The Luminous Mysteries – Part One

Carnazzo, Rev. Hezekias


Required  reading: Genesis 1-3

**I apologize, but we were unable to translate foreign language characters to web format.  If you’re interested in the Hebrew texts, please contact me at [email protected]


            Here, we will lay the foundational themes upon which we will build our understanding of the Luminous Mysteries.  Rather than considering the whole narrative of Genesis 1-3, we will only study those aspects relevant to our study of the active life of Christ.  This approach will take us quickly through the most important aspects of the account of the Garden of Eden, and with these images at hand we will be well equipped to begin our journey at the Jordan River.  This chapter is by far the most foundational, so please read carefully.

Opening our eyes upon the Garden of Paradise requires the proper perspective from which to see anew the mysteries hidden therein.  Tradition has established Moses as the author of Genesis, and the Scriptures themselves seem to lend credence to this analysis.[1]  This traditional view, however, does not establish the complete perspective from which to examine this ancient story.  The common English translation of the first words of Genesis, “In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), can lead the modern reader to an improper vision.  The phrase “the heavens and the earth” (ha shamayim et wa ha erets), is not intended to direct the reader to see the earth according to the viewpoint of a satellite, as the modern reader may visualize, but rather according to the vision of the Hebrew people.  As we shall witness in more detail below, Moses’ account in the first three chapters of Genesis is based upon the vision of Paradise that he received while on Mt. Sinai.  We know from the text of the book of Exodus that Moses built the tabernacle of the tent of meeting “after the pattern” which was shown to him “on the mountain” (Ex. 25:40; 26:30).  And we know that this earthly tabernacle was a “copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary” (Heb. 8:5).  Saint Ephrem explains that “the symbol of Paradise was depicted by Moses who made the . . . sanctuar[y].”[2]  Therefore, Moses is not merely dictating an account received either from his fathers or from God, but rather is describing, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a vision of paradise that he received while on Sinai.[3]  Victor Hamilton, author of the Handbook on the Pentateuch, explains, “In anticipation of the tabernacle, the tip of Sinai has become a Holy of Holies – God’s holy presence is there.  It is forbidden to everyone except Moses and Aaron, who will eventually be the high priest.”[4]  This is the proper perspective from which to gaze upon the divine garden; Moses, standing upon Sinai, experiences a Theophany.  He is suddenly wrapped in a vision of the Creation; God speaks the light, and the thick darkness upon the face of the abyss flees from before his face.  In order to gain this proper perspective ourselves, we must stand in the place of Moses and see the revelation through Moses’ eyes.

With this “proper perspective,” let us peer into Paradise and begin to form a comprehensive picture of the Garden of the Lord.  David Chilton explains that “one of the most important discoveries that can be made by any Bible teacher is an understanding of the basic imagery laid down in the early chapters of Genesis – light and darkness, water and land, sky and clouds, mountains and gardens, beasts and dragons, gold and jewels, trees and thorns, cherubs and flaming swords—all of which form a grand and glorious Story, a true ‘fairy tale.’”[5]  These “images of Eden,” form the key characteristics that will grant the ability to recognize revelations of Paradise throughout the Sacred Scriptures.  Primarily these “images of Eden” are found in chapter two, such as the tree of life and the four rivers of the world, but some will be found in chapter one, such as the light and darkness, sonship and dominion.  Other images are found in Chapter Three such as figs (3:7), the dwelling of God with men (3:8), clothing with animal skins (3:21), and Cherubim (3:24).



            The first characteristic of Eden, the contrast between light and darkness in the opening verses of the Holy Scriptures, is the comparison that John the Evangelist highlights in the opening verses of his prologue (cf. Gen. 1:1-5; Jn. 1:1-3).  This is the first and primary image that must be kept in mind as an interpretive tool for the study of the “Luminous Mysteries” of the life of Christ; Christ is the light, and wherever He stands, darkness flees (cf. Jn.1:5).  This tension between light and darkness gives rise to the second aspect of the garden that must be considered: the separation of the waters from the dry land on the third day (cf. Gen. 1:9-13).  Cardinal Jean Danielou explains that “the Coptic and Ethiopian liturgies for the blessing of the water [of baptism]” show God “as having at the beginning: ‘created heaven and earth and enclosed the sea’”[6] (emphasis mine).  Umberto Cassuto, a renowned modern Jewish biblical scholar, explains in his commentary on Genesis 1 that “it is clear from many allusions in the Bible, as well as from a number of legends in rabbinic literature, that there had existed among [the Israelites] an ancient poetic tradition that told of . . . the lord of the sea, who opposed the will of God . . . until the Holy One, blessed be He, subdued him”[7] Thus, the ancient waters become a symbol of darkness, the tomb, where death dwells. [8]

Besides this destructive element, however, two other characteristics of the ancient waters must be considered.  First, the primordial waters partake in creation; God draws forth from the waters the land from which man and the land animals will be formed.  Furthermore, the waters of Eden can be seen as having a third characteristic, that of the Spirit of God.  In the second creation account, the water is depicted as “a river flow[ing] out of Eden to water the garden” (Genesis 2:10).  This river is the source of life for all that grows in the garden; it is the artery by which God sustains the garden and its inhabitants, and so must flow from no other point than God Himself (cf. Ezekiel 47:5).  Thus, the Spirit of God is represented in the waters of Eden, sanctifying the water and thereby granting to it divine qualities.[9]

Both in the account of the Deluge and in the Exodus, sinful man is “enclosed” in the sea and the holy ones of God are drawn forth and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, harkening to the three-fold characteristic of the primitive waters.  These two Biblical accounts verify the waters as both destructive and life-giving.  In fact, it is in their destructive power that the Divine life is communicated to the holy ones of God.  Though the destructive and life-giving qualities of the waters seem to contradict one another, in this light they are perfectly fitted.  By the very binding of sin, which takes place in the waters, man is allowed once again to enter into the divine life.


