The Sacred Reversal

When, on Simchat Torah, we complete the Torah Reading cycle, we immediately start a new cycle, reading from the first Torah Portion – Beresheet  (In the Beginning).  Most of my readers know that I am very passionate about discovering continuity between Tanach (Old Testament) and the New Testament – and that’s why we have already spoken on these pages about the unmistakable parallel between the beginning of the first Portion and the beginning of John’s Gospel. The beginning of the fourth Gospel might be also called “Beresheet” since the language of John clearly and purposely echoes the language of Genesis 1—in both Genesis 1 and John 1:1 we witness God’s perfect order and perfect creation beginning (those interested can read my article on these pages: \https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/new-testament-reflections-beresheet/)

Today, however, we are going to talk about that point in Genesis which ended perfect God’s order. You all know that I speak of that tragic chapter where Adam and Eve (Hava) sinned—where they violated the command God gave them and ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  Everything changed and was turned upside down in Genesis 3; and it is at that fateful moment that we read: And their eyes were opened…

What does this mean, that Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened? Yes, Adam and Eve realized, for the very first time, that they were naked, but it was so much more than just that!  According to Scripture, the Fall was not simply one of the events in the history of creation – it was a global cataclysm, a total change in the status of the universe. What the Bible describes as the eyes (of Adam and Eve) being opened is one of the most substantial and fundamental manifestations and consequences of this global change. Adam and Eve, who had until then seen God in His reality, and saw everything only in His light and the light of His reality, then began to see the world with a clouded, sinful vision, which from that time onward became, and has remained, humanity’s vision of reality. Their innate ability to see God grew dim and was lost, and even Adam and Eve, not to mention their descendants, began to see this world the way humanity would continue to see it throughout the ages: weighed down by sin, material, and physical. They left His presence, and their eyes were opened to this worldview. From now on, to see the invisible, man would need faith. That is why the Lord was so concerned that they would not put out their hand and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever; that they would not remain forever like that, incapable of seeing the spiritual reality – able to see only material and physical…

As you would know, I usually share Hebrew insights on these pages, but today, since we will be dealing with the New Testament, we will examine some Greek here, as we look at the Septuagint (Greek translation of Tanach). The phrase the eyes were opened, in Greek, looks like this: δε διηνοιχθησαν οι οφθαλμοι. The verb Δι-ανοιγω means completely, totally opened. This word is found several times in the Septuagint, but the only time in the entire Septuagint when we find this full phrase occurring in exactly the same order as in Genesis 3, is in New Testament! This occurrence is extremely significant: it’s in the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 24), in the story of Emmaus – one of the most dramatic and significant stories in the New Testament. I’m sure you are familiar with this story! Two of Jesus’ disciples are going down from Jerusalem, depressed and frustrated by their teacher’s death; the resurrected Jesus joins them; they don’t recognize Him because their eyes are closed; and it is only at the end of this story that we read: their eyes were opened and they knew Him[1]. These are exactly the same words that we find in Genesis 3:7!

What is the meaning of this parallel? First of all, it is important to mention that, according to scholarly opinion, the Greek of Luke is the best of the four gospels. It is likely that Greek was the evangelist’s native tongue. Indeed, he seems to be so comfortable with Greek that he is able to adapt his style to different circumstances and sources. For instance, the Greek of the Prologue (1:1-4) in his Gospel is classical, while the Greek of the infancy narrative is purposely semitized, whilst the Greek of the sermons in Acts seems to be affected by the circumstances of each speaker. There can be little doubt that Luke knew the Septuagint well and was probably influenced by it. Therefore, the comparative analysis of the Greek words used by him, with those of the Septuagint, can be very enlightening.

