Part I: The Intrusion of Death
Towards The Identity
Of The Forbidden Fruit:
(2) Alcohol As A Paradigm
At the last it biteth
like a serpent
and stingeth like an adder.
Thou shalt be drunken
and shalt make thyself naked.
I was afraid,
because I was naked;
and I hid myself
As a paradigm
of the original poison, alcohol serves in many remarkable ways.
Reverting to the series of requirements listed on in the previous
chapter, we find that the following characteristics of alcohol
largely fulfill these requirements.
(a) It is
a protoplasmic poison. To be intoxicated
is to be poisoned. Its potent effect in small quantities has
been known for many years. In 1908 Sir Victor Horsley quoted
a Dr. Rauber, who experimented with the effects of alcohol on
living cells, as follows: (137)
Using principally a 10% solution
(alcohol in water), Rauber found that alcohol acts as a definite
protoplasmic poison upon all the forms of cell life with which
he experimented. All these investigations proved clearly that
animal and vegetable protoplasm is harmfully affected by even
very small quantities of alcohol.
137. Horsley, Sir Victor, Alcohol and the
Human Body, London, Macmillan, 1908, p.54.
had found by experiment that blood containing only one-quarter
of 1% alcohol diminished within a single minute the work being
done by the heart. And blood containing one-half of 1% so seriously
affected its working power that it was scarcely able to drive
a sufficient amount of blood to supply its own nutrient arteries.
Since that time a great deal of research has been carried out
which serves to underscore the toxic effect of alcohol on cells
in the animal body.
Subsequently however, the picture
became rather less clear with continued research until opinion
was somewhat divided as to whether alcohol was the bad character
it had been made out to be. No one who actually suffered from
the effects of alcoholism personally within the family circle
ever doubted its potential for disaster in human relations, but
the pharmacologists became rather less certain as to its mode
of operation and whether its cell-damaging effect was because
it disturbed vital chain reactions or was acting directly as
a protoplasmic poison in its own right.
Some object to any reference to
alcohol as a poison at all, arguing that it is not a poison per
se but only in the context of living tissue. This, of course,
is quite true. Standing alone it is merely a chemical, as are
a lot of other poisonous substances. They are poisons in certain
contexts only: and alcohol has been commonly accepted as a poison
in the context of living tissue. Since, however, it cannot be
poisonous in any other context than the living cell, it
is proper enough to term it a poison with respect to the human
organism. As Carlson and Johnson put it: "We may say that
alcohol becomes a poison when an individual takes so much that
body functions are impaired." (138) The problem, of course, is to determine just how
much is required to constitute it as such. On this issue the
best answer is "exceedingly little," for some people.
Much depends upon the damage already done by alcohol over a long
period of time. Records show that even the smell of brandy may
have a profound effect in upsetting the normal functioning of
the body of a person who, due to particular circumstances, has
never had any experience of alcohol in any form whatever.
For some years it has been argued
that alcohol is damaging to living tissue only because it causes
a form of malnutrition. The steps by which this occurs are complex.
There is evidence that malnutrition is effectively masked by
indulgence in alcohol. But as George Watson puts it, this circumstance
confuses the issue for the heavy drinker, who develops a kind
of false sense of well-being: (139)
One's tolerance to alcohol reflects
the state of one's nutritional biochemical health. The more one
can drink without adverse effect, the worse off one (actually)
is. It is just plain biochemical nonsense for people to pride
themselves on being able to "hold" their liquor, for
only those in very bad shape can do so.
138. Carlson, H. J. and V. Johnson, The
Machinery of the Body, University of Chicago Press, 1941,
2 of 16
139. Watson, George, Nutrition and Your Mind, New York,
Harper and Row, 1972, p.104.
again, "Literally speaking, if you think you need a drink,
you don't need a drink." Herein lies the deceptiveness of
the situation. The organism reaches a stage at which alcohol
seems to become essential to its survival. It is not unlike the
experience of those who find that the more they yield to sin,
the easier it seems to be to do so without ill effect, and the
more necessary such harmful activity appears to be for mere survival.
In both cases, of course, appearances are deceptive and the individual
is headed for disaster at an ever increasing rate.
More recently, a better understanding
of the mechanism which renders alcohol so damaging has begun
to emerge. In 1975, the New York Academy of Sciences sponsored
a conference on the medical consequences of alcoholism. In the
Preface to the published report, Frank A. Seixas observed: (140)
Medical science, having just
awakened to the importance of vitamins, was prepared to go along
and elaborately prove that cirrhosis (of the liver) was caused
by malnutrition, not by a poisonous effect of alcohol.
