Original Sin Definition — What Really Happened in Eden
Original sin. Is an apple the cause of all of humanity’s woes? Here’s the meaning of this mythical event, and its implication for humankind today.
Original sin is a term found nowhere in the Bible. However, in religious doctrine, it is associated with the taking and eating of the apple in the Garden of Eden. From that point onward, the notion of original sin takes on multiple shades of understanding. If you’re interested, read this resume of some interpretations. We will not show the pros and cons of such surmisings. Rather, The Explanation will master Biblical Hebrew, and you’ll learn what it teaches us.
Let’s quickly paint the scene. God creates, marries, and places the man and woman in the Garden of Eden. He spent time with them on the Seventh Day. He instructed both of them to dress and keep the Garden of Eden. God instructed them that all the trees were good for food, but they should NOT eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The figurative meaning of the Biblical Hebrew and these scenes is they were to worship God and follow the instructions they’d received. Please go to the links if you’ve not read this basic information.
God then leaves them to get on with their lives, to multiply, to satisfy their sexual needs, and procreate. They are to dominate their environment, eat, build, and enjoy the Garden. God gave them the best of the best; the man and the woman were naked, wise, and not ashamed, that is, without confusion. They had ALL the instruction they needed to live happily ever after in the Garden of Eden.
Then, along comes this charming talking animal. It gives them a spiel about the forbidden tree. Its arguments convince the woman to take a closer look. And,
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took (H3947) of the fruit thereof, (H6529) and did eat (H398), and gave (H5414) also to her husband with her; and he did eat (H398).
She exercised her FREE WILL. The woman observed with her eyes and reasoned with her mind. She liked the promotional pitch of the prize of additional wisdom. Who doesn’t want to be in on the latest tendencies, news, and knowledge? She did, and she reached out and plucked a fruit. She made a PERSONAL DECISION, granted, coerced by the Serpent, but, she could’ve REFUSED its arguments and NOT taken the fruit. Her INDEPENDENT choice comes into full evidence in this episode.
We have already discussed WHY God allows the Serpent in the Garden, why God tests human beings. In short, He wants to know where humans stand in regards to their Creator. God was absent during this scene. Earlier, He had given the man and woman the necessary instruction. God, in no way, was lax. The woman had the pros and cons and made up her own mind as to her course of action.
I’m emphasizing this point of FREE WILL or FREE CHOICE, in the event that some confound it or exclude it from the so-called original sin. It is vital understanding. Why? It is the SECOND characteristic of how humans function. The Explanation elaborated on these seven steps in the book Origin of Humankind. They consist of: dual human nature (1) + free will (2) = behavior (3). The need for ethics (4), to regulate behavior, and justice (5) to uphold ethical behavior. The ability for an individual to turn him/herself around (6) and finally, forgiveness (7) the cement of society. All these steps together comprise love or how to love God and your neighbor.
Genesis 3 enacts the entirety of this 7 step process of how humans function as well as how God works with them. First, God expounded His ethics to the man and woman. Then the Serpent expounded its ethics. The woman weighs both and FREELY DECIDES, which to choose. The result is her BEHAVIOR, which is to reach out, pluck, and eat a fruit from the forbidden tree.
She took of the fruit
Reading she took the fruit (H6529) and thinking in terms of an apple is what practically 100% of Bible readers do. Many see in this act the doctrine of original sin. Let’s correct that right now by looking at the Biblical Hebrew and seeing what is revealed here. Remember, the fourth key to master the original language of the Bible is Biblical Hebrew words have literal (fruit) and FIGURATIVE meanings. Here’s Strong’s Concordance for fruit.
פְּרִי pᵉrîy per-ee’; from H6509 (פָּרָה); fruit (literally or figuratively):
KJV — bough, (first-)fruit(-ful), reward.
We find the same word fruit translated reward In Psalms 58:11, “So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward (H6529) for the righteous: verily he is a God that judges in the earth.” Of course, a reward can take all sorts of shapes and sizes. The following passage includes the figurative usage of this Biblical Hebrew word.
