The Bible is a fascinating text that approaches the issue of creation in very different lights. Genesis maintains different explanations for how the world came into existence; one is a literal creation story, the second is based on the conception of free will present in mankind. This sample religious studies paper explores the origin story of the Bible.
The two sides of Genesis’ creation story
The first chapter in the Bible is the book of Genesis where we learn of the creation of the earth including all its plants, animals, the creation of man and woman, and of original sin. This creation is described in two ways in Genesis.
- The literal creation of the earth occurring over six days, with the seventh day reserved for rest
- Free will has always been a choice for man
Chapter one discusses the logistical development of the earth, while chapter two introduces Adam and Eve. Chapter three outlines the fall of man from paradise and introduces the idea of original sin. In this essay, we will explore the various points of the creation stories concluding that in the first story God created the earth and it is good.
Adam and Eve’s fall from grace was caused by committing the original sin. Original sin was committed by exercising free will in disobedience of God. Throughout these stories, ideas of morality and proportional punishment are discussed as well as man’s threat against God when he acquires knowledge.
Genesis chapter 1: A creation designed by God
Genesis 1 chronicles the seven days it took for God to create the earth. At the end of Genesis 1 the earth, sky, land, water, plants, and animals are all created. The most important point to get from Genesis chapter one is that God created the whole world and that it is good. The light the dark the mornings and the evenings are all good and all part of God’s creation. This is emphasized because it is presumed that all things God does are good, and it started with the literal creation of the earth.
Genesis chapter 2: God’s original plan for mankind
In Genesis chapter 2 God creates man by forming him from the dust of the earth and then breathing life into him through his nostrils (Genesis 2:7). Thus, Adam was created. God took Adam and placed him in the garden of Eden to tend to the garden (Genesis 2:15). Then God decided that man needed a helper to tend to the garden. Each animal that God had created was presented to Adam to be named. After naming all the animals a suitable helper was not found (Genesis 2:20). God placed Adam in a deep sleep.
While sleeping, God removed a rib from Adam and from that rib created a woman for Adam’s help and company (Genesis 2:21-22). God presented woman to man and Adam names her Eve. According to Biblical history, Adam and Eve were then set to live forever in paradise in ignorance of good and evil. God filled the garden with abundance and two very important trees, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God commanded Adam before Eve came along not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. It is assumed Eve was aware of this restriction when she was tempted by the serpent.;
Genesis chapter 3: The original sin
In Genesis chapter 3 we see the fall of man from paradise and the introduction of original sin. The consequences for eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil were quite severe. Toward the end of Chapter 3, God is harsh on Adam and Eve for disobeying him. The ultimate question is why was God so harsh on Adam and Eve? Was it more of the act of defiance, or the effect of the fruit?
The punishment received by Adam and Eve seems disproportionate from just disobeying God, the effect of the fruit, the new knowledge was more of the issue for God in leveling his punishment. Platonic Christian thought looks at God’s wrath in a different light. They see it as the basis for realizing divine love and the catalyst for salvation.
The serpent had warned that if Eve ate of the apple that,“But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).
The serpent was correct, once Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they immediately acknowledged their nakedness and had instant knowledge of good and evil. This was apparent when God confronted both Adam and Eve on what they had done.
Adam and Eve learn to pass the buck
God had to know something was up when he arrived in Eden to find Adam and Eve now clothed in loincloths. When confronted, Adam blamed Eve, who blamed the serpent. This certainly represents a knowledge of good and evil, the act of blaming and the guilt of knowing you have done something that you knew was wrong. This also represents a proper evaluation of the idea of ignorance which was the state of Adam and Eve before eating the fruit.
They hadn’t felt guilt before because they had not sinned before and the sin was not eating the apple, the sin was disobeying God. Now the mother and father of all humankind were endowed with knowledge of good and evil and would spread that to each of their children, the entire human race. This presents a contradiction where it appears that wisdom is also a sin.
God’s punishment for the original sin
Punishments leveled against Adam and Eve by God was severe. There must be more to the problem than just disobeying God.
