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Original Sin. The Catholic Great Myth. Definition and Meaning in the
Orthodox Christianity teaches that all human beings are born in the state of sin resulting from the fall of man. In the bible, the Biblical basis for this is the Genesis' tale of Adam and Eve and Paul's teaching that "through one man (Adam) sin entered the world" (Romans 5:12). This implied that because of the trespass of one many died, death was the ultimate penalty. This concept was developed by the early Greek fathers of the Church but was more precisely pronounced by later Latin writers culminating with Augustine.
Those familiar with the biblical tale know that supposedly God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except that of the Tree of Knowledge. Now let us fully understand these details as this story progresses. Two people, Adam and Eve, man and woman, are in a garden, and told by God that they could eat of any tree except from the Tree of Knowledge. By using the term "eat" the reader assumes the garden has food to sustain human life. Eating from trees gives the assumption of fruit and or vegetation. This was food to sustain the life of the two people.
But also in the garden were two other trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. Of this last tree God forbade them to eat of the fruit for surely they would die. The reader learns that this tree possesses knowledge of good and evil. The obvious question, usually never asked, is what sort of tree was it. Obviously the tree does not exist today; knowledge is gained from experience and education. Here is the first real indication that the story is mythical: a tree that somehow magically gives knowledge of good and evil if its produce is eaten, and if it is eaten one will die. The logical deduction is that the produce is poisonous.
The next event in this story gives more credence that it is a myth. The
woman Eve is alone and a serpent talks with her; yes, people talk to
creatures and animals today, but not actually conduct conversations with
them. Seeing the woman, the serpent asked her, "God said you shall not eat
of every tree in the garden?" The woman answered, "We may eat fruit from
any tree in the garden, but not of the tree in the midst. For God said you
shall not eat of the tree, or touch it, lest you shall die." The serpent
replied telling her, "You surely will not die. For God knows the day you
eat of it, you will be as gods, knowing good and evil." The woman then
looked at the fruit, seeing it was good, did eat of it, and gave some to
her husband, also with her, and he ate also.
As the reader quickly realizes there was no death, the people did not die, but there was a transformation. Before this incident the couple is described as being in the garden, being naked and not ashamed, and they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:25); afterwards they knew they were naked and hid. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked (3:7). The questions to be asked here are what sort of a transformation occurred and what caused it.
Evidently it was one of intelligence and independence as shall be
described later. Intelligence is indicated by their becoming aware of
their nakedness; before they were not aware of this. Many have describe
Adam and Eve prior to eating the forbidden fruit as innocence as little
children. After eating the fruit they lost their innocence, the death of
innocence. This was the transformation, the gaining of awareness or
To an objective thinker, this does not seem to make sense; how could the acquisition of knowledge ever be considered wrong. Objective reasoning would declare such acquisition is just part of growing up, becoming an adult. Such reasoning would also question the cause of the acquired awareness; eating of fruit? This does not seem likely. Many small children do not innocently run naked and then suddenly think it is wrong because of something they ate. No, they are told and taught nakedness is wrong at certain times in certain places. Could the consumption of fruit impart such knowledge? It would seem impossible unless it was a special or magical fruit. Here is another indication that this story is mythical. Ordinary food does not impart knowledge, but the special or magical can. Or, another possibility, the eating of the eating of the fruit and nakedness symbolized something else.
This something else is soon indicated. After becoming aware of their nakedness they covered themselves with fig leaves which they sewed together. Then Adam heard God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. The man and woman hid among the trees. But God was looking for them, and called, "Where are you?"
The man answered, "When I heard you in the garden, I was afraid, I was naked so I hid myself"
God replied, "Who told you that you were naked? What have you done? Have you eaten of the tree that I told you that you should not eat of?"
Now let us question what is occurring. By all appearance one is
witnessing a conversation between God and man. In human terms the
conversation seems reasonable. However, God is not human. This is a
critical factor that will definitely prove this to be a mythical story. In
the above incidence God entered the garden, looking for the two people but
cannot find them as indicated by his question "Where are you."
This in itself should at lest raise warning signs for religious people. Most define, in human terms, God as always being the same; therefore, if God is currently omniscience then he was omniscience when he created the world and everything contained in it including Adam and Eve. Omniscience is generally defined as knowing everything infinitively, all-knowing. Therefore, since God was all-knowing he would have known where the man and woman were in the garden and hiding from him.
