Part 5. Adam, Eve, and Sin.
Critically Analyzing the fall.
We have completed our verse by verse review of the story of the fall. This narrative is contained in Chapter 3 of the book of Genesis. Prior to the chapter, God has created the cosmos across a six-day period, resting (or coming to completion) on the seventh day. On the sixth day of creation, God has created man in his image, and created for man his wife. God has created every living thing, but has set man apart and shares in a unique relationship with man. God sets man in a garden that man is to take care of. This blessing from God provides the man and his wife with all that they need. Before coming to the story of the Fall, the world is viewed, with man and woman as they are and all things under their dominion, in a state that is “very good” in the eyes of the creator. All is as God intended for it to be. In all of this, God has told the man that he can not eat of only one tree in the garden. That is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God’s reason for giving this command to the man is so that the man will not die. Also, God has told the man and his wife that they are to be fruitful and multiply, and are to fill the earth and subdue (or conquer) it.
From all of this, we have several elements to consider as we analyze the text.
- Man and his Wife, humanity.
- Creation, the environment created by God.
- The garden of Eden, made especially for man.
- The serpent, a crafty or shrewd creature.
- An event that changes things.
- Humanity’s reaction to the event.
- God’s reaction to the event.
- A series of punishments
- A final event.
What is it that we come to know about humanity?
- Man, and his wife are rational, knowledgeable, intelligent, and relational beings, capable of communication between each other, God, and creation.
- Man, and his wife are capable of sin (disobedience to God) without knowledge of good and evil.
- Man, and his wife are capable of procreation, where the woman will experience pain in some form during the process of child birth.
- Man, and his wife, share in a unique and special relationship with one another and with God, that is not shared by any other thing.
- Man, and his wife exist in innocence with no comprehension or knowledge of good and evil.
What is it that we come to know about God?
- God is the creator of all things, and in our English version of Genesis, is called LORD God.
- God has a unique relationship with man, and cares greatly for his well-being.
- God so loves man that he desires for him to be in a state of goodness, and provides for the man work (a purpose), and special place (belonging), and a mate (an opposite just for him to bring him companionship and pleasure that nothing else can).
- God desires only good for the man, and has an intention for the man of blessing and grace, and to exist in a positive, good, and healthy relationship with man.
- God desires to do things with man that are not made known to us, but that it is made clear to us He has something ‘next’ He desired to do.
- God is related to as a man, and has a fatherly role in the eyes of the man and his wife where He is respected, loved, and appreciated as their creator and provider.
What is it that we know about humanity and God together?
- God and humanity, prior to this event, exist in a state where man and his wife are pleased with God and God is pleased with them.
- God provides for every need of the man through the creation and even out of the man himself (his wife), showing that God loves and care for the man above all other things.
- God desires to do something with man and his wife that goes beyond the horizon offered in the text, but it can be clearly understood that He does have something unique planned for the man and his wife.
- God and man exist in a right relationship as God, the creator, has determined it “very good” for them to be in.
- God has given commands to the man and his wife: To be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth, to have dominion over all creation, to work the garden and to keep it, and to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Beginning our analysis
As we begin the analysis, let us state an objective. We are looking to see what all this narrative has to offer to us. We know that the Bible provides us with knowledge about God as He has revealed to humanity across many years. This story has a unique place in the Bible, and has much to offer us regarding the nature and character of God. However, as with many texts that have one primary purpose, the Bible has other things that it does. Here, we find the Bible providing us with answers to many of the philosophical questions of God, Humanity, and the Cosmos. We are going to discover in this section of the Bible many foundations of many different Biblical Doctrines (that is, consistent teachings from the Bible). However, we want to simplify the focus to the doctrine of Original Sin. What can we learn about the Biblical teaching on the subject of Sin and its relationship to us today? What is there of value to us in our “modern” time? We have touched on much of this so far, so as we go through this article, we are hoping to sum up the knowledge and wisdom in a practical manner using the tools of critical analysis (rational thinking or critical reasoning, take your pick).
