Paradise, Knowledge and Morality

EphremSelectPoemsCommenting on one of the poems of St. Ephrem the Syrian, Sebastian Brock & George Kiraz note:

“Ephrem here takes up the theme of the Fall and the immensity of God’s compassion in sending ‘a robe of glory to cover Adam’s naked state’ (stanza 2) –where Adam is understood as the representative of the human race as a whole, and the ‘robe of glory; represents the new possibility of restoration and salvation provided by the incarnation. In stanza 3, he points out that the Tree of Knowledge has the potential to be either beneficial or harmful: it is beneficial to those who use it rightly, in obedience to God, but harmful to those who snatch at its fruit out of selfish presumption. In other words, knowledge in itself is neutral, neither good nor bad; it is only made good or bad by the way in which it is approached and by the uses to which human beings put it. Ephrem then applies this to the Lenten Fast (stanza 5): as examples in the Old Testament show, a fast that is accompanied by backbiting is abhorrent to God.  The final verse expresses wonder at God’s great love for humanity and his rigorousness respect for human free will: it would have been easy for him to rescue fallen humanity by mere divine decree, but out of respect for the free will with which he has endowed human beings, God chose to ‘put on humanity’ at the incarnation in order to invite humanity back to himself.” (Ephrem the Syrian: Select Poems, Translation and Notes by Sebastian P. Brock & George A. Kiraz, pg. 98)


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