2011 - Vol. 48.
of Adam and Eve, by Michael
“I will put enmity
God created the human race to enjoy
fellowship with him. His loving design for humankind was that men and women
would live in communion with their creator – an unbroken relationship characterized
by the innocence and intimacy of life in the garden of Eden, where God
walked “in the cool of the day” amid his creation (Genesis 3:8). Tragically
friendship with God was shattered and innocence was lost when Adam and
Eve betrayed this communion. In doing so, they distorted their nature,
which had been made in the very image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
you and the
and between your seed
and her seed;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise
- Genesis 3:15
By turning from God, Adam
and Eve lost authority over their own lives, they broke their intimacy
with each other, and they lost union with God. . . . Who can deliver us
from this incessant twisting of human relationships?
- Francis Martin,
The Fire in the Cloud
Separation from God, sickness, suffering,
and death were brought about by Adam and Eve’s sin, which also resulted
in their banishment from Eden (Genesis 3:23-24). The evil that we see in
the world around us – and in our own hearts – is not a part of God’s plan
for his creation. It stems from the fact that our first parents turned
away from God. The consequences were fatal: Every human being is now born
into a fallen and fragmented world, a world that has been infected by sin
and alienated from God. Our human nature was wounded and weakened by Adam
and Eve’s sin, so we too incline toward sin and evil.
What was the sin of our first parents?
“You may eat freely of every tree of the garden,” God told Adam when he
placed him as caretaker over Eden, “but of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam was to trust God
and obey his command not out of servile fear, but out of gratitude to the
One who had created him in love. “It is the headiest exercise of our liberty
to be free to obey,” noted Poor Clare abbess Mother Mary Francis. “Adam
was lord of the world when he was free to obey. When he surrendered that
glorious freedom in order to disobey, . . . well, which human heart does
not keep the record of his sorry loss?”
Misusing their freedom, Adam and
Eve disobeyed the sole prohibition God had placed on them and ate the mysterious
fruit. (Notice that Genesis does not tell of an apple, though that is what
we popularly visualize Eve reaching for!) By this act, they were asserting
themselves against the moral limits God had established for them as his
creatures and were, in a sense, usurping the place of God. As the Catechism
of the Catholic Church states:
Man, tempted by the devil,
let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom,
disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted on. All
subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his
In that sin man preferred
himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over
and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and
therefore against his own good. (CCC, 397–398)
In the libretto of composer Franz Joseph
Haydn’s famous oratorio, The Creation, we are offered another insight
into the nature of Adam and Eve’s sin. Meant to be forever happy, they
were “misled by false conceit” and exercised their free will against God
instead of toward him. Not content with what had been given them, they
desired what was forbidden: “Ye strive at more [than] granted is, and more
desire to know, [than] know ye should.”
What about the serpent? “Behind the
disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed
to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy [Wisdom 2:24]” (CCC,
391). Scripture and the church’s tradition recognize in the deceitful snake
a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil.” According to the teaching
of the church, Satan and the other demons were created by God to be good,
but of their own free will chose evil. In Eden, the serpent led Eve into
sin by insinuating that God was jealously withholding from her and
Adam something that would give them independence and power: “God knows
that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like
God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Recalling the deadly role played
in Genesis by the cunning serpent, we commonly depict Satan as a snake.
And in Revelation 20:2, we read of the binding of “the dragon, that ancient
serpent, who is the Devil and Satan.”
By their sin, Adam and Eve lost their
union with God as well as intimacy with one another. Ashamed of their disobedience
and nakedness, they feared God and hid themselves from him. Yet God sought
them out (Genesis 3:8-9). Because he loved this man and woman whom he had
created in his image to enjoy communion with him, he was not about to let
his plan for them – and for the entire human race – be foiled. Even as
Adam and Eve tried to disclaim their fault and shift blame from themselves
(3:12-13), God promised to reverse the consequences of sin and to triumph
over evil. Addressing the serpent, he said,
I will put enmity between
you and the woman,
This verse gives a mysterious hint of
redemption for humankind, foretelling a conflict in which evil would be
trampled underfoot by the offspring of the woman. The Fathers of the Church
later recognized in it a reference to Jesus and a veiled prophecy of the
victory of Christ over Satan. Genesis 3:15 is called the “Proto-Gospel,”
because it is the first announcement to Adam and Eve – and in them, to
the entire human race in need of redemption – of the Messiah-Redeemer.
