No Labor in Paradise

August 5, 2015

Latest Thinking, Natural Law, Private Property Rights

Did Adam labor in Paradise? What does Scripture mean when it says God placed Adam in the garden of Eden to “tend and keep it?” If Adam labored in the garden, how could labor be a punishment for his sin?

[This post continues my discussion of why Aquinas holds there was no private property in Paradise. Other topics in the series include in order: 1. No property in Paradise, 2. Life in Paradise, 3. No Labor in Paradise,  4. Sexuality and Procreation in Paradise, 5. The Children of Adam and Eve, 6. Were Adam and Eve Vegetarians?  7. No Equality in Paradise, 8. Subjection and Government in Paradise, 9. Private Property, the Result of Sin, 10. Aquinas’s Analogy: Clothing, Slavery and Private Property. Or download the full essay here: No Property in Paradise: How Aquinas Understands the Origin of Private Property]


According to Aquinas, food was readily available from the trees in Paradise and the first couple did not have to labor at all for their food. The need to labor for food would be one of the punishments that men receive for the sin of Adam.

It would thus be a misunderstanding to think that Adam’s role in Paradise was to tend or keep the garden like a farmer, even though Scripture says that Adam was placed in the garden to “dress and make it” (Genesis 2.15) and that no shrub had been growing in the garden in part because “there was no man to till it” (Gen. 2.5).1)ST Ia, 102, iii. The King James Version translates the biblical text as “to dress and make it.” The New King James version translates the text as follows: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” The Contemporary English version (CEV), has the following: “The Lord God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it.” The Jewish Publication Society translation is: “When the Lord God made earth and heaven—when no shrub of the field was yet on earth and no grasses of the field had yet sprouted, because the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil…” Scripture seems to be suggesting that Adam had some role in tending and cultivating the garden. But if so, then in what sense was laboring for food a punishment later?

According to Aquinas, Adam’s activity of “dressing and making” did not involve any physical labor or at least anything unpleasant.2)ST Ia, 102, iii One conjures up the image of a loving gardener tending his garden, and experiencing any physical effort as enjoyment and not “labor.” Or perhaps a more relevant metaphor for Aquinas’s Adam is the image of a scientist or botanist who is happily engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and the study of the plants. In any case, before his sin Adam did not have to labor like a farmer nor exert himself to achieve enough food for life.3)As an aside, Aquinas actually offers a second possible interpretation of the biblical words to “dress and make it,” suggesting they refer to Adam not as the subject of the activity but as object, meaning that God put Adam in the garden to “[so God could] tend and cultivate it [Adam / him].” The Hebrew, however, does not support this interpretation since it explicitly refers to tending and cultivating “it,” using the feminine Hebrew gender for “it,” not the masculine which would be needed refer to Adam.

Labor, of course, wasn’t needed, because food was readily available from the trees of the garden and Adam and Eve could easily gather what they needed. Aquinas doesn’t agree with the view of those who say there would have been no feces in Paradise because “in the state of innocence man would not have taken more than the necessary food.” Such a view Aquinas says “is unreasonable to suppose,” because he holds that the bodies of Adam and Eve were not exempt from natural laws, with the exception of their immortality and the way the sensual appetites worked. Thus, while “there was need for [the first couple to be] voiding the surplus, yet [it was] so disposed by God as to be decorous and suitable to the state.”4)ST Ia, 97, iii

We shall return to this question of whether Adam and Eve’s descendants in Paradise would have taken more than they needed, as we try to understand what would have happened in Paradise, had Adam and Eve not sinned but had offspring. It is to the question of offspring and procreation that we now turn.

Next up: On procreation and sexuality in Paradise

References   [ + ]

1.ST Ia, 102, iii. The King James Version translates the biblical text as “to dress and make it.” The New King James version translates the text as follows: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” The Contemporary English version (CEV), has the following: “The Lord God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it.” The Jewish Publication Society translation is: “When the Lord God made earth and heaven—when no shrub of the field was yet on earth and no grasses of the field had yet sprouted, because the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil…”
2.ST Ia, 102, iii
3.As an aside, Aquinas actually offers a second possible interpretation of the biblical words to “dress and make it,” suggesting they refer to Adam not as the subject of the activity but as object, meaning that God put Adam in the garden to “[so God could] tend and cultivate it [Adam / him].” The Hebrew, however, does not support this interpretation since it explicitly refers to tending and cultivating “it,” using the feminine Hebrew gender for “it,” not the masculine which would be needed refer to Adam.
4.ST Ia, 97, iii

Comments

Tags:
, , , , ,