Other Sunday and Holy Day Readings
1st SUNDAY OF LENT (Cycle A)
Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).
The two Testaments reveal God's divine plan for humanity, and that is why we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).
The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: Temptation and Sin
Our first parents introduced temptation and sin into the world (Gen 3:1-7). It was not God who tempted them to sin (Jm 1:17-15). By their own free-will (Sir 15:11-14), they chose to willfully break the love relationship with God by placing their selfish will over God's divine will for their lives. It is the same circumstance of temptation and sin that plagues men and women today. For most of us, those temptations that erode our relationship with God are brought about through the daily routine of indifference toward God that leads to failure in sin. In the First Reading, we are reminded that God formed man from the soil of the ground. Man is both corporal (formed from matter) and spiritual (CCC 362). In the new Creation, Jesus instituted the seven Sacraments which are both corporal and spiritual; each of the Sacraments involves a corporal element. In the creation of the first man and woman, God placed them in a protected space that was the meeting place between God and man, and in the garden Sanctuary was the Tree of Life; it was a symbol of immortality and the sign of God's covenant with Adam. The "tree of life" becomes a covenant sign and a symbol of immortality again in the Cross of Jesus Christ that is the New Covenant "Tree of Life." The theme of the Responsorial Psalm is that confession of our sins opens us to God's mercy. In Psalm 51, attributed to David, we receive a beautiful example of genuine, heart-felt repentance and the psalmist's confidence that God is merciful and will extend his forgiveness to the truly repentant soul. The Second Reading and the Gospel reading teach us about the consequences of sin and the power to overcome temptation. In the Second Reading, St. Paul identifies the origin of sin and death. He addresses the "original sin" of Adam, our human father from whom we inherit "spiritual death" as a result of his sin just as we inherit our other genes and traits of human inheritance. Through our first parents, we are born physically alive but spiritually dead. It is our spiritual death that infects us with sin and the life-long struggle to resist Satan and the temptation to sin. The New Testament portrays Jesus as the "Second Adam" whose obedience and sacrificial death on the cross undo Adam's disobedience. After His baptism, Jesus faced Satan and experienced the same temptations to which the first Adam fell. Jesus, the Second Adam, triumphed over Satan. His self-sacrificial death and resurrection liberate us from the penalty of spiritual death and open the gates of Heaven to the baptized who believe in Him (Mk 16:16; CCC 536, 1026).
The First Reading Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 ~ The First Sin
7 The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. 8 Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
3:1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" 2 The woman answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! 5 No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil." 6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
God formed man from the soil of the ground and breathed his divine life into him. Therefore, man is both corporal (formed from matter) and spiritual (CCC 362). In the new Creation, Jesus will institute the seven Sacraments which will also be both corporal and spiritual. The application of each Sacrament employs an element of matter: Baptism = water; Eucharist = bread and wine; Confirmation = the laying on of hands and holy oil; Matrimony = the bride and groom; Holy Orders = the laying on of hands; Reconciliation = the laying on the hands; Anointing = holy oil and the laying on of hands.
In Hebrew there is word play between the words for "man" and "ground" in verse 1. This type of word play is very common in the original languages of Sacred Scripture but is lost in translations. God formed the first "man" (in Hebrew 'adam) from the "ground" (in Hebrew 'adamah). The collective noun "man" in Hebrew will become the proper name of the first man, Adam. His name reflects his origin (Gen 4:25; 5:1, 3). God brought the man, formed from the pristine earth, to life by blowing into the man's nostrils. The Hebrew verb "to blow" is nephesh, which is also the word for "soul." The Hebrew word for wind, or breath, or spirit is ruah (Gen 1:2). "Nephesh" in its most literal sense means being animated or brought to life by ruah. Man is brought to life by the very Spirit/breath of God.
It is in the east of Eden that God planted a garden Sanctuary to be a home for Adam and Eve and the place of God's earthly dwelling. This protected space was the meeting place between God and man. In the garden Sanctuary was the Tree of Life; it was a symbol of immortality. The Book of Wisdom records that God did not make death. Death entered creation after the Fall of man; God made creatures to exist (Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24). And yet, in some way the Tree of Life sustained immortality. God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden Sanctuary after the Fall was because they no longer had the blessing of physical immortality (Gen 3:22-23).
