Genesis, the Angels, Adam and Eve

This page is an excerpt from
Cycles of Salvation History

by Ulrich Utiger

Page 3

Albrecht Dürer: Adam and Eve
Albrecht Dürer: Adam and Eve

Page description
Genesis 2-3 about the angels and their fall, good and evil, Adam and Eve, sexuality and family, the spiritual rebirth.

Contents of this page
The four phases
The salvation phase
The spiritual and biological death
The human life cycle
The universality of salvation
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Short summary of the previous pages
In The First Account of Creation it is pointed out that thanks to the multi-reference the first chapter of Genesis is compatible with modern science. The same interpretation by multi-reference is applied to the second account of creation showing that Genesis is compatible with evolution and common descent as well. On this page, the principle of multi-reference is applied to the rest of the second account of creation.

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The life cycle of the angels and humans

The four phases

Adam represents both the angels and humans, as seen in A celestial and terrestrial Adam. This is why the history of the angels is described by the history of Adam, from which four phases can be extracted: the first phase is dominated by peace, the second by sin, the third by judgment and the fourth by salvation, that is, by restitution of peace. This life cycle of the angels not only includes all the history of the physical world and humanity, it even began before this history, because the angels were created before the physical world (see here). So the details given by the second creation story have to be interpreted separately, either as related to the angels or to humans. It is very difficult to describe a world we do not directly perceive with our senses. This is why we will concentrate on the description and implications of the four phases.

The first phase of the angels is referred to by Genesis 2:5-25 because this passage contains peaceful events. During this phase, all angels – even Satan and the future demons – still lived in perfect harmony with God in a celestial paradise. At least this was so in the beginning of this phase of peace, for it is probable that the consecutive phase of sin did not occur abruptly but gradually because it is always superposed with the previous phase, as we shall see. The Church has always taught that all things and beings, the demons included, have originally been created good. This claim is stated on almost each creation day in the first account of creation (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). The Church also defended its position against the view that the Devil was not created by God but came out of chaos and darkness. Furthermore, it anathematized Priscillianism around 562, according to which the demons created the material world and the human body.

The second phase is characterized by sin and is thereby described by the eating of the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:1-8), which on the human level is comparable, for example, to the theft of an intellectual property or drug consumption, which changes the manner of perceiving the world and causes an artificial euphoric sensation. It therefore implies the choice to live in an artificial self-constructed world beyond reality. It also unmasks the snake as seducer and “dealer” of the forbidden fruit. As for the angels, the eating of the forbidden fruit was of a purely psychological nature, an aspiration to independence, because the desire to know good and evil signifies the natural wish to life according to one’s own principles rather than to obey imposed external rules. This choice of independence imperatively brought the angels into opposition with God, who is the only legitimate master over good and evil. The most extreme position in this aspiration to independence is held by Satan, symbolized by the snake, who wishes to take God’s place in trying to win everyone for his cause.

Though, it is well known that drug addicts become psychologically disconnected from reality while physically remaining within reality, which leads to privation and pain. This must have been comparable for the angels because the dream of independence is like a drug, leading to a similar wrench between unrealizable ambitions and reality. God is the only source of life. Distancing oneself from this source is equivalent to attracting privation, pain and death. It goes without saying that this auto-punishment constitutes the phase of judgment, referred to by Genesis 3:9-24, and more particularly by Genesis 3:24 describing the expulsion from paradise.

The salvation phase

In order to save the angels from this suffering and turn them away from their fatal search for independence, God created the material universe to allow their redemption through the sacrifice of cross “to reconcile all things to himself, making peace through the shedding of his blood on the cross – all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:20). For this only purpose, God created human beings spiritually similar to the angels, but physically vulnerable, in order to become one of them by the incarnation. The maximum one can do for someone else is to give one’s proper life. This is why God gave his own life for our salvation by dying on the cross. In the world of the angels, God could not die because he is immortal in this world. This is why he created the physical world with living beings depending on food in order to become human and give us eternal life by eating his Eucharistic Flesh (Jn 6:51-6:63).

That God created our world exclusively for that purpose may be doubtful for some. However, why should God not do all what is in his power to save us? Why should God not have created an entirely new world especially for this purpose? His love is boundless and exceeds all our imagination. Is it not written that “God so much loved the world that he has given his unique Son” (Jn 3:16)? We often defend our understanding of the world only in order to save the labor accomplished in struggle or the beauty of the edifice that would collapse, so not always with much objectivity. However, the creation of the physical world in view of our redemption is the only “model” that can reasonably answer the simple question children could ask: “Why did God create beings of both spirit and body if their spirit can live without the body after life on earth?

