without Christmas, etc. Then when he starts talking about Aslan, the Christ figure, the chapter reads: “Magic From Before the Dawn of Time”. And it’s Lewis’ neat way of saying Satan has his chess move and God has another one planned. That mysterious way that God works—that’s what makes Him God.
If I were a non-Christian and I wanted to attack the Christian faith, I wouldn’t worry about evolution or anything else, I’d come right at you at the problem of evil, because that’s where we tend to be squeamish, and we don’t want to be forthright to what the Scripture says and the Scripture simply says, and Paul’s very abrupt, it almost sounds like he’s very harsh in Romans 9 when he quotes the Old Testament, “I will harden whom I will harden,” and Paul says so there you are, and woe be to the man who questions that.
That really rubs us the wrong way, especially if you’re in the middle of a suffering situation and you’re hurting. It’s easy to concentrate on the sovereign omnipotence of God and not realize the other factor, that we’ll bring up next week, and that is what feature of the Christian, that is not true of any other religion, guards us against thinking of our God as a bad God.
The answer is Jesus Christ, because if Jesus Christ is God incarnate then when God ordained there be evil, He ordained that He Himself would suffer with it, because what does Christ do? Does He not bear all the sins of the world on Himself? So didn’t God get Himself personally involved with this thing? So God is not an uninvolved God, and I think that’s what angers us sometimes is that we always think of God as safe in Heaven, He never feels this way, or He’s never personally touched like I’m personally touched, He never had a baby die or He never had cancer, or He never had this or that. Bologna. He came in contact with it all.
That’s what’s missing in Islam. Islam makes a big thing about Allah, and Allah is supposed to be the great sovereign omnipotent God, but Allah always stays safe, Allah never gets dirt under his fingernails, Allah never dies for anybody, Allah never feels sadness and one of the passages Francis Schaeffer loved to point out is John 11, here you have God incarnate coming to the grave of His friend, Lazarus, and He weeps. That’s a little verse in the Greek and what Schaeffer points out, just a simple observation but it just hits you like a ton of bricks, he makes this obvious induction from that verse, he says isn’t it interesting that Jesus Christ could be grieved and angry at the death of His friend without being grieved and angry at Himself for allowing it. That says something. In His response to that event in that family’s life, Jesus acts the way He acts in John 11, with compassion, with grief, with sorrow, and He doesn’t get angry at Himself and say I really screwed up and made history this way. You don’t see Jesus acting that way.
So it tells you there’s something going on here that we don’t fully understand, how God can be grieved so deeply and be wounded on the Cross as He was, part and parcel of the horror of hell itself, it’s one of those neat truths of Scripture. You’ve got to keep all the Bible together.
It’s like the B-52s flying over Hanoi, I had a friend that was a co-pilot there, he flew the first combat mission he ever flew was at night, you see the SAM missiles come up and start blowing up in the clouds and the first thing you want to do is move that aircraft like this and you can’t because your electronic counter measure is covering this guy, and if you break formation you’ve exposed your buddy, so you have to sit there and hold the stick and trust that the system is going to work the way it was designed to work and blow the things up before they blow you up. The next night he said I prayed for clear skies so at least I could see the missiles and they wouldn’t just blow up in the clouds, then when I saw them coming up I had more time to watch them and that was worse.
It’s always reminded me of that same idea, that each B-52 flying in a flight of three or four had to fly in a certain formation to protect themselves, and every piece of Scripture has to be related like this. That’s why Jesus in the New Testament, as the incarnate God, is vitally important to balance this issue of the fall, and God’s sovereignty, and He’s a judge, etc.
You’ve got to keep these truths all together. What the enemy wants us to do is he likes to come in and peel off one of these truths and get it isolated off over here so he can eat it up and distort it. Our job as Christians is to keep the truths guarding each other, each of the truths together in the pattern of Scripture. That’s not easy to do. That’s what we’re trying to do here is to give the panorama to show these great events and that they are interrelated, there are these grand themes that run through the Bible from beginning to end and you have to concentrate on those.