These events have been referred to as "the fall" of mankind. It was the first human sin. The description in Genesis, as interpreted by most Christians, indicates that the punishment for Adam and Eve's sin was to extend far beyond the original humans in what is called "Original Sin."
Christianity has taught the concept of imputation: that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their sin was imputed or assigned -- not only to them, but to all humanity for all time. That is, the children of Adam and Eve, their grandchildren, and successive generations would all equally bear the sins of their original parents even though the sin was committed before the descendents were born.
Many Christians have literally interpreted the creation story in Genesis and have concluded that "the fall" of humanity occurred between 8000 and 400 BCE. According to their belief in "Original Sin", God's curse is the longest curse in history, having lasted over 6,000 years to date, and affecting Adam and Eve's descendents as far as the 125th generation. It appears to have no limit, and will continue indefinitely into our descendents' future.
The curse is confirmed in the book of Romans in the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament). Paul wrote: "Wherefore, as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (KJV) 1
This is the first instance in the Bible where individuals are punished for the sins of others. It is unique in that every human who ever existed suffers from the curse. Other curses in the Bible affect only persons from certain groups, sexual orientations, religions, or tribes.
However, a research team at Yale University has evidence that the Christian belief in Original Sin may be invalid! They found that young babies who are 6 to 10 months of age exhibit moral thinking!
In the team's abstract of "Social Evaluation by Preverbal Infants" by J. Kiley Hamlin, Karen Wynn, and Paul Bloom, they state:
This appears to show that newborns may not be born with "original sin," but that they may develop sinful behaviors later in life, as a result of parenting. More details. As additional research findings are reported, this topic may become a prominent topic in the continuing "warfare of science with religion."
The flood of Noah:
Chapter 6 of Genesis describes the massive genocide by a world-wide flood, gravitationally dated at 2348 BCE. If one measures the seriousness of a mass extermination by the percentage of humans killed, this was the greatest genocide in history. Only one man and his immediate family survived -- a total of eight individuals. Every other human on Earth died: the elderly, adults, youths, children, infants, and newborns. God, having the option of sending prophets to the various tribes of humans with a message of repentance -- as he did later with Jonah -- or of committing genocide, chose the latter.
During the flood, all of the youths and adults who were responsibility for the wickedness, evil and violence were drowned. Also drowned would be all the children, infants and newborns in the world, all of whom had not reached the age of accountability. Apparently, every land animal, and bird perished, except for those which were sheltered in Noah's ark. One might assume that with the massive dilution of the salinity of the oceans and the mixture of the oceans of salt water with lakes and rivers of fresh water, that many species of fish who required fresh water and other species which required a high level of salinity would not have survived either.
The curse of Ham:
In 2347 BCE, an incident occurred which involved Noah and his three sons. Noah had planted a vineyard, and became drunk on the wine. He was laying naked in his tent. One of his sons, Ham, saw his father in this state and told his brothers, Shem and Japeth. The latter sons carefully covered their father with a garment without looking at him. Many theologians have suspected that Ham did more than just look at his father, but may have engaged in some form of forbidden sexual behavior. Genesis 9:24 simply says: "And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him."
Noah laid a horrendous curse. But it was not on his son Ham who had done the unspecified sinful act. Instead of punishing the individual who had injured him, Noah punished that individual's son -- Noah's grandson -- Canaan. There is no indication that Canaan was involved in any way or even knew of the event. Still, he was to be enslaved to Shem and Japheth and their children. Further, Canaan's descendents were to be slaves to the descendents of these two sons of Noah.
The King James Version of the Bible (KJV) frequently referred to slaves by various ambiguous terms, such as: bondmen, servants, maids, handmaid, manservant, maidservant, etc.
This passage is often referred to as the "Curse of Ham." It was one of the favorite biblical quotations of 19th century theologians who wished to justify slavery on biblical grounds. The descendants of Ham were assumed to be Africans. According to this verse, they were to be slaves forever. Thus the American and Canadian slave owners saw themselves as simply implementing God's wishes. Under this interpretation, abolition of human slavery would violate the will of God. More details on slavery.
In Genesis 38:24, Tamar was discovered to be pregnant three months after conception,
presumably because her "baby bump" became visible at that time. This was positive proof that
she had been sexually active. Because she was a widow, without a
husband, she was assumed to be a prostitute -- a crime punishable by execution
at the time. Her father-in-law, Judah, ordered that she be
burned alive for her crime.
At the time that Genesis 38 was written, it is unclear whether the ancient Hebrews considered human embryos and fetuses to be human persons. If they were considered full persons, then their near execution would be an other example of the transmission of sin and punishment from the presumed guilty person -- Tamar -- to her innocent fetuses.
Plagues in Egypt:
The first chapters of the book of Exodus describe how the ancient Hebrews were held and mistreated as slaves in Egypt. God selected Moses as the individual who was to free his countrymen and take them to the land of Canaan. To do so, he had to negotiate release of the slaves from the dictator of Egypt, an unidentified pharaoh.
God "hardened Pharaoh's heart" repeatedly so that he would refuse to release the Hebrew slaves. This converted a difficult negotiation for Moses into a near impossibility:
God instructed Moses to have his brother Aaron perform a series of rituals which brought plagues to Egypt: all of the water was turned to blood; there was an infestation of frogs, lice, and flies. All of the Egyptian cattle died. Hail mixed with thunder and fire afflicted the entire country. Locusts infested the land. People broke out in painful boils. There was a three-day period of darkness. Finally, the ultimate punishment came: God was to pass through the entire land of Egypt and kill every first born animal and human. This included "...all the firstborn in the land of Egypt...from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant [female slave] that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts." (Exodus 11:5) Also included was "the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon and all the firstborn of cattle." (Exodus 12:29). 2 Only the Jewish firstborn, among all the firstborn in the land, were to be saved, and then only if their family performed a specific ritual involving the killing of a lamb and spreading its blood over the doorposts. The firstborn would involve both children and adults. Few families, other than those of the Hebrews, would be spared. At this point, faced with his country's devastation, the Pharaoh relented and allowed the Hebrews to leave the country.
The decision to retain or release the Hebrews was made by the pharaoh alone. Egypt was a dictatorship at the time, and the pharaoh held full political power. Yet he was not killed. His eldest child was allegedly murdered, as were the eldest children of all of the slaves, prisoners, and the general Egyptian public. Even the first born among the animals were killed. Egyptians in poverty must have suffered greatly at the loss of their cow(s) or goat(s) -- animals that made the difference between their owners eking out a marginal existence and starvation. Yet, none of those who were killed by angels under God's direct orders was responsible in any way for the pharaoh's decision to force the Hebrews to remain in the country.
The real goat that gave rise to the "scapegoat:The book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Scriptures describe the first yearly observance of the Day of Atonement. This is an annual religious observance held on the tenth day of the seventh lunar month. During the ritual, the sins of the community were transferred to a goat. It was then taken into the wilderness, taking the sins of the community with it. It was abandoned there, and expected to starve to death, or to be killed by a predator.
The exact mechanism by which the sins of the Children of Israel are transferred onto or into the goat is not defined.
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