            With the land drawn forth from the waters and the Garden of Eden planted on the third day, God is ready for his most exalted work, the creation of man.[10]  On the sixth day “God created man in his own image” and after his “own likeness” (Gen. 1:27). The creation of man in the image and likeness of God introduces the next important aspect of Eden, sonship, an aspect that is intimately bound up in the eventual failure of the covenant relationship between God and man.  The fifth chapter of Genesis reveals the characteristic of “image and likeness” to primarily denote sonship: “Adam became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image” (Gen 5:3).[11]  The early Fathers, however, interpret this phrase in a more exact manor.  John of Damascus, whose position represents a consensus of the Fathers, explains, “That which is ‘according to the image’ is manifest in the intellect and free will.  That which is ‘according to the likeness’ is manifest in such likeness in virtue as is possible.”[12]  Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes, “human nature, created to rule the world because of his resemblance to the universal King, has been made like a living image that participates in the archetype by dignity and by name.”[13]  Thus, man receives his status as a son, both by reason of his intellectual nature, and by reason of his “royal robe,”[14] Adam’s “garment of grace,” by which he participates in the Kingship of God.  This royal garment gave Adam a special “dominion” over God’s creation, as king in Paradise (Gen. 1:28).  This kingship, as Saint Gregory of Nyssa explains, was to be a reflection of the True King Who granted Adam participation as an heir to Eternal Glory.

            The kingship, and therefore the sonship, of Adam had the essential character of a gift.  God’s plan for His children was that they should enjoy the gift of grace, by which they would live in a supernatural state.  This preternatural state, because it was in the form of a gift, was not to be considered as part of the nature of the first man, but rather was to be bestowed and confirmed based upon a certain relationship between the Bestower and His children.  The gift of grace was to be confirmed in man by an act of covenant, an oath swearing by which Adam would in justice recognize the hierarchical establishment of creation, submitting himself in the form of worship to his Creator.  This intended covenant relationship was essentially a familial bond by which Adam would be constituted a son of God.[15]  This intended bond between God and man, and also between God and the whole of creation is witnessed in the very structure of the creation account.  The six days of creation, followed by a seventh day, was in itself a symbol for the ancient Semitic peoples of a covenant relationship.

Scripture scholars have long noted the importance of this seven-day creation structure and have interpreted it primarily as symbolizing perfection or completion.[16]  While this numerological explication may be true, the full importance of the act of creation in a seven-day structure far surpasses this single interpretation.  In Hebrew, the root of the word sheba (seven), is the same root for the verb shaba, often translated “to swear” as in “to swear an oath.”  This dual determination is best witnessed in the exchange between the Patriarch of Israel, Abraham, and the King of the Philistines, Abimelech (Gen. 21).  Here, an agreement over an important well of water is established by a covenant.  Abimelech questions Abraham about the significance of the seven ewe lambs set apart from the flock.  Abraham responds, saying, “These seven ewe lambs you will take from my hand, that you may be a witness for me that I dug this well” (Gen. 21:30).  The sign of the covenant between the two men is seven lambs, symbolizing the oath sworn that day.  For this reason the name of the place is called “beer-sheba,” meaning both “the well of swearing” and “the well of seven.”[17]  Knowledge of the dual significance of the Hebrew word sheba illustrates the deeper reality of the seven-day structure of Creation.  God is not merely creating, but creating within the bounds of a covenant.  A covenant is a bond which unites one party to another as members of a family – covenant equals kinship.  The framework of the beginning of Genesis shows “God covenanting himself to the cosmos in the very act of creating it, deliberately in a sevenfold way.”[18]  Thus the seventh day, in its very name, is the day of covenant.  It is the day in which God and His creation are united in an indissoluble bond and it is on this day that man, created in the image and likeness of the Father, is to be initiated into that intimate familial union as a divine son.

At the pinnacle of the creative act, God forms man into His own image and likeness, as His son.  Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in his exhortation On the Creation of Man, explains, “One who is made in the image of God has the task of becoming who he is.”[19]  Thus man is called at the moment of creation to become like his Creator.  Pope John Paul II teaches,

God is Love (Jn. 1:48) and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion.  Creating the human race in His own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion.  Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.[20]

The Divine attribute of love is confirmed in the creation account of Genesis with the repeated words, “And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25).  The great philosopher, Josef Pieper, in his work On Love explains that love is “the affirmation of the existence of the other.”  It is saying to the other, “It is good that you are; how wonderful that you exist.”[21]  And again Pieper states, “The most extreme form of affirmation than can possibly be conceived is creatio, making to be in the strict sense of the word. ‘Creation is the comparative of affirmation.’”[22]  Josef Pieper concludes by stating,

It is God who in the act of creation anticipated all conceivable human love and said: I will you to be; it is good, “very good” (Gen 1:31), that you exist.  He has already infused everything that human beings can love and affirm, goodness along with existence, and that means lovability and affirmability.  Human Love, therefore, is by its nature and must inevitably be always an imitation and a kind of repetition of this perfected, and, in the exact sense of the word, creative love of God… But… in human love something more takes place than a mere echo, mere repetition and imitation ( a looking back).  What takes place is a continuation and in a certain sense even a perfecting of what was begun in the course of creation.[23]