. . . This Conference marks a year in which a turning point
has been achieved...Alcohol has again become incriminated as
in itself producing certain specific effects with pathological
organ changes. [Emphasis mine].
also a participant in the Conference, observed: (141)
The red blood cell is pathologically
affected at nearly every stage of its cycle in the body by the
Robert S. Hellman,
who also took part in the Conference, subsequently said: "From
clinical studies alcohol has now been implicated as a toxin
at nearly every step of cell proliferation, maturation, delivery,
and life span sequence." (142) And later, "Alcohol may affect the membrane
or function of the cell in such a way as to shorten cell life
or interfere with normal cell activities and distribution."
Charles S. Lieber even more recently,
in a paper dealing with the metabolism of alcohol, reinforces
the above observation. Thus he writes: (144)
For all the attention
being directed toward heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, the favorite
mood-altering drug in the United States, as it is in almost every
human society, is alcohol. Its psychic effects, both pleasant
and unpleasant, are well enough known. What is less well known
is that alcohol, in different quantities for different people,
is a toxic drug.
points out that as recently as 1949 the distinguished physiologist
Charles H. Best and his colleagues wrote that alcohol's metabolic
contribution was simply to supply calories and that "there
is no more evidence of a specific toxic effect of pure
ethyl alcohol upon liver cells than there is one due to sugar."
140. Seixas, Frank A., "Medical Consequences
of Alcoholism," Annals of New York Academy of Sciences,
vol.252, 1975, p.5.
141. Williams, Kenneth, "Medical Consequences of Alcoholism,"
ibid., 1975, p.296.
142. Hellman, Robert S., "Medical Consequences of Alcoholism,"
143. Hellman, Robert S., ibid., p.304
144. Lieber, Charles S., "The Metabolism of Alcohol,"
Scientific American, Mar., 1976, p.25.
comments on this, "Perhaps it was wishful thinking on the
part of people in general and physicians in particular that installed
as accepted fact the concept that alcohol lacked intrinsic
toxicity" [emphasis mine].
This intrinsic toxicity has been
confirmed specifically with respect to the germ plasm itself,
a circumstance of particular significance in the present context.
Dimitrijevic, speaking of the pathogenesis of neuroses in children,
stated that among 678 neurotic children at the Children's Polyclinic
at Sarajevo in Yugoslavia, 84 had alcoholic fathers. (145) The connection between
alcohol and general irritability he attributed to the disruption
of the nervous system as a result of the toxic effects of alcohol
in parents on the germ plasm in the first phase of conception.
Starvation of the cells due to
an induced inability to utilize the oxygen available to them
is one of the consequences of the poisoning effect of alcohol
in the body, even when the supply of oxygen is entirely normal.
(146) In the human
body alcohol is a protoplasmic poison which in remarkably small
quantities can be fatal to living tissue.
(b) We turn, now, to the second property that should
apply to the Edenic poison: its rapid action.
One of its short term effects in
very small quantities is to cause peripheral vasodilatation,
that is, it causes the minute blood vessels (capillaries) at
the skin surface to open up and allow the blood to flood into
them. This has several consequences for the organism. For one
thing, the increased vascular capacity for blood causes an immediate
fall in blood pressure, and unless the subject is exercising
and thereby increasing the pulse rate, the blood pressure may
fall low enough to cause dizziness and unsteadiness on the feet
with surprising rapidity.
A second consequence is that deep body
heat is suddenly transferred to the skin surface where the heat
receptors are, with the result that the individual experiences
sudden heat flashes. The skin becomes flushed, especially in
the face and neck areas. There is a sensation of becoming heated
up, but in fact one is only losing deep heat to the surface where
it is suddenly felt in a new way; and from the surface the heat
is radiated to the atmosphere whence it is lost to the body.
The end result is that the body is not actually warmed by alcohol
as commonly supposed, but cooled. For this reason, Arctic
expeditions prohibit the use of alcohol for any such "comforting"
People whose bodies have not become
hardened to the use of alcohol or who are over-indulging, may
feel so uncomfortably warm that they are tempted to remove their
clothing. Thus nakedness comes to be associated with drunkenness.
The temptation to disrobe can be fatal of course in cold climates,
but it may also be disastrous morally to those not in control
of their emotions.
145. Dimitrijevic, D. T., "Alcoholism
of The Parents in the Pathogenesis of Neuroses in Children,"
Medical Archives, Sarajevo, vol.12, no.1, 1958, p.81‹85.
146. Ruch, T. C. and J. F. Fulton, Medical Physiology and
Biophysics, Philadelphia, Saunders, 1960, p.809.
reader will perhaps recognize that this discussion is relevant
to the events in the Garden of Eden provided that the forbidden
fruit was indeed of a kind capable of fermentation.