In verse 9, the Hebrew word for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, eshadda't tob wara', is difficult to translate. Both "good" and "evil" are direct objects, and the ra' connotes not only moral evil but ordinary unfitness or "badness," as in "bad apple." The Latin word malum means both "bad" and "apple," which is how the apple came to be associated with the fruit of the forbidden tree (Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 6, page 656-57). If Adam is sinless and immortal, why does he need the Tree of Life and what purpose does it serve? It is both the symbol of immortality, and the sign of God's covenant with Adam. It will become a covenant sign again when the Cross of Jesus Christ becomes the New Covenant "Tree of Life."
Genesis 3:1-7 ~ Free will put to the test
3:1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" 2 The woman answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! 5 No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil." 6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Notice the repetition of the verb "to eat," akal in Hebrew. This verb is repeated nineteen times from Genesis 2:16 (when man was first given permission to eat of all the trees in the garden, followed by the prohibition of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) to Adam's judgment in 3:22, where it is God's verdict that By the sweat of your face will you earn [eat] your food [bread] and he must not be allowed to reach out his hand and pick from the tree of life too, and eat and live forever! (Gen 3:19, 22). For the repetitions of the verb "to eat" between Genesis 2:16 and 3:22, see Genesis 2:16, 17 (twice); 3:1, 2, 3, 5, 6 (twice), 11 (twice), 12, 13, 14, 17 (twice), 18, 19, and 22 (The Interlinear Bible Hebrew English, vol. I, pages 5-8). In the symbolism of numbers in Scripture, ten is the number of divine order while nine is the number of judgment (see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture").
Genesis 3:1a~ Now
the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had
made. In Hebrew there is word play between the holy nakedness of Adam and
Eve, clothed in God's glory, and the snake who is "subtle" (also translated as
"crafty" or "shrewd"). The Hebrew word is 'arom (naked) in Genesis 2:25
and 'arum (subtle/crafty) in 3:1 (Brown-Driver-Briggs
Hebrew-English Lexicon, pages 736, 790). It is the serpent's craftiness
that compromised the holy naked state of our first parents, created
to be clothed in grace. St. Ephraim wrote about our
first parent's covering in glory contrasted with their condition after the Fall
in his commentary on Genesis: They were not ashamed because of the glory
with which they were clothed. It was when this glory was stripped from them
after they had transgressed the commandment that they were ashamed because they
were naked (St. Ephraim, Commentary on Genesis, 2.14.2; quoted from Ancient
Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament, vol. I; Genesis 1-11, page
The serpent is "the Satan", "the adversary" (Rev 12:9). He is a spiritual being whose challenge to the sovereignty and authority of God (Is 14:13-15; Ez 28:14-16; CCC 391-92) resulted in his fall from an intimate relationship with God along with other angels who joined in his rebellion (Is 14:12-15; Ez 28:16; Rev 12:7-10). He is also called the Devil (from the Greek diablos), and Lucifer, which means "day-star" (Latin). He has wisdom, but his wisdom is the wisdom of evil. Hell (Gehenna), the eternal fire (also called the fiery pit and the lake of fire), was created for Satan and his demons (Mt 25:41). Although he was thrown down from his place of intimacy with God (Is 14:12, 15), he still has access to the heavenly court where he accuses man of sin (Job 1:6). He continually attempts to lure man away from fellowship with God and to indulge in sin (Gen 4:7; Lk 22:31; 1 Cor 7:5; Eph 6:11-13; 1 Pt 5:8), because he is deeply envious of man's relationship with God (Wis 2:24).