A. What did man fall from?
This seems like a good place to start. After all, this chapter is called “The Fall of man.” That term, “Fall”, implies that there is something we are falling from, does it not? So, let us consider this for a moment. The author of the book of Genesis has setup for us a scene where God, the great and powerful creator, has made humanity (man and woman) in his image, and has declared his existence and role in the cosmos “very good.” This is the only thing that is called, “very good.” We see God provide for this unique creation in ways He does not for any other creation of His. He gives man a special role, having dominion over all of the creation. So, God has given all that He has made to the man, and even told him to subdue it! Not only has God given it to the man, but he has challenged the man to own it! To make it his! But God does not stop there. Without requiring anything of the man that He has brought into existence, God proceeds to give the man a special place, a garden, for him to work it and to keep it. So now God has given the man a purpose, and endeavor, a direction, something to do with his life, to work with his hands. But hey, God doesn’t stop there! The all-powerful creator, revealing Himself to be personal, cares so much about this creation’s well-being, that He says “It is not good for man to be alone.” The only thing He has yet to call “not good” is that the man is alone!
Hey, but man is not really alone, is he? I mean, He has God doesn’t he? All of creation is there and under his control. Literally, man has everything under his dominion but that is not enough? Hey, isn’t there some old cliché about that we always here about? God sees something that is very unique to man in his “aloneness.” There is a need in the man’s heart, something that has to be met in a very unique way, something vital for his existence, something greater than having possession of literally everything! And what does God provide to him? Not just woman, mind you, but his Wife. A woman that is his, and to whom he belongs. Someone who needs him just as much as he needs her. God shows the man every other living being, and even gives him the ability to name every creature, and in ancient times, to know the name of something was more than just knowledge, it was something truly unique to know the name. Indeed, the whole essence of a person was in their name. Yet no other living thing could meet the needs that man had. So, God even gave man a wife, the only thing that could meet that need in man’s heart. Truly, God loves His creation.
The brings us back to our question. What did humanity fall from? Well, from all of the above! All of these things being so much to bring into account, we have come to acknowledge it all in two primary terms. God’s blessing, and God’s grace. All of these things which God had made just for the man to have, but also, and most important of all, man fell from that special and unique relationship that He had with God himself. Man had turned his back on God, failing to trust in his creator’s word. After all that God had done for man, man allowed these gifts to him replace the value of the one who created him. God’s grace, that is, His unmerited favor, is what humanity ultimately “fell” from by this event. Ever since that day, man has not been able to recover from this fall from grace, though there have been a small few across human history who seemed to attain to it we find out later on. So, this story provides for us an answer to so many questions about why the world is the way that it is, why humanity is in the situation it is in. The Original Sin was that act that resulted in Adam and Eve being removed from the garden, and humanity, every life being a new opportunity to recover that lost grace, has not been able to recover it because of our continued rebellion against our creator. But what has made this so?
B. That Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.
One of the things that God did not give to man for some reason was a knowledge of good and evil. The first man and woman, made in the way God intended for them to be, had the capacity to sin without a knowledge of good and evil. Yet, for some reason, God did not desire for man to attain that knowledge in the beginning. Many critics of the Biblical Judeo-Christian Worldview get the title of the tree of knowledge of good and evil wrong. They often just cut it off at “tree of knowledge” and then attempt to argue from that straw-man against God being good (how dare he keep knowledge away, wicked God they say! But wait, we are shown Adam is already knowledgeable, rational, and intelligent…so, fail number 1). However, the question remains about why God made a tree of knowledge of good and evil, and a tree of life, then forbid man from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but never says anything about the tree of life.
So, man has no knowledge, it would seem, of either of the trees’ value to him. What value is the knowledge of good and evil to the only man in the cosmos who is receiving everything under his dominion and who shares in a special relationship with a loving creator who has provided him with everything he could ever want? I mean…really? Who cares about the knowledge of good and evil thing when you have literally everything at your disposal!?
Do you see what I mean here? Yet, the author is conveying to his audience which does have the knowledge of good and evil, and a knowledge of what it means to have eternal life, that God did not want for man to acquire knowledge of good and evil. Or is that really what is being shown? If God did not want for Adam and Eve to have a knowledge of good and evil, at least at some point in the future, then why make the tree and put it in the garden? Do you recall that conclusion that God must have had some intention, a further good, for man that fateful day He went for a stroll in the garden in the cool breeze of the evening? Even though God forbid the man from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, He still made it and put it there. Thus, it is rational to conclude that since God has been providing every good thing for the man, that God had some additional good thing to do for the man, and more than likely, it had something to do with both the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. However, when it came to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God had something very important in mind, something so important that He did not want the man to come to knowledge of good and evil without doing something with the man beforehand.