It could conceivably be
that Adam observed the flush of Eve's body and even her unsteadiness;
and that when they had both eaten the fermented fruit they both
experienced the same sudden warming at the skin surface followed
by a chill as body heat was lost by radiation. They may thus
have become aware of their nakedness for the first time. It could
be also that the fact of the coolness of the evening (which is
particularly noted in Genesis 3:8) accentuated this effect.
(c) Grapes are a particularly healthful food in
themselves. So long as their skins remain intact and micro-organisms
are prevented from reaching the sugar in the grape, no fermentation
occurs and therefore no toxic substance is formed. In 1958 a
European periodical called La Suisse ("The Swiss
Woman") had an article on grape juice by Dr. H. Mueller.
In this he referred to some forty companies manufacturing unfermented
grape juice, each making a product with a recognizable taste
that can be identified by an expert. Thus there are extensive
uses for the juice of the grape which do not involve alcohol
in any way, and these products clearly have quite recognizably
different flavours. Dr. Mueller extols the value of such juices.
The juice of the grape is an
exceptional source of muscular energy. Certain juices give 900
calories per litre (as over against milk with 670), coming from
the grape sugar or glucose. This is for muscle what gasoline
is for a motor. It is the drink for athletes as it is for laborers.
But it is more. It has been found
that productive work after taking grape juice is distinctly higher
than the calories in the grape juice would normally account for.
Certain substances in the juice, flavonols among them, which
are related to vitamins, help the combustion of glucose by preventing
the accumulation of intermediary products of oxidation, such
as lactic acid. Lactic acid causes muscular fatigue to the point
of cramps and even runner's paralysis. Nor is this all. These
same flavonols of the grape exercise a protective action on the
walls of the blood vessels, diminishing their fragility. This
is so marked that it can be measured.
White manufactured sugar, chemically
pure, may be called the thief of vitamins and mineral substances,
since the organism itself is obliged to furnish those needed
for its digestion and combustion; grape sugar brings to the organism
even more than are needed for the digestion and combustion of
its own sugars.
* Muefler, H., quoted in The Sunday School
Times, Philadelphia, 7 June, 1958, p.426, under the heading,
"In praise of grape juice."
then, grapes are good for food, and certainly they are pleasant
to the eyes. The micro-organisms which produce the right ferment
to turn the grape sugar into alcohol, gather from the air and
collect on the outside of the grape. While there, they cannot
attack the juices. But as soon as the skin is broken, these micro-organisms
begin to grow and increase very rapidly, at the same time producing
their ferment which splits up the sugar in the grapes into alcohol
and carbon dioxide gas. It is only then that the fruit becomes
In the manufacture of grape juice the skins
of course have to be broken; but fermentation takes time ‹ a sufficient
length of time, in fact, that the extracted juice with its sweetness can
be preserved without fermentation by the proper treatment. The sweet unfermented
juice of the grape was termed gleukos ()
by the Greeks and mustum by the Romans
‹ meaning essentially new or fresh wine. When it was desired to preserve
it in a sweet state, according to Kitto * an amphora was coated with pitch
inside and outside, and then filled with grape-trodden wine and stoppered
so as to be perfectly air tight. It was immersed in a tank of cold fresh
water or buried in wet sand and allowed to remain a month or two. The
result of this process was an unfermented grape juice which would remain
sweet and unchanged for about a year. Such new wine must be put into new
wineskins for these alone would be entirely air tight; for old skins are
sufficiently porous that fermentation may occur. And under the pressure
of gases formed, an old skin might well burst. Kitto holds that this enduringly
sweet wine was probably what was intended in the parable of the old and
the new wineskins in Matthew 9:17.
According to Genesis,
the fruit of this one tree was forbidden. There was nothing in
its fruit per se that was harmful, had it been taken and
eaten at once in faith. It may have been doubt which caused hesitation;
and hesitation after plucking it, perhaps allowed the fermentation
of the otherwise highly beneficial fruit. Such a reconstruction
of events would remove from the Creator the stigma of having
deliberately planted a fatally poisonous plant within an otherwise
paradaisical Garden, a poisonous plant which would then be a
strange thing to include in the comprehensive pronouncement that
God saw all that He had created to be "very good" (Genesis
God had every right to single out
any tree in the Garden and forbid it as food, as a test of obedience
‹ even if its fruit was entirely harmless or even beneficial
in its natural state. The tempter could eat it unharmed, by which
circumstance it would be demonstrated to Eve
* Kitto, John, A Cyclopedia of Biblical
Literature, Edinburgh, Adam and Charles Black, 1845, vol.II,
that it was manifestly
a food good to eat. Perhaps Eve also could have eaten it unharmed,
had she but eaten it in faith and without hesitation.