His omniscience also would have told him that they knew that they were naked as a result of eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. As one begins to see this session of questions and answers is nonsensical from God's point of view, except for one thing, it emphasizes man's quilt, which for Christians is the desired effect. However, if the Bible is the word of God, or even the inspired word, it would not make much sense for God to be saying that he was asking questions two which he already knew the answers. As the incidence precedes the objective reader begins to see that it is not written from God's viewpoint at all, another indication of the myth.
Then the man answered God saying, 'the woman that you gave me to be with me, she gave it to me, and I did eat."
Then God asked the woman, "What is this that you have done?"
She answered, "The serpent beguiled me and I did eat."
God then chastised the serpent, "Because you have done this you are cursed above all cattle; and above every beast of the field; and on your belly you shall go, and eat dust all the days of your life."
Once again the story or myth does not stand up. Supposedly God created everything in the world or universe-the six days of creation. Man, we are told, is the only one that he gave free will to. So how could a serpent tempt the man and woman without God's awareness, he is omniscience, and permission? This is to say the creator and ruler of the world cannot control a serpent, pretty mythical. Even when the serpent was the Devil in disguise, why curse the serpent?
The answer becomes obvious when one reflects on what God supposedly said, "Because you have done this you are cursed above all cattle; and above every beast of the field…" This set the anti-nature pattern found in both Judaism and Christianity. This one phrase: "…you are cursed above all cattle; and above every beast of the field." Above all, meaning the cattle and beasts of the field are cursed too, the serpent is the most cursed. And, as will be seen, man will be cursed too.
God's following instructions to the man and woman indicates this. To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and you will desire you husband who will rule over you."
Then to the man God said, "Because you listened to you wife and ate of the tree which I commanded you not to eat of cursed is the ground because of you; in sorrow you shall eat all of your life. Thorns and thistles shall the ground produce and you will eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat your bread, till you return to the ground; for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and dust you will return."
These passages leave no doubt that God is angered, his condemnation of the man and woman makes this evident. The questions this raises will be discussed later. But, first, is the punishment believable. Most of it is; man lives off of the land, before the development of agriculture man just ate what the land itself produce in the hunting and scavenging stages of human development. Man certainly dies, but whether death is a punishment or a natural process of life is debatable.
However giving woman more sorrow during conception or childbirth is questionable. It is known that most female animals experience labor pains when giving birth. This raises the following obvious questions was the birth process to be free of labor before the man and woman ate of the tree; if so, how? This would require a completely different physiology of the female body than currently known. Did this offense against God cause such a physiological change in woman? If this increased sorrow was a punishment then why do other female animals experience it too? If to bring about such sorrow God produced this physiological change in woman did he specially produced it in other female animals too? Simply, if such sorrow is a punishment for woman then why do other animal experience it too when they were not participants in the offense?
This within itself brings up another question. If death of man is a punishment for the offense then why do all animals experience death? Part of the answer is given when God said, "Behold man has become one of us, to know good and evil; and now, that he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever."
Then God drove man from the garden of Eden and placed Cherubims and a flaming sword turning every which way to keep away from the tree of life. It is obvious, according to the story, that God intended no creature, man or animal, to have immortality after the offense. Whether immortality was to be possessed or gained prior to the offense is unclear. Obviously the man and woman thought they possessed it for God warned them if they ate of the Tree of Knowledge they would die. Another clue for assuming that they thought they would live forever is that after God's threatening of death they would have eaten of the Tree of Life first. Another alternative is that if the man and woman did not possess immortality, and if they had obeyed, God would have let then eat of the Tree of Life and become immortal.
For many objective readers this description of driving the man and woman from Eden into the world brings up a very unsettling point for God is said to have created the world, which world? This question arises because the world of Eden and the world into which they were driven seem vastly different. The former is a place of comfort while the other is a place of toil. Did God create two worlds or is Eden some imaginary part of the real world? There is cause for wonder because God said it is not good that man should live alone; I will make him a help mate. So out of the ground God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: and what he called them was their name. Adam named the cattle, the fowl of the air. And every beast of the field; but for him no help mate was found (Genesis 2:18-20). Therefore this would mean when Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden the animals were too.
