“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Genesis 4:7, New King James Version. Since the formation of heaven and earth, the word sin has never been mentioned in the Bible. The verses were written during a discussion between God and Adam’s son, Cain. It marked the beginning of a new breed of man who would be accepted for doing good despite being poor in the face of sin’s appetite.
The subject of this research paper because it is the most constant struggle of mankind that has consistently been depicted in all the books of the Bible. Sin is, therefore, important to understand its origin and any evolutions or metamorphosis that it might have undergone since the beginning and what we, human beings can do regarding it. The first instance of sin, as seen in the bible is in Genesis three which holds the story of the fall of man.
In Genesis one and two, God made the earth then created man and gave him dominion over the earth along with instructions on how to care for it and what to avoid. God then created a woman from the man’s rib to be his helper, so that they may become one flesh. God placed man and his wife in paradise or the Garden of Eden. They were supposed to eat from all trees in the garden except one at the center, which is the tree of knowledge. In chapter three, the serpent approached the woman and tempted her to eat a fruit from the tree of knowledge.
She then gave it to Adam who also ate it. This was an act of disobedience which is currently interpreted as a sin against God. They received punishment in accordance with the justice of God. As a result, punishment which human beings thousands of years later are still experiencing. They were therefore removed from the Garden of Eden and sent to the earth where a man was supposed to till the land in order to eat. The woman was to experience pains while delivering a child.
There have been many articles based on the fall of man and its consequences. Some of the matters highlighted include the seemingly varying severity of the punishment for the man and his wife, the instructions that were given, the weakness of man and woman and the result of this incident on the lives of women after that. This research paper will touch on some of these areas so as to analyze the topic in light of the current world when related to the situation in ancient Israel.
Genesis is the first book in the Septuagint that speaks of the beginning of the world. In 250 BC, sacred texts were translated into Greek by Rabbis which formed the first recognized translation of the bible. It is called the Septuagint. In Greek, the word ‘sin’ is represented in words like hamartia and paraptma, which means to fall short of something or miss it completely and may result in sin or offense, a transgression or a deviation from what was intended. It was used in the bible to represent instances where people had gone against God’s will for them, resulting in them deviating.
Genesis is also the first book in the Hebrew Bible. It was written by Moses and is among the five books that are classified under the Torah. In 700 AD, the bible was translated into Hebrew. The book of Genesis takes its Hebrew title from the word, Bereshit, meaning “In the beginning”; in the Greek Septuagint, it was called Genesis, from the words “the generations of heaven and earth,” The word sin was included (Graves, Robert and Patai). It was represented in words like râ?âh or cha??â’âh or râshâ? which meant to miss or the absence of something. This is slightly different meaning from the Greek version before it and the Vulgate version of it. It is translated to mean the absence of conscious virtue in one’s actions that give rise to sin. Anything that does not arise from consciousness is a sin.
Genesis is also the first book in the Old Testament according to the new revised versions of the Bible that were done after the Vulgate. The vulgate is a Latin translation of the bible that was worked on by St. Jerome between 382 and 405 AD and became the official bible of the Roman Catholic Church later. It means to trespass or to commit an offense against God. The same has been adopted as the meaning of the word sin in current revisions of the bible. Sin can also be defined as a voluntary act that may be a thought, word or deed at conflict with the law of God.
In Genesis 3 of the Septuagint, the serpent asks the woman “Why is it that God said, you shall not eat from any tree that is in the orchard’? while in the Hebrew Bible, the serpent asked, “Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? yet in the New king James version, it asked “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” All these are different questions meant to cause confusion to the woman. Words like orchard, paradise, and garden are used to mean the same thing. The word paradise in Hebrew can be taken to mean an orchard. In the Septuagint (3rd–1st centuries BCE), Greek παράδεισος parádeisos was used to translate both Hebrew parades and Hebrew gan, “garden”: it is from this usage that the use of “paradise” to refer to the Garden of Eden derives.
In Genesis three of the Septuagint, the serpent tells the woman “You will not die by death, while in the Hebrew Bible, it says “No, you shall not die the death”, yet in the New king James version, it says “You will not certainly die,” These different words are meant to represent the same thing. The translation varies with time.
In Genesis 3 of the Septuagint, Lord God walks about in the paradise land that evening, while Adam and eve concealed themselves from the existence of God in the center of the trees of the Garden of Eden. The Hebrew Bible states that God is walking in paradise at the afternoon air, and in the New king James version, it says that God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day. These three versions indicate that God was walking in the garden in the evening/ walking in paradise at the afternoon air and walking in the garden in the cool air; all these translations have been altered with time and also due to change in language. Different words like evening, afternoon air and the cool of the day are used to mean the same thing.