The chief objection which might
be raised to such a reconstruction of events, in the light of
Gordon Wasson's remark about the slowness of fermentation, is
circumvented if we assume that Eve plucked the grapes and kept
them for some time before eating them, OR if the forbidden fruit
was not actually grapes such as are familiar to us but more like
a particular species of fruit known only in Africa from which
natural juices may be extracted that require only a few hours
for fermentation. David Livingstone came across one such
plant extract. To quote his words: *
The men of all classes of the
Bango tribe (in Portuguese East Africa) trust to their wives
for food and spend most of their time drinking a palm toddy.
This toddy is the juice of a palm-oil-tree (Eloeis guincensis)
which, when tapped, yields a sweet clear liquid, not at all
intoxicating while fresh but, when allowed to stand till afternoon,
causes inebriation and many crimes. This toddy, called malova,
is the bane of the country.
As a matter of fact,
the Imperial Bible Dictionary, (vol.2, p.1098, under Wines)
in dealing with two Hebrew words for wine, namely, shechar
points out that yayin simply denotes any of the liquid products
of the grape, including of course unfermented juice. The word is probably
related to the New Testament Greek word oinos
and consequently to the English word wine, showing how widespread
was the knowledge of the substance itself whether fermented or unfermented.†
Where water is scarce or apt to be contaminated, grape juice becomes the
standard drink, especially in hot weather. It is not at all necessary
to assume it signifies an alcoholic beverage.
By contrast, shechar is
said to include all similar products of any fruit except the
grape, which might therefore include pomegranate-wine, palm-wine,
apple-wine, honey-wine, and perhaps even a beer as made by the
Egyptians from barley. But if any single beverage is to be selected
as most commonly intended by shechar, it is the palm-wine,
procured easily and abundantly by tapping a tree.
When newly drawn off, this wine
is a delicious, wholesome, and refreshing drink; and it is so
inexpensive as to form an important part
* Livingstone, David, Missionary
Travels and Researches in South Africa, New York,
Harper, 1858, p.445.
† The three
forms, yayin (Hebrew), wine (English), and oinos
(Greek) are closely related and probably originally belonged
to the same root.
of the sustenance of
ordinary people. But in one day's heat it undergoes a rapid fermentation,
effervesces, and becomes possessed of about the same intoxicating
power as some of our light malt liquors.
Since some of the rabbis believed
that the forbidden tree was the palm, it is possible that their
argument was based on this very fact, namely, the rapidity with
which an intoxicating liquor can be formed out of a delicious
and harmless fruit juice. However, it seems unlikely that Eve
would have tapped a tree; and the serpent can hardly have done
so either! It is because grapes would take rather too long to
ferment that I do not consider that grapes as we now know them
can have been the forbidden fruit, though they may have been
very similar in many ways.
(d) There is still controversy about the inheritability
of alcoholism. The kind of evidence that can be presented
in favour of inheritability is of the following nature. Wherever
we find a family in which either one or both parents are alcoholics,
if alcoholism is inheritable, we ought to find the incidence
of alcoholism among their children to be significantly higher
than among children of non-alcoholic parents. It could be argued
that such children become alcoholics because of the example of
their parents rather than because of an inherited predisposition.
It is necessary, therefore, to establish the fact that the children
of alcoholic parents have a significantly higher than average
predisposition towards alcoholism even when they have been
brought up away from all parental influences. This is what
appears to be the case in a substantial number of families investigated
in many different parts of the world.
Evidence that children of
alcoholics may be born with genetic damage predisposing towards
alcoholism which satisfies this last requirement has recently
been reported by Dr. George Winokur of the University of Iowa
School of Medicine. He and his associates studied the children
of alcoholic parents who were raised in homes where one or both
parents were alcoholics and compared them with those who had
been removed from such an environment and raised in homes where
alcohol was not present. In presenting his resume of this work,
Glenn Everett observed: (147)
The psychiatrists discovered
that 48% of the children of alcoholics raised in the alcoholic
homes themselves became addicted to liquor upon reaching adulthood.
But they also found that 50% of the children of alcoholics raised
in non-alcoholic homes [my emphasis] also fell victim
to the disease.
Surprised by this finding, that
home environment did not seem to be as significant a factor as
had been thought, they checked it by studying children of non-alcoholic
parents who were raised in homes where alcoholism was present.
