One of the things that always bothered me as a youngster was the name “Jesus Christ”. The problem for me was the word Christ as part of Jesus’ name. Christ (Christos) is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah and both actually mean “the Anointed One.” So saying “Jesus Christ” is the same as saying “Jesus the Anointed One”, in other words, it is a title, not a proper name.
So what does this have to do with interpretation of the Old and New Testaments?
The Old testament is made up of several sections which in Hebrew are referred to as the “Tanakh” which is an anagram for:
The Torah consists of the first 5 books in the Christian Old Testament; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In Genesis, which basically means”the beginnings”, we have the story of the creation of the planet and all life, including humans, the fall of man and then we basically start the following of the line that would eventually meet Abraham and grow into the nation of Israel.
(As far as the two creations go, that’s a piece unto itself, so we are not really going to get into it here but save it for a future entry.) We are going to catch up with the story in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are having a happy existence where the “serpent” comes to temp “The woman” (she’s not named Eve till after they are expelled from the garden) into going against the will of God, or so it is usually stated. Now what God had actually said was:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.Genesis 2:16-17 (KJV)
This was said to Adam before Eve was even created, so she must have gotten it second-hand from Adam which might explain her misstatements during the “temptation”. After Eve’s creation and a mention of the idea of marriage, defined as two becoming as one, the second chapter ends with a very important statement:
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.Genesis 2:25 (KJV)
If this has you snickering about the fact they were naked, you might find the Beavis & Butt-Head website more to your liking (but I digress). Most people don’t think about this little blurb here and the later reference but Moses [the traditional author] makes a point of inserting these statements in the story and I am sure they are there for a reason.
Chapter 3 starts with the serpent “tempting” Eve. I always wondered where she got the added “instruction” that to touch the fruit was dangerous. Was “touching” forbidden by God or was Adam trying to be helpful and add to what God said with , I’m sure, the best of intentions.
Immediately after they have both eaten, we have the following:
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.Genesis 3:7 (KJV)
So, what we have is Moses making a point of telling us that they were naked and unashamed immediately before succumbing to temptation and knowing of their nakedness immediately afterwards and were ashamed enough that they made aprons for themselves. Why?
Genesis, the Beginning, tells us something very important here. The apparent answer is that in eating of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” caused them to become body conscious and loose sight of their true selves and natures as spiritual beings. Some would say they lost their innocence and mean that they now knew evil, but if you look at the other definitions for innocence, you get the following from the “The American Heritage® Dictionary”:
- Freedom from guile, cunning, or deceit; simplicity or artlessness.
- Lack of worldliness or sophistication; naiveté.
- Lack of knowledge or understanding; ignorance.
What would you call it when one goes from a state of spiritual purity, inhabiting a physical form but not being overrun by it and going to the opposite end of the spectrum where one forgets their spiritual nature and is completely deluded by the physical world, I would actually view it as entering into innocence in a way, since they were now naive and ignorant of their true state.
So, what about God’s statement that when they eat of the tree, that day, they would surely die? The serpent rebuffs it and says:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.Genesis 3:5 (KJV)
Now for as much as we usually make it out that the serpent misled Eve, other than the bit about being like “gods” which is in question (though God seems to think so in Genesis 3:22), the fact is that their eyes were opened, they did know good and evil. Obviously they did not die in the usual sense so if God was correct, then some other death must be the subject. With this, I find the death of their awareness of their true natures to be what died and as we will get into in a moment, the becoming attached to the body and the transitory things of creation causing death to the physical body.
This is really interesting in that the first thing they became was completely bodily conscious to the exclusion of their previous awareness of their natures to the extent that shame sets in immediately to cover themselves. They were so absorbed in this mental state that when God comes to the garden to visit, they hide themselves. When they admit this new understanding to God, the question is immediately asked, “Who told thee that thou wast naked?”
We follow this with Adam blaming his “helpmate” who passes the blame on to the serpent who gets cursed.
It is now that the beginning of the paradigm that is continued throughout the Tanakh and brought into the law of Moses, that of the world of Karma, Maya, the definition of what the world of “body consciousness” and attachment are:
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.Genesis 3:16-19 (KJV)
(I have to wonder how many children Eve had previously had while living in the garden since it sounds as if she had experienced it previously “I will greatly multiply”, but that might be for another time.)
It is here that we start with life becoming defined as the function of the labours of mankind, the beginning of Karma in that the actions cause reaction and the labours produce their rewards. This is the paradigm that we see throughout the Old Testament. From this point until the New Testament we are about history of Israel and the “penalty” of action and, since we are now separated from God, the beginnings of the idea that sacrifice must be performed.
We are going to stop here, except for a couple of quick things…
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.Genesis 3:22-24 (KJV)
Now God had said earlier that to eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” would cause death, and it seems that here we have God making sure that it would happen by keeping Adam from the “tree of life” for fear that he would become immortal which was not a good idea for physically fixated beings.
Buddha would find this of interest since he would agree with the basic premise here. His “Four Noble Truths” address this in a most direct and succinct manner:
- Life is Suffering:
Physical existence is made up of temporary, created items that come and go: impermanence.
- Suffering comes from Attachment:
It is our tendency to want to hold onto the pleasant and avoid the unpleasant that creates the pain in our existences.
- Suffering can be Conquered:
This condition of suffering need not be forever and can be defeated.
- The Eight-Fold Path:
A collection of tools and premises to use to break the cycle.
Genesis has prepared the groundwork for the First and Second Truths of the Buddha. As for the Third Truth, this is a promise that it need not stay that way forever. In the Old Testament, we start with the idea that our “fallen” state may be corrected via the concept of the sacrifice, the usage of others to “pay” for our wrongdoings.
We will continue from here and go into this paradigm of sacrifice and the ultimate sacrifice as presented in the New Testament with Jesus in part 2.