Genesis iii. 2-3.

June 26, 2010

And the woman answered him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat, and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die.

2-3. The woman’s reply.

St. Chrysostom: “Do you see the malice?  The serpent said what was not true, so that he might provoke the woman into conversation and learn what was true.  After this, the woman, confident that the serpent was benevolently disposed towards her, revealed the whole command, and diligently recited all she had been told, and by her reply removed from herself all possible excuse.  For what can you say, o woman?  ‘Why did God say, do not eat of every tree in paradise?’  You should have turned yourself away violently from him who had spoken differently than God, and said: ‘Be off with you, you are an imposter; you know neither the power of the command given to us, nor how many things we enjoy, nor the abundance of the things that are supplied to us.  For you say God told us not to taste the fruit of any tree; but our Lord and Creator, out of his immeasurable goodness, has allowed us to enjoy and have power over them all; from one only did he order us to abstain, and counseled us so that we might be prevented from tasting it and meeting with death’” (ibid., 3.).

St. Augustine: “So the serpent asks first, and the woman replies in this way, so that transgression could be seen to be inexcusable, and that it could not be said in any way that she had forgotten what God had commanded.  Although the forgetting of a command, most especially of the only one given, and one so necessary, would indicate the great guilt of damnable negligence, nevertheless the transgression is more evident when the command is retained in the memory, and God, assisting and present in the mind, is, as it were, despised” (De Genesi ad litteram, XI. xxx. 38.).

St. Ambrose: “But so that you might know that there could be no fault in God’s command, the woman replied, as you can read: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. Certainly there is no fault in the command; but there is fault in the telling of the command.  Indeed, how strongly this passage teaches us that we ought to add to a command either not at all or with the grace of caution.  For if you add anything or take anything away, it seems to be some sort of disobeying of the command.  So nothing, or only that which can be seen to be good, is to be added.  For at first glance, what displeasure could be given by what the woman added:  and that we should not touch it?  For God had not said, Do not touch, but do not eat.  But nevertheless this was the beginning of the fall.  For what she added, she added superfluously, or by adding showed that she imperfectly understood God’s command” (De Paradiso, xii. 56.).

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