The Sins of Adam and Eve

Category: Bible/Christian Worldview 44 0

A common objection against Christianity is that God has punished all of humanity for one sin that Adam and Eve committed. This sin was simply eating some fruit. How could a loving, just God bring down wrath upon man only because of fruit? Is this an accurate summary of Genesis 3? Did God punish mankind simply because of eating food, or is there more to this story? This article will examine the Fall of man and the sins of Adam and Eve.

The status of Adam and Eve

The first thing to do is to set up some background information about the Fall of man in Genesis 3. The first two chapters of the Bible deal with God creating the world and placing humanity within it. God creates the world “very good.” Thus, there is no sin in the world. No diseases, no wars, etc. None of the bad things that we typically experience on a day-to-day basis. God places mankind in a garden and provides for all their needs. They want for nothing.

Another important detail in these chapters concerns the status that God gave the first human couple.  God endows Adam and Eve with a holy status that allows them to serve their Creator in the Garden of Eden, which is seen as a kind of temple. This gives them direct access to God, and in addition to this, “the human couple is appointed as God’s viceroys to govern the earth on his behalf.”[1] How do we know this?

First, they are told to have dominion over all the other creatures that God had created (1:26-28). By giving mankind authority over the animal kingdom, God has set them apart from the beasts and has given them a royal status. The fact that this is mentioned twice in 1:26-28 underscores the importance of the decision to give authority to humans to rule over the world.[2]

Secondly, being made in the image of God has within it the concept of royalty. In the Ancient Near East, the phrase “image of God” was often only given to kings. Scholar Richard Middleton says:

“the writer of Genesis 1 portrays God as king presiding over ‘heaven and earth,’ an ordered and harmonious realm in which each creature manifests the will of the creator and is thus declared ‘good.’ Humanity is created like this God, with the special role of representing or imaging God’s rule in the world.”[3]

To add to this, God commands humanity to be fruitful and multiply, and fill up the earth. “Implicit in this instruction is the idea that God’s authority will be extended throughout the earth as people increase in number and spread outwards.”[4] This fits the historical context of the Ancient Near East as a king would erect statues of himself (his image) throughout his kingdom to show that his authority reached there.

This was the purpose that God gave Adam, Eve, and their descendants. They were to rule as God’s viceroys over his creation. They were to be good stewards and follow their king, the Lord God.  They were also sinless, and God provided for them everything that they needed. They had royal status and lacked nothing. Keep all of this in mind as we now examine the Genesis 3 and the Fall into sin. (Article continues below…)

Did you know?

Most people believe that the fruit in Genesis 3 was an apple. Yet, Scripture does not actually tell us what the fruit was. The identification of the fruit as an apple “may have originated due to the common sound in Latin malus, ‘evil,’ and malum, ‘apple.’”[5]

Rebelling against their Creator

As mentioned above many people think that God punished Adam and Eve simply because they ate the forbidden fruit. However, a careful reading of the passage suggests more than what meets the eye. Here is Genesis 3:1-6.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?’ 2 The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’’ 4 ‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. 5 ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

One of the major sins committed by Adam and Eve during this episode is that they showed unbelief towards God. Satan questioned God’s commands, and this suggested to Eve that it was ok not to trust God. God could not only be questioned, but by inference, He was not as good and loving as she thought he was (more on this below).

This induced doubt about God’s words and the covenant he made between himself and man. The devil’s words and attitude questioned and challenged Gods’ authority.[6] The serpent even attempts to make God a liar since he says that Adam and Eve will not die after eating the fruit.[7]

John Calvin says that Eve was “led away from the word of God by her unbelief. Thus, the beginning of the catastrophe by which the human race was overthrown was the desertion of God’s command…Hence, unbelief was the root of defection…From here flowed ambition and pride, so that first the woman and then her husband desired to exalt themselves against God.”[8]

There is also a major change in the relationship between God, man, and the animals. Adam and Eve showed contempt towards God when they believed the lies of the serpent rather than the Creator. By listening to the serpent, they were submitting to him, thus failing in their God-given dominion over the creatures.[9]

The first human couple “give their allegiance to a cunning creature who challenges God’s authority with the deliberate intention of overturning his careful ordering of creation.”[10]  By obeying the serpent, Adam and Eve dethrone God as their authority and accept that of the serpent. They attack God’s sovereign authority over the world he created.[11]