It is Satan who introduced sin and death into God's Creation
(Wis 1:13). It is a death that is spiritual (separation from God) with
physical death as its consequence, and he works against God's plan to bring man
to salvation (CCC 2851-52). However, Satan's powers are limited. It is only sin
which places man within Satan's reach (Jam 4:7). Jesus came to destroy the
work of Satan (1 Jn 3:8). It is Jesus' sacrificial death and Resurrection
united to Jesus' Gospel of salvation that defeats Satan (Lk 10:17-20; Rm 16:20; Heb 1:1-4; 1 Jn 3:8; 14:30; CCC 2853). Satan is bound, but he will not
be utterly destroyed until Christ's return (Rev. 20:10). In the meantime,
Christians are the adopted children of the Virgin Mary (Jn 19:25-27; Rev 12:17),
she who is the "new Eve" and the symbol of the Church (CCC 411; 507), who continues
to battle against Satan in spreading the Gospel of Salvation across the face of
the earth in obedience to Jesus' command (Mt 28:19-20; Rev. 12:17;
CCC 2853). And in Christian baptism each candidate for baptism (or one's parents
and godparents) takes a solemn vow to renounce Satan and his works, and those
attending the rites of the Sacrament also participate in repeating their
renunciation of Satan (CCC 1237).
Genesis 3:1b-3 ~ The serpent asked the woman: "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" 2 The woman answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'" It is ironic that the gift of language, that separated Adam from the beasts and gave him a greater level of communication with his bride and helper is now turned against him. The serpent subverts this blessing and uses it to confuse and tempt our first parents into disobedience. The crafty serpent began by testing the woman's understanding of the covenant prohibition by twisting the covenant command and using half-truths. He avoids mentioning God's generosity in providing for the woman and her husband and instead focuses on the one prohibition, employing the subtle suggestion that God's prohibition is unreasonably harsh and restrictive.
The woman's answer indicates that she is already succumbing to Satan's half-truths. In her reply she minimizes God's generosity in giving dominion over every creature and every fruit-bearing tree with the exception of the one tree; and she misstates the prohibition, making it more restrictive and therefore harsher: You shall not eat it, or even touch it... She does, however, clearly understand that the punishment for disobedience is death.
Genesis 3:4-5 ~ But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! 5 No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil." The serpent overcomes the woman's fear of God's punishment for disobedience. When the woman identified the punishment, the serpent immediately countered her statement with a denial, contradicting the word of God and offering a reward for disobedience which is knowledge/wisdom.
God does not want to keep man from experiencing wisdom and knowledge. The problem is the kind of knowledge man will receive from eating the forbidden fruit. Adam and Eve do, in fact, have knowledge of what is good; God has judged everything in Creation to be "good" (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Therefore, it isn't practical knowledge for living a good life that entices the woman. What Satan offeres and what she finds appealing is the power that comes from knowledge, which can be used for evil and well as for good.
Genesis 3:6 ~ The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. The woman's first act of rebellion was in "seeing that the tree was good." Until this point in the narrative, it is only God who "sees" and judges a thing in Creation "good" (seven times in Gen 1:4-31). God already judged the fruit of this tree "not good" for them (Gen 2:17).
What about Adam? What was his response and what should have been his response? He stood next to her in silence (Gen 3:6b). He was not obedient to the covenant commands God gave him in Genesis 2:15 to guard/protect (samar) and to work in serving (abad) the garden Sanctuary in obedience to the will of God. These covenant obligations included protecting Adam's bride. He should have been willing to die to protect his bride. Instead of protecting and defending his bride, Adam followed her in the sin of rebellion against the will of God for their lives. It will take another Bridegroom (Jesus) who will be willing to die for His Bride (the Church) that will undo the sin of Adam that separates mankind from God's divine presense in heavenly eternity ( CCC 536, 1026).
All sin is rebellion against the will of God for our lives (CCC 215, 397-98, 431, 1850). The personal sin of Adam is called "originating original sin," and it is the sin passed on to his descendants, with the exception of the Virgin Mary (CCC 490-93) and Jesus (Jn 3:5; Heb 4:15, CCC 612). Original sin is not personal sin but is instead "transmitted" sin, it is what is meant by "originated original sin." Adam's sin affected the whole human family by depriving them of the supernatural life they would have received at birth were it not for Adam's fall from grace. A consequence of original sin is the inherited tendency to sin called "concupiscence." The definition of concupiscence according to the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Etymologically, "concupiscence" can refer to any intense form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. The apostle St. Paul identifies it with the rebellion of the "flesh" against the "spirit." Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man's moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins" (CCC # 2515). For St. Paul's teaching on the flesh versus the spirit see the Gal 5:16-24 and Eph 2:1-3; also see the documents of the Council of Trent: DA 1515.
