Christian beliefs and biblical stories
About Genesis 3:
The Garden of Eden story: The fall
perhaps rise) of humanity, & original sin:
Apple trees are not indigenous to the Middle East. Thus, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was unlikely to have been an apple. Genesis 3 might be referring to a pomegranate.
"Christians believe that when Adam and Eve sinned in Eden and turned away
from God they brought sin into the world and turned the whole human race away
from God. The doctrine absolves God of responsibility for the evils that make
our world imperfect by teaching that Adam and Eve introduced evil to a perfect
world when they disobeyed him. An alternative understanding of the story of
the fall emphasizes that Adam and Eve did wrong because they 'gave in' to the
temptation of the serpent in the Garden of Eden." 2
"Surely the eating of forbidden fruit is no infraction grave enough to
have brought the wrath of God down on all humans, none of whom were born at
the time of the infraction, and none of whom were guilty except Adam and Eve.
To insist that god was justified in condemning all humankind because of the
infraction of their first parents is to make nonsense of our God given moral
compass...." Don Stark
Genesis 3 describes a story in the Garden of Eden.
In a common traditional Protestant interpretation, Satan, in the form of a
snake, convinces Eve that God has lied to her and her partner Adam concerning
the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He convinces her to eat the
fruit of the tree so that they will become as gods. Adam later follows suit.
This is often described as the fall of humanity. By this act, sin entered the world for the first time. With it, death appears for the first time. (The Church has taught that before this event, animals lived
forever, and without bloodshed; there were no carnivores.) God cursed the snake, Adam, Eve and even the
earth itself. In what is called "original sin." the transgression of Adam and Eve becomes imputed to all of the
descendents of the original couple i.e. to the entire human race through over 200 generations to the present
day. A massive gulf was
created by Adam and Eve's disobedience which can only be bridged by the salvation offered by Jesus Christ's
atoning execution by the occupying Roman army.|
The Roman Catholic Church deviates somewhat from the
Protestant interpretation. They acknowledge that Genesis 3 is not a precise
historical account of the events involving the Tree of Knowledge of
Good and Evil. However, they teach that it is based on a historical event.
"The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms
a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of
man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human
history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents." 3
|In a liberal Christian interpretation, the entire story is viewed as a religious
myth: a legend that is spiritually significant, but is of a series of events that never
actually happened. This approach leads to many possible interpretations of Genesis 3.
||It describes the rise, not the fall, of humanity. It portrays God as having created Adam and Eve
as proto-humans. They were not fully human because they lacked a moral sense. This was the main difference between humans and the rest of the animal world.
They had no concept of right or wrong. God deceived Adam and Eve into
believing that the fruit of the tree was poisonous. A very intelligent and
helpful animal, a snake, convinced Eve of the truth: that the fruit was not
poisonous, but that she would gain knowledge of good and evil if she ate it.
Since God had created the first parents with a curious nature and a drive
to excel, both Eve and Adam ate the fruit. They did indeed develop a moral sense for the
first time. This was an attribute previously restricted to the gods. In a fit of rage, God cursed the snake, Adam, Eve and even the
ground itself. Adam and Eve advanced
from an animal-like status with no moral sense into full humanity. The snake told the truth -- that Adam and Eve would not die on the spot because of the allegedly poisonous fruit.
||Genesis is an allegory. It describes the process that every
generation of humans goes through as they mature into adulthood. They are born into
their family of origin, helpless, innocent, hopefully in an atmosphere of
security. They blindly following the expectations of their parents. Their
parents tend to their every need. Parents are viewed as gods by the
they become teens, they start to build up a head of steam. They question
their parents, experience new levels of conflict within the family,
develop their own goals and ethics, and finally leave their home to
strike out on their own.
||Genesis is an allegory. It describes the transition of the human
race from a state of innocence, where people lived as near-animals. They
were initially unaware of their own mortality; they had little or no concept of
right and wrong. They were nomadic hunters and gatherers who lived off the
land. After the transition to full humanity, they had a moral sense. They realized that
their life on earth was finite. They later settled down and became farmers.
Topics covered in this section:
An analysis of Genesis 3 from
conservative and liberal viewpoints: is it an original sin or original blessing?:
Part 1: Analysis of the text: Quotations, Overview, Assumptions, Authorship of Genesis 3.
Part 2: Interpretation of Genesis 3. More detailed analysis of Genesis 3:1-7
Part 3: More detailed analysis of Genesis 3:8-24.
Beliefs about original sin:
© Foxys Graphic | Dreamstime.com - Tree of the knowledge of good and evil with snake and apple.
"Christianity and the fall," BBC, "Religion and Ethics," at:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ This essay has been archived, and is no longer being updated. However, it is still available to read. It is unlikely to need updating, because the two opinions by liberal and conservative Christians that it expresses are unlikely to change.
"Catechism of the Catholic Church," Paragraph 390.
Copyright © 2003 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-FEB-29
Latest update: 2016-APR-07
Author: B.A. Robinson