This time, for Vos Study #6, they cover the back half of chapter 3, The Content of Pre-Redemptive Special Revelation. The first half of the chapter was about the principles of life (Tree of) and probation (ToKoGaE). The two remaining principles are
3. the principle of temptation and sin symbolized in the serpent;
4. the principle of death reflected in the dissolution of the body.
As always, an interesting discussion. As is Vos’ habit, he first dispenses of erroneous views before proceeding to a correct view. The first erroneous view that the serpent is completely allegorical and ahistorical “is contrary to the plain intent of the narrative; in Gen 3:1, the serpent is compared with the other beasts God had made; if teh others were real, then so was the serpent. In vs. 14 the punishment is expressed in terms requiring a real serpent.” The other erroneous view goes to the other extreme; that there was merely a serpent, but Vos rejects that because “The Bible always upholds against all pantheizing confusion the distinction between man who speaks, and animals who do not speak; Balaam’s ass forming the only exception on record. It therefore becomes necessary to adopt the old, traditional view according to which there were present both a real serpent, and a demonic power, who made use of the former to carry out his plan.”
Vos talks about how Satan approached Eve rather than Adam, not because Eve was weaker, but because she was not the direct recipient of God’s prohibiting Word. That put me in mind of the importance of disseminating the Word (either by Adam in his role as prophet, or our pastors today), and the importance of accepting that Word (again, by us as well as Eve).
Another point was that Adam was with Eve throughout this whole scene, and watched her fall without intervening. This made me think of (spoiler alert!) the penultimate episode of Fargo, where Lester knows Billy Bob Thornton is after him, so he cowardly sends his wife inside, wearing his distinctive bright orange down coat with hood. So also Adam knew there was danger, but let his wife taste anyways. After his beefeater took the first bite and nothing apparently happened, then Adam also ate. Speaking of which, Vos’ understanding of “In the day that you eat you shall surely die” is in the sense of “As surely as you eat, so shall you die.”
The final “principle” is death. Vos has sharp words for some scientists who claim that death was always part of the evolutionary history of man: “At present many writers take exception to this [that death is the penalty of sin], largely on scientific grounds. With these as such we have here nothing to do. But, as is frequently the case, strenuous attempts are made to give such a turn to the Biblical phrases as to render them compatible with what science is believed to require, and not only this, some proceed to the assertion that the Scriptural statements compel acceptance of the findings of science. Attempts of this kind make for poor and forced exegesis. Scripture has a right to be exegeted independently from within; and only after its natural meaning has been thus ascertained, can we properly raise the question of agreement of disagreement between Scripture and science.” So Vos died in 1949; I wonder how much input he had into his student Kline’s Framework Theory?
Vos closes the chapter with a discussion of various senses of mortal/immortal, which correspond to the fourfold estate of man. Man’s soul is and always was immortal. Pre-fall Adam’s body was mortal in the sense it could be crushed by a rock (externally), but not in the sense that it had death at all internally (like a disease). Fallen man is mortal in a stronger sense; “whereas before he was liable to die only under certain circumstances, he now inevitably had to die.” Total immortality belongs to “the regenerate, here already in principle, and, of course, in their heavenly state”.