They found that only 14%
147. Everett, Glenn, "Alcoholism: A Matter
of Genetics?", a brief note in Christianity Today,
16 Feb., 1973, p.53.
had become alcoholics as adults. The
rate for those raised in non-alcoholic homes is said to be 8%.
In a manner of speaking,
this could be interpreted to mean that somewhere about 14% of
the drive towards drinking results from example whereas 50% of
the drive results from hereditary predisposition.
Moreover, it is not merely susceptibility
to alcoholism that is found much more frequently when parents
are alcoholics. There are much higher frequencies of psychopathology
and deviations in personality development in the families of
Furthermore, the risks of alcoholism
among brothers in such a family is far higher than among
sisters (21% of the cases of sons of an alcoholic father are
likely to be alcoholics by contrast with less than 1% for daughters
of an alcoholic father). This compares with figures for the general
population which show that 3.4% of males are alcoholics as compared
with 0.1% for females. These figures came from a study undertaken
in Copenhagen in 1951. (148) The figures reveal that brothers showed a frequency
of serious alcohol abuse three to eight times greater than for
the general population, but no difference was found in any respect
regarding sisters. It is therefore concluded that "in alcoholism
there are certain groups in which hereditary factors play a role.
The mode of inheritance is unknown. The presence of alcoholism
in a parent is both a hereditary and an environmental factor.
. . . Criminality is at least four, and at most, eight
times as high in the present alcoholic subjects as among the
In Stockholm, official registers
of alcohol abusers in Sweden were examined for men who had living
twins of the same sex. (149) The 214 such men constituting the material for the
investigation were members of 174 pairs of twins in which 40
pairs showed both members as alcoholics. Both twins were alcoholics
in 54% of the 48 monozygotic pairs but only 3.5% of the
126 dizygotic pairs. * This meant that where the twins
shared identical genetic endowment, more than half of them became
alcoholics if either of the parents were alcoholics, whereas
if the twins did not share identical inheritance, only 3.5% of
them were alcoholics. "These results are regarded as supporting
the assumption that drinking habits are influenced by genetic
factors and that such factors greatly determine the appearance
of chronic alcoholism."
A study in Germany
of the effect of alcohol intoxication on germ
148. Aamark, C., "A Study in Alcoholism:
Clinical, Social, Psychiatric and Genetic Investigation,"
Journal Acta Psychiatry, Supplement 70, Copenhagen, 1951,
149. Kaij, L., Alcoholism in Twins: Studies on the Aetiology
and Sequels of Abuse of Alcohol, Stockholm, Imqirst and Wiksell,
1960, 144 pp.
* Monozygotic twins are identical twins who share identical heredity,
being born from a single ovum. Dizygotic twins are born from
two ova and are really nothing more than children of the same
mother who happen to have been born at the same time. Their hereditary
constitution will be no more similar (and no less) than any other
children born of that mother.
cells and the reproductive
mechanism concludes that damaging morphological changes clearly
occurred "even at low alcohol levels and are not known
to occur from other diseases or poisonings" [emphasis
mine]. (150) The
motility of spermatozoa in vitro in alcohol solutions from 0.1%
to 20% was modified or completely undermined, in some cases within
seconds, and sperm death occurred within minutes.
A study was undertaken in the United
States involving the family histories of 500 alcoholic patients,
200 non-alcoholic psychiatric patients, and 200 controls with
normal drinking habits. (151) "A positive history of alcoholism was shown
in the family background of 62.4% of the alcoholics, 28.5% of
the psychiatric patients, and 16% of the controls." Of the
500 alcoholics 24% had alcoholic fathers but normal mothers,
versus 13% who had alcoholic mothers with normal fathers. The
report concludes: "The usual explanation that alcoholism
is simply an expression of an underlying neurosis or inadequacy
is insufficient...Rather, alcoholics seem to have an innate susceptibility
to alcohol which we believe is akin to an allergy to a food or
an idiosyncracy to a drug." It is observed that the fact
that alcoholism is four times as frequent in the family history
of alcoholics as in the normal drinkers indicates that "there
is a specific inheritance of the disease in many cases."
Twelve cases were found in which the grandfather of the patient
was an alcoholic but the father a total abstainer. The authors
note that "total abstinence (in such a case) may be an equivalent
to alcoholism, in that the patient realizes his susceptibility
to the drug and 'instinctively' avoids it."