Such inconsistencies designate the mythology of the story. If people are going to live by such stories, as millions do, one would think there should be desire some semi-factual or factual basis on which the stories are based. If God created one world, just Eden, the world of comfort, then after the offense did he create the world of toil? If the world of toil existed prior to the offense, then this indicates that God already knew that it was necessary. Again this begs the question of God's omniscience. Did God know that Adam would disobey him before Adam committed the offense? The answer would seem to be yes he did.
If this be the case then the only objective conclusion would be this entire story is a myth written from a human point of view. It main objective is to show how man offended god and how God punished him. The writer, presumably Moses, did not know or forgot that God was omniscience. If at the time of Moses God was not believed to be omniscience then the story would be at least plausible; however, when the omniscience of God was firmly established the story should have taken on a different meaning of Moses' description of man's first offense against God. This would give sense to the story or myth.
Not all Christian religious sects and religions hold this orthodox belief concerning the fall of man, or Adam. The early Gnostic Christians, for example, because of their own belief system reversed the roles of God and the serpent. According to them God, the orthodox Christian God, was the Demiurge as well as the Christian Devil who had stolen creative power from his mother, the Wisdom of God or Sophia, to create the physical world and everything within; and in so doing he entrapped the Spirit within matter and flesh. To the Gnostics the Serpent in the garden was their hero, not the villain, because he by giving knowledge to Eve helped her and Adam to free themselves from the sterile existence which the Demiurge held them in. For the Gnostics as well as others human life began after their escape from Eden.
One finds a similar belief held within Mormonism. The fall was necessary within the Divine plan for the population of the earth and the exaltation of the children of God. This was played out in what seemed to be contradictory commandments: not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and to multiply. The eating of the fruit is viewed as a 'transgression," and not a sin for it resulted in furthering the rest of the Divine purpose. The Mormons seem to separate the transgression or sin between Adam and Eve. Adam saw his wife first eat, although not having eaten himself he was guiltless, but he realized if he did not also eat he would not be able to fulfill God's plan and be left alone in the garden without he, so he also ate.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches differ in their interpretation of the Fall by a belief based on a passage in Exodus stating man does not inherit the sins of the father. It is taught that even though humankind is born with conscience and a tendency to do good there also exist a tendency toward evil because of the fallen condition of the world. This is based upon the assumption of the functioning of a "deliberative" will as opposed to the "natural" will as created by God. It is believed that according to Paul's Roman gospel man is still able to act according to his conscience. The act or sin caused from the deliberate will is seen as a prototype of Adam's sin which is viewed not as a direct disobedience of God but rather a rearrangement of man's values of desiring the spiritual to desiring physical driving by lust as symbolized by the tree as being "good for food" to something "to be desired."
One only finds in Pelagianism that one initially finds a direct contradiction to the orthodox Christian teaching on original sin, or the fall of man, which became dogma from the efforts of Saint Augustine. As will be seen Pelagius and Augustine became enemies over this argument. Pelagius directly differ with Augustine by his Stoic view of the nature of man, man's free will and innate goodness. He thus conferred that the Sin of Adam had not permanently corrupted man's nature but temporarily modified it. This modification, tendency toward sin, was keen to the Pelagian teaching which held that man through his free will and good works could gain eternal salvation. Pelagius' philosophy was one of self-reliance. He deemed man could be helped by the Church but was independent of it. Writing in homo libero arbitrio emancipatus a deo: "man, created free, is with his whole sphere independent of God and the Church, the Living Body of Christ-though Christ, Church, and sacraments mightily teach and help"
Augustine could not and would not accept this Pelagian teaching that directly opposed his concept of original sin which inherited from Adam by every human being except Christ and the Virgin Mary as would eventually become dogma. To Augustine Adam's sin had separated mankind from God, the only unification of man back to God was through sanctifying grace merited from the death and resurrection of Christ administered by the Church through baptism and other sacraments. Augustine emphatically declared it impossible for man to receive eternal salvation any other way. His teaching became Church dogma although the Church did not accept Augustine's teaching that unbaptized infants go to hell. Possibly this lead to the Catholic Church's adoption of the concept of Limbo, a place where unbaptized infants and other persons free of sin go after death, in which they enjoy an eternal life of perfect happiness but never see the face of God or the Beatific vision. The Church would not give up the punishment of original sin and grant any soul free passage into heaven without baptism.
