Thursday, May 13, 2010

Angels & Demons 8: Sex and the Knowledge of Good and Evil

Jesus, in Matthew 22:36-40, summarized all of the commandments with the one word “love”: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. On these two “love” commands, according to Jesus, hang all of the Law and the Prophets. It is fitting, then, that God waited until humans were capable of love/selflessness until he gave them the ability to reproduce sexually. Animals engage in sex for selfish reasons—they have urges that demand to be met. Many humans, certainly, engage in sex for selfish reasons, as well. Perhaps, virtually all humans engage in sex for selfish reasons, at times. But, at least humans have the option of acting selfishly or unselfishly. This fact relates to the fallen angel issue.

In human beings, the two YETZARIM (inclinations) are closely identified with sexual or reproductive stages of life. The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 91b), Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 4:13, Midrash Ha-Gadol Bereshit 108-109, etc., teach that the YETZER HA-RA‘ (evil inclination) came to man at birth. In his Legends of the Jews (Volume V, p. 81), Louis Ginzberg notes: “the good inclination does not make its appearance before . . . the time of puberty.” The Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 82a) points out that the official age for girls is 12 years. Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 4:13, Midrash Ha-Gadol Bereshit 108-109, and Midrash Tehillim 9,82 place the official age for boys at 13. Interestingly, Adam and Eve did not notice their own sexuality/nakedness until they had eaten of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” And they were not commanded to “be fruitful and multiply” until after they had eaten.

It is very significant that the girl of version I of the Sinless Fallen Angel Story (related earlier) is described in Hebrew as a NA‘ARAH (“lass”). According to Marcus Jastrow’s Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, NA‘ARAH is a legal term specially designating a “girl between twelve and twelve and a half years of age.” This incident is very possibly her first real temptation since receiving the YETZER HA-TOV (good inclination). Since she responded righteously in this single instance, it could explain her being permitted to come immediately before the Throne of God, a feat that would have been inconceivable even for angels unless they were sinless.

This indicates that it was necessary for an individual to have both “inclinations” in order to be held accountable for sin (and for that matter, to be deemed righteous for passing the test/temptation). The rich young ruler, with whom Jesus interacts regarding eternal life in Luke 18:18-21, insists that he has kept the “commandments” from his youth up. It is possible that he means from the time of his bar mitzvah forward. Hebrews 4:15 asserts that Jesus himself was tempted in every respect, as we are, but was without sin. We know nothing, however, about the childhood of Jesus. After the birth narratives, there is no discussion of Jesus’ actions until we near his bar mitzvah. Luke picks up the narrative again, in 2:41, when Jesus was age twelve. The same theology that allows Jewish writers to tell a story of a “lass” being righteous in one temptation following her youth and being awarded eternal life is the same theology that allows Christian writers to conclude that the sinless life of Jesus permits him to be transfigured on the mountain, and later, resurrected from the dead.

Since the “lass” possessed only the “evil inclination” prior to her twelfth birthday, any selfish behavior committed prior to this time must not have been considered “sinful.” This is precisely the view (the sinlessness of children) that prevailed at this time. Even the second book of Maccabees 8:4 speaks of the “sinless infants.” And the Mishnah (Yoma 8:4) says, concerning the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur): “Little children [anyone just born through 13 years for boys and 12 years for girls] are not made to fast on the Day of Atonement; however, we should be initiating them beforehand one or two years in order that they will be in the habit of [following] the commandments.” It is a simple deduction that, if little children are not required to participate in the yearly atonement exercise, they must not be held guilty of any “sins” for which they would need atonement.

Albrecht Oepke, a German Christian scholar, writing in Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, debates the assertion that Judaism accepted “the innocence of children” because, he says, “the evil impulse is there from conception or birth.” That much I readily concede, but in light of the passage just quoted from the Mishnah, which we may definitely call “authoritative,” little children must in some way be considered sinless, or at least not responsible for their sins. I suspect that the Lutheran Oepke may have his own axe to grind, since Lutherans baptize babies for the forgiveness of their sins. If babies are actually sinless, there would be no need to forgive any sins. Perhaps, that’s the point of Jesus’ comment concerning little children that “of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Even if children are simply not responsible for their sin, possessing only the evil inclination, we may very easily suspect that angels who possess only the good inclination would probably be considered sinless, too. Such is the case. I will present the pertinent proof of that assertion, next time.

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