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Where, exactly, are we all?

The LORD God made clothes out of animal skins for Adam and his wife to wear. The LORD God said, “The man has become like one of us. He can now tell the difference between good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and pick fruit from the tree of life and eat it. If he does, he will live forever.” So the LORD God drove the man out of the Garden of Eden to work the ground he had been made out of. The LORD God drove him out and then placed cherubim on the east side of the Garden of Eden. He also placed a flaming sword there. It flashed back and forth. The cherubim and the sword guarded the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3: 21-24
The extract in bold above is from what one of the oldest books in the world -Genesis. It forms part of the national archives of Israel – of the Jews. The Qumran community’s Dead Sea Scrolls included copies of it. It is now the first book in the Christian Bible. The above extract describes an event which is hardly ever mentioned today – the exclusion of Adam and Eve from “paradise” – Paradise Lost…..

Back in 1667, one of England’s greatest poets, John Milton, first published his epic poem (over 10,000 lines of verse) titled “Paradise Lost”. It is a fascinating book. And one particular fascination is the way in which Milton introduces us to how Paradise Lost actually felt to Adam and Eve. 

How did they react to their ejection from the Garden of Eden? How do people today react to the fact (ignored by virtually everybody) that, according to Genesis and the Bible, all human beings are born outside of “Paradise” and prohibited from returning there? 


“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jesus, circa AD 30, Jerusalem) 
Why prohibited? “The man has become like one of us. He can now tell the difference between good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and pick fruit from the tree of life and eat it. If he does, he will live forever.” It seems to be the case that mankind learnt about evil through personally doing evil - by disobeying a simple small command of the LORD God and thereby making it totally clear that they regarded the commands of the LORD God as dispensable when they got in the way of “me” getting what I wanted. “I” am “God” – nobody else. “He must not be allowed to … live forever.”

Milton describes three human responses by portraying three parallel beings in a discussion of their proposals for dealing with their identical excluded situation. You may recognize these responses in your daily 21st century lives.

First is Moloch, whose name means “king”. He’s the one who is most miffed at not being equal with (or, better, over) God. He takes the lead and proposes that they all engage in open war against the LORD God. He admits that they won’t be successful but is determined to defy death, to make light of exclusion, to spite justice, and to defy all Gods except himself. 

Second is Belial, whose name means “worthless”. Gracious and humanistic on the outside, he, instead, counsels a very low profile in the face of his devastating loss. Maybe the pain of death will lessen. Maybe – if we keep quiet about it – the gloom here will not worsen.

Third is Mammon, whose name means “wealth”. His recommendation is well summed up in his own words in two of Milton’s lines: - “Nor want we skill or art to raise/ Magnificence; and what can Heav’n show more?” 


‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ (Jesus, circa AD 30, Jerusalem) 
Outside of Paradise, forbidden to re-enter and receive from the tree of life, subject therefore to inevitable death, Mammon recommends the “raising” by them of their own “Magnificence”. Heaven, Paradise was magnificent but, hey, we have the “skill” and “art” to “raise” a magnificent new world by getting rich. Yes, Heaven was full of light; our artificial light will be as good. We have the technology.

Which of the three won the day in the darkness of Paradise Lost? Milton leaves each to go their own way. But they all unite in one joint resolve. They all vote to make sure that others will join them outside of Paradise, that all other beings will never ever reach Heaven. 

Strange, isn’t it, how a writing so ancient as Genesis can be brought alive in the 21st century by a perceptive 17th century Christian English poet?

It’s so alive it can’t be true, can it?

Sinner Syvret

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