The human couple replaces God’s authority with what scholar John Frame refers to as autonomous reasoning. Eve, according to Frame, “preferred to trust her own senses and judgments, to make her decision as though she were autonomous.” He continues that Eve’s rebellion began first in her mind and then moved to action. He says, “So the fall was first an event in Eve’s mind, only second an event in her mouth and throat. It was philosophical before it was practical. We are cautioned again that God must be Lord of our thought, not just of our behavior.”[12]

Genesis 3:6 notes that the fruit of the tree was not only good for food but also “pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.” Thus, Eve “made her own interpretation of sense data authoritative over God’s Word.”[13] She also places “pragmatic values, aesthetic appearance, and sensual desires over God’s word.”[14] Eve, and later Adam, come to believe that they are smarter and wiser than the Creator himself.

Be their own Gods

This leads us to the fact that Adam and Eve wanted to be like God (3:5). They doubt God, reject his authority, and replace it with their own autonomy. They believed that God was restricting them from something greater. He was, in their eyes, restricting them from being fully human. By disobeying God Eve thought they would be gaining a blessing.[15] Instead, they were cursed as they were greedy in their desire to be like God.[16]

This was planned by Satan. By telling Eve that God wanted to keep them from attaining godhood, he was sowing the seeds of doubt. Calvin notes that it was “as if he [the serpent] had said, ‘The only reason God defrauds you of the tree of knowledge is that he’s afraid to have you as colleagues.’”[17]

Humanity’s parents were ambitious, prideful, and unthankful towards God. Prideful and ambitious by wanting to be like their Creator. Unthankful because God had created them in his image and gave them everything that they needed. They rejected what God had given them and wanted things that were never meant for them. They were discontent with what God had given them freely and sought more than what they deserved.[18]

Henry Morris summarizes the seriousness of this sin by saying, “In effect, of course, as soon as one begins to deny God’s Word or to question His sovereign goodness, he is really setting himself up as his own god. He is deciding for himself the standards of truth and righteousness.”[19]

Adding to what God said

To add to these sins is the fact that, in her reply to the serpent, Eve modified what God had said. Eve added to the prohibition to not eat from the tree. She added that they were not to touch it (Genesis 3:3) when God never said that.[20] This was an extra restriction that Eve added making God look harsh and repressive. Eve looked beyond her privileges, and God is seen as withholding something good.[21] Scholar Meredith Kline explains that by adding to God’s prohibition

“[Eve] was probably venting a feeling of resentment that the special prohibition was arbitrary and unfair, a critical feeling which betrayed an assumption that she had rights the Creator had not sufficiently respected.”[22]

This modification of God’s words is a serious misstep on Eve’s part. Gordon Wenham says that “These slight alterations to God’s remarks suggest that the woman [had] already moved slightly away from God toward the serpent’s attitude.”[23] Morris notes that “Eve questioned, doubted, then modified and finally rejected God’s Word.”[24] Her attitude towards God, according to another scholar, “is clearly seen no longer to be one of perfect trust.”[25] He believes that this is where the Fall took place.[26]

Blaming God

Even after they are caught, Adam digs his grave even deeper. He actually dares to blame God for what happened. He emphasizes that it was because of “the woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12). By blaming the woman, Adam was really blaming God for his troubles. Everything was God’s fault.[27] Adam is charging God with a crime and making him the author of sin.[28] The criminal became the victim.[29] (Article continues below…)

Adam’s response to Eve and the Fruit

An interesting aspect of the Fall is that Eve did not even have to try to tempt Adam to eat with her. She simply gives him some fruit, and he willingly takes it. He doesn’t challenge her or raise any questions at all. As a royal priest before God, he (and she) should have immediately rejected the blasphemy of the Devil. Yet, they fail to fulfill their God-given roles. Eve chooses to obey the serpent, and Adam chooses to obey his wife. Neither obeys God. Both Adam and Eve failed in their priestly/royal status.[30]

No Repentance

To top all of this off, there was absolutely no sign of repentance on the side of Adam or Eve. Dorotheus of Gaza (505-565 AD) says it well, “But there was no sign of humility. There was no change of heart but rather the contrary.”[31] They were not even sorry for what they did. They truly believed in what they had done.