Even the Unification Church adopted the stigma of original sin; they like others see it as a sin of sexual nature. Adam and Eve, it is believed, were to be blessedly married in the Garden of Eden after having grown to spiritual maturity. Eve was tempted by the Serpent with sexual knowledge which led to her and Adam engaging in sex prematurely. Therefore, they were introduced to sex by Satan and not God. Their fall from unity with God was of their own choice and not preordained by God. Persons are believed to be taken out of sinful humanity and restored to God's sinless lineage through the Church's Blessing Ceremony. The ceremony usually occurs during weddings and may be administered to engaged couples as well as non-Church members. It is believed any children, called Blessed Children, born of these unions do not suffer the consequences of original sin.
There are other interpretations of the Fall which are equally based upon human or personal opinion. They nevertheless do not take away the mythology of the story but as shall be seen reinforce it. One example is the Felix cupla (the happy fault) which conveys the concept of the necessity of the fall for humankind to benefit from God's grace. This encompasses the belief that had humankind not been give the capacity to do evil then our choice to serve God or not through free will would not be meaningful.
Another example is the Entheogen theory presented by the writer/philosopher Terrence McKenna. This theory deals with psychotropic plants and fungus. It is theorized such plants played an important role in man's spiritual and intellectual evolution. Such is seen from the interpretations of the word entheogen. It is derived from the Greek, entheos, and genesthai. The adjective entheos translates into English as "full of god, inspired, or possessed," and is the root of the English word "enthusiasm." Genesthai means "to come into being." Thus, an entheogen is a substance when taken causes a person to be inspired or experience feelings of inspiration frequently of a religious or spiritual nature. One can easily see McKenna's reasoning for associating with the forbidden fruit when remembering God's words, "Now man has become like one of us."
A further example is the Kundalini Yoga theory presented by agnostics, Yogic practitioners and anthropologists. Such a theory speculates upon the time when the reproductive process was unknown to human beings. One meets the similar concept in the study of ancient witchcraft, a time when women thought they impregnated themselves (see The Goddess). In the Kundalini Yoga theory it is thought the brother or some near male relative impregnated the woman. Pregnancy was not understood until women comprehended their menstruation cycle. Following this paternity could be determined. Males wishing to know exact paternity wished only to mate with or marry virgins.
The proceeding examples shall be mentioned but this last one seems most clearly to demonstrate the Adam and Eve myth. According to anthropological evidence the human reproductive process was not immediately known. It had to be learned like everything else. As mentioned women at first thought they impregnated themselves, then the brother or a close male relative. More than likely, this knowledge came from watching animal mating, and possibly human-animal mating. As seen from this the mating of Adam and Eve was not spontaneous and they immediately knew they had begotten Cain and Abel. Even the Bible says Adam tried finding a helpmate among the created animals, an indication that he attempted mating with them, and when finding none God gave him Eve. However stated, suspicion or fact, Cain is thought to have mated with Eve, his sister, or both. By either theory the human race began through some incestuous relationships.
This Kundalini Yoga theory seems to best fit the Adam and Eve myth than other explanation because it is aligned closer to perceived natural occurrences. Sex is interpreted to have been the forbidden fruit by many although not accepted as orthodox. Even the Felix cupla theory is made to fit the original sin belief, man sinned so he could gained the benefit of God's grace. Every concept centered around the Adam and Eve myth; a myth which only belief makes reality.
This is the reality of the myth, the belief in it. The belief that the first man sinned against God, the sin was inherited, and now all humankind share it. The belief persists despite objective explanations for its nonexistence. Much of humanity clings to its belief of its disobedience to God just as it clings to its false security in God. This belief is constantly strengthened by being continually taught. Men believe they are sinners bearing sinners after them. Belief perpetuates itself never questioning reality. A.G.H.
Brown, Peter. Augustine of Hippo: A Biography.
Berkeley. University of California Press. 2000
fall of man. <http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%203:1-19;2:16,17;%20Job%2031:33;%20Ecclesiastes%207:29;%20Isaiah%2043:27;&version=9;>
St. Augustine of Hippo. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Augustine_of_Hippo>