The State of Man in the Garden of Paradise, by Father Richard O'Kennedy

What was man's state in regard to his body before his fall, and after his fall?

Many questions are asked, says Saint Bonaventure, about the first state of man; as what was the nature of his body before the fall, what of his soul, whether mortal or immortal, passible, or impassible; as also about the length of his pilgrimage here below, and the manner of his translation to the realms above: and these things, though asked about through curiosity, still may be answered not without fruit.

The first man then, he continues, according to the nature of his earthly body, was, in a manner, immortal, because he could ever live on without dying, but mortal also, after a manner, because, in certain circumstances, he could die. In that first state he had the power to die, and the power not to die. This, then, was the first immortality of the human body, the power not to die. In his second state - i.e., after sin - he had the power to die, and no other but to die, because, in this state, death was a necessity. In his third state - i.e., after resurrection - he shall have the power not to die, and not to be able to die; because it belongs to that state that death is an impossibility. After sin, then, man's body has become dead, not mortal, as the Apostle is careful to signify - the body through sin is bad - mortuum not mortale (Romans 7:10); i.e., it is no longer that it has the power to die, but it must die; there is a necessity upon it of dying.

Saint Augustine marks the difference between the manner of living of the human body before the fall and (had it been translated to heaven without falling) of its existence there. Adam was made into a living soul - i.e., a soul giving life to the body, but the body still standing in need of sustenance: after translation the body would have become spiritual, entirely vivified by the soul, and standing in need of no extraneous support.

The Venerable Bede says: "It is not to be believed that before the coming of sin bodies were dead, as they are now; for thus it is the Apostle speaks: The body by reason of sin is dead; but although there had not been as yet spiritual bodies, they were not at any rate dead - i.e., such as should necessarily die."

"Since, then," says Saint Bonaventure, "the first man was both mortal and immortal in regard to his body, it may be asked whether he had the double gift from nature, or whether immortality was a privilege of grace. To which I answer, continues the Saint, to be able to die he had from the nature of his body; to be able not to die came to him from the tree of life, and, therefore, to be reckoned as a gift of grace."

Saint Augustine says: "In a certain way was man created immortal, and this came to him from the tree of life, and not from the condition of his nature. By the condition of his animal body he was mortal; immortal by the privilege of his Creator."

From this, some think that man would have died if he had not eaten of the tree of life. There was at any rate a command given to him that he should eat of all except the tree of knowledge, and they hold he would sin by disobeying the command in the one instance, as the prohibition in the other; and that sin in either case would super-induce death. Others hold that, even though sin were not com mitted, by not eating of the tree of life, yet that man's power of not dying came to him from his use of the fruit of the tree; and that his abstaining from using it would of itself induce death.

"The flesh of Adam," says Saint Augustine, "was thus immortal before his fall, that, strengthened by sustenance, it was free from death and free from pain, and was to continue thus immortal and thus incorruptible as long as he obeyed the commands of God. Among these commands was one that he should eat of all the fruit that was granted to him, and abstain from the one that was forbidden. By the nourishment of all these other fruits he was to preserve for his body all the privileges of immortality, until, by the natural growth of the body, he had arrived at an age, pleasing to Almighty God; when, the human species being propagated, God would order him to eat of the tree of life. By this he would have been made perfectly immortal, and would not have stood in need of sustenance any more."

And again: "This also I maintain, that that tree produced such fruit as would give to the body of man everlasting existence, not after the manner of other fruit, but by some secret infusion of health." - Super Genesim

"In this passage Saint Augustine appears to insinuate that by the other fruits man was to sustain his body, but from the tree of life alone was he to receive never-failing health; from which it seems to follow that as in his own nature man found a certain mortality - i.e., an aptitude to die - so also in his nature was there a certain immortality - i.e., an aptitude not to die while supported by food; but if he had stood constant the perfection of this immortality would have come to him from the tree of life." (Saint Bonaventure)

After sin, however, the fruit of this tree of knowledge would not have rendered man immortal; for thus was it decreed by God, and by Him also openly stated to man: "On whatsoever day thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death"; and again, the Holy Ghost, through Saint Paul, lays down the doctrine, The wages of sin is death, and that doctrine is unchangeable, whether prospective or retrospective.

