Some Notes on Scriptural Epistemology Pt.1

epistemo§ 1. Who Told Adam He Was Naked?

After eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam says that he was afraid of God because he, Adam, knew himself to be naked. God’s question “Who told you that you were naked?” raises an important second question: Why does God identify the source of the knowledge of Adam’s nakedness as a who, i.e. personal agent of revelation?

Regarding the question of the source of the knowledge, we see that God is pointing Adam back to the Divine command that promises death for transgression against it. God, in other words, is the one who told Adam that he was naked. This telling, however, isn’t limited to the commandment. Rather, at the moment Adam eats his “eyes [are] opened”. Thus, knowledge is occasioned by his action of eating the fruit. Yet this doesn’t imply that the cause of his knowledge was the tree, its fruit, or the eating of the fruit. God’s question reminds us that knowledge is propositional and, therefore, communicated by personal beings. The apersonal stuff of creation, in other words, doesn’t communicate truth – only personal beings do this. Empiricism is, hereby, refuted. Knowledge is imparted to Adam by someone who opened his eyes to see his spiritual nakedness. That someone was neither himself, nor the serpent, not his wife. It was, rather, the Logos of God.

This is evident from the fact that it is Christ Jesus, the Logos of God, who “gives light to everyone,”[1] and this giving of light is tantamount to having one’s eyes opened. Numerous passages of Scripture identify the “opening” of “eyes” as the work of God.

“…God opened her eyes…”[2]

“…the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam…”[3]

“…the Lord opened the eyes of the young man…”[4]

“…the Lord opened their eyes…”[5]

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”[6]

“…he opened my eyes…”[7]

The opening of Adam’s eyes was not due to the physical act, therefore, but to Christ’s granting of knowledge to him via the occasion of eating the fruit.

§ 2. Spiritual Nakedness

Having established that it was the Logos who revealed Adam’s nakedness to Adam, we face a problem. When Adam was afraid of the Lord Christ, he was not actually naked. We are told that (a.) Adam’s eyes were opened and he knew he was naked, (b.) Adam made fig leaf coverings for himself and Eve, (c.) He heard the Lord walking in the garden and calling him, and (d.) Adam hid himself among the trees of the garden. The nature of Adam’s nakedness, therefore, couldn’t have been literal, for he wasn’t naked when Christ called him.

The knowledge revealed to him was spiritual, of his inner condition, and not of his physical nakedness.

§ 3. Differing Epistemologies?

Given that Adam could understand God’s speaking, and given that Adam was newly created, we must conclude that Adam was created already having some knowledge. Thus, while it is the case that the eating of the forbidden fruit served as an occasion for divine illumination, it remains the case that Adam understood the propositional content revealed to him (i.e. that he was now naked) because he already had knowledge. It seems to be the case, then, that the Biblical model of epistemology is complex: God created man with knowledge that assists in man’s comprehension of knowledge that is subsequently revealed via a variety of occasions.

In both instances, nevertheless, the Logos, Jesus Christ, is the revealer of knowledge. Adam demonstrates this again in Genesis 3:20, where we read:

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

Adam’s naming of Eve is derived from the propositional revelation of God given to him in verses 15-16a. God declares to the serpent:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,  and between your offspring and her offspring;  he shall bruise your head,  and you shall bruise his heel.

He then tells the woman:

To the woman he said,  I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;  in pain you shall bring forth children.

Eve will be the mother of all living for she will bear the first children who will subsequently repopulate earth, and she will be the gender through which the Redeemer will come, the Seed through which spiritual life will come.

Eve’s name is not constructed out of thin air, but corresponds to a function she will perform predominantly. That function, however, is revealed by God propositionally.

This stands in contrast, it seems, to Adam’s naming of the animals in Genesis 2:19-20.

…out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

Note that God, as far as we can gather from the text, does not tell Adam what the predominant functions of these animals will be, but simply brings them to Adam to see what Adam will name them. This, likewise, stands in contrast to the first naming of Eve which occurs in the next verses, where we read:

…the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones 

and flesh of my flesh; 

she shall be called Woman, 

because she was taken out of Man.”[8]

Thus, we see that Adam’s naming of Woman, like his renaming of her in chapter 3, is related to knowledge he receives from God. We know this from the fact that he is asleep while God forms the Woman from his side. If Adam was asleep, he was not conscious of what was happening to him. Therefore, the woman’s origin from his side, it seems, would also have had to been revealed to him via propositional revelation.

-h.

[Table of Contents | Next]

[1] John 1:9.

[2] Gen 21:19.

[3] Num 22:31.

[4] 2nd Kings 6:17.

[5] 2nd Kings 6:20.

[6] Pss 119:18.

[7] John 9:30.

[8] Gen 2:21-23.

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11 thoughts on “Some Notes on Scriptural Epistemology Pt.1

  1. Luke Miner says:

    On your facebook post, you asked for some thoughts. Your study sounds exciting. Here are some thoughts from a fellow blogger.

    I’d say your overriding point here is that the Bible teaches that all knowledge is revealed by Jesus. Correct?

    It is hard for me to see the connection between God’s question and your statements about what it implies. Even if, by asking “who”, God was implying that a person actually did tell Adam something, it is hard to see how that implies that all revelation at any time is from a person as you claim: “Empiricism is, hereby refuted”.

