Adam, Eve, and Sin.
The story of Adam and Eve has many aspects that can be challenging for many. There is a primary doctrine (that is, official teaching) of the Bible that has its foundation in the story of the first man and woman. This is commonly referred to as the Doctrine of Original Sin and has a few different forms that it takes. To put them bluntly:
- Original Sin demonstrates that we are born with the stain of sin from the acts of sin done by our ancestors.
- Original Sin demonstrates that the first act of sin has made man live in a world cursed by it.
- Original Sin demonstrates that humanity inherits sin from its ancestors and is accountable for the actions of their ancestors.
These are rather simplified, so do not take them as the doctrine itself. These are merely popular forms of how it is understood. Original Sin has been a subject of some debate and careful consideration for many generations of Rabbinic and Christian theologians dating back to the early church times and even further back. It comes from attempting to reconcile the fact that since the first act of sin was committed by man against God, humanity has not lived in a right relationship with God, with the ability for certain men and women to have lived righteously before God in spite of it. How do we come to comprehend what is being taught to us by God’s revelation to us of the first occurrence of sin at the beginning of human existence?
Let us review the story of “The Fall of Man” and take a look at some of the elements of the story.
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Gen. 2:25 NASB)
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. 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?”
The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:1-13 NASB)
Now, I have left out what follows. From here, God lays down punishment for what Adam and Eve have done. But let us first evaluate this part of the story. There are a few things that come to light when we isolate this passage and allow ourselves to stop for a moment and consider what all we have learned thus far in the greater Biblical story.
Background and Context
Genesis begins with God’s greater creative acts in the formation of the cosmos in Genesis 1:1-31. This culminates in the sixth day where God creates mankind, and it is at that point that He calls all that He had made “very good.” (Gen. 1:31 NASB). This includes humanity. Now, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27 NASB). So, all of this we must carry forward into chapter three as we look at Adam and Eve.
The second chapter of Genesis “zooms in” one could say on the events of the sixth day. It is important to note that beyond man, God had created all the animals as well on this same day. He gave man dominion over all of it. Chapter two, then, shows us that first God formed man out of the dust of the ground prior to the formation of those shrubs and plants “of the field.” (Gen. 2:5-9). We learn that God then creates those plants that are pleasing to the sight and good for food, evidently he does this for man specifically, but that is just drawing a logical conclusion. We then learn about the rivers that flowed from this garden that the Lord God placed the man in. Then we see God give his first specific command to the man:
“The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:16-17 NASB).
Here we find that the woman had not yet been made when God gave this command. This is important to note given that the serpent asks her about eating from the tree as opposed to the man. Then we see God mention the first thing that is “not good”:
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable [opposite] for him.’” (Gen. 2:18 NASB).
God then goes through the process of forming every “beast of the field and every bird of the sky…” (Gen. 2:19 NASB). He brings them before the man and the man is able to give them all a name but he is not able to find a helper suitable for him. Why go through all of this? Well, we learn that Adam was created clearly with knowledge, rationality, the ability to identify things by their characteristics, and the ability to know what is and is not suitable for himself. This is also important to bring into our consideration of the story of the fall. Man is already intelligent, knowledgeable, and rational, able to learn and comprehend the world around him and relate to God and the creation. God then fashions a woman out of the bone taken from the man, and we are told the reason why a man becomes “one flesh” with a woman, and the grounding of the concept of marriage is made clear.
This is all of the background information we have thus far regarding the characters of the story of the fall. We know that man and woman are rational creatures, intelligent, able to understand God and language, relate to the world around them, and can relate to one another in a very loving and passionate way. We can see that all the world around them has been made for their existence to care for and have dominion over, and it appears God is giving them very special treatment in comparison to the rest of creation. So, humanity shares in a unique relationship with God, nature, and each other. It is important to note that at the end of chapter two, we are also told in verse twenty-five that they were both naked and were not ashamed of it. This we must also bring into the story of the fall.
Reviewing the Fall
Humanity has the following characteristics:
- Innocent, but by creation, a part of what is “Very Good”.
- Ability to relate to himself/herself.
- Ability to relate to the creation and his environment.
- Ability to relate to God and understand Him.
- Ability to be passionate and loving and appreciative of what God has done.
- Ability to understand what he can and can not do.
- Not ashamed of being naked together in the open and before God.
- Ability to relate to the woman as his wife, his companion.
- Only in a “good” state when he is not alone.