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
In the New Testament, Luke’s genealogy
calls Jesus “the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38), and St. Paul
saw in Jesus a new Adam (see Romans 5:14, 17; 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22,
45). One of the first ways the church characterized the Virgin Mary, the
mother of the promised Savior, is as the new Eve. As St. Irenaeus noted,
As Eve was seduced by the
word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in
her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God
in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God,
so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became
the advocate of the virgin Eve. (Against Heresies)
The ease with which Adam and Eve succumbed
to Satan’s temptation in the garden stands in sharp contrast to the determination
with which Jesus would later reject Satan’s allurements in the wilderness
(Matthew 4:1-11). And Christ’s obedience to his Father would redeem humankind
from the effects of Adam’s disobedience: “For as by one man’s disobedience
many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous”
With Adam and Eve’s fall, the stage
was set for divine intervention into human history. We are reminded of
this irony in the Exsultet sung during the Easter vigil liturgy: “O happy
fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”
This first sin, devastating and abhorrent as it was, was the prelude to
the coming of the Savior to redeem humankind and renew our fellowship with
This promise of Genesis 3:15 would
be fulfilled through Jesus Christ, born of Mary. Yet humankind was to wait
outside Eden’s closed gates for many generations before Jesus would restore
our relationship with the Father and open the kingdom of heaven to us.
The Old Testament is a record of the unfolding of God’s promises as his
people yearned for that salvation to be made manifest in the coming of
Jeanne Kun is President
Association and a senior woman leader in the Word
of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Promises Fulfilled, The Word Among Us Press, Copyright
© 2006. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Eve must have longed
make bold and storm its gates
gain entry once again
though she knew such assault would be)
satisfied death’s claim
punishment for sin)
Eve and her descendants.
in that dark domain,
strode as conqueror there
release all death’s hostages,
paid the ransom
too, along with Eve’s)
your own blood.
now the cherub
forever sheathed the flaming sword
so long barred Eve’s way back to Paradise.
the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD
God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of
any tree of the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat
of the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3but God said, ‘You shall not
eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither
shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4But the serpent said to the woman,
“You will not die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will
be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the
woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to
the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took
of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.
they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool
of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of
the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9But the LORD God called to
the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10And he said, “I heard the
sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and
I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten
of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The
woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and
I ate.” 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have
done?” The woman said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I ate.” 14The LORD
God said to the serpent,
you have done this,
cursed are you above all cattle,
and above all wild animals;
your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between
you and the woman,
and between your seed
and her seed;
shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing
good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the
tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”—23therefore the LORD God sent
him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was
taken. 24He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he
placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard
the way to the tree of life.
1. What do
you think “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9) symbolized?
How would you interpret the expression “knowing good and evil” (3:5)?
2. Why might
have God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil (Genesis 2:17)?
the serpent’s tactics for leading Eve into disobedience (Genesis 3:1-5).
Note the progressive stages of the serpents’ conversation with her. What
does this indicate to you about Satan and the nature of evil?
4. What were
the immediate consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience? The long- term
5. What was
the purpose of God’s conversation with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:9-13) since
he already knew that they had disobeyed him? What does this conversation
suggest to you about Adam and Eve’s relationship with God? With one another
as husband and wife?
6. Why do you
think God expelled Adam and Eve from Eden? God’s words to the serpent seem
to give them a promise of hope (Genesis 3:14-15). What does this reveal
about God’s heart toward his creation after Adam and Eve had disobeyed
Living the Word
1. Why do you
think God desired to create humankind in his image and likeness (Genesis
1:26-27)? In what ways do you think human beings share God’s image? How
do you see the image and likeness of God reflected in others? In yourself?
2. What consequences
of sin – your own and that of others – do you recognize in your life? In
society at large?
3. Have you
ever attempted to justify your sins? What excuses do you make? How can
you take personal responsibility for your failings and avoid placing blame
for your own sins elsewhere?
4. Adam and
Eve hid from God after they sinned. Are there any ways in which you are
hiding from God? If so, why?
5. In what
ways have you personally encountered evil and the deceptions of Satan?
How do you resist and combat temptations to sin? What can you do to protect
yourself against attacks of Satan and the influence of evil?
Adam and Eve’s existence in Eden before they were estranged from God. What
aspects of this state appeal to you the most? How does this reflect your
image of spending eternity with God?