It is true that God said: "Lest, perhaps, he put forth his hand, and take also of the fruit of the tree of life, and live for ever"; by for ever the commentators understand not an eternity but a lengthened period of existence. "Eternum does not mean here an endless life, but one of very long duration, and the Scripture often uses the expression in that sense; for although the tree of life could not make man's body [after sin] immortal, it could, nevertheless, so sustain and invigorate his nature, that his body might last a very long time." (Saint Bonaventure)

Our reason also would tell us that it requires no less a power to continue a mortal body in existence for ever, than to raise a dead body to life; now, it is only a Divine Power can raise a dead body to life, and, therefore, nothing less than a Divine Power could continue for ever a mortal body in existence. This, in another way, God told to Adam: Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return. (Genesis 3)

On the other hand, "if man had lived innocently in the garden of Paradise, fire would not have burnt him, nor water drowned him, nor want of air suffocated him, nor would any of those things which now obstruct and injure man have done him the least harm." (Saint Isidore)

"The body of Adam, while in a state of innocence, could not actually be dissolved, although it had the power under certain conditions to be dissolved." (Saint Bonaventure)

"Regarding the duration of time that they were to remain on this earth before being translated into Paradise, the Scripture lays down nothing definite. Hence it is doubtful whether, when the children were born and the justice of the human office was fulfilled (perfectaque humani officii justitia), the parents would be transferred to a better state, not by death but by some change; or that the parents would re main in a certain unchangeable state, and be preserved in that state by making use of the tree of life, until their children would arrive at that state, and the number of the elect being then complete, all would be transferred at once to that better life where they were to be as the angels of God." (Saint Bonaventure)

"The first men could, in the garden of Paradise, beget children, and these children would succeed to their parents, who in that case would not die, but remain in a certain fixed state, receiving vigour from the tree of life. After a time the children would arrive at the same state, until at length the number being complete, these creatures would (without passing through the gates of death) be changed into a certain quality or form in which they would be absolutely obedient to the dominion of the will, and would continue in existence without any corporal food, and by the power of the spirit alone." (Saint Augustine)

There would have been no such thing as hunger or thirst; for everything would have been complied with so orderly and under such due obedience that no cravings of any kind could arise.

Answering the objection of some, that "they needed no food before sinning, because they could not be hungry unless they had sinned," Saint Bonaventure says: "Hunger is truly a defect and a punishment of sin; for it is an immoderate desire of eating which man would never have felt had he not sinned; but, unquestionably, he would have sinned, if he had not taken food in order to prevent this defect. He had an appetite for food which was natural and moderate, and the suggestions of this appetite were to be obeyed in order that he should not feel the defect of hunger. It was not then a defect, but a condition of his nature, that man before his sin stood in need of food; and in the same way it might be said that it was no defect on the part of his children, but rather a condition of their being, if, while they were still in innocence; they did not at once, instead of by slow and well-regulated steps, arrive at the fulness of their stature and the perfect mastery of their animal bodies."

In the next place it is to be seen whether, from the moment of their birth, children born in the state of innocence would enjoy the use of their senses and reason.

"Those who hold that these children would be born little, and would by slow and long intervals reach maturity, equally hold that in infancy these children would be imperfect in their knowledge and in the use of their reasoning powers, and that it is only by length of time they would arrive at the fulness of their senses and their reason." (Hugo)

"But against this some hold," he continues, "that if they did not obtain the full use of their intellect and their reason immediately after being born, there would then be a defect ignorance, namely; and ignorance is a punishment of sin, and there would thus be a punishment of a crime before that crime was committed. But those who maintain this opinion do not sufficiently consider the word ignorance. There is an ignorance of things which one ought to know, and an ignorance of things which by no means come within the sphere of one's duty to know. In the first case, it would be a defect; in the latter, it would not. If such an ignorance existed in the case of children born in a state of innocence, it would have to be attributed to a condition of their being, rather than to a defect in their nature, much less a punishment they had not yet deserved."

"Such was the state of man according to the condition of his body before his fall. From this state, however, he was to be translated, with all his posterity, to a much better and more dignified one, where he was to enjoy the celestial and eternal good prepared for him in the heavens. Man being composed of a double nature, God prepared for him a two-fold gift from the beginning - one temporal, the other eternal; one visible, the other invisible; one pertaining to the body, the other to the soul; and because that is first which is animal, and then that which is spiritual, the temporal and visible gift He gave first." (Saint Bonaventure)

The number of the saved is to be reckoned according to the number of the angels; but whether according to the number of the fallen or the faithful is disputed. Saint Gregory says: "That heavenly city is to consist of angels and of men. Thither, we believe, as many of the human race will ascend as there are individual angels found there, in accordance with the canticle in Deuteronomy (32:8), He hath decreed the boundaries of peoples according to the number of the angels of God." [This is the reading of the Septuagint. The Vulgate has: . . . . according to the number of the children of Israel.]