In this case, Luke seems to purposely repeat the sentence from Genesis, in order to emphasize the major reversal that happens with the death and resurrection of Jesus and to make clear this connection between that moment when Adam and Eve sinned, left His presence, and their eyes were opened to this world in the third chapter of Genesis, and that pivotal moment that we see in the story of Emmaus when their eyes were opened. Opened again—but now they are opened in the opposite direction—opened back to God and His presence. From Luke’s, and the New Testament’s, point of view, God’s entire plan for humanity lies in between these two pairs of opened eyes. Luke wants us to see the connection Paul writes about in Romans, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous”, and though it is certainly beyond my subject here to deal with the Christian theological understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as restoring the original state of the universe, it is important to highlight – and I am not aware that anyone has addressed this fact up to now – this striking symmetry between the phrase their eyes were opened in Luke 24, as against their eyes were opened in Genesis 3 – the symmetry that helps a reader understand the depth and enormity of what happened on the road to Emmaus.

 

[1] Luke 24:31

 I  would like to remind you, dear friends that eTeacher offers a wonderful course, where you can learn from Parashot Shavua commentaries along with their New Testament interpretation. As always, you are welcome to contact me for more information! 

Excerpts from my books are included in this article  (and many other posts here), so if you like the  articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you  can get  them   here

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Harold Gunderman

    I note that this took place after the breaking of the bread. There is a way of breaking of the bread that mimics creation and the gathering/eating of the Manna at the same time. It is broken five times into seven pieces. (Prep for Man/Perfect Balance/Day of Rest/Seven Days) The arrangement is one large piece, two medium pieces, and four small pieces for a total of seven. Noting.. Three measures of hunger mentioned in the Torah. Three measures (Sarah) of 14 generations (Earth’s number ..measures of light (dawn/eve) changes in a week) until the Messiah comes for Complete Restoration. This ordered method compared to the more common irregular/unequal pieces would be an eye opener having seen Jesus do this as a Rabbinical teaching.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for this very insightful comment, Harold!

  2. mpaule

    the matrix

  3. Urszula

    Dear Julia, your insights are so precious! I share them with my women friends while we study the Bible together.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words Urszula, I am really glad you find these articles helpful!

  4. Dorothy Healy

    Thank you for this profound insight Julia. What a remarkable truth. I am reminded of the life-changing opening of my own eyes: I had been an unbeliever searching for truth when I was led to a place of decision, and the LORD opened my eyes. Faith and recognition of the reality of Christ is truly a most life-changing gift of God.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Dot. It seems that this reversal eye-opening is indeed the main goal of the Bible after Genesis 3, and therefore it is truly a life-changing thing!

  5. Silvester Sedlmeier

    This is wonderful. Thank you!.

  6. Gabriel Hakeem

    Thanks Julia for this Extraordinary article, and what makes it so distinguished is the link between the opposite directions regarding opening the eyes in both Genesis and Luke (I mean the consequences of eyes opening).
    Here an important question that I’ve been thinking in for a long duration emerges:
    Is there any connection between their eyes were opened… in (Gen. 3:7) and (psalm 51: 5) { Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.}?!
    Was David alluding to the sin of his and our mother Eve? Because we know well that David’s mother did not conceive him or any of his brethren in sin. ברכות

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words, Gabriel. As for your question, there have always been two main lines of interpretation of these words: 1) They can be seen as an apologetic and general statement, referring to Eve and to the ancient original sin; 2) one can see in this verse the perception of lust and sexuality as the source of sin (this is how most medieval Jewish commentators explained the verse). Personally, I tend to agree with you and to see an allusion to Eve in this verse.

      1. Gabriel Hakeem

        Thanks Julia for your sage words. Regarding the 2nd lane of interpretation, I think the source of the sin was not lust and sexuality but merely trespassing of the Lord’s command. The marital relation between Adam & Eve as a husband & wife never been a sin. on the contrary, the Lord blessed it and commanded them to breed through it of course.
        Stay blessed

  7. Danny Billiet

    Hoe konden Adam en Eva zondigen als ze nog geen kennis hadden van goed en kwaad?

  8. Fernando Noel Ramos

    The article’s title is spot on and I’ve never heard or read this particular subject addressed before but I do know that there are a few such reversals in the bible because of course God is a God who restores and renews us to Himself . Toda raba Julia !

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Fernando, my next article will be also about reversal. So -stay tuned!:)

  9. Nick

    Understanding the layers of meaning in Beresheet continues to be a reference point in “making sense of the Bible”.I appreciate your work!
    Sincerely, Nick