Recently I listened to a lecture from a seminary professor who posited that the very first sin in the Garden, the one that initiated the entire historical cascade of evil, was intimately connected to marriage. The lecture was recorded several months ago, and so not directed specifically toward the recent Clown Supreme Court ruling. In any case, it is an interesting exegesis to understand the Enemy’s obsession with destroying marriage, which is now well advanced. There is a great deal of background and nuance to the argument, but in a stripped down form and going from memory it runs roughly like this.
First, there is no doubt that Adam and Eve were bonded to each other in marriage. St. Pope John Paul II called their marriage “the primordial sacrament.” When Adam says “this at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” it was an expression of awe and wonder, yes, but it was also his covenant oath to Eve. The same expression is used by the tribes of Israel to declare their fidelity to King David when he “made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord” (2 Sam 5:1). When God commands Adam and Eve then to “be fruitful and multiply,” it follows that was to be done within a covenantal marital relationship. And as most people know, the marital act necessary for fruitfulness is described in Scripture as the spouses “knowing” one another.
It is not a coincidence that the author of the sacred text uses the same two words (fruit and knowing) to describe Satan’s temptation. The Father of Lies tells them that if they eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they will be like gods who know good and evil. The temptation is thus presented as one intended to turn Adam and Eve away from marital procreation to a different kind of knowing and a different kind of fruit than what God commanded. But what is that?
The particular translation you are reading can help clarify or obscure the answer to this question. Some translations of the temptation story read that they would become “like gods” and others “like God.” But before the Fall they were already as like to God as any human could be. The translation “like gods” allows us to make the most sense of the temptation. Who are the “gods” they could be made like to? As later passages of Scripture reveal, the “gods” worshipped by pagan civilizations, such as Ba-al and Molech, are demons. Satan’s temptation is to say “you can be like me.”
What is the likeness to Satan they could take on? Human beings, even fallen ones, have one distinct power that no demon has. We have the capacity to generate, to participate in the act of creation with God. Satan hates this power we have been given. He is tempting them to reject the importance of the physical, generative act for a false super-spiritualization. In a sense, it is the first Gnostic heresy, an attack on creation right at its beginning. Recall at this point that Adam and Eve were not bound to the lusts of concupiscence; their decision to “know” each other was totally controlled by their intellect and will. It is a sin of pride, but of a very particular kind, a rejection of God’s command to make their marriage fruitful, its very purpose. The pains of childbirth resulting from the first sin are thus not a kind of random punishment, but a wholly fitting consequence of a sin against fruitfulness. Similarly, the lust from concupiscence means that passions now drive us toward the act that our first parents refused with full control of their wills, also a fitting consequence. What is the first thing we read after Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden? “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Gen 4:1).
Interestingly, as a result of concupiscence, our culture is still merrily embracing Gnosticism, but with a different twist. Instead of ignoring the marital act for a kind of super-spiritualism, we obsess over the physical by ironically claiming that our bodies are just not that important – what matters, both for marriage and in regard to children is…love, choice, companionship, satisfaction of urges, equal rights, vacations, financial freedom (take your pick, there’s a million). The latest opinion from the Supreme Court was first spoken by the Evil One in the Garden, that marriage and procreation are not essentially linked. Satan didn’t reinvent the wheel – the world is simply doubling down on the first sin.