Fall of man

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Adam, Eve, and a female serpent at the entrance to Notre Dame de Paris

In Christian theology, the fall of man, or the fall, is a term used to describe the transition of the first man and woman from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience. Although not named in the Bible, the doctrine of the fall comes from a biblical interpretation of Genesis chapter 3. At first, Adam and Eve lived with God in the Garden of Eden, but the serpent tempted them into eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which God forbade. After doing so, they became ashamed of their nakedness and God expelled them from the Garden to prevent them from eating from the tree of life and becoming immortal.

For many Christian denominations the doctrine of the fall is closely related to that of original sin. They believe that the fall brought sin into the world, corrupting the entire natural world, including human nature, causing all humans to be born into original sin, a state from which they cannot attain eternal life without the grace of God. The Eastern Orthodox Church accepts the concept of the fall but rejects the idea that the guilt of original sin is passed down through generations, based in part on the passage Ezekiel 18:20 that says a son is not guilty of the sins of his father. Calvinist Protestants believe that Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for the elect, so they may be redeemed from their sin. Other religions, such as Judaism and Gnosticism, do not have a concept of "the fall" or "original sin" and have varying other interpretations of the Eden narrative. Lapsarianism, the logical order of God's decrees in relation to the Fall, is the distinction, by some Calvinists, as being superlapsarian (antelapsarian, before the Fall) or infralapsarian (sublapsarian, postlapsarian, after the Fall).

Sources[edit]

The doctrine of the fall of man is extrapolated from Christian exegesis of Genesis 3. According to the narrative, God creates Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, in His own image. God places them in the Garden of Eden and forbids them to eat fruit from the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" (the fruit of which is often symbolised in European art and literature as an apple). The serpent tempts Eve to eat fruit from the forbidden tree, which she shares with Adam and they immediately become ashamed of their nakedness. Subsequently, God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and places cherubim to guard the entrance, so that Adam and Eve will not eat from the "tree of life".

The Book of Jubilees gives time frames for the events that led to the fall of man by stating that the serpent convinced Eve to eat the fruit on the 17th day, of the 2nd month, in the 8th year after Adam's creation (3:17). It also states that they were removed from the Garden on the new moon of the 4th month of that year (3:33).

Interpretations[edit]

Immortality[edit]

Christian exegetes of Genesis 2:17 ("for in the day that you eat of it you shall die") have applied the day-year principle to explain how Adam died within a day. Psalms 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8 and Jubilees 4:29–31 explained that, to God, one day is equivalent to a thousand years and thus Adam died within that same "day".[1] The Greek Septuagint, on the other hand, has "day" translated into the Greek word for a twenty-four hour period (ἡμέρα, hēméra).

According to the Genesis narrative, during the antediluvian age, human longevity approached a millennium, such as the case of Adam who lived 930 years. Given these conditions, it has led some to believe that God may have intended for Adam and Eve to be immortal.[citation needed] Thus, to "die" has been interpreted as to become mortal.[2] In the phrase "you shall surely die" Adam is told that if he eats of the forbidden tree the consequence will be moth tamuth, "die a death", indicating not merely death but emphatically so.[citation needed] As Adam does not in fact die immediately on eating the fruit, some exegetes have argued that it means "you shall die eventually," so that Adam and Eve would have had immortality in the Garden, but lost it by eating the forbidden fruit.[citation needed]

However, the grammar does not support this reading, nor does the narrative: Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden lest they eat of the second tree, the tree of life, and gain immortality.[Gen. 3:22][3] Another explanation is that Adam will undergo "a spiritual death".[citation needed]

Original sin[edit]

The fall depicted in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo
Main article: Original sin

Catholic exegesis of Genesis 3 claims that the fall of man was a "primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man."[4] This first sin was "transmitted" by Adam and Eve to all of their descendants as original sin, causing humans to be "subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin." Baptism is considered to erase original sin, though the effects on human nature remain, and for this reason the Catholic Church baptizes even infants who have not committed any personal sin. Although the state of corruption, inherited by humans after the primeval event of Original Sin, is clearly called guilt or sin, it is understood as a sin acquired by the unity of all humans in Adam rather than a personal responsibility of humanity. Even children partake in the guilt or sin of Adam, but not in the responsibility of original sin, as sin is always a personal act.[5]