As noted in some of these reports,
the mechanism of inheritance is still not clear, and even whether
inheritance is a factor at all is not certain either. In the
view of many investigators it is statistically certain; yet over
this point there is still much debate. Dr. Robert Popham points
out that the craving for alcohol of the compulsive drinker may
really constitute only a perverted appetite which arises as a
result of one or more dietary deficiencies. (l52) But then he admits that these dietary deficiencies
may themselves be traceable to some genetic factor. There is
some experimental evidence that animals maintained on a deficient
diet may increase their consumption of alcohol, if it is made
available to them, merely as an alternative source of calories.
However, such experimental animals, rats in this particular case,
never become intoxicated but take only as much alcohol as would
supply them with the required energy. Alcoholics, by contrast,
seek intoxication for its own sake and not for the energy it
It is reasonably certain that germ
cell damage does occur, in which case a hereditary factor would
certainly be expected. The literature on this aspect of alcoholism
is very extensive indeed. The general consensus of opinion, as
reflected in an article on drunkenness in the
150. Doepfmer, R. and H. J. Hinckers, "On
the Question of Germ Cell Damage in Acute Alcohol Intoxication,"
Z. Haut-U., Geschlechstkr, vol.39, 1965, p.94‹107.
151. Lemere, F., et al., "Heredity as an Etiologic
Factor in Chronic Alcoholism," Northwest Medicine,
Seattle, Washington, vol.42, 1943, p.110‹111.
152. Popham, Robert E., "A Critique of the Genetotrophic
Theory of the Etiology of Alcoholism," Quarterly Journal
of Studies on Alcohol, vol.14, 1953, p.228-237.
current issue of the
Encyclopedia Britannica is mirrored in the statement that
"some individuals have a specific susceptibility to alcohol
due to heredity." And there is evidence of a substantial
nature that the father's alcoholism plays a far greater hereditary
role in the alcoholism of his children than the mother's.
We might sum up the situation,
therefore, by saying that this particular type of poisoning does
appear to reach the germ cells in a way that no other poison
thus far investigated does, and that it reaches the male seed
much more easily than the female seed in so far as the father's
influence is several times more potent than the mother's. The
poison of the forbidden fruit, as we have proposed, did not reach
the seed of the woman at all, and therefore it is necessary once
again to underscore the fact that alcohol serves only as a partial
paradigm. Nevertheless, it indicates that such a protoplasmic
poison with these specific effects is by no means to be ruled
out as impossible or even unlikely.
(e) The effect
of alcohol on the central nervous system,
both the cerebrum and the cerebellum, is too well known to require
much comment. Intoxication depresses the higher centres, removes
inhibitions and lowers judgment and self-control, at the same
time interfering with the normal functioning of all the senses.
Sadly, it tends to be self-reinforcing in its detrimental effects
because the distress following a period of drunkenness is most
easily alleviated or entirely removed by repeating the cause.
In spite of the therapeutic effect
of alcohol, medical men are increasingly unwilling to recommend
its use, owing to the bad physical effects and the even more
unfortunate moral degeneration consequent upon the use of alcohol
which may become an addiction. The effect of alcohol on the central
nervous system is particularly strikingly borne out by the fact
that in postmortem examinations traces of it may still be found
in the cerebrospinal fluid, even when it has entirely disappeared
from all other tissues.
(f) Alcohol is indeed a potent poison, exceedingly
small quantities being quite sufficient to have a pronounced
effect on those who have built up no immunity to it. It is evident
that a very tiny quantity of the toxic substance had a tremendous
effect upon Eve's body, as it did upon Adam's subsequently. Some
people seem to be able to imbibe considerable alcohol without
noticeable effect. Others are highly sensitive to very small
quantities. Yet all of us are now born infected to a lesser or
greater extent after centuries of forebears who were social drinkers.
To any person whose body has never been subjected to alcohol
in any form within their lifetime (they must still have had
forebears who did, of
course), the results of a small quantity are likely to be considerably
Singh and Zingg, in recording the
story of the well known feral child, Caspar Hauser, remark upon
the effect of alcohol on his body when he was given a small quantity
for the first time in his life at the age of about seventeen
years. Caspar Hauser had been kept in a tiny dungeon in almost
total darkness since infancy, without any human attention except
the occasional washing of his body and cutting of his hair by
an attendant whom he never saw because he was always drugged
before receiving this minimum of personal attention. There is
some reason to suppose that he may have been confined because
he was a contender for some hereditary position which was being
occupied illegally by one of his captors. Singh and Zingg observed:
A certain person made the attempt
to force some brandy upon him. Scarcely had the glass been brought
to his lips when he turned pale, sank down, and would have fallen
backwards against a glass door if he had not been instantly supported.
A few drops of beer made from malted
wheat, though much diluted with water, gave him a violent pain
in his stomach accompanied with so great a (sense of) heat that
he was all over dripping with perspiration; which was succeeded
by ague attended with headache and violent eructations [i.e.
passing of wind].
