19 February 2010

A Curse for the Serpent and Blessings for Adam and Eve

Jewish pseudepigraphal texts tell of how, after Adam and Eve’s transgression, God’s “chariot throne [descends and] rests at the Tree of Life and all the flowers come into bloom.” Of this painting, Conisbee writes:
The Rebuke of Adam and Eve perfectly illustrates Domenichino’s classical style at the peak of his career... The group of God and the angels is derived directly from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam... and should be read as an homage by the seventeenth-century painter to his great predecessor... Following Italian tradition, Domenichino shows the Tree of Knowledge as a fig tree, rather than the apple tree which was more usual in northern European art. In a clear narrative sequence, God the Father, borne by cherubim and angels, descends to rebuke Adam, who blames Eve, who in turn points to the serpent as the cause of their fall from grace. Animals still roam freely in their earthly paradise, but the lion at the right is already metamorphosing from a friendly feline to an aggressive beast.
The change in God’s initial question from the KJV “Where art thou?” to the JST “Where goest thou?” emphasizes the fact that the Lord is not assessing Adam’s location but rather requesting him to reflect openly on his intentions—in view of the fact that his feet are now pointed toward the exit of the Garden. Dennis Rasmussen observes: “From man God does not need information. Man’s response must be man’s own self.” Umberto Cassuto further explains:
The commentators who consider the question to be aimed at discovering where the man was hiding have overlooked the words “[and said unto] him”... The query... resembles the question the Lord God asks Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” when Abel’s body is lying on the ground beneath the open sky, and no attempt is made to conceal it... We may compare the case to that of a man who comes to chide his little son who misbehaved himself and then hid himself behind the door in order to avoid looking at his father’s angry face; the father who is well aware of the child’s hiding- place, calls out to him, “Where are you?” meaning: Why are you there? Is that where you should be? Come out and face me! [Adam’s] answer is in keeping with this interpretation; he does not reply, “I am in such-and-such a place,” but he explains why he is concealing himself.
God’s call, of course, is not issued as an angry threat, but rather as an invitation for Adam to account for his stewardship of the Garden. To accomplish His objective, God seeks to “draw rather than drive him out of hiding.” Elder David A. Bednar observed that God did not merely lecture Adam, but instead made every effort to help him learn and wisely exercise his agency. According to Chrysostom, God here “demonstrate[s] his own loving kindness, and... invites [Adam and Eve] to make admission of their faults.” ...

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