With this background the words of God, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” are understood.  Man is called to fulfill his vocation as a son of God by loving as God loves.  Thus, God gives man the first commandment, to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28), calling His children to imitate Him in their love for one another.  It is the obediential fulfillment of this commandment that makes man into a reflection of the living God and thus confirms sonship upon him in a covenant bond.[24]

Understanding the fundamental vocation of man as love, in light of the explanation of Josef Pieper, brings to an understanding of the command, to be “fruitful and multiply,” a much more profound character than can be realized on the physical level alone.  In his work, Happiness and Contemplation, Pieper states,

We . . . recall here the Biblical phraseology in which the union of man and the woman is refered to as a ‘mutual knowing’(Gen. 4:1).  This use of the word is anything but a euphemism.  Quite the contrary.  The term expresses with matchless precision the exact truth of the matter – as soon as we go back to the original meaning of the Hebrew word.  That meaning was: immediate togetherness, intimate presence – yada . . . Knowing originally derives from a word meaning presence.[25]

Thus man is called to imitate God in the act of love, love that calls man and woman into the immediate presence of each other and calls forth the words, “it is good that you exist.”  It is this union of love that the book of Genesis refers to as the “one flesh” of the marital union (Gen. 2:24).


But when was the marital union between Adam and Eve intended to take place?  Would there be a more fitting moment for the consummation of the marriage covenant between Adam and Eve than on the seventh day, the very day of union between God and man?  In fact it is clear from Scripture that among the Hebrew peoples the marriage festival itself lasted seven days.  This confirms for the modern reader the importance of the number seven in the ancient Semitic understanding of marriage(cf. Judges 14:10-12, Tobit 11:19).[26]  Scott Hahn teaches, “There is no reason to suppose that Adam lived a long time as a bachelor.  In terms of narrative time, his second day began when he woke up from his deep sleep, which also happened to be the Sabbath Day sanctified by God.”[27]  Hahn goes on to explain that Adam’s second day would therefore be both a day of betrothal and a day of Sabbath rest.[28]  This interpretation of the intended seventh day marital union is truly fitting, for the very covenant sworn by God is nothing less than a form of marital union between Creator and creature.[29]  The Holy Scriptures are clear on this point, the sacred text repeatedly describes the union between God and creation as a marriage covenant. [30]

Turning to the second creation narrative with the understanding that the covenant between God and man is intimately tied to the union of Adam and Eve, the story of the fall of man comes to life.  Aware that the first account of creation places the creation of man on the sixth day followed by the day of covenant, it is clear that we must interpret the creation of woman in the second account within this narrative time frame.[31]  And just as the intended marital union on the seventh day follows upon the creation of woman, so we may interpret the communication between Eve and the Serpent, at the beginning of Genesis 3, as taking place within this day of covenant.  Thus, on the very day when a communion bond between Adam and his new bride should have been established, we find the woman communicating, and thereby forming a bond, with the evil one.  Our Holy Father, John Chrysostom, teaches that there was no excuse for the woman to be speaking with the serpent in the first place.  Rather, she should have been conversing “with the person for whose sake she came into being, with whom she shared everything on equal terms, and whose helpmate she had been made.”[32]  It is at this moment that the covenant bond between God and His creation is broken, when man disobeys for the first time the command of God to love as He loves.[33]

In considering the disobedience of Eve, a question arises concerning Adam’s relationship to the communion of death between Eve and the Serpent.  One thing is known for certain: Adam was silent in the exchange.  That Adam was ignorant of the situation is unlikely for a number of reasons.  First, this was the festival day of the universe and he has been given the most beautiful of gifts, Eve, his new bride.  That a man, as perfect as Adam, would forget about Eve, the queen of God’s creation, is improbable.  Furthermore, his God-given task in the Garden was to till (avad), and to keep, or to guard (shamar).[34]   He had been given two responsibilities on this seventh day: that of protecting the garden and bringing forth fruit from Eve.[35]  It is unlikely that Adam would have forgotten about his new bride and his basic responsibilities so soon.  A closer examination of the event reveals one possibility for Adam’s obscurity at this moment.

Here, two interpretive principles of biblical exegesis must be recalled: first, we must always read a particular text in the context of the entirety of Scripture,[36] and secondly, as Saint Augustine teaches, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”[37]

Looking closely at the picture of Genesis 3, and examining the text carefully, we find the word used for serpent is nahash. Throughout scripture this word has various meanings, from that of a small creature, feared for its bite, to a “sea monster” or “dragon.”[38]  Thus, the Sacred Text in this area is not clear.  However, turning to the Apocalypse of Saint John we are informed of the meaning of nahash in the account of the fall of man.  In the Apocalypse, Saint John witnesses the battle between Holy Michael and Satan: “The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent which is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev. 12:9).[39]  Now the picture of the corrupting conversation between the mother of the living and the father of lies comes into focus.  The idea that Adam was oblivious to the situation is not tenable.  Rather, Adam, who had been given Eve, the garden of life, to love and to guard, failed on both counts.  At the very moment that Adam was called to “give himself up” to protect his bride, to be willing to die for her, he shrinks in fear, letting the trust and faith in God that ought to have been his shield die in his heart.[40]  At this crucial moment, Eve is left alone on the very soil of Eden where Adam should have spoken the words of love to her; now the “ancient serpent” is free to plant his corrupted seed in the heart of Eve.[41]  The mother of life is now the bearer of death![42]