It is significant
that such a minute quantity of alcohol could have such a profound
effect on his totally unaccustomed body. The effect of fermented
grape juice on Eve's perfect body could conceivably have been
even more dramatic and quite evident to Adam. Eve had no forebears
to pass on to her the slightest measure of immunity to its poisoning
effects, whereas Caspar Hauser's body had at least this much
preparation that he was born of a line of forebears with centuries
of experience of alcoholic beverages, even though he himself
may never have touched it.
In his commentary on Genesis, Lange
rejected the idea that there could be any analogy between the
experience of Adam and of Noah though both "discovered"
their nakedness as a consequence of ingesting a damaging substance.
He wrote: "[It] does not justify us in concluding that (in
Adam's case) it was a wine, but some other fruit perhaps, whose
effect for the first man was too strong, being of an intoxicating
or disturbing nature." *
Lange then refers
to Hartmann Beyer (1516‹1577), a notable preacher in Frankfurt,
Germany, who preached on this subject. Beyer supposed
153. Singh, J. A. L. and R. M. Zingg, Wolf
Children and Feral Man, New York, Archon Books, Harper and
Row, 1966, p.294.
* Lange, John Peter, Genesis: or The
First Book of Moses, translated by Taylor Lewis, Grand Rapids,
Zondervan reprint, 1960, vol.1, p.245
that it was a "poison
tree." But Lange adds "without any ground, for the
human race is not poisoned corporeally, but distempered and disordered
physically through an ethical consequence of its effects."
Beyer may well have been closer to the truth, and it seems rather
inconsistent of Lange to state that such a view is groundless
while he himself admits almost the same thing in the same context.
For Lange clearly saw the significance of the fact that the fruit
may well have had an influence on Adam's body quite out of proportion
to the influence that same fruit might now have on ours after
long centuries of abuse.
Modern research may succeed in
finding an antidote for the appetite of the alcoholic,
but it is hardly to be supposed that the basic biological
effects of the forbidden fruit as a form of protoplasmic
poisoning will ever be eliminated from the human body. We shall
not be rid of this poison which we inherit by natural generation
until we sow our bodies in the dust to reap a harvest of resurrection
in due course.
There are times when conversion
has had the effect of instantly sobering a drunk man. And sometimes
there is an equally complete deliverance from any further craving
for alcohol. But this still does not confer immortality on the
liberated individual. So the root defect remains, and clearly
such miraculous cures of alcoholism do not really touch the mortogenic
It is conceivable that pharmacology
will one day find an effective "cure" in the form of
some antidote, but it will not render the "cured" man
any more physically immortal than conversion does. Mortality
remains with us as an inherited penalty of the forbidden fruit,
and dying as the only way to be finally rid of its effects. It
is evident therefore that the Lord can deal with the effects
of the paradigm we have been dealing with, in a moment, when
He so pleases. But it will require physical death and bodily
resurrection to undo the effects of the actual poison itself.
Were pharmacologists to find an
antidote for this poison, it would be tantamount to allowing
man access once again to the Tree of Life whenever he so desired.
It is certain that the Lord will not allow such an eventuality.
I think it is
remarkable how Scripture can enlighten the mind of the man who
reads it believingly, even in matters about which he cannot possibly
have previous knowledge by natural means. I have in mind a particularly
striking insight of Luther's. He said. "Through the Fall
of Adam, SIN entered into the world and all men in Adam have
consequently sinned. For the paternal sperm [emphasis
convey the corruption
from generation to generation." *
Similarly, Calvin wrote (Institutes,
vol.II, xiii, 4): "If Christ is free from all spot, and
through the secret working of the Spirit was begotten of the
seed of Mary, then woman's seed is not unclean but only man's"
Heinrich Heppe in his Reformed
Dogmatics * demonstrates that such a concept as this ‹
that the paternal sperm conveys the constitutional defect through
each generation ‹ was by no means a passing fancy quickly
dismissed by subsequent theologians as too speculative. He singles
out several "Reformed Dogmaticians" who kept the thought
Peter Martyr wrote: "If it
be asked what is the seat of sin . . . we answer that it has
its place in the flesh as its root and principle. . . Therefore
the seed (semen) is the instrument by which this sin is transmitted
from parents to sons.†
Bartholomew Keckerman expounds
the view that not sin itself but its seed principle was procreated
by the physical route. The "disposition" to evil that
is inherent in man is "propagated through semen."††
Amandus Polan observed even more
Question: How was original sin sidetracked [i.e., passed
on] to us and contracted by us?