The Sacrament of Baptism destroys original sin, but as long as the body has not been "clothed with immortality" as it was prior to the Fall, sin may still find a way to reassert itself in a mortal body (see 1 Cor 15:54; Rom 6:12-14; CCC405; 978-980, 1264; 2520). The baptized person must continue to fight evil through "good will, humility, and abandonment to the providence of God" (CCC 2554) empowered by the Holy Spirit and called by Christ's Bride, the Church, to conform to the image of Jesus Christ and to live in perfect communion with the Most Holy Trinity (Mt 4:48, 19:21; Jn 17:23; CCC 2559-60).
The judgment between what is good for man and what is evil is God's prerogative. For Adam and Eve to usurp that knowledge was to challenge God's authority and sovereignty over mankind. Rebellion in challenging God's sovereignty was the same sin Satan committed in the test of free will in the rebellion of the angels (Rev 12:3-4, 7-9).
Genesis 3:7a ~ Then
the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked ...
Prior to the Fall, Adam and his bride only saw the good of Creation. Now,
their eyes are opened to sin and their perception of each other is distorted; love and respect became contaminated by lust. Sin
stripped Adam and Eve of their covering of grace and divine son-ship, and they
are spiritually naked. "They were not ashamed because of the glory with which
they were clothed. It was when this glory was stripped from them after they
had transgressed the commandment that they were ashamed because they were naked"
(St. Ephraim, Commentary on Genesis 2.14.2; quoted in Ancient
Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament, vol I, page 72).
There is a difference between the Hebrew word for naked before their fall in Genesis 2:25 ~ The man and his wife were naked (arom), yet they felt no shame when Adam and Eve existed in a state of grace, and the Hebrew word for their nakedness after they failed their covenant obligations to love and serve God in obedience in Genesis 3:7 ~ Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked (erom). The Hebrew word erom is repeated three times in Genesis 3:7, 10, and 11. It is only found one other time in Pentateuch (the five books of Moses) where the same word is used to describe the condition of the first generation of Israelites who were punished for their failure to be obedient to God's covenant. God commanded the first generation of God's covenant to wander in the wilderness for forty years and to die in the wilderness, never to enter the Promised Land because they did not trust and obey Yahweh-God: For not having joyfully and with happy heart served Yahweh your God, despite the abundance of everything, you will have to serve the enemy whom Yahweh will send against you, in hunger, thirst, lack of clothing (naked = erom) and total privation. He will put an iron yoke on your neck, until he has destroyed you (Dt 28:47-48 NJB). (Brown-Driver-Briggs, page 735-36; #s 6174 = arom; 5803= erom).
The subtle difference of the Hebrew meaning "naked" before the Fall and the selected use of the word "naked/ erom" after the Fall in Genesis 3:7-11 and in Deuteronomy 28:48 is not so subtle a message to the people of the Sinai Covenant who received this sacred text. The message is that to be "naked" through the introduction of sin is to fall under God's divine judgment. Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, failed their covenant ordeal and test of free will in obedience to God and were "cast out" of Eden into the wilderness never to return to the garden Sanctuary. Israel's first generation also failed their covenant ordeal of obedience, and they were "cast out" into the wilderness never to enter the Promised Land which was to be a "new Eden" for the people of God. The unmistakable message is that to fail to love God, as expressed in covenant faithfulness and obedience, will result in judgment (also see Ez 16:39 and 23:29). The message for those of us in covenant with Yahweh in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ is that temporal judgments that do not lead to repentance and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation can lead one deeply into mortal sin and the possible loss of salvation: exclusion from the "Promise Land" of the Heavenly Eden (CCC 1033, 1452, 1854, 1859-61).