In Genesis three of the Septuagint Adam named his wife Life, while in the Hebrew Bible Adam named his wife Eve and in the New king James version, Adam named his wife Eve. The woman was given different names because she would become the mother of all the living. Eve is a female given name: from a Hebrew word denoting life.
The structure of the Book of Genesis is that of narratives that unfold in quick sequence. It has applied many literary forms which are styles of writing or speech where the expressions are arranged in a certain method that causes them to have a certain effect. There are various literary forms in the bible itself because it was written by many different authors. They include; figurative speech e.g. similes, narratives, poetry, and prophecy.
The most common literary form in Genesis is narratives. It narrates the beginning of all things known to man and sometimes caused by man. Some examples include the beginning of the earth at creation, the beginning of the fall of man, the beginning of punishment, the beginning of destruction as shown in the flood that rocked Noah’s Ark, the beginning of numerous languages, the beginning of blessings as seen in the agreement between God and Abram, the beginning of nature balancing acts of betrayal, the beginning of rites of passage, the beginning of new relationships , for example, slavery, concubines and the beginning of offerings (Evans, Lohr and Petersen).
Genesis has also used poetry as a literary form. One of its chief characteristics is repetition. The words ‘And God saw that it was good’ have been used numerous times. It has also used figurative speech as a literary form. A serpent speaking to Eve and consciously tempting her to commit sin is a true statement, but this does not mean that the serpent should be taken to mean that a serpent literally spoke to Eve. However, the use of figurative language does not mean that it is false. An instance of dramatic irony is observed when Isaac blesses Jacob instead of Esau without knowing while the audience knows this fact.
There are many genres in the bible because the books are written by many different people and for different purposes. They also vary depending on the audience, for example, certain parts of the book of Exodus have more law than historical narrative. The types of genres that are found in the bible include law, for example, Deuteronomy, historical narrative, for example, Genesis, gospel, for example, Mathew, poetic, for example, psalms, prophecy, for example, Jeremiah and apocalyptic, for example, Revelations.
The book of Genesis in the Septuagint, Hebrew Bible and the New King James Version is categorized as a historical narrative. Genesis three narrates the origin of sin and the fall of mankind from paradise or the Garden of Eden as well as the origins of other aspects of life in all the three books. The narrations depict the origins of things and trace the histories of various things like the rainbow, murder, the separation and confusion of languages, betrayal, and promises. It also highlights the first instances of nature balancing the acts of men, the depiction of God’s justice and certain things that God would have continued to do with every righteous person e.g. he visited Abraham and shared a meal with him and later shared with him the plans to destroy certain cities (Hendel and S).
Redaction history of sin
Sin was first recorded in the Torah which was part of the larger Hebrew bible. Within Judaism, sin continued to be revealed when Cain killed Abel, then in the Rabbinic Judaism the Israelites continued to sin in the wilderness, God, therefore, gave the written Ten Commandments. These laws were given to Moses on Mt. Sinai; this was to supplement the oral tradition. Today the biggest Jewish religious movements are the Orthodox Judaism (Haredi Judaism and modern Orthodox Judaism). These movements still acknowledge the origin of sin as the one done by Adam and Eve and also acknowledge that sin continues to thrive among humans. In history, distinct magistrates made the Jewish law obligatory. These courts still exist today and allow freedom of Judaism.
Ancient Jewish Interpreted sin suggests that man has no sins. People are born in this creation holding the load of sin which was committed by their descendants. Sin literally means something that is going astray from the correct ways/ good ways/ straight ways or the arrow that missed its target. The stories in Genesis teach that man’s minds are evil from his youth. Therefore, all men are imperfect, and every person is inclined to do evil. Ancient Jewish interpretation of sin is the defiance of any of the 613 commandments (Sakenfeld and Doob).
Some of the sins are punishable by death where judgment is passed by the court, while for some death is from heaven, others with ashes, and some have no punishments at all. Sins done without understanding are not measured as sins. If the sinner is not aware that whatever he is doing is a sin, then this sin is ignored. Involuntary sins have seen little sins.
With the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem, people offered sacrifices as an atonement for sins. This was for only the unintentional sins. Sins committed without the consent of the sinner were not atoned for. The person must also sincerely repent before making the offering. The wicked people in this world pays for their sins through poverty and suffering which are sent by God. If a man fails to repent while in the world, the payment for their sins continues in the life after (hell). It is only after completing repentance that they can be united with the righteous. God gives a sinner a chance to repent, that means that he does not meet out His full punishment at once.
