2 Nephi 2:18-24 – LeGrand Baker – About Adam and Eve
This is one of a whole bucket full of examples where the Latter-day Saints wouldn’t know any more than the rest of the world except for modern scriptures. The Bible contains no adequate explanation for the of the purposes of Adams’ fall or of its indispensable role in the plan of salvation. It was there at one time, no doubt, but it was apparently edited out.
Another thing that we have that no one else has is the answer to the question, who was this man Adam and his wife Eve; why were they chosen; and what is the extent of their mission. Yet, non-Mormon scholars have come up with some facinating ideas about the importance of our first parents. One noteworthy scholar is Frederick H. Borsch. His book, The Son of Man in Myth and History (London, SCM Press, 1967) has some interesting comments about Adam. The first is a paragraph which discusses some ancient Near Eastern ideas about the first Man. When Borsch capitalizes Man, he is referring to the first man, Adam, or his equivalent. The following is from page 103.
In texts from many lands and times we find a continual association of the king and the sun. The language used parallels descriptions and imagery which we have seen employed with regard to First Man figures. The idea seems to be that the king on his accession to the throne becomes like a sun-god. If it is too much to say that the king becomes identified with the sun-god, it is nevertheless true that ‘The King could be viewed, in Mesopotamia as elsewhere, as an image of the sun-god’. In this respect, as in others, the king resembles his god; he is his son, made like him in his image. So, too, is the First Man thus created, and one, of course, thinks immediately of Gen. I .26. The point is succinctly illustrated by the little poem which Engnell uses as a prologue to his Studies in Divine Kingship:
The shadow of God is Man (amelu) And men are the shadow of Man. Man, that is the King, (who is) like the image of God.
The second quote is from pages 181-184. It is from a chapter which deals with Jewish/Christian gnostic sects. Except in two instances, I have omitted Borsch’s footnotes, as I also did in the quote above. If you e-mail has problems showing what is indented, I’ll just tell you. Everything that follows in this comment is only a long, albeit an interesting quote.
The Naassenes we remember as a sect closely linked with the Sethians, Ophites and Peratae in Egypt. They display a blend of Jewish, Christian and pagan beliefs, while there is every likelihood that the Christian features were added after the group had had a previous existence. Even, however, if some version of Christianity were one of the formative influences, it was certainly not the sole one, and we should remain most interested in the thought forms.
The position and influence of the sect can best be explained by a beginning little later than the early part of the second century AD, and many feel that we still would need to postulate a nascent version earlier than this, or at least an earlier form of similar teaching upon which these men built. There are good reasons for believing that the group or its forebears were originally Semitic and that, more particularly, their teaching spread to Egypt from Syria or some adjacent Palestinian locality. In addition to other factors, this would help to account for their name, their Jewishness and their apparent connection with known sectarian groups of the Syria-Palestine-Trans-Jordan area.
There are the diverse ideas about the Primal Man summarized for us by Hippolytus. The Man, Adam, is worshipped as heavenly, yet once, according to Naassene lights, he had to fall into Adam below, there to be enslaved and suffer. On earth he has no reputation, but in heaven he is all-glorious. All are descended from Adam, and he is present in all his descendants. In the temple of the Samothracians there are two statues; one is said to represent the Primal Man while the other is that of the spiritual or pneumatic individual, the one that is born again. In every respect the second is of the same essence with the Man.