St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople (d. 407 AD), compared the naked condition of God's first children before the Fall with the condition of those who are reborn as children in the family of God through the Sacrament of Baptism. In a description of the Sacrament of Christian Baptism for adults in the late 4th century, St. John wrote: "After stripping you of your robe, the priest himself leads you down into the flowing waters. But why naked? He reminds you of your former nakedness, when you were in paradise and you were not ashamed. For Holy Writ says, "Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed." Until they took up the garment of sin, a garment heavy with abundant shame" (St. Chrysostom, Baptismal Instruction 11.28; quoted from Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament, vol I, Genesis 1-11, page 72).
God created man in His image and likeness (Gen 1:27). The spiritual result of man's Fall from grace is that man becomes disfigured by sin and death. Man remains in the image of God but is now deprived of the glory/grace of God's likeness. See Rom 3:23; CCC 705 and 2809.
Genesis 3:7b ~ so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. Adam and Eve were deeply aware of their loss of grace. They attempted to "cover" their loss of innocence with foliage from the fig tree. No one knows what fruit the forbidden tree bore. The word malum in Latin has the double meaning of "apple" and "bad," which branded the apple tree as the tree with the forbidden fruit. If this tree still exists, it is more likely that the fig was the forbidden fruit. In Sacred Scripture, the fig tree became a symbol for the Old Covenant people of God, especially the Old Covenant people of God in rebellion and under God's judgment (see Jesus' judgment on the fig tree that did not bear fruit in Mt 21:18-22; Mk 11:12-16; and His parable in Lk 13:6-9).
Responsorial Psalm 51:1-4, 10-13 ~ Confession of our Sins
opens us to God's Mercy
The response is: "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned."
1 Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.
3For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always: 4 "Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight."
10 A clean heart create in me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. 11 Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
12 Give me back the joy of your salvation and a willing spirit sustain in me. 13 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
In this psalm, attributed to David, is a beautiful example of genuine, heart-felt repentance and the psalmist's confidence that God is merciful and will extend his forgiveness. Was David thinking of King Saul's sins that resulted in the loss of the protection of God's Spirit (1 Sam chapter 15)? It was an experience that left Saul an empty and tormented man. The Prophet Samuel's condemnation of Saul's unworthy offerings in 1 Samuel 15:22-23 can be compared to the definition of true sacrifice in Psalm 51:16.
In the opening verses, the psalmist feels the great weight of his sins. He cries out to God for mercy and forgiveness (verses 1-2). In verse 3, the psalmist demonstrates his true repentance by taking responsibility for his sins that he says are an offense to God. Taking responsibility is a necessary act of genuine repentance. In verses 10-11, the psalmist's plea for mercy extends beyond his confession of sin. He begs God to renew his inner being so that he can return to fellowship with God and to knowing the blessing of God's Spirit being with him. In verse 12, the psalmist speaks of God's salvation; it is the gift of life that God possesses and bestows through His Spirit. It is a gift that the prophets write about and a gift that is in the New Covenant that God will make with his people (Jer 24:7; 31:33; Ez 25-27) in the Age of the Messiah. Finally, in verse 13, the psalmist expresses his joy in proclaiming praise of the Lord for delivering him, sustaining him, and restoring him.
The Second Reading Romans 5:12-19 or 5:12, 17-19 ~
Adam and Jesus
12 [Well then, it was] Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned; 13 for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. 14 But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. 15 But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many. 16 And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. 17 For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. 18 In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.
In the literal Greek translation, Paul begins this section with the words "well then" or "therefore;" it is a summing up of what he has discussed in chapters 1-5:11. In Romans 5:12-21, Paul addresses the origin of sin and death. He begins by addressing Adam's sin. Adam is our human father, and we inherited "spiritual death" from him as a result of his sin just as we inherit our other genes and traits of human inheritance. Through our first parents, we are born physically alive but spiritually dead. It is our spiritual death that infects us with sin and the life-long struggle to resist Satan and the temptation to sin.
Romans 5:13-14 ~ for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. 14 But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. Returning to his theme in Romans 2:12, Paul insists that the presence or absence of the Law does not make a fundamental difference since sin and its by product "death" comes to everyone through the legacy of sin that we inherited from our original parents. It is our fate whether we are Gentiles who live outside the Law of Moses or Jews who live with the Law. It is for this reason that Paul writes But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.