A similar question must be asked from what follows: in heaven, humans are like angels because they resemble each other at the spiritual level. This can be concluded because the creation story refers to both the angels and man by the same Adam created in the image of God (Gen 1:27), which implies that both got initial grace, free will, and so on. So humans are in a sense angels living in a mortal body. This is why at the spiritual level God created nothing new with humankind, which raises the question why God created them, since he had already created the angels before us?

One is inclined to consider the angels as being of lesser importance, that is to say, to believe that they have no other purpose than to serve humans as messengers or guardians. However, since they have been created before us, their role is certainly not primarily to serve us. They have a life completely independent of humans. It does not make sense to create at the same time two beings equal on the highest level, but the first with an immortal glorious body and the second with a mortal vulnerable body. However, if there is a time shift between both creations, then something special must have happened before humans were created, something that should not have happened in principle, but that nevertheless occurred because of the free will of the angels, who thus were enabled to do things contrary to God’s will. As one can guess, this was the fall of the angels, their separation from God, which led to the creation of the physical world and humankind in order to save not only the angels but also humans, because they failed as well, by the sacrifice of cross.

So the phase of salvation of the angels began with Christ’s sacrifice. But it is likely that this phase was preceded by an anticipated revival already starting with the creation of the material universe, for the angels probably knew God’s plan to make himself human for the sake of everyone. With this perspective, a lot of them may have converted having in sight the future sacrifice of Jesus, which made their salvation definitive. This revival is therefore marked by different steps, spreading over a very long period, which will only finish when the history of the present world comes to an end.

Things are more complex concerning the place where the revival of the angels is described in the creation story. The revival of Adam and Eve occurred with their offspring, that is, with the birth of Cain and Abel (Gen 4:1-2), as we are going to see. The revival of the angels, on the other hand, is not described by this passage. Since their history spans over the whole time of the terrestrial world and humanity, there are three contexts that have to be taken into consideration: the angels’ presence (1) at the creation of the universe, (2) at the time of the first humans and (3) at Jesus’ sacrifice.

This is why the account gives hints to these three events. The most evident hint is, of course, the speaking snake, because it is an image of the Devil, the leader of all fallen angels, who seduced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. As for the revival, we are going to see that the creation of Adam also refers to the incarnation. Hence, the sleep of Adam, during which God removes a rib from him to form Eve, relates to the death of Jesus. Accordingly, the waking up from this sleep announces Jesus’ resurrection (Gen 2:21-24). We will resume this topic in more detail in The New Eve. As a result, the angels’ redemption is referred to by this same passage because salvation through Christ is universal (see appendix A: The universality of salvation).

There are also the fallen angels who have to be taken into account: they have no salvation because they decided to continue living in sin when the physical word and the first humans were created. This is why the sin and judgment phases only concern them at his time of the second context, because the converted angels were already on the path to salvation. In Genesis, this is expressed by the seduction of Eve by the snake and its punishment (Gen 3:14). In the third context finally, the salvation of the converted angels became complete with Jesus’ sacrifice. So in spite of the three contexts linked to the angels, we find the four usual phases.

The spiritual and biological death

St. Paul claims that death came into the world through the sin of Adam (1 Cor 15:22). This is why, when the literal six-day-creation was still current among most theologians, one assumed that prior to Adam’s fall, all animals and the first humans were vegetarians (Gen 1:30). Thereafter, they became immediately mortal and, as a consequence, predators started to hunt, kill and eat other animals. This scenario is still held up by young earth creationists and is the main reason why they categorically reject a billion-years-old universe, arguing that in order to avoid contradicting Scriptures (Gen 2:17) death must be excluded from the beginning of creation.

However, death was obviously present from the very beginning of the biological evolution. This is why the sin and death introduced by Adam must be understood in a more subtle manner: since Adam has a meaning on both the levels of the angels and humans, the angels were the first to introduce sin by their fall, which happened long before humans were around. This is why death they introduced by their sin must be understood in the context of their life cycle. It is equivalent with the judgment phase following the sin phase, which will finally lead to eternal damnation for the fallen angels. This kind of death must clearly be distinguished from the biological death, which came into the world because God created the material world and humanity as a consequence of this sin. But this does not mean that our world is bad and cursed. Quite the opposite! It is good because it allowed salvation by the sacrifice of cross.

On the level of humans on the other hand, sin was introduced by the first parents and is transmitted to all humans through original sin. Death as consequence of this sin has a more abstract meaning. It must be understood in the whole context of 1 Corinthians 15:1-26: through his resurrection, Christ has brought back eternal life lost by Adam. Since the biological death is a prerequisite for resurrection, eternal life only occurs thereafter. This is why death, introduced by the first humans as counterpart to eternal life, primarily occurs thereafter. So it refers in the first place to a state after the biological death. This must not necessarily be hell. The Church has always professed the existence of the purgatory, a temporary intermediate state between hell and heaven for souls who need to expiate temporary sins.