Theology and philosophy
Theology and Philosophy play a key role in the spirituality and wholeness of a human being. A man is not whole without God because of the deficiencies of human nature. We are all weak, and this is because of sin. Therefore, the absence of the topic of sin in lectures and teachings would do a great disservice to people in the world because it deprives them of an opportunity to be whole. It prevents the acknowledgment of sin as a real life experience and allows people to begin to decide what transgression by their own standards is.
An example is how until the 1960s, it was a transgression or offense for a person of color to use the same facilities e.g. toilets as a white person. The two were deemed unequal, and a white man was thought by society to be more superior to the black man. This inequality led to a lot of injustice and atrocities being committed against people of color legally. This highlights why it is important for sin to be taught to people of all races and religions because eventually, sin is a just sin.
In the Hebrew Bible there are not less than eight basic words: “a bad; rash, wickedness; asham, guilt; that, sin; Avon, iniquity; she gag, err; that, wander away; pasha, rebel. The use of these words leads to certain conclusions about sin in the Old Testament. They include; sin is depicted as a failure of obedience to God. Also, the disobedience to God involves both negative and positive ideologies. However, the emphasis is put on the positive charge of evil but not considering the negative exclusion of good. Sin has many forms and Israelites knew exactly the nature of the sins (Tov and Emanuel).
The New Testament uses twelve basic words to depict sin. They are Kakos, bad; poneros, evil; asebes, godless; enochos, guilt; hamartia, sin; Adikia, unrighteousness; anomos, lawlessness; parabates, transgression; agnoein, to be ignorant; plan, to go astray; parastomal, to fall away; and hypocrites, hypocrite. From the uses of the words, a few conclusions can be derived. They include: that sin has a vivid stand in which it is committed, that in the long run, all sin is a positive revolt against God and a disobedience of his laws, that evil takes different forms and that man ought to understand and be definite about them.
A man should not think that he is in any way close to the standard set by God. God demands total excellence, and despite man’s sight, sin is inevitable. Some men depend on human intelligence; others use their education achievements, others depend on fiscal accomplishment, others by social setting and some by the spiritual presentation. God does not recognize the man in any of the bases. He uses his standard to measure each man. The Divine judgment similar in all cases, man has fallen sinned.
The Greek New Testament has the word anomia, and basically reads, “sin is lawlessness.” This is the state defiance of law, the dismissal of law and refusal to surrender to law. Sin is opposition to God. Any action that is not in accordance with God’s law is a sin.
There is no reliable clarification of sin’s access into the world. But the Word of God leaves no room for uncertainty in this matter of sin’s origin. According to Scripture sin first made its manifestation in the world in the angelic creation. Lucifer, who became the Devil, appears to have been the leader of the mutiny so that the Devil and demons were not formed by God as such. They were angels who rose up in mutiny against God. We presume that they possessed personality and freedom of will and thereby had the capability of making right or wrong choices.
There is no dependable clarification of sin’s access into the world. The Word of God, however, does not allow uncertainty in the origin of sin. The scriptures state that sin first manifested in the world of the angelic creation. Lucifer, who was later known as the Devil, seems to have become the lord of the mutiny. This mutiny formed the Devil and demons who would rise up against God leading to their banishment from heaven. We presume that they were free to possess their personality and free to make right and wrong choices.
The Bible critics refer to all initial chapters in Genesis as Babylonian myth. However, no evidence is yet to be revealed about the origin of sin and how it made its way into the human life. The fall of humanity is well documented in the Genesis account as it takes place. Satan’s first move towards Eve was a confusing question cleverly designed to make her doubt the possibility that God was restraining her from obtaining the truth.
In the course of temptation, the serpent made it seem irrelevant that Eve had access to all the other trees and their fruits. He made it seem like all that did not matter if they did not eat from this one tree. He made it seem like it was unreasonable for them to be restricted from that one tree because God was selfish with the gift of Knowledge. He made Eve doubt by asking her questions that did not dispute that God gave instructions but those that questioned whether the instructions that were given were really from God. This gave him a good starting point because the instructions had been given to man, before the creation of his wife. She only received the information from a third party and so for all she knew; Adam could have misjudged God’s true intentions.