The New Testament portrays Jesus as the "Second Adam" whose obedience and sacrificial death on the cross undo Adam's disobedience. Jesus, the Second Adam, triumphed over the same temptations to which the first Adam fell into sin. St. John identified these temptations as the lusts of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life in 1 John 2:16 (see CCC 411 & 504).
Romans 5:15-19 ~ But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many. 16 And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. 17 For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. 18 In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.
In Romans 5:15-19 Paul offers a contrast between Adam and Christ as "alike" but "unalike":
|ADAM AND CHRIST ALIKE||ADAM AND CHRIST UNALIKE|
|Both Adam and Christ had an effect upon the whole human race.||Sin and death came from Adam while righteousness and life came from Christ.|
|Both endured the temptation of Satan.||Adam failed and Christ was victorious.|
|Through both Adam and Christ humanity receives an "inheritance."||Through Adam's failure humanity inherits death, original sin and personal sin becomes a plague on mankind. Through Christ's victory humanity inherits adoption into God's family and the promise of eternal life.|
|Both were human men.||Jesus was both human and divine.|
|Both the acts of Adam and Jesus invoke a divine verdict.||Satan stood behind the act of Adam while the grace of God stood behind Christ; the verdict behind Adam's act is judgment while the verdict behind Jesus' is acquittal.|
|Both Adam and Jesus exercised their free will.||Adam willingly fell from grace and Jesus willingly laid down His life in sacrifice for all mankind.|
|Both were born into the world as sinless and immortal beings.||Adam lost his immortality when he fell from grace while Jesus remained pure and sinless. Through His sacrifice and Resurrection, Jesus made God's gift of immortality once again available to man.|
|Michal E. Hunt © copyright 2006|
The Gospel of Matthew 4:1-11 ~ The Temptation of
the New Adam
1 At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. 3 The tempter approached and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread." 4 He said in reply, "It is written: 'One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.'" 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple, 6 and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'" 7 Jesus answered him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'" 8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me." 10 At this, Jesus said to him, "Get away, Satan! It is written: 'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'" Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
After Jesus' baptism, He crossed the Jordan River from Perea into Judah, and the Holy Spirit led Jesus the Judean desert where He fasted for 40 days and nights. The number 40 is recognized as an important number in Scripture because of the frequency of its occurrence and the uniformity of its association as both a time of consecration and as a period of trial and testing. At the end of His ordeal of fasting and prayer, Jesus was hungry like any man. Recognizing His physical weakness, Satan saw an opportune time to test Jesus to see if He was indeed the promised Messiah.
Matthew 4:3 ~ The tempter approached and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread." Satan is not certain that Jesus is the Messiah; therefore, he tests Jesus and begins the test by asking Jesus to give proof that He is the "Son of God." In His encounter with Satan, Jesus, the Son of God, is enacting both Adam's temptation by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden and Israel's temptations in the desert after leaving Egypt as God's "first-born son" among the nations of the earth (Ex 4:22-23). St. Paul called Jesus the "last Adam" (1 Cor 15:21-22, 45-47), and the Fathers of the Church called Him the "new Adam" and the "second Adam" (CCC 359 and 504).
St. John the Apostle wrote: Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world (1 Jn 2:15-16).
St. John summed up the temptations of the world into three categories: sensual lust (desires of the flesh), enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life (1 Jn 2:15-16). Comparisons can be made between the temptation of Adam and the temptation of Jesus, and how John's list of the world's temptations compare to Satan's testing of both Adam and Jesus:
|The Temptations of the First and Second Adams Contrasted|
The first Adam
Jesus, the new Adam
|The devil's invitation to rebellion||"Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees...?"||The tempter approached and said to him, "If you are the Son of God ...|
|Hunger, a desire of the flesh||The woman saw that the tree was good for food||... command that these stones become loaves of bread"|
|Enticement for the eyes:||
pleasing to the
|the devil...showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence|
|The pride of a pretentious life (power)||desirable for gaining wisdom||If you are the Son ...throw Yourself down ... He will command his angels concerning you ...|
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2011 (Jesus' temptations are in the order found in Lk 4:1-13)
Comparisons can also be made between the desert testing experiences of Jesus, the "Son of God," and the Israelites, the "sons of God."
