“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Genesis 3:7

Friday, 12 February 2021

Genesis 3

A lot of things have happened to Adam and Eve since yesterday. The serpent has tempted them to eat of the tree! They have attained knowledge, and have realised their ‘nakedness’. And they are about to be expelled from the Garden. Before that, they will try to avoid God, then blame each other and the serpent.

This needs analysis.

First, consider the serpent. It helps to start by saying that the serpent is not the devil. Ancient Israel had little or no idea of a personal devil. It did, however, know that in ancient cultures the serpent was a symbol of wisdom. Thus we see that wisdom dawns on humanity, releasing the spark of intelligence that leads to a sense of good and evil. With this comes the realisation that we have a capacity to do harm, to sin. (Call it Original Sin or sin of origins if you like).

Second, covering one’s nakedness is much more than seeing the need for clothes (or indeed the ambivalent reality of developing ‘fashion sense’). It is the act of embracing new things necessary to cope with a new, more complex reality. They put on the clothes of reasoning and reflection, but also potentially denial and deception. It is their exercise of the latter with God that leads to the actual expulsion from the Garden.

Is this situation a disaster, a tragedy? Once again, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, it is a tragedy because it leads to a more complex, often difficult life where the early simplicity must be replaced by a life of work, reflection and often struggle for survival. No, it is not tragic because even though there are difficulties, humanity has evolved into a species more capable of understanding and engaging with itself, the world and God. Paradoxically, the fall is a fall upwards towards a greater connection with God.

Loving God,

Help us to negotiate the complexities of our fall upward. Help us to avoid the pitfalls and move towards a greater spiritual, intellectual and personal union with You.


Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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