We can see from all of this that Adam and Eve are very much like what we are today, minus the issue of public and open nudity, of course. Even then, they are the only to people on earth, and they are united as one flesh as Man and Woman, so just as we do not feel ashamed being naked in the presence of our husband or wife, we can relate to Adam and Eve. At this point, we have no reason to conclude that humanity is anything but what we know of humanity today. Even though we know that there is a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and another that is the tree of life, hanging around out there somewhere, we do not quite have reason to think they do not already have life, or knowledge of good and evil. But we can say that these things are implied by how the trees are named.
Then comes this serpent. This creature is identified as being more crafty than any of the beasts of the field. He is identified as being a part of the beasts of the field “which the LORD God had made.” (Gen. 3:1 NASB). So, we have no thorough reason to suspect anything dubious of the creature, yet. The term “crafty” in its original Hebrew is ‘aruwm (aw-room’) which has several definitions including subtle, shrewd, sensible, prudent, and sly. (1) These are not necessarily negative in the Hebrew context is what I am getting at, but it is reasonable to conclude that the text is attempting to identify the serpent within a negative context. This serpent speaks with the woman, and not the man. Presumably, the serpent has overheard and witnessed all that has happened before hand, and it is certainly reasonable to conclude this at this point.
When the woman responds, she does so innocently enough, but she adds something to what God had said by saying
“…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…’” (Gen. 3:3 NASB, emphasis mine).
God had not said anything about touching the fruit of the tree. Now, given the literary context here, there is not really much to take away from this necessarily, but it is something stands to catch the attention of the careful reader. There is much that has been written considering this little feature here, but there is no need to dwell upon it here.
As we continue to read about what the serpent responds, we can only assume that the woman has come to knowledge of this by the man. After all, she had not yet been created when God gave the command to the man. So, her comment is made innocently, and we must accept that she is innocent if we are to be honest with the text. Here, the serpent tells her something that now sets the stage for sin:
“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.” (Gen. 3:4-5 NASB).
In reading this, we learn a few things. We can now say that the man and the woman more than likely do not have knowledge of what good and evil are. So, that can be added to our list of the characteristics of the human characters that I laid out earlier. Here, we see the serpent placing in the mind of the woman doubt about God. Not so much doubt in God’s word, as it is more than likely that the man told eve about the tree, though it is of course still possible that God did as well. We can not be certain either way as it appears there is some time that has traveled on. God, it appears, has withdrawn, and we are not even sure at this point regarding the status of the man. The start of this chapter has the word “Now” at the beginning which suggests something of a scene transition here, so these things remain unclear in the story.
From here, we have a list of things that the woman has occur in her mind:
- She saw that the tree was good for food. (hunger or craving perhaps)
- She saw that it was a delight to the eyes. (beauty, desire)
- She found it desirable to make on wise. (acquisitiveness perhaps?)
These three things are what we are led to believe drew her to take some of the fruit and eat given the serpent’s words to her. But, not only does she eat of it, but we are introduced to the fact that the man was there through all of this, evidently a witness to what has occurred. She gives it to her husband (another new development, that term “husband” here and her relating to him as such, or at least the narrator does), and he eats of it too!
Let us consider this for a moment. The man and his wife, created in the image of God, created as God intended them to be, possesses the ability in how he presently exists to disobey a command from God. This means that before taking of the fruit from the tree, Humanity has the capacity to disobey God. That is, to sin. This means that without knowledge of good and evil, humanity can still sin against God, that is, doubt in His word, lack trust in him, but more importantly, lack faith in Him (God) to have told him (the man) the truth. This is important as it tells us the following:
- Man could sin prior to gaining knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, sin and morality are separate things in man’s nature.
- Man did this act not knowing it was something that one should not do. All he knew, and all she knew, was that God said to not do it.
- Both man and woman did this thing in what we might assume is a state of innocence in their own mind. They did not know it to be wrong or evil to do this thing. Yet, they sinned none the less.
What happens next is also important to consider. The eyes of both of them were “opened.” It is here that they come to knowledge of their state of nakedness, and the quickly set themselves to sewing fig leaves to cover their respective parts. They then hear the sound of the “…LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8 NASB). Here, the movie of this would have some alarming sound that would make the viewer jump like a small child caught in the act of stealing a cookie from the old cookie jar! The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees. It is here that we might conclude, and reasonably so, that they have come to knowledge of what they had done by disobeying God. There is something to that as well, considering it was not the tree of life that had been forbidden, but the tree of knowledge of good and evil that they were prohibited from eating.
- Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. “Hebrew Lexicon entry for `aruwm”. “The NAS Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon” https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/aruwm.html