Eastern Orthodoxy rejects the idea that the guilt of original sin is passed down through generations. It bases its teaching in part on Ezekiel 18:20 that says a son is not guilty of the sins of his father. The Church teaches that, in addition to their conscience and tendency to do good, men and women are born with a tendency to sin due to the fallen condition of the world. It follows Maximus the Confessor and others in characterising the change in human nature as the introduction of a "deliberative will" (θέλημα γνωμικόν) in opposition to the "natural will" (θέλημα φυσικόν) created by God which tends toward the good. Thus, according to St Paul in his epistle to the Romans, non-Christians can still act according to their conscience.

Orthodoxy believes that, while everyone bears the consequences of the first sin (that is, death), only Adam and Eve are guilty of that sin.[6] Adam's sin isn't comprehended only as disobedience to God's commandment, but as a change in man's hierarchy of values from theocentricism to anthropocentrism, driven by the object of his lust, outside of God, in this case the tree which was seen to be "good for food", and something "to be desired" (see also theosis, seeking union with God).[7]

Subordination[edit]

Traditionally, women have received the major blame for the Fall of humanity. It is seldom mentioned that Adam was with her throughout the temptation and the disobedience. The subordination exegesis is that the natural consequences of sin entering the human race, was prophesied by God when the phrase was made: the husband "will rule over you". Using the New Testament, this interpretation is reinforced by comments in the Book of Timothy (authorship is attributed by some to the Apostle Paul; others argue the Pastorals were written by later Christians[8]), where the author gives a rationale for directing that a woman (NIV: possibly "wife") "should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man (NIV: possibly "husband"); she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."[1 Tim. 2:11-14] Therefore, some interpretations of these passages from Genesis 3 and 1 Timothy 2, have developed a view that women are considered as bearers of Eve's guilt and that the woman's conduct in the fall is the primary reason for her universal, timeless subordinate relationship to the man.[9]:p.21

Alternatively, Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger argue that "there is a serious theological contradiction in telling a woman that when she comes to faith in Christ, her personal sins are forgiven but she must continue to be punished for the sin of Eve." They maintain that judgmental comments against women in reference to Eve is a "dangerous interpretation, in terms both of biblical theology and of the call to Christian commitment". They reason that "if the Apostle Paul was forgiven for what he did ignorantly in unbelief" including persecuting and murdering Christians, "and thereafter was given a ministry, why would the same forgiveness and ministry be denied women" (for the sins of their foremother eons ago)? Addressing that, the Kroegers conclude that Paul was referring to the promise of Genesis 3:15 that through the defeat of Satan on the cross of Jesus Christ, the woman's Child (Jesus) would crush the serpent's head, but the serpent would only bruise the heel of her Child.[9]:p.144

Similar traditions[edit]

  • In Gnosticism, the snake is thanked for bringing knowledge to Adam and Eve, and thereby freeing them from the Demiurge's control. The Demiurge banished Adam and Eve, because man was now a threat.
  • Ancient Greek mythology held that humanity was immortal during the Golden Age.[citation needed] When Prometheus gave the gift of fire to humans, helping them live through times of cold weather, the gods were angered. They gave Pandora a box and told her not to open it, knowing full well that her curiosity would get the better of her. When she opened the box, she released evil (death, sorrow, plague) into the world due to her curiosity. See Ages of Man for more.
  • In Islam, Adam and his wife were misled by Shaitaan, who tempted them with immortality and a kingdom that never decays,[10] saying: "Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest ye should become angels or such beings as live for ever".[11] Adam and Eve had been warned of Shaitaan's scheming against them,[12] and had been commanded by God to avoid the tree Shaitaan referred to. Although God had reminded them that there was enough provision for them "not to go hungry nor to go naked, nor to suffer from thirst, nor from the sun's heat",[13] they ultimately gave in to Shaitaan's temptation and partook of the tree anyway. Following this sin, their "nakedness appeared to them: they began to sew together, for their covering, leaves from the Garden",[14] and were subsequently sent down from Paradise onto the earth with "enmity one to another". However, God also gave them the assurance that "when there come unto you from Me a guidance, then whoso followeth My guidance, he will not go astray nor come to grief."[15]
  • In classic Zoroastrianism, humanity is created to withstand the forces of decay and destruction through good thoughts, words and deeds. Failure to do so actively leads to misery for the individual and for his family. This is also the moral of many of the stories of the Shahnameh, the key text of Persian mythology.