Adam has failed in his duty.  He has denied his God-given purpose and now he who should have fed Eve with truth is fed with death.  Eve, turning to her husband, becomes the vehicle by which the Dragon furthers his corrupted ways: the woman, the helper of the gardener, plants the seed of death into her husband.  No longer is Adam the great protector and provider; instead, he has become completely passive, in no way refusing the forbidden fruit.  The effects are staggering: Adam is incapacitated; he stands in silence as Eve communes with the Devil, and he eats from the hand of the one whom he should have fed.[43]  The God-given order of nature has been violated. Saint Ephrem explains the moment of the fall in detail,

She [Eve] then went after that which her eyes desired and, being enticed by the divinity that the serpent had promised her, she stole away from her husband and ate.  Afterwards, she gave some to her husband and he ate with her.  Because she believed the serpent she ate first, thinking that she would be clothed in divinity in the presence of that one from whom she, as woman, had been separated.  She hastened to eat before her husband that she might become head over her head, that she might become the one to give command to that one by whom she was to be commanded and that she might be older in divinity than that one who was older than she in humanity.[44]

Now, instead of asking to be fed with the fruit of life, Eve reverses the divinely intended order, enticing her husband to be fed by her and deceiving him with the fruit of death.

            Saint Augustine explains the first moments of the Fall by a less graphic and much more philosophical approach.  He explains, “the devil would not have begun by an open and obvious sin to tempt man into doing something that God had forbidden, had not man already begun to seek satisfaction in himself and consequently to take pleasure in the words ‘you shall be gods.’  The promise of these words, however, would much more truly have to pass if, by obedience, Adam and Eve had kept close to the ultimate and true source of their being and had not, by pride, imagined that they were themselves the source of their being.”[45]  This insight is invaluable and coupled with what was considered above proves to complete the picture.  Adam, who let his trust in God die in his heart, forgot Him from Whom he had received all life, and seeking life apart from the Giver of Life, Adam found only death and division from his Creator.


Once the pair had eaten their doom, the Scriptural text reveals the Father “walking in the garden” (Gen. 3:8).[46]  Saint John Chrysostom explains that God, “like a doctor treating a sick and suffering patient confined to bed who needs much healing and the doctor’s attention, he goes immediately to his side.”[47]  This doctor was not one that comes in to soothe the wounds of the sick or to help one die in peace but rather a doctor that comes to lay the axe to the root of sin.  The common translation of Gen. 3:8, “And they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” is unfortunately absent of the deeper meaning of the original Hebrew.  In the Hebrew the text is as follows,, ~AY=h; x:Wrål. !G”ßB; %LEïh;t.mi ~yhi²l{a/ hw”ôhy> lAq’-ta, W[úm.v.YIw:); although the common translation, such as the RSV rendition given above, is one possibility, it unfortunately misses much that a more literal rendering reveals.  The word~yhi²l{a/, commonly rendered as “the sound,” may also mean “the voice.”  The Hebrew word %LEïh;t.mi, commonly rendered as “walking” can also be translated as “traversing.”  Finally, the most important for our present consideration is the Hebrew wordx:Wr, which is often translated as “in the cool,” but a more literal translation will render this word as “in the spirit” (ruah).  Thus, a more literal translation of Genesis 3:8 will read “and they heard the voice of YHWH traversing the garden in the spirit (ruah) of the day.  At first glance this translation does not seem to affect dramatically the meaning of the text but a closer examination will show otherwise.  The “ruah” of 3:8 when read in the context of the whole of the creation and fall narrative is interpreted in light of the Spirit (Ruah) of God in Gen.1:2 which hovered over the waters at creation, as well as the breath of God which came forth from His mouth and was breathed into Adam in Chapter 2:7.

When Gen. 3:8 is read in light of other texts of the Old Testament, the picture changes dramatically.  In Psalm 29 we read: “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders. . . . The voice of the Lord is powerful. . . . The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.  The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness, . . . and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’” (Ps. 29:3-9).  David Chilton explains, “It was this Voice – an ear-splitting, earth-shattering roar – that Adam and Eve heard on their last day in the Garden.”[48]  “When Adam and Eve sinned, they heard the characteristic sound of the Glory-Cloud blasting its way like an express train though the Garden: the thundering Voice of the of the Lord.”[49]  At the moment of the fall, the Lord God comes into the Garden, not as an unconcerned bystander, but as a Father who desires the repentance of His son.  Crying out ADAM, God, like the Father of the prodigal son, girds his loins and runs after his lost flock, and begins the plan of redemption.

 Once Adam is found in the nakedness of shame, having been stripped of his garment of grace, the robe of glory which symbolized his sonship, God fashions garments of animal skin for the couple, clothing them according to their fallen nature – no longer found in the likeness of sons of God but rather found in the likeness of animals.  “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ – therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden” (Gen 3:22-23).  It is essential to realize that Adam and Eve were not cast out of the garden solely because they were found in sin, but because of the access they would have had to the tree of life.  Saint Ephrem the Syrian explains, “God did this lest this life-giving gift that they would receive through the tree of life become misery, and thus bring worse evil upon them than what they had already obtained from the tree of knowledge.  From the latter tree they obtained temporal pains, whereas the former tree would have made those pains eternal.  From the latter they obtained death which would have cast off from them the bonds of their pains.  The former tree, however, would have caused them to live as if buried alive, leaving them to be tortured eternally by their pains.”[50]  God, their Father, did not desire the suffering of His children, but rather their redemption; thus, by casting them from Paradise, He devised a way for them to re-enter.