Does this mean that the first parents would have died in any case, even if they had never committed any sin? This idea was defended by Pelagius and condemned in 418 at the Council of Carthage on the basis of Roman 5:12-19, which claims that death was only introduced by the sin of Adam and transmitted to all humans. While at the time of this Council the six-day-creation concept was still current, the view that Adam and Eve were created immortal is nevertheless true in a certain sense. While it is certainly wrong to assert that without sin they would have lived eternally on earth and even made immortal children, they were definitely vulnerable as any body made of flesh and bones is vulnerable. But this does not necessarily mean that the first humans were destined from the start to undergo biological death as shows the example of Enoch, who was taken to heaven without dying because he was considered a righteous man (Gen 5:24). So biological death was a consequence of the fall of the first parents, but this does not mean that the biological mechanisms of death were absent before.

Salvation emanating from the sacrifice of the cross was offered to all angels who all sinned (see appendix A: The universality of salvation), and reopened the gate of paradise for those who accepted being saved, but also opened the doors to hell for those who refused it. This universal offer of salvation is referred to by 1 Peter 3:18-20, which describes the descent of Christ into hell between the time of his death and resurrection. Salvation was therefore even offered to the fallen angels. But they did not accept it, which made their torment definitive. Their rejection was predictable, but it was necessary that salvation be universal in order for nobody to be excused, following the principle evinced by John 15:22-24, which can be universalized and thereby also be applied to the angels as well as to all humans. This implies the possibility for humans to be saved even after death. So even those who ignored Christ for any excusable reason during their life on earth can be saved.

Since the biological death is not a direct consequence of Adam’s sin but even makes part of God’s salvation plan, one may ask how the awful law eat or be eaten reigning in nature can be compatible with the claim that the physical world is good on all possible levels? As pointed out in the section From the fourth to the seventh day, the material world is a mirror of the spiritual world. This is why the animals point to a hierarchy among the angels (see here). Furthermore, they depict the situation after the fall, because there are peaceful animals on one hand and terrible predators on the other. Even though angels cannot be killed, the fact that predators kill other animals for food is an image of the aggressive and egocentric behavior of the fallen angels. At the same time, every bloodshed prefigures Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, which is a terrible execution and sin perpetrated by those who commanded it. Yet, these prefigurations just carry information without any responsibility for the events they represent. Therefore, all animals, even the worst predators, are good and can be as lovely as lambs, as domesticated cats and dogs exemplarily show.

The human life cycle

It is well known that on a psychological level, the life of a human being experiences several highs and lows, which are individual for each person. At a biological level, however, things happen more commonly to all people. In fact, we are going to see that human life follows the four typical phases as described by the second creation story: the first phase by 2:5-25, the second by 3:1-8, and the third by 3:9-24. The fourth phase, as mentioned above, is described by the offspring of Adam and Eve. So its beginning is related to Genesis 4:1-2. Thanks to the multi-reference of these phases, the account about Adam and Eve, who in a certain sense imposed their law on all humans, becomes very revealing.

We have already seen in A celestial and terrestrial Adam that the first man was not really formed with dust but was born as a baby. Thus it is easy to imagine what the paradise of Adam and Eve looked like: it was of course childhood, during which the boy is still free from work and the girl does not yet bring forth children in the pain (Gen 3:16-19). In this paradise they were naked and “felt no shame in each other’s presence” (Gen 2:25) as all little children do, which expresses their innocence.

However, Adam and Eve disobey God’s commandment and eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:1-6), which equals the phase of sin. We have seen that on the spiritual level this consumption means the aspiration to one’s own laws, the wish to be one’s own master, to live independently of God and, in its most total form, to even oust God and take his place. In a much reduced frame, this aspiration is expressed on the human level between parents and their pubescent children, who, at this age, usually begin to take an increasingly critical position regarding the moral principles with which they were educated by their parents. This can become the well-known parent-child conflict, which is a small “sparkling” from the conflict that separated the angels from God.

Driven by their disobedience and an overwhelming curiosity, Adam and Eve become aware of their nudity (Gen 3:7). This refers to the fact that children sooner or later ask themselves why humans are created male and female. Becoming older, they discover their own sexuality, which they only want to share with themselves or their friend(s), in any case not with their parents. In fact, while little children are completely transparent and normally share everything with their parents, with puberty they begin to conceal their intimacy and become more reserved. This is described by Adam and Eve who hide their nudity by covering themselves with fig-leaves. Furthermore, when they hear the voice of God walking in the garden of Eden they hide themselves from him behind trees (Gen 3:7-8).