Answer: Sin was transmitted by the paternal seed; propagated
in the paternal semen, the corruption
infected the soul.
John H. Hottinger
wrote: "The manner of the derivation of original sin is
a combination of the imputation of Adam's sin and impure generation"
More recently, Professor Peter
T. Geach of Oxford wrote: "Adam's continuing stream of germ
plasm propagates itself: and his perverse
* Quoted by J. L. Neve, History of Christian
Thought, Philadelphia, Muhlenberg Press, 1946, vol.I, p.230.
I think it is interesting that Karl Barth, in his Credo, claimed
that "sin-inheritance came through the male parent only"
[New York, Scribners, 1962, p.71].
** Heppe, Heinrich, Reformed Dogmatics, translated by
G. T. Thomson, Grand Rapids, Baker reprint, 1978.
† Martyr, Peter: in his Loci Communes, London,
1576, p.164; quoted by Heppe, ibid., p.341.
†† Keckerman, Bartholomew: in his Systema Sacrosanctae
Theologiae, Geneva, 1611, p.257, 258; quoted by Heppe, ibid.,
‡ Polan, Arnandus: in his Syntagma Theologiae Christianae,
Hanover, 1624, vol.VI, p.3, quoted by Heppe, ibid.,
◊ Hottinger, John H: in his Cursus Tizeologicus Methodo
Altingiana, Heidelberg, 1660, p.165, quoted by Heppe, ibid.,
will still lives on
and reincarnates itself in a new human individual who by nature
will want to be the sort of creature a fallen man is, not the
sort of creature God made Adam at the first. For this situation,
within the resources of human nature, there is no remedy."
As we have already said,
what became the penalty of disobedience in the first man,
became the cause of disobedience in all his descendants.†
That a chemical poison could
be the cause of moral degeneration should no longer surprise
us in the light of what we know even now of the effects of alcohol.
That the poison itself is demoralizing in its effects does not
lessen the moral responsibility associated with that effect,
for man's guilt is not merely that he is a sinner, but that he
is content ‹ or even prefers ‹ to remain a sinner when
he might be a saint.
According to the Greek Fathers
of the Church, original sin is a physical rather than a moral
defect. Adam's physical condition was deteriorated by his disobedience
and that deteriorated natural constitution has been inherited
by his descendants. Since it has been customary to reject the
idea that our ultimate moral failures stem from imitation of
the evil ways of others but arise from some inherent defect in
human nature which we call original sin, we are logically bound
in the final analysis to look for a physiological (and therefore
ultimately a chemical) cause. Such a defect is not in
itself the cause of guilt but certainly results in forms of human
activity which are sinful. The defect thus becomes the ground
of our guilt before God by "poisoning" the spirit which
as God's gift and creation must have been perfectly pure at its
That the physical body can corrupt
the soul was an idea commonly believed by medieval and scholastic
theologians. Anselm of Canterbury (1033‹1109) wrote of the
soul being "weakened from the corruption of the body"
and "the corruptible body being a load to the soul."‡
Anselm of Laon (died 1117) extended
the idea and related it to the meaning of circumcision. He wrote:
"In the way in which the foreskin, after being removed by
circumcision, remains in those who are begotten by the circumcised
. . . in this way sin which is cleansed by
* Geach, Peter T., Evolution or Creation,
Birmingham, England, 1971, p.7.
Thomas Aquinas observed: "Had only Eve sinned,
Adam's children would not have inherited the taint of
original sin; had only Adam sinned, they would have" (quoted
by Paul Jewett, Man as Male and Female, Grand Rapids,
Eerdmans, 1975, p.65).
‡ Anselm of Canterbury:
A Scholastic Miscellany, edited by E. R. Fairweather,
Philadelphia, Westminster Press, Library of Christian classics,
vol.X, 1956, p.185.
(infant) baptism, remains
in those whom the baptized beget." * Sin is deeply rooted
in the body and the defect poisons each new generation equally.
(died 1228) put it this way:†
"The flesh of Adam was corrupted by the eating of the apple,
and this applies to all flesh which descends from him by way
of concupiscence. . . . The soul is infused into a filthy and
corrupt body . . . . From the corrupt and filthy vessel into
which it is infused it contracts an inclination to sin, which
is called foment."
I am convinced that human nature
is as deeply rooted in the human body as it is in the human spirit,
and in each of us it has been corrupted at its source by the
poisoning of the body when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
* Anselm of Laon: A Scholastic Miscellany,
edited by E. R. Fairweather, Philadelphia, Westminster Press,
Library of Christian Classics, vol.X, p.262.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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† Langton, Stephen: ibid., p.352f.