The Fourth Woe: Spiritual Blindness

The purpose of a guide is to lead people through places they have not been before. The most important attribute for a guide is good vision. A blind guide would be useless and indeed dangerous. Concerning the Pharisees, Jesus told the disciples:

“Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14)

To the Pharisees themselves, He said:

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it. (Matthew 23:16-22)

From Genesis to Revelation, in the Torah, the Prophets, the wisdom literature, the teachings of Jesus, and the writings of the Apostles the theme of blindness—of sight and insight (or the lack thereof) crops up over and over again. A study of the topic of blindness begins with its very first mention in the Book of Genesis:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:1-7)

It is clear that Mankind was created with some kind of blindness. The stress is upon God’s ability to see—it is on God’s vision, not Man’s. There is much more in this vein:

God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:4)

God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:10)

The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:12)

… and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:18)

God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21)

God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25)

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)

The sequence “saw that [x] was good” is the same as used in Genesis 3:6 where the woman “saw that the tree was good.” It indicates a kind of divine vision. Note that the other trees in the garden of Eden were also “pleasing” (to the eye) and good for food. So God’s creations were both pleasing to the eye and functional. It seems that the functionality of Adam’s and Eve’s eyes was to see what God wanted them to see. He had created them with a certain functional blindness; for example, they could not see their nakedness:

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)

The serpent sought to open their eyes fully, telling Eve:

“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)

In doing so, the serpent seems suggest that God wanted to hide something—specifically, insight into good and evil—from them; that He did not intend for them to possess this insight.

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:6-7)

They looked the same after they ate the fruit as they had before they ate it; the difference was in what they saw.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:8-11)

Before they ate, they were unashamed of their nakedness. After they ate, it made them ashamed. But the passage makes no mention of their seeing anything else other than their nakedness. Ironically, the opening of their eyes appears to have initiated another type of blindness. In other Bible passages that mention eye opening, something hitherto unseen becomes visible. For example:

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink. (Genesis 21:19)

And:

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)

So the idea that opening the eyes should result in seeing something of value is a prevailing idea in Scripture—provided it is God doing the eye opening. But when Adam and Eve opened their own eyes, they saw something inappropriate; something which led to their expulsion from a garden where they had walked and talked with a God whom they could see. After the Fall, the visualization of God became ever more remote for Wo/Man. They became progressively more blind to Him. God receded more and more into the darkness.

What does all this tell us about sight and insight? About vision in the garden of Eden—about what God intended for us to see when He created us? About what we were to be blind to, and what we were to have our eyes opened to? About the fourth Woe of the Pharisees?

Anonymous: We are blind to ourselves. We see others, but we don’t see inside ourselves—not honestly, anyway.

Robin: Is spiritual blindness a choice?

Anonymous: It’s like when we think we are ill and are reluctant to go to the doctor because the doctor might confirm our fears. We don’t want to know the truth.

David: Adam and Eve were spiritually blind in the garden. It was the serpent who opened their eyes to good and evil. They were blind to good and evil.

Michael: Then when their eyes were opened they were able to form a judgment concerning their state of nakedness and felt ashamed of it.

Anonymous: They judged themselves, truthfully. Isn’t that good?

Michael: But God did not judge them for being naked.

Robin: So which eyes were opened then?

David: God kept their spiritual eyes shut. The serpent opened them.

Robin: Or was it their carnal eyes?

Dewan: Our blindness to God makes it difficult for us to understand His message.

Don: Does God want us to be sighted, or blind?

Robin: Does faith require open eyes, or closed eyes?

Dewan: Satan is everywhere. We can preach directly through sermons and Bible studies, or indirectly through giving personal testimony while talking about others’ religious views.

Chris: What is the definition of “spiritual”? Were we truly blind to spiritual things in the garden of Eden? Could we see perfectly well until our eyes were opened? Over time, the remnants of our blind vision have faded. Jesus came to restore our blind vision.

Don: Are the senses unreliable in matters of spiritual discernment? If so, what else is there to rely on?

