Adam’s Expulsion in Later Patristic Writings

This is the 32nd blog in this series which began with Adam & Sin, Paradise and Fasting.  The previous blog is The Effects of the Expulsion from Paradise in Patristic Thinking.

In the writings of St. Dorotheos of Gaza (6th Century), we see some of the diversity in Patristic thinking when it comes to Adam.  Unlike some of the other Fathers we have already read in this blog series, Dorotheos sees Adam as created not merely possessing potential goodness and immortality, but rather already possessing “every virtue” and created immortal from the beginning.  Thus Adam did not simply fail to attain his potential good, he actually lost his position and fell to an unnatural state.  Once in this unnatural state, Adam/humanity quickly became enamored with and enslaved by this Fallen world, and so continued transgressing against God.

“In the beginning when God created man he set him in paradise (as the divine holy scripture says), adorned with every virtue, and gave him a command not to eat of the tree in the middle of paradise.  He was provided for in paradise, in prayer and contemplation in the midst of honor and glory; healthy in his emotions and sense perceptions, and perfect in his nature as he was created.  For, to the likeness of God did God make man, that is, immortal, having the power to act freely, and adorned with all the virtues.  When he disobeyed the command and ate of the tree that God commanded him not to eat of, he was thrown out of paradise and fell from a state in accord with his nature to a state contrary to nature, i.e. a prey to sin, to ambition, to a love of the pleasures of this life and other passions; and he was mastered by them, and became a slave of them through his transgression.  Then little by little evil increased and death reigned.”  (St. Dorotheos of Gaza , DISCOURSES AND SAYINGS, p 77)

Of interest, For Dorotheos there was a process of decline for the humans, “little by little evil increased”, which eventually resulted in death reigning over humanity.  But in the Fall, the humans lose their natural freedom – for instead of having dominion over creation, they have become subject to it, and now are slaves to it.  Only Christ restores freedom from enslavement to this world.

St. Gregory Palamas (d. 1359) sees humans as losing their divine likeness but not their divine image in the Fall.  The first death the humans experienced was the soul’s separation from God; only later did humans experience physical death.

“After our forefather’s transgression in paradise through the tree, we suffered the death of our soul – which is the separation of the soul from God – prior to our bodily death; yet although we cast away our divine likeness, we did not lose our divine image.  Thus when the soul renounces its attachment to inferior things and cleaves through love to God and submits itself to Him through acts and modes of virtue, it is illuminated and made beautiful by God and is raised to a higher level, obeying His counsels and exhortations; and by this means it regains the truly eternal life.”    (St. Gregory Palamas  in THE PHILOKALIA  Vol 4, p 363)

For St. Gregory the path back to becoming truly human is to fully love God and obey Him through a virtuous life.  Christ has shown us this way of love.

St. Gregory Palamas draws on the image of a coiling snake as the means to show just how “twisted in character” the serpent that tempted Eve was.  The snake is not Satan incarnate, for Satan cannot become incarnate, but a deception to prevent Eve from knowing to whom she was speaking.  God allows the deception as the humans had to make the right choices in life to preserve their natural goodness.  Unfortunately, according to St. Gregory, Adam and Eve fail to recognize the deception, fail to see the superiority of God’s own counsel and subject themselves to a creature, abandoning their proper relationship with the Creator.

“The mediator and cause of death, twisted in character and inordinate in craftiness, once insinuated himself into a twisting serpent in God’s paradise.  He did not himself become a serpent (nor could he, except in an illusory form; and this he preferred not to adopt at that time, for fear of being detected; but, not daring an open confrontation, he chose a deceitful approach…) . . .  God permitted this so that man, seeing counsel coming from a creature inferior to himself – and, indeed, how greatly is the serpent his inferior – might realize how completely worthless this counsel was and might rightly reject with indignation the idea of submitting to what was clearly inferior to him.  In this way he would preserve his own dignity and at the same time, by obeying the divine commandment, would keep faith with the Creator.”  (St. Gregory Palamas in THE PHILOKALIA  Vol 4, p 365)

Thus humans ended up living in this fallen world based upon choices we have made while ignoring God’s commandments for a better life.

Next:  The Expulsion of Adam in the Writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian (A)

One thought on “Adam’s Expulsion in Later Patristic Writings

  1. Pingback: The Expulsion of Adam in the Writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian (A) | Fr. Ted's Blog

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