The final characteristic of Eden that has yet to be considered is location.  This will become essential in our study of the life of Christ.  Modern Biblical scholarship has disagreed much about the geographical location of Eden, but one aspect of this argument seems to hold little importance among such scholars: the Semitic belief regarding its location.  The text of Genesis gives us the first few hints to the location of Eden.  First, the phrase, “A river flowed out of Eden,” points to the geological reality that Eden is on a mountain, from which a river can flow.[51]  This river divides into four rivers:

 “Two of these rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, have the same names of two great rivers today.  This coincidence is simply a matter of English translational convention.  Thus the modern rivers, which are called by the same names, cannot be used as relevant ‘land marks’ for this narrative.  Setting aside the names of the rivers for now, it may be possible to get a general sense of the geographic area which the author is describing from the four regions to which these rivers flow.  The first river, Pishon, flowed into the land of Havilah was in the region of modern Arabia.  The second river, Gihon, flowed into the land of Cush, which was in the region of modern Ethiopia.  The third river, the Tigris, flowed into the region east of Assyria.  The fourth river was the Euphrates, but we are not told to what region it flowed.  However, looking at a map of the area, and tracing the semicircle formed by the location and order of the three regions named, one could surmise that the Euphrates may have flowed into the region north of Syria, the next major region on the semicircle, before the line drops off into the sea.  The area surrounded by these four regions, which would appear to be the logical source from which these rivers flowed, would then be somewhere in the region of Canaan, that is, the Promised Land.”[52]

This interpretation is further substantiated in Hebrew tradition; according to one Jewish midrash it is upon the Rock of Moriah, the Temple stone in Jerusalem, that Adam is formed. “This rock, also known as the foundation stone, holds a special place in Jewish tradition.  It is upon this rock that the waters first parted at creation to bring forth the land, it is upon this rock that man was first created in the garden . . . and it is upon this rock that Solomon built the temple.  It is from this rock that the prayers and sacrifices go up to heaven and it is this rock which is the capstone of the gates of Hades.”[53]  In summary, “What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do?  Like a man setting in place the central pole of a tent, he raised His right foot and drove the stone down into the very bottom of the deeps and made it the pillar of the earth.  Therefore, it is called the spindle stone, for it is the very naval of the earth, from which the whole earth is stretched out.  And upon the stone is the house of the Lord.”[54]  This theory is further substantiated in Scripture itself where we read in the Pentateuch, “the Jordan valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord” (Gen. 13:10), and again in the Prophet Joel who states “the land [the Promised Land] is like the garden of Eden” (Joel 2:3).   Our final “image of Eden” is now complete; the Jews at the time of Christ believed themselves to be standing in Jerusalem, upon the actual soil of Eden.


With the images of Eden properly formed and set before our eyes we now turn to one last consideration to prepare ourselves for a proper study of the life of Christ: the hope of the Jewish people.  This final consideration was a key principle of exegesis for the early Christian, based upon the above “images of Eden.”  It is a principle formed from the earliest of days, from the casting forth of Adam from the Garden of Paradise. This principle of exegesis is the “Edenic Paradigm.”

It was the common hope of the ancient Hebrew people that one day their God would wash them of the sin that exiled them from Eden and prepare a way in which they would be escorted back into that garden whence their first parents were cast.[55]  Thus, according to N. T. Wright, “In literature which urged the exiled people to look forward to the coming age when all would be restored, the future glory of the land is described in terms borrowed from paradise imagery.”[56]  The theme of returning to the Garden of Eden so saturated the Hebrew culture that, according to tradition, the vestments of the high priest were the “self-same garments which the Creator had made for Adam,”[57] and the Holy of Holies, where the high priest stood, was the recreation of the Garden of Paradise.[58]

This prophetic vision of returning to Eden contained one aspect that is perfectly fitted into the above consideration of the characteristics of the primordial waters, the “washing of sin” in the Messianic age.  The Prophet Ezekiel proclaims the word of the Lord to the people in these words: “For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses” (Ez. 36:24).  Again Zechariah proclaims to the people of God who look forward to the day of salvation: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1).  But this opening of the fountains of cleansing waters was not a merely negative cleansing from impurity, but also the bestowal of the gift of the Holy Spirit that hovered over the water at Creation, that was breathed into Adam in the Garden (Gen. 2:7).  Thus the prophet Joel proclaims:  “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28).

It was with these promises burning in the hearts of the Jewish people that men in the day of Christ looked forward with hopeful eyes and with hands outstretched in prayer to God, beseeching Him to send the Savior in their day. It is with this hope in their eyes, with visions of Eden in their dreams, that they looked to Jerusalem and saw Jesus of Nazareth walking toward the Baptist in the Jordan and changing water into wine at the request of His mother, declaring release to the captives and proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, being transfigured before their eyes and feeding them once again with the fruit that is unto life eternal.  Let us stand with Moses on Sinai and be wrapped in the vision of the Garden, let us gaze upon Christ the light of the world, and let us be present with the chosen apostles on Mount Tabor for the Feast of Booths.  With this perspective and vision, with the Edenic paradigm as our path and Christ as our light, let us turn to the Mysterium Lucis and see Christ as Adam restored.