    I think you have a typo: “not his wife”

    The passages you cite about the Lord opening eyes do imply, as you say, that God does reveal things to man. I don’t think that they preclude the possibility of God using sensory objects to do the revealing. It seems like you take this point for granted. Less importanly, why does Jesus need to do all the revealing? Could not the Holy Spirit reveal knowledge to us as well? And to merge this question with the previous two, could not Jesus do the revealing by means of the inner illumination of his Spirit, the Holy Spirit?

    You said: “The nature of Adam’s nakedness, therefore, couldn’t have been literal, for he wasn’t naked when Christ called him.” It seems to me that your accompanying argumentation doesn’t prove this. When God asked how Adam knew he was naked, why couldn’t he have been referring to his literal nakedness before he put the fig leaves on?

    You made the argument that Adam named Eve based off propositional revelation but he probably did not name the animals based off propositional revelation. I’m having trouble seeing how this relates to your point.

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    • Hiram says:

      Luke, thanks for your input :)

      You say:

      “It is hard for me to see the connection between God’s question and your statements about what it implies. Even if, by asking “who”, God was implying that a person actually did tell Adam something, it is hard to see how that implies that all revelation at any time is from a person as you claim: “Empiricism is, hereby refuted”.”

      These are preliminary thoughts on the subject matter, so they are a little out of joint. I hope to better organize my thinking when I pull everything together. But for now, here’s what I’ve argued.

      1. Adam had knowledge of his nakedness. (“he knew he was naked”)
      2. That knowledge was propositional. (“Who told you…?”)
      3. Propositions are solely derived from persons. (This is implicit from the creation of man in Gen 1 & 2).
      4. Thus, someone revealed Adam’s nakedness to him.

      Empiricism is refuted by the fact that knowledge is propositional, and propositions are solely derived from persons. Sensation/experience is apersonal and, therefore, cannot be the source of propositions.

      You then say:

      “The passages you cite about the Lord opening eyes do imply, as you say, that God does reveal things to man. I don’t think that they preclude the possibility of God using sensory objects to do the revealing.”

      I don’t deny that sensory objects may serve as an occasion upon which God reveals knowledge to us. However, this is distinct from saying that the objects themselves are revealing something to us. Given what I’ve stated above (i.e. propositions are solely derived from persons) it is impossible for any sensory object to reveal knowledge to us.

      As for the question of the Holy Spirit’s role in revealing knowledge, I don’t deny that God the Trinity teaches us. However, I think Scripturally it is the Son of God who mediates knowledge (natural and salvific) from the Father to us, by the Holy Spirit. The persons of the Trinity are united in all they do, as we know. I just havent gotten around to a more in depth treatment of the issue :)

      You have a point about Adam’s nakedness. I admit that the argument there isn’t as strong. However, as I find it hard to believe that Adam didn’t know he was physically naked prior to the fall, I think my argument makes more sense. This can be further bolstered by reference to the Scriptural figurative use of nakedness to signify fallenness, corruption, shame, etc.

      Finally, Adam’s naming of Eve was based on his reception of knowledge from God. The process involved in naming her was logical. The naming of the animals, however, did not follow the same process. The point being that knowledge regarding Eve was given to Adam, whereas he was not given knowledge about the animals (it seems).

      -h.

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      • Luke Miner says:

        Sorry to get back so late. I think we understand each other about the stuff at the end of your reply so I’ll stick with the main point.

        In the post, I think you argued that “all” knowledge is propositional and that “all” propositions must be revealed in order to be known. If you meant “some” and not “all,” please correct me. I challenged your claim that you deduced these conclusions from Genesis. I don’t disagree with these conclusions, I just don’t think you proved them from Genesis, and your claims (cited above) indicated to me that you thought you did prove them.

        Now, if you are merely trying to prove that God revealed to Adam that he was naked (#4 above), you’ve made your task a bit easier. Perhaps you meant that the Genesis account is consistent with your views on knowledge rather than that the Genesis account proves them. If this is the case, I feel strongly that your wording is misleading on that.

        I can’t see how #4 follows from 1-3. You can’t get a “revealed” in the conclusion without having it in the premises. As a rule of logic, you can’t have a term in the conclusion that isn’t in the premises. Maybe you meant to put “revealed” instead of “derived” in #3? If so, I wonder how you would attempt to prove #3 from the text.

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        • Hiram says:

          Luke, you say

          “In the post, I think you argued that “all” knowledge is propositional and that “all” propositions must be revealed in order to be known. If you meant “some” and not “all,” please correct me. I challenged your claim that you deduced these conclusions from Genesis. I don’t disagree with these conclusions, I just don’t think you proved them from Genesis, and your claims (cited above) indicated to me that you thought you did prove them.”

          My intention was to show that Adam’s knowledge in Gen 3 was propositional.

          “Now, if you are merely trying to prove that God revealed to Adam that he was naked (#4 above), you’ve made your task a bit easier.”

          That was mostly the point :)

          “Perhaps you meant that the Genesis account is consistent with your views on knowledge rather than that the Genesis account proves them. If this is the case, I feel strongly that your wording is misleading on that.”

          I think you may be reading more into my post than I intended. I apologize if I’ve contributed to your misunderstanding.

          “I can’t see how #4 follows from 1-3. You can’t get a “revealed” in the conclusion without having it in the premises. As a rule of logic, you can’t have a term in the conclusion that isn’t in the premises. Maybe you meant to put “revealed” instead of “derived” in #3? If so, I wonder how you would attempt to prove #3 from the text.”

          I wasn’t formally laying out an argument in enumerating those points.

          Like

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