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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV



Part I: The Intrusion of Death

Chapter 11

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
(Proverbs 23:22)

Thou shalt be drunken
and shalt make thyself naked.
(Lamentations 4:21)

I was afraid,
because I was naked;
and I hid myself

(Genesis 3:10)

     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.

     pg.1 of 16     

     Rauber 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:

     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, p.341.
139. Watson, George, Nutrition and Your Mind, New York, Harper and Row, 1972, p.104.

     pg 2 of 16      

     And 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:

     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].

     Kenneth Williams, 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 toxic effect
of alcohol.

     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." (143)
     Charles S. Lieber even more recently, in a paper dealing with the metabolism of alcohol, reinforces the above observation. Thus he writes:

      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.

     Later Lieber 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," ibid., p.297.
143. Hellman, Robert S., ibid., p.304
144. Lieber, Charles S., "The Metabolism of Alcohol," Scientific American, Mar., 1976, p.25.

     pg.3 of 16     

     Lieber 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" purposes.
     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.

     pg.4 of 16     

     The 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."

     pg.5 of 16     

     Certainly, 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 harmful.
     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 1:31).
     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, p.955.

     pg.6 of 16     

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 and yayin, 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.

     pg.7 of 16     

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:

     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.

     pg.8 of 16     

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 alcoholic parents.
     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 general population."
     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, 283 pp.
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.

     pg.9 of 16     

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 will provide.
     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.

     pg.10 of 16     

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  

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forebears who did, of course), the results of a small quantity are likely to be considerably magnified.
     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  

     pg.12 of 16     

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 poison itself.
     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 mine]

     pg.13 of 16   

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" [emphasis mine[.
     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 alive.
     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 specifically:

 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" [emphasis mine].
     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., p.343, 344.
Polan, Arnandus: in his Syntagma Theologiae Christianae, Hanover, 1624, vol.VI, p.3, quoted by Heppe, ibid., p. 342.
Hottinger, John H: in his Cursus Tizeologicus Methodo Altingiana, Heidelberg, 1660, p.165, quoted by Heppe, ibid., p. 344.

     pg.14 of 16     

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 first infusion.
     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.

     pg.15 of 16     

(infant) baptism, remains in those whom the baptized beget." * Sin is deeply rooted in the body and the defect poisons each new generation equally.
     Stephen Langton (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.
Langton, Stephen: ibid., p.352f.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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