1.      The proper perspective within which we ought to read the account of Gen. 1-3 is from the standpoint of Moses.  We must stand with Moses on Mount Sinai and be wrapped in a vision of Paradise.  We must see paradise with our own eyes and experience the drama which unfolds upon that sacred ground.  This perspective, which involves the reader in the story of creation, will be important as we journey with our Lord through each Luminous Mystery.

2.      The first image of Eden is that of light and darkness.  This contrast will come to full stature with the revelation of the Light of the world, the Son of God, who stands against the powers of darkness.  This image will be first encountered throughout the Luminous Mysteries, as Christ our God confronts the evil of sin and death.

3.      The second image of Eden is that of the Waters which have three characteristics: death, life, and the Spirit.  This image will be most prevalent in the first Luminous Mystery, the Baptism of Christ.

4.      The third image is that of sonship.  Adam is made in the image and likeness of God and is called to act out that reality in his relation to the world as king and marital companion.  The fulfillment of his vocation will confirm upon Adam the permanent supernatural status as a son of God bound to the Father by a covenantal union.  We will encounter this image throughout the Luminous Mysteries as Christ restores man to his proper relationship with the Father.  With the raising of fallen man in the Jordan River, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, and the Transfiguration we will begin to see the restoration of man as a son of God.

5.      The forth image is that of the Fall.  Adam and Eve are called to union with each other and with God but instead of the divine covenantal union, God’s children seek life apart from God on the seventh day.  With the Fall, Adam and Eve lose their royal inheritance and their royal robes, clothed now in the image of the animals.  At the wedding at Cana, we will encounter the restoration of the fallen Eve in the person of Mary.

6.      The fifth image of Eden is the merciful Father who seeks the restoration of His creation and the reunion with his prodigal children. In each of the Mysteries of Light, the forth and fifth images will be brought forth.  As Christ condescends to become a partaker in our plight we will again and again see our Lord touch the fallen Adam and bring him back to life, uniting him to the heavenly Father who seeks union with his creation.

7.      The sixth image is the reason for exile, the Tree of Life.  Man is cast forth from the Garden and the Cherubim are placed at the gate of Paradise.  At the table of the Eucharistic banquet we will receive from the hand of Christ the fruit of the Tree of Life which will be for the life of the world.

8.      The final image of Paradise necessary to begin our journey through the Luminous Mysteries is that of location.  The Jews believed that Jerusalem was the location of the Garden of Eden.  As Christ comes forth from the Jordan, we will walk with him toward Jerusalem and see in his footsteps and actions the restoration of Paradise.

9.      The hope that burned in the hearts of the Jewish people at the time of Christ was that God would wash them from their sin, restore them to their ancient Paradise, and once again dwell with his children in a covenant union.  This hope would not be in vain, for as Christ transfigures our human nature by his actions of grace, we are introduced to the restoration of mankind.

 [1]See Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 2.5, in Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 162; quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. Andrew Louth, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 54. FC 74:31; PG 53:28.  Also see Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns of Paradise 1, trans. Sebastian Brock (Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998), 77.  C.f. Ex. 17:14, 24:3-4.

[2]St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Paradise III.17 (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998), 96.

[3]The interpretation of the tabernacle as a figure of Eden will be established more substantially below.

[4]Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1982), 195.

[5] David Chilton, Days of Vengeance (Taylor, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987) 37.

[6]Jean Danielou, The Bible and the Liturgy, 75.

[7] Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis; From Adam to Noah, vol.1 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1989), 36.

[8]This interpretation is well established through the artistic Iconography of the Eastern Christian tradition, where the serpent is depicted dwelling in the waters of the Jordan at the baptism of Christ, as well as at the time of the flood and the crossing of the Red Sea.  This is also well established in the liturgical texts of the Byzantine Churches, “Make ready, O river Jordan: for behold, Christ our God draws near to be baptized by John, that He may crush with His divinity the invisible heads of the dragons in thy waters” (Festal Menaion, 295).  This tradition is also substantiated in the Patristic tradition, as Saint Cyril of Jerusalem explains, “The dragon Behemoth, according to Job, was in the waters, and was taking the Jordan into his gullet.  But as the heads of the dragon had to be crushed, Jesus, having descended into the waters, chained fast the strong one, so that we might gain the power to tread on scorpions and serpents.”  (Danielou, 41).

[9]The 2nd characteristic, the Spirit of God, is clearly present in the Creation text and throughout the Sacred Scriptures.  In the case of the crossing of the Red Sea, the Spirit of God moves over the water as a “blast” from the Divine nostrils (Exodus 15:8) (Heb. Ruah, meaning spirit or wind).  As for the great Deluge, Tertullian notes the dove sent forth from the ark to be a sign of the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters (Tertullian, On Baptism, 8).  Saint Ambrose also confirms this interpretation when he says; “There is no doubt that the flood subsided by the invisible power of the spirit, not by the wind as such but by divine intervention” (On Noah, 16:58).

[10]St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis, in St. Ephrem the Syrian: Selected Prose Works, trans. Edward G. Mathews, Jr. and Joseph P. Amar, ed. Kathleen McVey, The Fathers of the Church, ed. Thomas P. Halton and others, vol. 91 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1994), 2.5.2; and St. Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, in Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 162; quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. Andrew Louth, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 54.

[11]Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture (Ann Arbor: Servant Publications, 1998), 47.

[12]Saint John of Damascus, Expositio Fidei, in Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, vol. 37 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 234-35; quoted in Louth, Ancient Christian Commentary, 35.