Putting the pieces together

So we have unbelief, doubting God’s words and authority, making God a liar, wanting to be God, adding to God’s words, reversing God’s order of creation, placing human reason above the Creator’s, blaming him for everything that had happened, and having no remorse. It seems that more than just eating some fruit is at play here. Adam and Eve “knowingly betray the Creator who has entrusted them with his authority to govern the earth.”[32] They commit blasphemy by following the devil when he went against God.[33] In fact, they believed Satan over God.[34]

Adam and Eve end up forfeiting their royal/priestly status in the Garden-temple, and they betray the trust God had in them to govern the earth. The harmony God created is turned into chaos. Humanity would go on to rule the earth through violence. In fact, Genesis 6:13 tells us that God sent the Flood because the earth was filled with violence.[35]

Sin and every kind of evil, and all the pain and suffering in the world occurred because of what happened in Genesis 3. Many want to blame God for being too harsh in his punishment. Yet, for all that he did for his humanity – making them in his image, giving him royal status, and placing them in a sinless paradise – they rebelled. They splatted at God and elevated themselves, along with the Devil, to a status reserved only for the Creator.

Sadly, we have not learned our lesson. We continue to do all these things, and we still put the blame on God. It is quite amazing that he has given us a way out – a way for restoration.

What do you think? Does this article give you a new or fuller understanding of the Fall and why God has cursed the current world? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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[1] T. Desmond Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008), 76.

[2] Alexander, 76.

[3] J.R. Middleton, The Liberating Image: The Image Dei in Genesis 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2005), 26.

[4] Alexander, 77-78.

[5] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 191.

[6] Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), 122; Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 91.

[7] H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1942), 149; Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), 110; Jonathan D. Sarfati, The Genesis Account (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2015), 348, 352; William Perkins, Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed. In “Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament I – Genesis 1-11” (RCS), John L. Thompson, Ed., (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 129; Waltke, 91.

[8] John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis 3:6. In RCS, 128-129. Augustine adds that pride was the center of this sin. This pride was “the beginning of all sin” as the couple wanted to seek satisfaction in themselves. [See Augustine, On Nature and Grace. In “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament I – Genesis 1-11,” (ACCS). Andrew Louth, Ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2001), 77.]

[9] Kline, 123.

[10] Alexander, 78. Also see Kline, 123-124.

[11] Kline, 125.

[12] John M. Frame, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015), 23.

[13] Sarfati, 352.

[14] Waltke, 91.

[15] Hamilton, 189; Waltke, 91.

[16] Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 2:16. In ACCS, 77

[17] Calvin, Commentary on Genesis 3:5. In RCS, 121.

[18] Perkins, Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, in RCS, 129-130.

[19] Morris, 112.

[20] Sarfati (p. 349) is careful to think that Eve did anything wrong with the addition of words. He notes that “She is never condemned for this – the Bible is clear that her first overt act of sin was actually eating the fruit. And since Jesus said that acts of sin are preceded by evil thoughts in the heart (Matthew 15:19), her first sin was making the decision to eat the fruit.” He believes that the addition of not touching the tree may have been a safety measure given to Eve by Adam. John Calvin (RCS, 123) also does not think Eve did anything wrong with the added words. Victor Hamilton (p. 189) notes that “[t]hese additions may only be innocent embellishments, but they pave the way for a surrejoinder by the serpent.”

[21] Leupold, 148, 150; Morris, 111; Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987), 73; Peter Martyr Vermigli, Commentary on Genesis 3:2, in RCS, 124; Waltke, 91.

[22] Kline, 124.

[23] Wenham, 73.

[24] Morris, 114.

[25] Leupold, 148.

[26] Leupold, 148. Sarfati (p. 350) notes that Eve seems to have “deflected Satan’s attempt to induce doubt. It may be that some doubt was lingering, but all Scripture tells us is that she had not sinned by this time.”

[27] Leupold, 159; Morris, 117; Sarfati, 353, 359; Wenham, 77; Augustine, in ACCS, 86.

[28] Johannes Brenz, Commentary on Genesis 3:12, in RCS, 148; Calvin, Commentary on Genesis 3:12, in RCS, 148; Wolfgang Musculus, Commentary on Genesis 3:12, in RCS, 149.

[29] Hamilton, 194. Waltke, 93.

[30] Hamilton, 191; Kiline, 123-124; Waltke, 92.

[31] Dorotheus of Gaza, Spiritual Instruction, in ACCS, 87.

[32] Alexander, 78.

[33] Perkins, Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, in RCS, 130.

[34] Willet, Commentary on Genesis 3:1, in RCS, 130.

[35] Alexander, 78-79.

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