Robin: Paul said the Gentiles relied on their minds rather than on their hearts:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. (Ephesians 4:17-19)

Don: Does God want us to be open sighted or blind sighted?

David: The serpent wanted Eve to see that the fruit of the tree of knowledge was eye-pleasing, tongue-pleasing, and spiritually nutritious. God wanted her to be blind to all that. Why? And why be blind to the beauty of the naked human body?

Don: This passage would suggest that God did not want us to be blind to “every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food”, including the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil:

Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)

Michael: The shame felt by Adam and Eve at their nakedness was not shared by God. He does not want us to judge because we cannot do so reliably, and will sometimes judge wrongly. The Pharisees were an exceptionally judgmental lot.

Robin: The tree of life represents obedience, and the tree of knowledge represents disobedience. The fruit of the tree of knowledge looked inviting because forbidden fruit—sin—always does. It is tempting. If it looked undesirable, it would not be tempting.

David: So God wants us to be in a permanent state of temptation, but to Just Say No while being blind to the consequences of saying Yes.

Robin: He’s asking us to trust His judgment, not our own.

David: So in paradise there is a bunch of naked men and women with all their physical senses intact. Presumably they do what any bunch of frolicking naked men and women would tend to get up to. And that is OK with God, as long as they don’t understand the consequences, for good or ill, of their frolics.

Michael: God did not force us to cover our nakedness. We did that ourselves. Perhaps our concept of sin is sinful, or at least erroneous. It doesn’t make sense that God tempts us but expects us to do the right thing.

Chris: Are there perfect and imperfect forms of blindness? Adam and Eve were blind to their nakedness, as a result of the way God made them. Then they ate the fruit, and a different form of blindness took over. This is the form of blindness Paul meant when he said:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

We have transitioned from one form of blindness to another.

David: Adam and Eve were not blind to their nakedness. They were blind to their shame. Nakedness was not the issue for God; rather, it was (or so it seems to me) the very concept of shame. So it seems God doesn’t care what we do as long as we don’t feel bad about it. If this is so, then the responsibility for evil rests directly on God’s shoulders.

Don: They looked the same before and after the Fall, but they saw things fundamentally differently.

Mikiko: Adam and Eve could eat anything except the one fruit, but in disobeying God’s command they showed a lack of love for Jehovah and their fear and shame led to a guilty conscience.

Dewan: Satan always blames God.

Don: Must we be blind in order to see God? If so, to what must we be blind?

Chris: We must be blind to ourselves. A newborn child knows nothing about right and wrong. A child who pokes a man in the stomach and says “You have a fat belly!” may do so without malice and may be making no judgment whatsoever. He is simply stating the facts as he sees them. And the man with the belly would take no offense.

David: Suppose the child had poked him with a sharp knife. The consequences of that act would be evil, which would seem to be OK with God, but probably not with the fat man. It is the awareness of the evil consequences that stops an older (fallen?) child from walking around stabbing stomachs. But in the garden of Eden before the Fall, the child never grows old. Anything goes in the garden, good and evil, as long as we don’t feel bad about it, and we won’t feel bad about it if we have not eaten the fruit. God wants us to be blind to good and evil both. You would think He would not want us to be blind to good, yet the tree of knowledge does not discriminate between them—both are equally forbidden.

Michael: Would we commit less evil by being blind to it, or would we commit less by seeing it?

Robin: The problem is, we can’t differentiate between good and evil.

Don: Jesus said:

“For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” (John 9:39-41)

Chris: There were rules in the garden. Besides the famous prohibition, there was a rule that Adam and Eve should cultivate the garden. The only rules they knew were the rules God gave them.

David: The Wiccan mantra goes: “An’ it harm none, do as thou wilt.” God’s preferred mantra seems to be: “An you’re not aware of the harm done, do as thou wilt.”

Don: In a perfect world, surely that would not be a problem.

David: In the imperfect world in which we live, the Wiccan mantra sounds rather more Christian than God’s!


Leave a Reply