Given this logical conclusion about the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we can reasonably draw a similar conclusion regarding the tree of life. God obviously intended to give the man eternal life too. But, not yet. God had been forming the man into something. Giving the man everything He had needed, one could reasonably assume that man was an ongoing project for the LORD God. The man has no idea, we would think, about what this tree of life is (I mean, do we really know much about it beyond what Adam would have at this point?) let alone what morality is. What reasons would he care for either when his creator is doing all of these wonderful and amazing things for him? So, it is clear to us at this point (I would hope) that God intended to do something very important for man before allowing Him to consume of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What is it about morality?
C. Man and Morality.
Now we are jumping from something of the beginning of The Fall of Man narrative to its end. What we can learn about the reasons why God did not want for the man to attain the knowledge of good and evil without God being involved. Now, this is something of a rational exercise that leads us to some conclusions that do seem to go out a good distance from the narrative. Any many ways we may have to draw from later knowledge attained through God’s revelation in the continuing plot of the book of Genesis beyond the fall. However, we must remember that the story of the fall does not exist in isolation, and is really only a very small portion of the whole text. So, let us pull back a little from examining the trees and assess things from the forest perspective. What happens to humanity after having attained knowledge of good and evil through an act of sin (disobedience) before God could do whatever it was He had intended to do with man before doing whatever He was going to do with that pesky tree?
Well, one disaster after another is what happens. The fall of man is a long one, and it would appear that it is not describing one event. Indeed, in many ways it would be more proper to title Chapters 3 through at least 6 “The Fall of Humanity.” After all, it is in chapter six that:
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in his heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen. 6:5-7 NASB).
Wow…what a transition. From providing everything that a man could need, sharing a special relationship with God, God loving humanity so dearly, His special and unique creation, to now “…The end of all flesh has come before Me..” (Gen. 6:13 NASB). Man eventually becomes nothing but mere flesh in the eyes of God. This certainly puts the concept of death into light does it not? Above all, it shows to us what attaining the knowledge of good and evil has done to mankind. But wait…wasn’t it suppose to be sin that does all of these things? Remember our focus here is on understand the teachings on Original Sin. So, what does morality have to play here?
Let us think on this a moment, now that we have some greater context in mind that is necessary for understanding this. After all, the early church fathers who derived their conclusions regarding the matter of “Original Sin” had all this knowledge under consideration, you know, the whole Bible and all of that. We ought to plug ourselves in here with the greater context too, no? Which is it that really had an impact on humanity? Sin…or morality? It is the fact that “…every intent of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually…” (Gen. 6:5 NASB) that leads God to desire to wipe out humanity. That would lead one to view morality as the culprit of man’s downfall. But hey, that is not until before the flood. From Chapter 3 on until the flood, humanity sins in many ways, acting in disobedience against God. There is obviously some relationship between Sin and Morality that needs to be considered more carefully. Also, if attaining the knowledge of good and evil would result in all of that, why on earth would the LORD God want man to attain it?
Remember that part in Chapter 3 where God asks Adam, “Who told you that you were naked?…” (Gen. 3:7 NASB). Mankind did not require the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to gain knowledge about good and evil. Evidently, there were other means of gaining that knowledge. Clearly man was a rational being, capable of attaining knowledge, we have already covered that. So, given the two previous sections A and B, we can assume that God was going to teach them about morality in such a way that they would come to a knowledge of good and evil as God intended for man to come to the knowledge of it. Would that not be the same for each of us? Remember, we are all born with the like qualities of Adam and Eve. They existed without a knowledge of good and evil, and only came to a knowledge of it through eating the fruit of that tree. But what do we know about knowledge today? Do we pass knowledge to our children through our DNA? No, we do not! We must pass down knowledge from generation to generation, no? We begin in a state of lacking knowledge, and given our very nature, we obtain knowledge throughout our lifetime. It becomes wisdom as we begin to experience and live that knowledge out. So, is it not reasonable to conclude that God intended to bring Adam and Eve to a knowledge of good and evil in a particular way, providing the tree as a means of Adam and Eve gaining a fullness of understanding of it?