What most intrigues here, however, is how both the Man and his genuine descendants are said to ascend from their earthly existence and to become true pneumatics in heaven. The Man is represented as one, the ‘unportrayed one’, who came down and is unrecognized. Nevertheless, this is ‘the god that inhabits the flood’, according to the Psalter, ‘and who speaks and cries from many waters’. The ‘many waters’, he says are the diversified generation of mortal men, from which he cries and vociferates to the unportrayed Man, saying, ‘Preserve my only-begotten from the lions.’ In reply to him, it has, says he, been declared, ‘Israel, thou art my child: fear not; even though you pass through rivers, they shall not drown thee; even though you pass through fire, it shall not scorch thee.’ By rivers he means, says he, the moist substance of generation, and by fire the impulsive principle and desire for generation. ‘Thou art mine; fear not. again he says, ‘If a mother forget her children, so as not to have pity on them and give them food, I also will forget you.’ Adam, he says, speaks to his own men: ‘But even though a woman forget these things, yet I will not forget you. I have painted you on my hands.’ In regard, however, of his ascension, that is his regeneration, that he may become spiritual, not carnal, the Scripture, he says, speaks (thus): ‘Open the gates, ye who are your rulers; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall come in,’ that is a wonder of wonders. ‘For who’, he says, ‘is this king of glory? A worm and not a man; a reproach of man, and an outcast of the people; himself is the king of glory and powerful in war.’ [footnote # 1: Refutation V, 8.15ff.]
There follows a reference to Jacob seeing the gate of heaven (in Mesopotamia) and to Mesopotamia as the great river which flows from the belly of Perfect Man. Even the Perfect Man, imaged from the unportrayable one above, must enter in through the gate and be born again.
What, we wish to know, caused some of these texts from or allusions to PSS. 22; 24; 29 and Isa. 4′; 43 and 49, along with an interest in the Man, to come together in the first place? Is it not legitimate to wonder if behind this there lies the story of one who, representing him who is above, goes into the waters (here said to resemble those of creation), who calls out to the Man above for rescue from the waters and wild beasts, is named the only-begotten, [ footnote # 2: The text makes it appear as though the Man on earth were pleading for his own only-begotten’ (a term which comes out of kingship ideology and which was used by Christians rather than created by them). If this was the intention, we must be at a stage in which the Man on earth was regarded as the father of the individual needing salvation in this manner. The Man on earth would then be sharing in the role of the Man in heaven, while the believer would be acting out the role of the Man on earth. Yet we should think it more likely that the original intention was ‘Preserve your only-begotten from the lions.’ It might even have been a liturgical plea uttered by the people on behalf of the one in the waters.] and who, though despised by the people, rises up through the heavenly gates like a king? One might argue that by some odd coincidence of exegesis this pattern and these references to the king in his suffering and glory were reduplicated. Yet is it not far more likely that there is a cause? That cause looks to us as though it might well be some manner of earlier context involving ideas about baptism and enthronement, even though the Egyptian Naassenes probably no longer practiced or understood the language in quite this way any longer.
Adam is here set forth as a father figure who, though as the Man below he still requires his own salvation, yet will also aid in the salvation of others. (Whatever painting on his hands means, it seems a further suggestion of the intimate relationship between Adam and his sons.) At times this Adam seems almost to be conceived of as though he himself were the unportrayed one above. They act as though functions one of the other.
Who, then, is the Perfect Man imaged from the one above, who yet must himself be saved by passing through the gate and being born again? Of course, in one sense it is this Adam below, but the implications are also fairly strong that this is not really the Primal Man on earth (for there is a way in which the true Man, or at least his counterpart, always seems to remain above). Rather is it the believer~ the individual who himself would be saved by following in the way of the First Perfect Man. This is made more probable by the Naassene insistence that all who do not enter through this gate will remain dead, and that it is only the rational living men who will be thus saved. Here, too, then, we may be viewing relics from a rite which has been democratized in the process of transforming it.
Further we hear that the pneumatics are ones who have been chosen out of the living water, the Euphrates which flows through Babylon. They now account themselves Christians, having been made perfect by entering through the gate which is Jesus, and there having been anointed with oil from the horn, like David. This being chosen from out of the waters and the mention of anointing again suggest something like a cultic or liturgical background. The ceremony is said to take place in the heavenly realms just as the royal ritual was often described as though it were taking place in heaven. Let us notice, too, that the anointing~ act here is not associated primarily with cleansing or healing but rather with a rite like king David’s. It is said that the ceremony makes the pneumatic into a god as well, just like the one above. In other words he will be a royal god.