Satan misrepresented what God had said. It was true that eating the fruit would result in death as a result of knowing right from wrong, but the serpent convinced Eve that when one knows the truth between right and wrong, they do not die because they become like God. He knows the truth, but he seeks to prevent us from seeing it. One of the results of this kind of temptations is that we often perceive the laws of God as restricting our freedom instead of them as creating a safe environment for growth by acting as a protective barrier.
When the serpent suggested to Eve that the consequences of her disobedience were really not as bad as God makes it seem, it appeared to be an attractive option. Up to date, the devil still does the same thing. He convinces Christians that since God blesses people with material wealth, it is okay for them to have little vanities that they can sustain with their wealth or that since sex is accepted in the context of marriage, there should be no limitations on what is practiced between the two as long as they remain faithful to each other. The devil does not give big outrageous lies to Christians because they can dispute them with the word of God, so he makes the wages of sin which are death seem like common practices, and so people begin to say things like, “we will all die someday” and “you only live once” to justify their reckless abandon. They forget that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy.
The psalmist in chapter 51 says that he has sinned from the day he was in his mother’s womb; that he was a sinner even when he did not know what sin was. This is because sin entered the world through Adam and so through him, the entire race of human beings has original sin that is washed away during baptism. However, this does not entirely erase the rest of the punishment that was given unto man, for instance, people who are baptized still experience death (Tov and Emanuel). It also shows that we have the innate weakness to be inclined to sinful tendencies because of the original sin. However, despite these inclinations, sin shall not rule over one without the consent of that person. This is why the bible in Sirach encourages us to flee from sin as we would from a snake.
A righteous person falls seven times a day. This is the word as seen in proverbs. This is to say that although Jesus says that we are righteous as we have been saved by his Holy Blood, we cannot say that sin is not in us(I John 1:8) because we were born of the flesh. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Christian interpretations of sin
The Roman Catholic doctrine differentiates personal sin /actual sin and original sin. Personal sin is either mortal or venial which means that it is of serious nature. The sinner has a deliberate consent and is well aware of his sinful action. The sinner has rejected God. Venial sins are sins which are not deliberate, and the sinner has not rejected God. All sins have a dual nature of punishment. There are also sins that cry to heaven. Some of this sins are murder, sodomy, tyranny over the weak and deceiving the worker.
Most Protestants teach that, due to the initial sin (account in the garden of Eden of the fall of man due to Adam and Eve’s disobedience), humankind has lost all ability to acquire better reunion with God. The sin we are born with turns people away from the Lord and towards their own needs. Hence, people can be redeemed into an association with God but only by his way of saving the sinner through Jesus’ substitutionary atonement (Romans 5:6-8). Salvation is by faith only; by grace only; and is instigated and concluded by God alone through Jesus (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that sin is present at birth, like a disease, and has been passed on from age band to age band, starting with Adam and Eve, who Witnesses consider as real chronological characters.
The omission of sin in Genesis three would prevent a clear understanding of the concept of punishment which would put mankind at a loss. After the fall of man, suffering was also introduced, and God’s justice was experienced. Therefore, this passage being omitted would mean that that concept too would not be fully understood. After the commission of the sin, they realized that they were naked. They hid when God came to seek. When God asked them if they had eaten from the forbidden tree, they started a blame game; the man blamed his wife while the woman blamed the serpent. They never sought forgiveness.
Then God slaughtered an animal so that He could clothe them. This involved the pouring of blood which later becomes the standard practice of atoning for sins. Animals without blemish/ spotless and of a certain age were being offered to cover their sins for a period of one year. This sacrifice would be repeated the following year. This introduces to us the importance of the role played by the blood throughout the rest of the scripture. It is also seen in the Septuagint when the Saviour is born to save the world from their sinful nature and from being bound by law and increasing grace by shedding his blood on the cross, in atonement for the sin of mankind. His sacrifice was deemed enough to cover the sins of the past, present, and future.
Evans, Craig A., Joel N. Lohr and David L. Petersen. The book of Genesis: composition, reception, and interpretation. Brill, 2012.
Graves, Robert and Raphael Patai. Hebrew myths: The book of Genesis. RosettaBooks, 2014.
Grypeou, Emmanouela, and Helen Spurling. The Book of Genesis in Late Antiquity: Encounters between Jewish and Christian Exegesis. Brill, 2013.
Hendel and Ronald S. The book of genesis: A biography. Princeton University Press, 2013.
Sakenfeld and Katharine Doob. The New Interpreter’s dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 3. Abingdon Pr, 2008.
Tov and Emanuel. Textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Fortress Press, 2012.