[13]St. Gregory of Nyssa, De Opificio Hominis, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, series 2, vol. 5 (Buffalo, N.Y.: Christian Literature, 1887-1894; Reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1952-1956; Reprint, Peabody, Mass.: Henrickson, 1994), 391; quoted in Louth, Ancient Christian Commentary, 34.


[15]Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, 27.  For a further consideration of this point see D. J. McCarthy, S.J., Old Testament Covenant: A Survey of Current Opinions (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1972), 33; and D.J. Elazar, Covenant and Polity in Biblical Israel (London: Transaction, 1995), 38.

[16]An example of this type of interpretation is found in A Dictionary of Bible Types, which reads, “This number is used to represent Gods complete provision . . .  The seven days make a perfect week.”  Walter Wilson, A Dictionary of Bible Types (Peabody, Mass.: Henrickson Publishers, 1999), 363.

[17]John Mckenzie, Dictionary of the Bible (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1965), 86.

[18]Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, 51.

[19]St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Creation of Man, in  A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, series 2, vol. 5 (Buffalo, N.Y.: Christian Literature, 1887-1894; Reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1952-1956; Reprint, Peabody, Mass.: Henrickson, 1994), 391; quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. Andrew Louth, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 35.

[20] John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, trans. Vatican Polyglot Press (Boston, Mass.: Pauline Books and Media, 1981), 22.

[21] Josef Pieper, On Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997), 164.

[22] Ibid., 170.

[23] Ibid., 171.

[24] Sahdona the Syrian explains in his Book of Perfection that man makes his sacrifice to God through his obediential submission, “Like a living sacrifice, suitable and pleasing to God, he employs his body for rational service.  He consecrates and somehow presents to God the vows and the offerings of all his limbs and offers the sacrifices suitable for the action of grace, which are the rational fruits of the lips of those who confess his name by incessantly celebrating God in their body and soul, God to whom they belong now in definitive oblations.” [Sahdona the Syrian, Book of Perfection, in Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium. Louvain, Belgium, 1903; quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. Andrew Louth, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 33].

[25] Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation (South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 1998), 70.

[26]D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans Publishing, 1991), 169.  Also ref to Judges 14:10-12, Tobit 11:19.

[27]Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, 63.

[28] Ibid., 63.

[29]“God’s relationship with Israel was always defined in terms of the Covenant, the marriage bond by which He joined her to Himself as His special people.”  David Chilton, Days of Vengeance (Tyler, TX:  Dominion Press, 1987), 13.

[30]Hos. 2:14; 2 Cor.11:2; Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:7-9, 21:9-11.

[31] For examples of the patristic practice of interpreting chapter two of Genesis according to the narrative time of chapter one, see St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis, in St. Ephrem the Syrian: Selected Prose Works, trans. Edward G. Mathews, Jr. and Joseph P. Amar, ed. Kathleen McVey, The Fathers of the Church, ed. Thomas P. Halton and others, vol. 91 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1994), 2.5.2; and St. Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, in Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 162; quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. Andrew Louth, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 54.

[32]Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies On Genesis (16.5), in The Fathers of The Church: A New Translation, trans. Robert C. Hill (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1985), 210.

[33] The interpretation of a failure to love as the beginning of the fall of man is born out in an examination of the first act of Adam and Eve after their exile.  The exiled couple, hoping to restore what had been lost, immediately correct the problem which caused their downfall in the first place by consummating their marriage (Gen. 4:1).

[34] “Keep (shamar), carries a distinct meaning, ‘to guard,’ implying the need to ward off potential intruders.”  Scott Hahn, 58.

[35] The two commandments of God: to be fruitful and multiply and to till and keep, are closely associated and aught to be interpreted in light of each other, just as the whole of the second creation account aught to be interpreted in light of chapter one (see note 25).

[36]Vatican II, Dei Verbum (18 November 1965), 1981 edition: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Boston,  Mass.: Daughters of Saint Paul, 1975), 15.

[37] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 129.

[38] Num.21:6-9, Is. 27:1, Jb. 26:13, Prv. 23:32, Ps. 58:4.

[39]This interpretation is explicitly supported in the Hebrew Midrash The Apocalypse of Abraham (23:1-12): “My eyes ran to the side of the garden of Eden, and I saw a man very great in height . . . entwined with a woman who was of also equal to the man in aspect and size.  And behind the tree was standing (something) like a dragon in form.”  Also see Pope John Paul II, Jesus Son and Savior (Boston: Pauline Books, 1996), 28-29: “Especially to be noted is the book of Revelation . . . according to which ‘the great dragon was thrown down . . . that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan.’” As quoted in Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, 274.

[40] Eph. 5:25, CCC 397, Gen. 15:1.

[41] Irenaeus of Lyons writes, “Eve was seduced by the word of the [fallen] angel and transgressed God’s word.” (Adver. Haer. 5, 19; PG 7, 1175-76).

