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Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 3, The tempter proceeds by underhanded questioning to first produce a doubt.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

Why did the Lord forbid you to eat from this tree? and a little after: You will not die. The result of these words shows that he wanted to mislead Eve; but if he had first set forth to her the error in which he wished to lead her, a manifest contradiction to the command and word of God, he would have inspired her more with horror than with the desire to listen to him; but before proposing the error, he begins with the doubt: Why did the Lord forbid you? He dares not say: He has deceived you, his precept is not right, his word is not true; he asks, he questions, as if to be educated himself, rather than to instruct the one he wanted to surprise. He could not begin at a more insinuating or delicate place.

Eve’s first mistake is to have listened to him, and. to have entered with him in reasoning. As soon as he tried to make her doubt God’s truth and justice, she ought to have closed her ear and withdraw. But the subtlety of the request made her curious, and so she entered into conversation and perished there. The first fault of those who are wandering, either by the error of the spirit or by seduction, and the misleading of their sense, is to doubt. Satan says, every day, to the heretics and to all who are drawn into their pleasures and passions, this unfortunate Why; and if he succeeded against Eve before concupiscence and passions, is it any wonder that he has such prodigious success with this method? Let us flee, flee, from the first Why, from the first doubt that begins to form in our mind: plug the ear; for, as long as we waver, we will perish.


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