Genesis iii. 4-5.

June 26, 2010

And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death.  For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.

4-5. The serpent’s temptation.

St. Chrysostom: “The serpent says to the woman: No, you shall not die the death.  How could anyone consider the woman worthy of indulgence, when she opened her ears completely to one who dared to say such things?  For God had said, Do not eat, lest you die; but the serpent says, You shall not die the death.  Then, not content with having spoken words contrary to those of God, it even accuses the Creator of envy; and by this it was able to introduce fraud, deceive the woman and fulfill its design.  For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.  Here is the whole bait: the serpent has given the woman the chalice full of destructive poison, which she did not wish to see was deadly: for she was indeed able, if she had so wished, to know this from the beginning; but as she heard from it, that God had forbidden this food, because He knew their eyes would be opened, and that they would be as gods, knowing good and evil, she conceived great ambitions within herself, and became puffed up with the hope of equaling the divine nature.  For such are the plottings of the enemy: when he has led one up to the heights by deceit, in the end he throws him down by the precipice to the depths.  Therefore, as she imagined she would become equal to God, she hurried to the food, and then fixed there her thoughts and her mind: and she thought of nothing other than draining the chalice prepared by the malignant demon” (Homiliæ in Genesin, xvi. 3.).

St. Augustine: “How could the woman have believed the idea that they had been forbidden from some good and useful thing by the divine power, unless there was already in her mind the love of her own power, and some arrogant self-presumption, which was to be conquered and humiliated by that temptation?” (De Genesi ad litteram, XI. xxx. 39.)

St. Ambrose: “Let us learn, then, that the temptations of the devil are full of lies; for scarcely one truth can be found in what he promised: the rest were falsehoods that he invented.  For as you read: You shall not die the death.  There: a lie; for man died the death, after he followed the promises of the serpent.  Then he adds: For God knows that in what day soever you shall eat of it, your eyes shall be opened.  This is the one truth; for it says later that they both ate and their eyes were opened.  But this is a truth that harms.  It is not useful for everyone’s eyes to be opened, for it is written: They shall see, and not see.[1] And then at once he sticks on another lie, saying: And you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.  In this it can be noticed that the serpent is the author of idolatry, because the introduction to man of the idea of many gods is seen to be an error originating from the serpent’s cunning.  And this was a lie, that man would be like gods.  For not only did men cease to be like gods, but they, to whom it was said: I have said, you are gods,[2] lost the grace of God itself” (De Paradiso, xiii. 61.).


[1] Is. vi. 9.  Vulgate/DR: See the vision, and know it not.

[2] Ps. lxxxi. 6.

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