On the biological level, this hiding is expressed by the growth of pubic hair and is accompanied, on the psychological level, by feelings of guilt and the consciousness to have entered a forbidden area. This leads to a less close relation with their parents and the loss of the childlike happiness. Becoming finally adult, humans separate themselves from their parents to found a new family, which implies for the woman the pain of pregnancy and for the man to work hard, since henceforth he has to feed his family (Gen 3:16-18). At the end, both undergo the biological death preceded by aging (Gen 3:19).

This human life cycle seems to assume the Manichean and Priscillianist view that all what has to do with sexuality like the body, procreation, family and so on is sinful and cursed. This is not at all the case because sexuality is governed by biological laws, which are created by God and only depict realities from a distant past. Thereby, these laws are good because they only carry information without any guilt, sin or curse. Furthermore, the offspring of Adam and Eve (Gen 4:1-2) is the revival phase, which allows parents to become young again by their own children. This is why they get God’s benediction of fertility (Gen 1:28). So all depends on how sexuality is practiced, that is, inside or outside marriage.

By fathering within the woman a new human being, the man resembles God, who makes humans born again by his Spirit in order to eternally adopt them as his children (Jn 3:1-8; Gal 4:4-7). This resemblance is very subtle and apparently contradicting: on the one side, the man figuratively puts himself in the place of God through this resemblance, which implies the phase of judgment. On the other side, however, it also causes his phase of revival because he fathers his children and thus is reborn by them in a figurative manner similarly to the only real spiritual rebirth introduced by Christ (Jn 3:1-8).

We will better understand this by taking into account the role of the woman: the man resembles Creator by giving his reviving seed to the woman, who resembles creation by receiving a new breath of life by her children.[24] This image can be inverted however, because the man, holding at the same time the image of an “offender” by figuratively putting himself in the place of God, needs more than the woman the revival coming from his children. In this sense, the woman brings him his revival from the exterior by her children. This is why she makes part of his revival, because she is more united with her children than the man by carrying them inside her and then by essentially educating them. She is thereby nearer to the real spiritual rebirth introduced by Christ, which does not perform the revival from the exterior – that is to say, by the children – but from the interior of the person needing the revival. In other words, the woman prefigures a person become again a child spiritually.[25] Thus the new parents live again the lost happiness of childhood through their own children, which helps them to reach Heaven, where only children, in the spiritual sense, can enter (Mt 18:1-4).

Let us insist again, however, that these are only intermingled images. This is why they can contradict each other, for the duality parents / children also corresponds to the duality Creator / creation, which means that both the man and the woman resemble God, with the same consequences. And it goes without saying that one does not necessarily need to marry and have children in order to be saved. But it may help…

Appendix A: The universality of salvation

It is often believed that the good angels never sinned and remained in their initial holiness and supernatural grace they received from God when they were created. If this was true, they would never have needed any salvation. However, the need for salvation implies that there is trespassing and damage prior to it. The fall of the angels and thereby God’s redemption plan would then be reserved to the bad angels, the demons.

This leads to an absurdity because it is straightforward that the fallen angels did not attract an eternal punishment from the start since all angels were created good. One supposes that their sin developed gradually. Therefore, God would certainly have considered to save these angels on the path to perdition while their sin remained weak. It is however precisely by refusing the redemption set up by Christ that the sin of the demons became irreversible. This implies, still by supposing that the good angels never sinned, that the redemption saved no angels and that God established it in vain, because the good angels never needed it and the bad angels refused it, thus attracting their definitive and eternal punishment.

This is entirely inconceivable, unless one supposes that besides the good and bad angels there is a third category of angels: those who sinned but accepted God’s salvation. Why then, however, should the good angels have resisted any sin while others were subjected to it to varying degrees? This would mean that there would be an important split between the angels, that they were not all created on the same level, that some received special graces while others not, which would cast doubt on God’s justice. This is why it is more convincing to assume that all angels sinned, although not all to the same degree, with the result that redemption became necessary for all celestial beings, just as for all humans.

This is also what seems to profess Scriptures: “For in him [Jesus Christ] God in all his fullness chose to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things to himself, making peace through the shedding of his blood on the cross – all things, whether on earth or in heaven (Col 1:19-20). This plan of God to reconcile all beings with him consequently implies that not only all humans but also all angels sinned, whether the angels converted or those who remained in sin. This universal sin – prefigured by the original sin, which only concerns humans (Rom 3:19-23; 5:12) – is confirmed by many other passages (Eph 1:7-10; 4:10; Heb 9:23-24; Job 4:17-19; 15:15-16) and implies universal salvation of all persons created by God.