30 They would none of my (wisdom personified, see Further Study below) counsel: they despised all my reproof.
31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit (H6529) of their own way, and be filled with their own devices (H4156).
Please stop and meditate on this. Why? Because it is essential to comprehension. The concept of original sin is not the right focus; it hides the profound meaning of the Plan of God. The woman ATE of the FRUIT of HER OWN WAY. She did HER THING as we’d say today. Her THING means her FREE WILL CHOICE.
The importance of this episode is not the original sin. It is the KNOWLEDGE of GOOD, and EVIL is now transformed into the BEHAVIOR of GOOD and EVIL. The woman inaugurated human nature, that DUAL NATURE that characterizes ALL human beings — our BEHAVIOR of doing BOTH, GOOD and EVIL, by our own FREE CHOICE. You get the rewards of your own doings.
As the proverb goes, you reap what you sow. Proverbs 1:30 says you would none of my counsel. That’s precisely the woman’s attitude toward God’s interdiction to eat from the wrong tree. She exercised her free choice option. Yes, she took something that she should NOT have, and that is theft. Yes, she committed the first sin, and that is a turning point. BUT that is not the critical takeaway; this is the point of SWITCHING OF TRACKS. The woman INITIALIZES doing what she wants, regardless of what God has instructed; this is where HUMAN NATURE, humans choosing their own way, clicks in. For the first time, we have human nature with its capacity to do BOTH GOOD and EVIL.
In Pro. 1:31, we again find a double-whammy, indicating certitude, their own way, and their own devices; this is the new track. Once, on this new path, always in this new direction of making one’s own independent decisions. This equation is human nature + free will = human behavior; this is what the woman and the man inaugurated. Look at the meaning of devices in this verse. In English, it could mean anything; the Hebrew is more precise.
מוֹעֵצָה môwʻêtsâh mo-ay-tsaw’; from H3289 (יָעַץ); a purpose:
KJV — counsel, device.
יָעַץ yâʻats yaw-ats’; a primitive root; to advise; reflexively, to deliberate or resolve:
KJV — advertise, take advise, advise (well), consult, (give, take) counsel(-lor), determine, devise, guide, purpose.
She, and immediately after that, the man, together ACTIVATE HUMAN NATURE. The ability for humans to DECIDE for themselves. They determine by themselves; they devise by themselves, they give and take counsel by themselves. Human beings become autonomous and self-advisors of the BEST, BEST behavior, and the WORST, WORST behavior; this is the sakal-wisdom Eve claimed when she observed the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; it’s human wisdom.
You realize what this means. The man and the woman are NOT considering God, their Creator’s input anymore. They are NOT taking into account His ethics. Humankind’s track, our nature runs perpendicular to God, away from His ethics. The two tracks do not meet and do not touch. Here are a few more verses revealing the figurative meaning of the fruit that Adam and Eve ate, and we’ve been eating ever since.
A man shall eat H398 good by the fruit (H6529) of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.
So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward (H6529) for the righteous: verily he is a God that judges in the earth.
He waters the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit (H6529) of your (God’s) works.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit (H6529) thereof.
The last passage is more relevant today than ever. The death and life of the tongue and, let me add, the keyboard or pen in our hand, when we choose our own words to write to one another or paste to social media. Think about how this relates to freedom of speech. We can say anything we please, but SHOULD we say anything we please? Do an audit. Are humans doing it THEIR way or GOD’s way? The two books Audit of the Universe and Audit of Humankind are a checklist of the state of our world, of doing OUR OWN DEVICES. We’re reaping what we’re sowing.
