The physical state of the inhabitants of paradise (continuation)
– Their sexuality
In many Christian circles, there is also an ingrained negative attitude towards human sexuality, which similarly leads to a misinterpretation of Genesis. Our biblical ancestors obviously had – like all of us – genitals with the associated hormonal action, mutual attraction, menstruation, etc. And that was very good in God’s eyes and necessary for orderly procreation. Moreover, a loving, disciplined and faithful sexual relationship promotes inner balance (as God confirmed when He noted that it was not good for Adam to remain alone). On the other hand, a disorderly and unfaithful relationship leads to suffering and perhaps even death.
Since libido is a highly developed instinct, essential to the survival of the human species, it becomes a dangerous and potentially destructive factor for people whose actions are no longer in tune with God’s authentic will. In the ancient world of early Christians, moral decadence was widespread (as can be deduced, among others, from the epistles of St. Paul), with the consequence that a kind of distrust of sexuality appeared among adherents of the new Christian doctrine. Partly under the influence of the teachings of the holy (but not infallible) patriarchs, there was even a tendency to interpret the Fall itself as a sexual act, and to attribute to the woman the role of born temptress, at the origin of everything that is wrong. This trend still exists today.
The “act of sin” presented in the Bible is more likely to be neither external nor internal of a sexual nature. The sin internally consisted in yielding to the temptation to become independent from God, in the false hope of eternal (earthly) life. Outwardly, according to Genesis, this happened while eating forbidden foods. Indeed, Satan knew well that it was unlikely that the pious first human couple would go straight from their primordial perfection to an abominable or degenerate sexual act. On the other hand, the ingestion of food, which – although forbidden – seemed very appetizing, did not externally contradict their normal behaviors, which greatly facilitated the first gesture in the wrong direction. Since wrong food can cause psychological disturbances, it is quite possible that such (or a comparable) act was the original physical cause of the subsequent disorganization. This also manifested itself in the sexual behavior pattern (so it was an effect and not a cause).
Adam and Eve, even in their originally holy state, can best be seen as authentic lifelike blood relatives of ours, extraordinarily gifted and possessing balanced sensitivity and healthy sexuality. Perhaps it is then also possible to get an imaginary, but reasonably realistic, picture of other aspects of their life story? To this end, we must first get an idea of the time and place of their earthly existence. The biblical location can be simplified as belonging to the “fertile crescent” of the Near East. But the search for the period to which they belonged, based on the succinct and largely mythological accounts of Genesis, is of greater importance. Unfortunately, this is still a speculative undertaking.
The time of the first ancestors
What God asks of us is first and foremost faith in Him and His Word. To this end, He inspires and clarifies our minds. For questions typical of faith, therefore, we can base ourselves as Christians on the words and writings of sacred writers, prophets, and doctors of the Church, past and present. But God usually doesn’t help us satisfy our scientific curiosity. It therefore sounds absurd if one refers to the ancient Christian patriarchs for the solution of the issues discussed here, with statements such as “back to the source”. They undoubtedly led a holy way of life, but did not therefore become super geniuses, who might have even the slightest idea of the achievements of recently developed disciplines, such as archaeology, paleontology, linguistics, genetics, etc.
The ancient doctors of the Church expressed in the context of their missions of faith education an opinion on the distant human past, which was based on the knowledge at that time. One did it a little more nuanced and cautious than the other, but as far as I know none of them ever claimed that he was informed of this directly by God. The knowledge added since then must be integrated by the modern Christian into his religious thought, so that the connection between what has transpired from the earliest times and the truths of faith may become as clear as possible.
If we nevertheless want to work “source-oriented”, it would be more consistent to turn to the direct heirs of the Bible’s writers, namely the Jews. Their views on Israel’s past differ considerably from those of the Christian patriarchs. But as soon as we enter a purely scientific field of research, such as that of the time of our ancestors, there is in fact only one valid source: what the persons concerned themselves, Adam and Eve of blessed memory, and their close descendants have left us (and even that does not give us an indisputable guarantee of truth). We know this source only very indirectly, based on the summary accounts of the first book of the Bible. From this we must distil elements with a certain time-indicating value.
At first glance, there is a simple dating process: ascending in the descent lists to the founders of humanity, with historically recorded events as starting points. This method has been accepted in the study of other civilizations, such as the Sumerians. In the seventeenth century, Bishop Ussher calculated the biblical age of creation and obtained the date of 4,004 BC. In general, the importance of this calculation is now reduced to that of a fun news item, and rightly so. After all, one cannot attribute to genealogical lists transmitted orally for many generations by wandering tribes, before they were finally written, the same value as to lists of known kings. The latter go back much less in time and have been recorded by professional writers in the service of the leaders of large sedentary peoples. In addition, they have left important traces that provide us with useful external leads. As discussed above, we can be reassured regarding the actual existence of the protagonists. But nothing guarantees us that no major portions have been lost or forgotten in the surviving genealogies going back to Adam and Eve, or that no overlap has occurred. Considering the dramatic events narrated in the Bible, this seems anything but improbable. Among other things, it must be assumed that Noah’s family was well informed and had a good collective memory, that Moses who himself was brought up by strange pharaohs – was properly informed, etc. It is obvious that the older and longer a genealogical list becomes, the greater the risk of hitches in popular memory and the stronger the tendency to shorten. Many scholars therefore assume that many of the names mentioned represent an entire family dynasty. The high ages of the first biblical ancestors, difficult to explain physically, seem to confirm this hypothesis.