Literature[edit]

  • In William Shakespeare's Henry V (1599), the King describes the betrayal of Lord Scroop – a friend since childhood – as being "like another fall of man", referring to the loss of his own faith and innocence the treason has caused.
  • In the novel Perelandra (1943) by C. S. Lewis, the theme of the fall is explored in the context of a new Garden of Eden with a new, green-skinned Adam and Eve on the planet Venus, and with the protagonist - the Cambridge scholar Dr. Ransom - transported there and given the mission of thwarting Satan and preventing a new fall.
William Blake's color printing of God Judging Adam original composed in 1795. This print is currently held by the Tate Collection[16] In the Biblical story, God's judgement results from the fall of man.
  • In the novel The Fall (1956) by Albert Camus, the theme of the fall is enunciated through the first-person account given in post-war Amsterdam, in a bar called "Mexico City." Confessing to an acquaintance, the protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, describes the haunting consequence of his refusal to rescue a woman who had jumped from a bridge to her death. The dilemmas of modern Western conscience and the sacramental themes of baptism and grace are explored.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien included as a note to his comments about the Dialogue of Finrod and Andreth (published posthumously in 1993), the Tale of Adanel that is a reimagining of the fall of man inside his Middle-earth's mythos. The story presented Melkor seducing the first Men by making them worship him instead of Eru Ilúvatar, leading to the loss of the "Edenic" condition of the human race. The story is part of Morgoth's Ring.
  • In both Daniel Quinn's Ishmael (1992) and The Story of B (1996) novels, it is proposed that the story of the fall of man was first thought up by another culture watching the development of the now-dominant totalitarian agriculturalist culture.
  • In Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series (1995, 1997, 2000), the fall is presented in a positive light, as it is the moment at which human beings achieve self-awareness, knowledge, and freedom. Pullman believes that it is not worth being innocent if the price is ignorance.
  • The novel Lord of the Flies explores the fall of man. The storyline depicts young innocent children who turn into savages when they are stranded on a desert island. Lord of the Flies was originally named 'Strangers Within', also showing his views of human nature.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://wesley.nnu.edu/biblical_studies/noncanon/ot/pseudo/jubilee.htm Online translation of Jubilees
  2. ^ Kugel 1998, p. 50-1.
  3. ^ Harry Orlinsky's Notes to the NJPS Torah
  4. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church: 390
  5. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church: 404, 405
  6. ^ Q & A – Original Sin. OCA. Retrieved on 2011-10-30.
  7. ^ Eastern Orthodox Catechism, published by the Russian Orthodox Church. Accessed February 16, 2008.
  8. ^ Dennis Ronald MacDonald, The Legend and the Apostle. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983.
  9. ^ a b Kroeger, Richard C. and Catherine C. Kroeger. I suffer not a woman: rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in light of ancient evidence". Baker Book House, 1992. ISBN 0-8010-5250-5
  10. ^ [Quran 20:120]
  11. ^ [Quran 7:20]
  12. ^ [Quran 20:117]
  13. ^ [Quran 20:118]
  14. ^ [Quran 20:121]
  15. ^ [Quran 20:123]
  16. ^ Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi (ed.). "God Judging Adam, object 1 (Butlin 294) "God Judging Adam"". William Blake Archive. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Thompson, William Irwin, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, 1981, 2001 ISBN 0-312-80512-8.

External links[edit]