Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

The First Sin

Pre-note to this section. For some reason the prior section (The Second Creation Narrative) was published before I completed updating it. Additionally, the formatting and footnotes were messed up. They have been corrected, but if you read them prior to 7/26/2014, I suggest you reread the section as some of it feeds into this section.

The First Sin

Prequel

I just finished watching the new episode of How the Universe Works on the Sci channel. Tonight’s episode was The First Second, and was an explanation of what happened during the first theoretical second of the life of the universe. I say “theoretical second” because there was nothing by which to track its’ passage; also, with no one there to actually observe it, the length of time for the event could have been longer or shorter. So, what does this have to do with Genesis, Creation, and the first sin? Everything. Let me explain before I get into the meat of this section, as it was originally written.

In the beginning of Genesis we are told, “God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.” The very beginning of the singularity. In the first unimaginably small fractions of the first second there was a tremendous light; God saw the light, and it was good. In fact, the first chapter of Genesis tells us that everything was good, there was nothing bad, or evil…yet. The First Second tells us the same thing. Sure, there was a massive war going on between the different forces (gravity, strong and weak nuclear, and electromagnetic); matter and anti-matter battled to the near-end of anti-matter (or was it matter?); but it was all good. In fact, everything was good until…

 

The First Sin

At some point Abram must have mused over God’s revelation of man being made in the image of God and being immortal (so long as he ate from the Tree of Life), and what happened to change all of that. The answer to this question forms the narrative of the serpent, how the woman is tricked into eating from the forbidden tree, and how she then seduces Adam into eating as well, thus bringing about the end of man’s immortality and his expulsion from Eden. There are a few points to note in this explanation:

Nehebkau, 'He Who Unites the Kas'

Nehebkau, ‘He Who Unites the Kas’

  1. A talking serpent with legs harkens to the culture of Egypt, where animal gods and demons took on human characteristics, and serpents took on special roles in Egyptian religion*1. The snake was seen as the image of death and resurrection, shedding it’s skin and being reborn gave it a seemingly immortal character; in the Egyptian Book of the Dead the serpent even had the power of speech.
  2. God did not punish Eve when she ate the fruit, the punishment did not occur until after the Adam ate. I believe this is because the covenant was between God and Adam (as previously mentioned, Eve did not exist when the covenant was made), it was Adam’s action that broke the covenant and required God to step in, admonish Adam, and apply the punishment for his sin. Eve, as with the serpent, received punishment for her role in seducing Adam to eat of the fruit, not because she ate.*2 Note the accusations: God accuses Adam of eating the fruit, Adam states that he ate because Eve gave him the fruit. God does not ask Eve if she ate, but instead asks “What have you done?” In other words, “Why did you do this to the man?” When God turns to Adam it is to him that God says, “Because you obeyed your wife and ate from the tree…” Adam is punished for breaking God’s commandment.
  3. I believe this thought is further borne out by God’s solution for reestablishing man’s connection with God: a woman will bear a male child who will reconcile man to God.*3 The act is through a woman, but the restoration is accomplished by a man.

 

Digression

One of my professors brought up the ancient concept that the “Tree of Knowledge” was a metaphor for sexual relations – this was held by many Christian and Jewish teachers over the centuries, and is not new. “Knowledge” was a codeword for sexual intercourse, thus “eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge” might refer to engaging in sexual activity. Some have said that this is not a possible reading since God did instructed people to “Be fruitful and multiply”, giving Adam and Eve permission for sexual relations. However, this is where the “Good and Evil” comes into play…there are good sexual acts which God permits, and acts which God places off limits (as outlined in the Law of Moses), we even see improper sexual acts as a possible reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (more on that in another segment). So, the act of “eating from the Tree of Knowledge of G0od and Evil” could refer to becoming aware of, and participating in, improper sexual activities. This would, as she put forward, explain why they became ashamed of their nudity after eating.

 

Return to discussion

Expulsion from ParadiseWhat was this first sin? Some have stated that it was man’s disobedience, others claim it was envy – his desire to become godlike. I proffer that the sin which was committed was selfishness – the putting of yourself before others, in this case God. The breaking of the greatest commandment – “You must love the Lord your God with all your mind, with all your being, and with all your strength.”*4 Something else had replaced that love (ἀγάπη, agápē), perhaps Eve had become more important to him, as frequently happens in our own lives. In the beginning God is the be-all and end-all of our lives, then we meet that certain someone and our attentions shift…this is the warning Paul gives us*5.

This is the same sin of which Lucifer was guilty. Of all the creatures God had made, only the angels were granted immortality. Now God gives this precious gift to a physical being, one not much more than the beasts. Lucifer and his angels could not accept this and in consideration of themselves above God they abandoned God’s love forever. This, then, becomes the reason for the encounter and temptation of Adam and Eve in Eden – what Lucifer could no longer have, he could not allow others to have.

So, Eve gives into the temptations of the serpent on the promise of becoming more like God, and eats of the forbidden fruit thus rejecting God’s love, putting her desires above those of God and her mate. The Bible does not say if Eve had any great revelations after eating, but she did not feel any shame when she approached Adam and tempted him into eating as well. In fact, we have to assume she did not, otherwise would she have tempted Adam into what she would have perceived as the ultimate betrayal?

The Bible gives no indication of the conversation between Eve and Adam, simply stating that she gave the fruit to Adam and he ate. After the long discourse between Eve and the serpent, all we get here is “she gave some to her husband and he ate.” Nothing more was important than that Adam turned his back on God, either deeming his relationship with Eve to be of more importance, or that he, as well, wanted to become like God. In either case, the deed is done, both selfishly put themselves ahead of the God that they personally knew and loved. What a powerful statement this is. Let it sink in for a minute. No other people ever had a closer, more intimate, relationship with God than Adam and Eve. They talked with the great I AM. And yet they put their own self interests ahead of the God they loved.

Here is a  thought to ponder on, what if only Eve had eaten? What if Adam had kept the Covenant with God? God did not strike down Eve after she ate, he waited to see what Adam would do. What would he have done if Adam had put his love of God ahead of that of Eve? We will never know, but it is something to think about.

 

It is at this point that God tells Abram that this is why man must now toil for his needs, and why the labor is so hard. It is also at this point that man began wearing animal skins for clothing, ending whatever peaceful co-existence was in place before the first sin. God removes man from the garden, and ends his access to eternal life…man will now know death. It is important here to point out that the word used for “know death” (ἀποθανεῖσθε) is a word of future tense, not that man will die when he eats of the fruit, but that after eating of the fruit man will know death. When eternal life is restored to man, through Jesus Christ, it is only his soul that will live forever, man’s body must still die as a sharp reminder of man’s fall. In Eastern teaching this is the fallen state of man, that man has a mortal body, inherited from Adam and Eve, that must die; but now his immortal soul, through Jesus’ saving action, will be reunited with our Father in heaven. Jesus gives us a glimpse of that immortal body, once the sole possession of Adam and Eve, when he answers the Sadducees about the married woman*6: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.”

 

*1 http://www.reshafim.org.li/ad/egypt/bestiary/snake.htm

*2 Gen 3:17

*3 Gen 3:15

*4 Deu 6:4-5

*5 1Cor 7:1-16

*6 Matt 22:23-30

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