|Israel is God's "first-born son" from among the nations of the earth (Ex 4:22-23).||Jesus is the Son of God (Lk 1:32; Mt 3:17).|
|The Israelites were baptized by passing through the waters of the Red Sea and then, accompanied by God's spirit in the pillar of cloud and fire, they went into the desert (Ex 13:21-22; 14:21-22; 15:22; 1 Cor 10:2).||After Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, the Spirit of God led Jesus into the desert (Mt 4:1; Mk 1:12; Lk 4:1).|
|The Israelites were in the desert for 40 years where they suffered from hunger (Ex 16:2-3).||After 40 days and nights in the desert, Jesus was hungry (Mt 4:2; Lk 4:2).|
|God tested Israel (Ex 16:4; Dt 8:2).||God allowed Satan to test Jesus (Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:13).|
|The Israelites continually failed their tests of covenant obedience and loyalty, even to the point of worshiping a golden idol (Ex 32:1-6).||Jesus passed His tests. He remained faithful and obedient to God, and He refused to bow down to worship Satan (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8, 13)|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2011|
Satan is Jesus' great adversary. Jesus describes the devil as "a murderer from the beginning" who "does not stand in truth because there is no truth in him" (Jn 8:44). Jesus' mission is not only to free mankind from bondage to sin and death but to "destroy the works of the devil;" the most heinous of his works was to lead man to disobey God (1 Jn 3:8, CCC 394).
In Jesus' contest with Satan, the devil addressed Jesus three times, quoting Scripture once from Psalm 91:10-12 and using the formula statement "it is written" (verse 6). In reply, Jesus quotes Scripture three times from Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:13, using the formula "it is written" twice in verses 4 and 7.
All Jesus' quotes from Scripture are from passages in Deuteronomy where Moses recalls Israel's testing in the desert journey from Egypt to Mt Sinai. In Jesus' temptations, He was faced with three similar tests:
Satan gave Jesus three similar tests. However, unlike the Israelite "sons of God," Jesus, the obedient and faithful Son, passed His three tests:
|1. Israel was tested when the people complained of hunger; God gave them manna (Ex 16:3, 4).||Jesus was hungry when Satan challenged Him to make bread out of stones (Mt 3:2-3).|
|2. Israel put God to the test at Massah and Meribah to prove God was with them (Ex 17:7).||Jesus refused to put God to the test when Satan challenged Him to prove He was the Son of God (Mt 3:6).|
|3. Israel yielded to the temptation to commit idolatry in the sin of the Golden Calf (Ex 32:1-6).||Jesus refused to bow down and worship Satan (Mt 3:9).|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2011|
Jesus will not fail as the Israelites failed. He will fulfill all His obligations as an obedient Son of God during His covenant ordeal.
Test #1: 3 The tempter approached and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread." 4 He said in reply, "It is written: 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.'
In the first test, Satan approached Jesus to test Him to see if He would reveal Himself as the divine Messiah by commanding a rock to turn into bread to feed His hunger. No ordinary human "son of God" would have that power over the natural world. Jesus responded to Satan's test by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. In that passage, Moses tells the children of Israel: Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD (Dt 8:2-3; emphasis added).
During the years in the wilderness, God tested the Israelites to see if they would be obedient to His commandments by allowing them to be afflicted with hunger and then showed them His faithfulness to provide for their needs by feeding them manna, bread from heaven. Moses continued his address to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:7-9. In that passage, Moses told the people if they are faithful that God will give them the land He promised them. Then Moses describes the Promised Land as a new "Eden" where everything they need will be provided by God.