[42] The reversal of roles evident in the Genesis text points to the maternal character of Eve in the account of the fall.  This aspect of her person warrants two considerations.  First, Eve’s natural role as “mother of all the living” (Gen. 3:20), and second, Eve’s role in the fall as the bearer of death.  From a natural consideration, Eve’s office as “mother of all the living,” points to her role as advocate.  According to the hierarchical design of creation, Eve, the helper of Adam, is the natural path through which Adam communicates to those below him and by which those below communicate with Adam.  Eve, as mother, is to be the representative of her children to Adam, just as Adam is to be the representative of Eve to God.  Regarding her role in the fall, it is evident that the serpent attempts to disrupt this natural order.  Justin Martyr explains, “Eve, who was virgin and undefiled, gave birth to disobedience and death after listening to the serpent’s words” [Dialogue with Trypho, 100; PG 6, 709-12. Newman, 3].  The implanting of the evil seed in the heart of Eve at the moment of the fatal conversation in Genesis 3 results in Eve’s seduction of her husband with the fruit offered by Satan.  In this action the natural hierarchical order of creation is disrupted, Eve who should have received from her husband now attempts to “become head over her head,” feeding the one by whom she should have been fed [St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis, in St. Ephrem the Syrian: Selected Prose Works, 112-113].  This reversal of roles in the fall, as well as Eve’s natural maternal character, will be essential to a complete understanding of the actions of Mary in the Cana narrative.

[43] Saint Ephrem the Syrian speaks to the Adam of old in these words: “If God gave you the woman, O Adam, He gave her to you to help you, not to cause you harm, and as one to be commanded, not one to give command” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis, in St. Ephrem the Syrian: Selected Prose Works, trans. Edward G. Mathews, Jr. and Joseph P. Amar, ed. Kathleen McVey, The Fathers of the Church, ed. Thomas P. Halton and others, vol. 91 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1994), 112-113.]  For  further interpretation on the reversal of roles in the account of the fall see Ginzberg, Legends, 1:77.

[44] St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis, 112-113.

[45] St. Augustine, City of God, in  A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, series 1, vol. 2 (Buffalo, N.Y.: Christian Literature, 1887-1894; Reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1952-1956; Reprint, Peabody, Mass.: Henrickson, 1994), 274; quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. Andrew Louth, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 77.

[46]From this text we will develop the characteristic of the Divine dwelling among men as an image of Eden.   This characteristic of Paradise is confirmed throughout scripture where God constantly seeks to dwell among His people (see Ex. 25:8, 1 Kgs. 6:13, Matt. 1:23, 28:20, Rev. 21:3).

[47]St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Genesis 16, 5. 2.

[48]David Chilton, Paradise Restored (Tyler, Tex.: Reconstruction Press, 1985), 58.

[49]Ibid., 135.

[50]St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis, 122.

[51]See also Ez. 28:13-14, Ps. 47:1-2.

[52] Sebastian Carnazzo, “Genesis 1-3 and Salvation History,” Eastern Churches Journal, vol. 10, # 2 (2003).

[53]Sebastian Carnazzo, “Foundations for the Papacy in Sacred Scripture,”  NDGS Angelus, fall  (1999), 30. This quotation is a summary of Thomas Fawcett’s commentary on Mid. Tel. Ps. 91:7, Hebrew Myth and Christian Gospel (London:  SMC Press, 1973), 240.  Emphasis mine.

[54]Mid. Tel. Ps. 91:7, as translated inThomas Fawcett, Hebrew Myth and Christian Gospel (London:  SMC Press, 1973), 240.

[55]“The entire aim of God henceforth [from the moment of the fall] has been to effect the means for Adam/humanity to return to Paradise”  (Sebastian Brock, The Luminous Eye; The Spiritual World Vision of Saint Ephrem, the Syrian, 32).  N. T. Wright explains, “The prophets who look ahead to the restoration of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple see in this event the refounding of the Garden of Eden” [N.T. Wright, The New Testament and The People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 264].  And David Chilton says,  “Throughout redemptive history . . . God called His people to the restored Paradise.” David Chilton, Paradise Restored, 61.  Finally, Saint Basil the Great confirms this interpretation when he teaches, “God our Savior planned to recall man from the fall.  Man’s disobedience separated him from God’s household, and God wished to bring him back. . . . to Paradise” [St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980), section 35-36.

[56]N.T. Wright, The New Testament and The People of God, 264.  A good example of the Messianic hope which drove the people in the intertestamental days is the book of Enoch where we read, “In those days there shall be a wounderous change for the elect.  The light of day shall shine for them without shadow and without night; . . . In those days the earth shall render up every treasure which she possesses; the kingdom of Death also, Hell itself, and all that has been intrusted into them. . .  The elect shall build their dwelling within a land of delights; a new Temple shall be erected for the Great King, more spacious, more resplendent than the first, and all the flocks of the earth shall be led thither unto sacrifice. . . . In that place, I see a never-failing fountain of justice, when flow innumerable streams of wisdom on every side, and all those who have thirst shall come hither and drink. . .  From over the new earth the ancient heavens shall fade away, to give place unto another heaven, wherein the stars shall give forth seven fold more light than before; and thenceforth the innumerable days shall succeed each other in an happiness that shall know no end.” As quoted in Abbe Constant Fouard, The Christ, The Son of God (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1945), 7. Italics added to highlight Edenic images.

[57]N.T. Wright, The New Testament and The People of God, 265.

[58]Under scrutiny, this tradition of the Hebrew people is more than just an ancient myth.  The Hebrew words used for Adam’s job in the garden, to till (avad) and keep (shamar) (Genesis 2:15) are the exact same words used for the high priest’s job in the Holy of Holies (Numbers 18:5-6).  This parallel brings to light Christ’s appearance to Mary Magdalene, as a gardener in the Garden of Golgatha (John 20:15), making his resurrection as the New Adam strikingly clear.  Furthermore, the construction of the Holy of Holies itself confirms this interpretation; with its lilies, golden pomegranates and palms trees carved into the walls, as well as two enormous Cherubim to guard the entrance, the priest had no choice but to feel as though he was walking among a golden garden, the Garden of Eden.

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