Just today, I heard about Dark Waters, which is the film version of an investigation of a significant firm that dumped toxic water into a river for decades, causing multiple health issues. All because we wanted Teflon coated frying pans. Teflon contains PFOA, a cancerogenic chemical. Famous and used since 1945, Teflon appeared to be a benefit, but sooner or later, a sakal-human wise decision bites back. You decide whether our national and international glass of peace and prosperity is filling with more rewards or emptying with more penalties. Is humanity, including science, philosophy, and religion, doing its own thing as Adam and Eve did?
Understanding that this episode in Genesis goes far beyond original sin helps us deepen the meaning of New Testament theology. Consider Colossians 3:9–10 in this light, “Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds; (9) And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him (God) that created him: (10).” In Genesis, Adam and Eve put OFF the new man as God created them. They put on the OLD man, which THEY CREATED IN THEIR OWN IMAGE with the influence of the Serpent. Paul is telling those in the Church in Colossae to RETURN to the figurative pristine nakedness that characterized the man and the woman when God created them.
What happened in the Garden of Eden?
How humankind functions switched from God’s track to its own track. Keep in mind the how humans function equation:
God’s nature (when the man and woman were naked, wise and not confused) + free will = righteous behavior.
This switched to:
Human nature (when the man and woman ate the fruit) + free will = disobedient behavior.
The man and the woman made their own free will decisions to eat of the forbidden fruit. Their observations, conclusions, and actions led to bad behavior. It was entirely contrary to the ethics God explained to them. Eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil means partaking of sakal-wisdom. Wisdom issuing from one’s own human mind based on Observation in all fields of study, including Philosophy, Science, and Religion. It amounts to searching, studying, and drawing conclusions based on human reasoning. Humanity is exercising the plasticity of the full spectrum of the mind with its dual nature, from extreme good to extreme bad coupled with free choice to decide on its behavior. We are going to see where these first three of the seven stages of how humans function lead the man and the woman, and subsequently, you and me.
This article is an excerpt from chapter 2.2 of the book Agony of Humankind.
Here’s the entire context around, eat of the fruit of their own way. Significantly, it’s at the beginning of Proverbs, the book about wisdom. It opens with a caution about WISDOM and what its foundation is, the fear (respect) of God in verse 29. Humankind has latched on to its OWN shakal-wisdom to the detriment of God’s chacham-wisdom. These are tough words for those who continue to promote human solutions to today’s problems. Harsh pronouncements for those who think times are great and getting better. Can problems be definitively solved with human solutions? Is sakal-wisdom the answer? This is a wake-up call.
24 Because I (God and His chacham wisdom) have called, and you refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;
25 But you have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
27 When your fear comes as desolation, and your destruction comes as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish comes upon you.
28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:
29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:
30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit (H6529) of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
33 But whoso hearkens unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.
There was an original sin, in the sense that there was the first sin. That first sin is imputed to Adam as Romans 5:12 states. Verse 14 shows that each of us has sinned differently than Adam. We inherit neither sin nor a sinful nature from Adam and Eve. What has happened is that we symbolically eat from the same Tree as them, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil outside the Garden of Eden. They went out of the Garden, and their descendants went out of Eden into the Land of Nod.
We shall be discussing the move from God’s world to the present world. Our lot, for now, is to live IN this world with human nature, free choice, and the resultant behavior. God encourages us with a solution in the ending verses of this context. God never leaves us without real hope, real promises, and real solutions. The Explanation will give you these details in this book, Agony of Humankind, in the upcoming chapters.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
13 For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.
A wise man once said, Teach you me, what I do not know.
Let’s get started with The Explanation.
- Inventory of the Universe
- Audit of the Universe
- Audit of Humankind
- Origin of the Universe (Commentary on Genesis 1)
- Origin of Humankind (Commentary on Genesis 1:26–2:7)
- Origin of Woman (Commentary on Genesis 2:8–25)
- Agony of Humankind (Commentary on Genesis 3)
You can read all the books of The Explanation series online. Buy the books at your favorite store. Sam blogs weekly at TheExplanation.com The Explanation masters Biblical Hebrew to help you unlock more in-depth Bible meaning. Free tools to read and study the Bible online.