God says in Genesis 2:22, “Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’ (Genesis 2:22).
Through this statement, God implies that there are others who are immortal and have knowledge of good and evil. The fear of God is that they will eat of the tree of life as well and live forever. This suggests that to become like one of us is to be immortal with wisdom. This appears to be rather threatening to God and He immediately banishes Adam and Eve from Eden to toil the ground, work the earth for sustenance, and suffer in childbirth.
He also places desire into Eve and makes her subservient to her husband, “Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 2:16).
The wording here is curious, God says that woman will endure pain for childbirth but will still desire her husband. The punishment exacted by God seems harsh. This introduces the challenges of being a human with free will and the constant challenges of making moral decisions.
Themes of temptation, condemnation, and sin in Genesis
God’s punishment addresses each of the problems eating of the fruit presented. Serpent tempts woman, woman listens, convinces man, and all suffer a consequence. For the serpent, it’s condemnation to scurry the earth. For the woman, creating a system of gender roles that make her subservience to her husband, desire for him, and experience pain in childbirth. For man, having to live in hard labor. Additionally no more existence in paradise, and no immortality.
The consequences for this choice were severe. Regarding this situation, it’s not fair to blame the serpent because it did not lie to Eve. Adam and Eve had no ability to make a moral choice regarding the sin because they didn’t know that there were consequences except that God had told them they would die if they ate the fruit.
He was truthful in the sense that they would die sometime, he told Adam that, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die”(Genesis 2:16-17).
God’s sovereignty threatened by Adam and Eve’s action
Before the serpent tempted Eve, there was no question but to obey God’s command, don’t eat of that tree, it was not questioned it just is. It wasn’t until the serpent suggested doubt in God’s word that Eve began to make a moral judgment. The serpent responds that Eve will not die if she eats of the fruit. This contradicts what God told Adam and Adam told Eve. The serpent was correct, Adam and Eve did not die when they ate the fruit. They made a choice without thought of the consequences.
They didn’t know that if they ate of the fruit they would be kicked out of Eden, what they did know was that God told them they would die, however that wasn’t enough for Adam and Eve and they decided to trust the serpent. Adam and Eve had the choice whether they knew it or not to eat of the forbidden fruit, this is free will. The punishment for rejecting God’s command was severe for Adam and Eve. The choice is to follow God without question or to suffer whatever punishment may come along.
Genesis’ translation of God’s role in the original sin
God was not fully truthful with Adam and Eve by saying they would die if they ate from the tree of knowledge and the serpent knew that too. Yes, they would die, but when was the question. It could mean that they would lose the opportunity to be immortal in paradise. Christian ethics seems to confirm this hypothesis and teaches followers not to disobey God’s commandments, or they will suffer eternal damnation.
They serpent was correct in everything he said as well, “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 2:4-5).
He said that if they ate of the forbidden fruit they would become more like God. The concern was that if Adam and Eve were to remain in Eden they would continue to disobey God and become immortal, and, “Like one of us” (Genesis 2:22). It is assumed that to be like one of us would include being immortal with knowledge of good and evil. This was not what God intended for Adam and Eve, or maybe it was all part of His divine plan.
Creation stories and theology in Genesis
There is much packed into the creation stories in the Bible. First, the literal creation of the physical earth. The most important points to take away from that story is that God created the earth and it is good. Also, that man was created from the dirt of the earth, and woman from the flesh of the man, therefore, humankind’s connection to the earth is absolute.
In the second story, we see the fall of man from paradise after acquiring knowledge of good and evil against God’s command. This is original sin, lack of faith in God. The consequences were a life of work and pain on earth which is not paradise. The interesting facets of the creation story are the notions that always man had free will. They always had a choice to obey or not to obey God and that choice remains today.
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Bennett, Stephen J. “Old Testament Theology, vol. 1, Israel’s Gospel (review).” Toronto Journal of Theology 28.2 (2012): 319-321. http://muse.jhu.edu. Web. 9 Dec. 2012.
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