The more common opinion is that the number of the elect will be according to the number of the angels that fell away, inasmuch as man was destined to fill their vacant places; "so that that heavenly city would not be deprived of its proper number of citizens, nor abound with too great copiousness." (Saint Bonaventure) It is reasonable also to suppose that since the angels fell from each of the nine choirs, the souls of the elect will be assumed into each of these choirs; for thus will the ruin that took place in the heavens be fully repaired. "Moreover, in this life we see that some souls are already made like to the seraphim in their use of grace, some to the cherubim, and so on; if, therefore, God gives to each according to each one's merits, it is reasonable to suppose that souls will be assumed into the different choirs; some into the choir of seraphim, some to the cherubim, and so on." (Saint Bonaventure)

It may be objected that an angel is greater than a human soul, and that a certain number of souls would not at all represent an equal number of angels. Saint Bonaventure answers this objection. He says: "Although an angel exceed a human soul in its natural powers - i.e., comparing one creature to another; yet, if we compare them to the most Holy Trinity, whose image both angels and men are, there is no room for excellence of one above the other; nay, if any, the human nature has shown to be more exalted than the angelic nature in heaven, in its union with the divinity of the Son of God (in the first place), and in the queen-regency of the mother of God (in the second). And, granted for a moment that in natural qualities angels may exceed men, that is not a conclusive proof that they must likewise exceed them in the endowments of grace, which fall free and unfettered from the hand of God; 'the Spirit breathes where it wills'."

A Tenth Order - Saint Bonaventure discusses this question, which, to say the least, is curious, and not without interest. "Regarding these orders of angels," he says, "it may be asked whether they will stand fixed at the number nine or whether a tenth will be added."

First opinion: Some think that all men will be assumed into one or other of the nine choirs of angels; and this they consider most fitting, as representing in a triple form the three divine persons of the Blessed Trinity. According to this opinion, if the angels had never sinned, man would have still been created, and, after a certain time, translated into one or other of these heavenly choirs. Then, men would be meant as companions; now, they are required as repairers. And this opinion seems to be satis probabile, says the Saint.

The second opinion relies on that text of Saint Luke (15:8), where the woman having ten groats loses one. In this parable man is understood to be represented by the tenth drachma; but ten can be used only in respect to nine, which is the number of the angels; and if the tenth be found, there will, consequently, be added one order more to the nine orders of angels - that is to say a tenth, composed of men. Saint Anselm seems to be of this opinion. They go on to argue that it is not fitting that men should be assumed into the choirs of angels, except those alone who in this life lived like the angels. There are the virgins who neither marry nor are given in marriage; and hence virgins are the only ones, they say, that ought to be assumed, and from these alone are the gaps in the angelic ranks to be filled. "This position, however, cannot be accepted," says Saint Bonaventure, "both because the tenth drachma represents virginal souls (men and women) as well as those that were once corrupt; as also because many who have transgressed, and transgressed grievously (Peter and Magdalene for instance), will be preferred to many, even virginal souls, and will, with out doubt, hold places superior to them."

The third and last, and (in Saint Bonaventure's judgment) the most probable opinion is that, over and above the nine orders of angels a tenth shall be added, composed of those who in this life did not attain such an excellence as to entitle them to be ranked among the angels. These have been saved by the merits of Christ, and form a tenth order - Christ, the great Sun of Justice, going back, as it were, ten degrees to reach them, in the same manner as, by the prayer of Isaias at the sick-bed of Ezechias the king, the sun returned ten degrees on the wall. "And this seems to be a very probable opinion, both on account of the imperfection of merits which many in this life only attain to, as also on account of the perfection of numbers which will prevail in the heavenly Jerusalem; and the perfection of numbers, according to Augustine and Boethius, is not nine but ten, as we read also in the Decalogue and in decimation. And hence we can maintain that position, because it is rendered probable by the nature of cyphers, because of the finding of the tenth drachma, and because of the sun going back ten degrees." (Bonaventure) "Even the Blessed Virgin in that fatherland of ours will not be beyond order, and since she is far and away above all orders, she will constitute an order by herself." (Idem)