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Christian beliefs and biblical stories


About Genesis 3:
The Garden of Eden story: The Fall
(or Perhaps Rise) of Humanity, &
Original Sin

Tree of knowledge 1

Full disclosure:

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.

Quotations giving very different interpretations of Adam and Eve's sin:

bullet "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
bullet "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.

bullet A common Protestant interpretation explains that, 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, because the orthodox interpretation is that 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.
bullet 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

bulletIn a liberal Christian interpretation, the entire story is viewed as a religious myth: a legend that is spiritually significant, but it describes a series of events that never actually happened. This approach leads to many very different interpretations of Genesis 3. Three are:

bullet 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 is now one of the main differences between humans and the rest of the animal world. The original couple 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 were anxious to eat 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.

bullet 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 newborn. When 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.

bullet 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 were driven by instincts and 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.

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References used:

  1. Foxys Graphic | - Tree of the knowledge of good and evil with snake and apple.
  2. "Christianity and the fall," BBC, "Religion and Ethics," at: 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.
  3. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," Paragraph 390.

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Copyright 2003 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-FEB-29
Latest update: 2018-MAR-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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