In the first test, Jesus rejected Satan's taunt; He did not come to serve His own fleshly desires but to do the will of the Father. Jesus' reply to Satan is that it is not material bread which nourishes the physical body that ultimately gives life; it is the Word of God. In the Old Covenant, "life" meant obedience to the Law of God, but there is more in what Jesus responds to Satan than the meaning of "life" in the Old Covenant. The irony is that Jesus is Himself the "Living Word" and He is the "Living Bread come down from heaven." It is He who ultimately gives life that lasts to eternity, and the "bread" that He will give to provide eternal life is not like the manna that only gave temporal life. His "manna" is His Body which is "the Living Bread" and the future gift of the Eucharist. Jesus' Body becomes the true Tree of Life that sustains man's immortality, like the Tree of Life in Eden. Jesus will give man the necessary spiritual nourishment on the journey to the new Eden that is heaven.
Test #2: 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you: and 'with their hands they will support you, least you dash your foot against a stone.'" 7 Jesus answered him, "Again, 'You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'"
In the second test, Satan quotes from Psalm 91:10-12. This passage is proof that even the devil can quote Scripture and twist it to his advantage. Satan's taunt is for Jesus to demonstrate He is God's Son by testing God's promise to deliver His elect: Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high (Ps 91:14). For a second time, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, this time from 6:16, refusing to "test" God by demanding a supernatural show of power, unlike the Israelites.
In Deuteronomy 6:16, Moses told the people: You shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test, as you did at Massah. He was referring to the events in Exodus 17:1-7 where the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD in our midst or not? (Ex 17:7). The Hebrew word "Massah" means "testing" (Ex 17:1-7 and Dt 9:22-23). At Massah the thirsty Israelites challenged God to provide them with water, behaving rebelliously instead of with faith and trust. Moses' message to the Israelites was that rather than testing God, Israel should be loyal, diligent and obedient. Yahweh's promised blessings in the Promised Land were conditional upon Israel's obedience. Jesus is God's faithful and obedient Son. Jesus' second test recalls the Israelites' failure at Massah. Jesus' response to Satan is that He will not test God; He will put His trust and faith in His Father's promises.
Test #3: 8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me." 10 At this, Jesus said to him, "Get away, Satan! It is written: 'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall your serve.'
In the last test, the devil offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth if Jesus will bow down and worship him. The question is, does Satan have the authority to make this offer? Apparently he does have that authority; from the time of man's Fall from grace when Adam and Eve rejected God's sovereignty over them, Satan has been the "prince of the earth" (see Jn 12:31).
Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy chapter six again, as He did in the second test, this time quoting from verse 13. In Deuteronomy 6:12-13 Moses told the Israelites: ... be careful you do not forget Yahweh who has brought you out of Egypt, out of the place of slave-labor. Yahweh your God is the one you must fear, him alone you must serve, his is the name by which you must swear (NJB).
In Moses statement, serving Yahweh stands in contrast to the fact that they had once served the Egyptian Pharaoh (worshiped as a god-king) as vassals (Dt 8:12). The statement "his is the name by which you must swear" suggests a loyalty oath of allegiance to the Israel's new king who is also Israel's God.
Unlike the Israelites who were the "first-born sons of God" among the nations of the earth (Ex 4:22), and unlike Adam, God's firstborn son in the human family, Jesus is the true Son. His allegiance cannot be swayed by hardship like the Israelites (who lost faith and worshipped the Golden Calf) or by Satan's promises of self-glorification to which Adam submitted himself when Satan promised Adam he would be god-like if he disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit. Jesus' loyalty and His obedience is to God the Father alone.
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. After completing His covenant ordeal, the angels of the heavenly court came to minister to Jesus. St. Luke has a slightly different order for the three tests and concludes Jesus' ordeal with the statement: Having exhausted every way of putting him to the test, the devil left him, until the opportune moment (Lk 4:13, NJB). Jesus' last test of obedience and Satan's last "opportune moment" came as Jesus prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsemane and made His final act of obedience and submission to the will of God the Father when He said: "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!" (Mt 26:42).
When you are tempted by sin, follow Jesus' example: cast Satan and his temptations from you using the words of Jesus: "Get away, Satan!" and quote a favorite Scripture passage. Ask God for the strength you need to resist and remember His promise given by St. Paul: No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor 10:13).
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014; revised 2017