However, instead of waiting for God to teach them morality, they instead chose to attain the knowledge on their own. That was the first act of sin. In seeking to see the world as God sees it, but not by seeking that from God Himself, man sought other means to learn of good and evil with the intent of eve’s heart to gain that wisdom on her own. It is because of this, that the man and woman disobey God. That is indeed what resulted in the fall of Adam and Eve from the garden, thanks to that serpent. But that also meant that every man and woman there after would be born outside of the garden of Eden and away from God’s great blessings, living in world that has been cursed by Adam’s actions. Instead of rising above it, man’s heart turns to evil continually. Indeed, it is morality that compels us into sin even more. We become absorbed by morality, seeking obedience to morality as our means to salvation, instead of seeking our creator. Even the desire to do right all the time can result in us sinning against God because we view morality as more important and powerful than Him! What’s worse, is we know that sinning is wrong, and when we sin we now recognize that we have wronged God, that brings shame and it causes us to hide from Him, thus brining our separation from Him into even greater and further distances over time…do you see the pattern?
Sin, disobedience to God. This thing that is inherent in us, now that there is a knowledge and understanding of morality among man, now can come from a state of evil within us, an actual desire to do it, as opposed to an innocent act of violating God’s commands while trying to do something good. “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20 NASB). While the original sin is what caused man to fall from God’s grace, it is man’s continued sin, now coming from a heart of evil, that causes man to continue to fall further and further away. This means that before eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, man had the potential to sin, and the potential to be evil. But God created man without a knowledge of good and evil, so clearly He intended man to never be evil. But without a knowledge of good and evil, man could not sin with the evil intent of doing so, or know that sin itself was wrong.
Disobeying God starts from something other than a moral base. It starts with man’s pride. It starts with man’s nature as God intended for man to be made. However, evil is something that also man could attain to. But, man is not evil until He sins. God made man as something good, and God desired to make man good, thus Eve. This is where the doctrine of Original Sin as it had come to be in the early church had to be corrected. We are not born in sin, and we do not acquire it from our parents. Instead, we are born as God created Adam and Eve, with the potential or the capacity to sin, and the potential or capacity to be evil. But in the state God created Adam and Eve, they were innocent, and it was that they were innocent that they were good. It remains our choice in both cases to bring both sin and evil into the world. Both of these things happened in the garden of Eden.
Original Sin, as a Biblical Teaching, is the lesson learned from the “The Fall of Man” that it is sin, disobeying God’s commands made known to us, that separates us from God. Also, the doing of things that are in fact evil, are a form of sin, but that turn us away from God. While sin separates us from God, evil keeps us away. While the punishment for sin is death, it is evil that brings that death upon others. Allowing evil to emerge within us will result in sin. Consider Cain and Able and God’s words to Cain,
“Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen. 4:6-7 NASB).
Adam and Eve, punished for their sin, and having acquired knowledge of Good and Evil, they do not continue to do evil. Their first act is an act of obedience to God’s command to multiply. They have children and their countenances are lifted up. They took their punishment but they did not squander in it. Indeed, they began to flourish within that punishment. They did not allow their newly acquired knowledge of evil corrupt their soul. They chose to be obedient to God, and appreciative that God spared their lives. But Cain allowed his evil intent to form in His heart. With that evil intent, He sinned against God by murdering His brother, and the result was a drastic punishment. Yet, even then, God showed mercy to Cain, and allowed him to live.
So far, we have covered a great deal, and there is still much to think about and consider. The doctrine of Original Sin is one that does require some serious consideration and careful thought. Theologians have struggled with it back and forth for generations, but there is a truth here as in all things, and we will continue to seek it out. I encourage you to spend time in prayer over what all we have gone over thus far. Are we on the right path? I believe so, and our reasoning is certainly developing, is it not? So, let us stop here for now, and spend time in meditation on what all we have gone over thus far and see where God’s gift to humanity of reason will take you. Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance on the subject and allow it to show you where the path is leading us.