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The Garden of Eden story: The fall (or
perhaps rise) of humanity, &
original sin
.

Part 2: Interpretation of Genesis 3.
More detailed analysis of Genesis 3:1-7.

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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Interpretation of Genesis 3:

Belief   Many very conservative Christians   Some very liberal Christians
Who/what was the serpent?   Satan in the guise of a snake. He deceives Eve.  
An imaginary, very intelligent snake with the power to speak. Adam & Eve's friend.

Satan's role:   The main character; the deceiver of Adam and Eve.  
None; Satan does not appear anywhere in the rest of Genesis or anywhere in the rest of the Pentateuch.

The deceptive player:   Satan in the form of a serpent, seducing Eve into eating the fruit.  
God, deceiving Adam and Eve about the poisonous nature of the fruit.

The fruit:   Often believed to be an apple.   Not identified.

The consequence of their sin:   "A righteous God meting out justice" as befitting the crime. 4  
A harsh, unfair and "jealous God, harshly punishing the naive couple -- and everything else." 4

Were Adam and Eve responsible for their sin?   Yes. God told them to not eat the fruit. They were fully responsible for having disobeying God.  
No. The myth tells us that when they were created by God and later when they ate the fruit, they had no moral sense and could not differentiate good from evil.

Initial situation, Genesis 3:1:   Adam and Eve were in a state of purity and innocence.  
Adam and Eve were proto-human -- animal like -- without a moral sense. They had no knowledge of good and evil.

Final situation, Genesis 3:24:   Adam and Eve had disobeyed God. They were punished for their transgressions. All of their descendents, including the present generation, share in their guilt through original sin.  
Adam and Eve achieved a moral sense, previously possessed only by the Gods.

Basic message   Adam and Eve's sin, the fall of humanity, and the introduction of sin into the world for the first time.  
The development of a moral sense, and the consequent rise of humanity from proto-human to fully human status.


Genesis, verses 3:1 to 3:7 are analyzed below, showing the differences between very conservative and very liberal interpretations of the text. The King James version of the Bible is used here, because of copyright limitations with more recent translations. A few archaic spellings are updated to the 21st century.

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Analysis of Genesis 3, Verse 1 to 7:

Verse 1: "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
 

Conservative   Liberal
Satan has taken the form of a snake. The snake's ability to talk is a miracle. He is described as subtle or cunning or crafty; i.e. sneaky and devious. Satan misquotes Gods instruction in order to create animosity in Eve towards God   Satan does not appear in Genesis or in the rest of the Pentateuch. Talking snakes and other animals are often found in ancient religious myths of the Middle East, where they represent real animals. The Hebrew word translated here as "subtle" actually means "mentally acute."

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2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.
 

Conservative

 

Liberal

God was accurate and truthful when he said that Adam or Eve would die if they ate the apple. However, it must be interpreted symbolically as a spiritual death, not a physical death. The latter would occur hundreds of years later.   The author "J" portrays God as having been deceptive. He implied that the fruit was so poisonous that they would die quickly if they ate the fruit, or even touched it. He also implies that God is not omniscient -- not even of high intelligence -- because he did not realize that without a moral sense, Eve and Adam would probably eat the fruit sooner or later. Any parent who puts a plate of cookies in front of their 12 month-old infant and tells them not to eat any is aware of what the infant will do.

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4 And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die:

5 For God doth know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
 

Conservative

 

Liberal

Satan appeals to Eve's desire for control and her lust for power over her life. He says that God has lied. The snake offers her great power; she would become like a God, if she eats the apple.   At this time in the story, Eve and Adam were proto-humans. They were similar in one important sense to animals: they lacked a moral sense. The snake was being accurate and helpful here. He implies that the fruit is not poisonous. He said that if she ate the fruit she would magically and instantly develop a moral sense. For the first time, she would be able to distinguish good from evil; right from wrong. For the first time, she would share this attribute with the Gods. In reality, people do not acquire a new talent by eating fruit; we are dealing with a myth here.

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6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
 

Conservative

 

Liberal

Eve ate the apple and gave an apple to Adam. Evil entered the world for the first time. 4 The world -- perhaps the entire universe -- was changed for all time. Successive generations down to the present time suffer from original sin derived from Adam and Eve's sinful disobedience, some six millennia ago. This transferal of sin from the first couple to us is called "imputation."   Eve and Adam eat the fruit. This was not a sinful act on their part anymore than if a lion or a infant human ate the fruit. Adam or Eve at this point were like the animals in one sense: They had no knowledge of good and evil; of right and wrong. They were devoid of a moral sense. This act marks a major symbolic step forward for humanity: they seek to improve themselves by acquiring additional knowledge; they wanted to be wise. Evil in various forms: anger, viciousness, assault, death, etc had always been present in the world. However, for the first time, Adam and Eve become aware of it.

 

7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
 

Conservative

 

Liberal

As a result of eating the forbidden fruit, they became aware of their nakedness and were embarrassed. They made primitive clothes for themselves to at least cover their genitals.   The snake's words were shown to be reliable and true. God is shown to be a deceiver. Adam and Eve did not die; rather, they benefited from eating the fruit: they obtained a moral sense.

They had not previously been shy of their nakedness, because they were only partly human. (A animals are not embarrassed to be naked or to engage in sexual activity.) Now, because of their knowledge of good and evil, they became humans and felt shy. They covered up their genitals. Both apparently continued to go topless.

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This topic continues in the next essay with an analysis of verses 8 to 24.

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References:

  1. Quoted in: Paul Laughlin, "Remedial Christianity: What every believer should know about the faith, and probably doesn't," Polebridge Press, (2000), Page 168. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  2. Richard Bozarth, "The Meaning of Evolution," American Atheist magazine, 1979-SEP, Page 30.
  3. Op Cit., Laughlin, Page 151 to 155.
  4. "How Sin Entered the World," The Way of Righteousness, at: http://injil.org/TWOR/07.html
  5. "Is Genesis 3:15 a Messianic prophecy?," Messiah Truth, at: http://www.messiahtruth.com/gen315.html
  6. Op Cit, Laughlin, Page 153.

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Copyright 2003 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-FEB-29
Latest update: 2013-MAY-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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