The Biblical Story of Human Creation and the Fall

In the second chapter of the Book of Genesis, God creates an Earthly paradise called the Garden of Eden (2:8). 

The location of this garden has produced much speculation and no one actually knows where it was located or if it existed. Assuming that Eden existed, locations in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Armenia have been suggested as candidates based on the topographical information provided in Genesis 2:13-14 mentioning Eden being on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The story of Eden presents the garden as a place of beauty and abundance free of disease and death.

Two Creation Stories

Genesis speaks of God creating humanity in two separate passages. The first is found in chapter 1 thought to have been written during the sixth century BCE by a Jewish priestly writer referred to as “P”. According to this verse, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (1:27). Both sexes are formed at the same time on the sixth day of creation (1:31). 

God made human beings in his image. Although many debate what this means, it does suggest Adam and Eve in some way share traits with their Creator. God then gave human beings dominion over creation, which included “over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (1:26) and then instructed them to be fruitful and multiple in order to replenish the Earth (1:28).

The second creation account is found in chapter 2 of Genesis and is considered the oldest source in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). This account is often referred to simply as “J” (for Jahwist). It provides much more detail than the first account and describes God in human terms.

First, God formed “man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (2:7). God then created Eden (2:8) with trees that were “pleasing to the eye and good for food” (2:9). He placed in the middle of the garden the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Man is then placed in Eden and instructed to take care of it. God tells Adam that he can eat from any tree except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To do the latter would lead to death (2:17). God realized that Adam is lonely. There was no other created animal like him and God decided to create a woman. Adam was put to sleep and from his rib a woman is then created (2:22).

Adam exclaimed in delight at the woman’s creation: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (2:23). The woman is only mentioned as Eve later in the story (3:20) after she eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Chapter three uses diverse images to describe God. God is described as having human features such as arms, eyes, hands, and a beard. He is also described as “walking in the garden” (3:8).

Adam and Eve Disobey God

A central theme in Genesis is that Adam and Eve were created without sin. They were innocent and their relationship with God was close and unique, which made them unlike the other animals God created.

Adam and Eve were living and working together in Eden but this was interrupted by a serpent introduced in the third chapter: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (3:1). The serpent is depicted as unique and unlike the other animals. It had the ability to strategize, use speech, and exercise rational thought. Genesis does not say that the serpent is Satan. But much later in the Book of Revelation (the final book of the Bible completed in the 90s CE), Satan is referred to as “that ancient snake, who is the devil” (20:2).

The serpent spoke to Eve and implied that God was withholding from her something valuable that she and Adam could receive if they ate from the tree of good and evil. Eve was tempted and then ate from the tree. She then gave its fruit to Adam,

“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 of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (3:6).

Immediately Adam and Eve realized that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves to cover themselves. God soon walked into the garden and they fearfully hid among the trees (3:8). God called for them and they revealed themselves. God noticed that they were covered up and questioned why they had done so. Adam admitted that he ate from the tree God had forbidden but then blamed it on Eve, “The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”” (3:13). But Eve blamed the serpent who had tricked her into eating from the tree.

God’s anger was kindled and his punishment was both swift and severe. He condemned the serpent to crawl and eat dust for the rest of its life. Eve would suffer excruciating pain in childbirth and be ruled by her husband, and Adam would work on land that was cursed (3:14-19). God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden and placed angelic creatures (called cherubim) and a flaming sword to prevent anyone from entering it.

The “Fall”

This story of Adam and Eve’s disobedience and banishment from Eden is known as the Fall. It explains humanity’s alienation from God and the emergence of evil, suffering, and death in what is God’s good creation. Death is vividly depicted in God cursing Adam: “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (3:19).

This story also underpins the doctrine of Original Sin, the Christian belief that each human being is born into sin and therefore spiritually alienated from God (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1). All human beings are sinners by nature and choice (Romans 3:23), and only Jesus Christ is the one who can save them from God’s wrath. Christ is viewed as the “Second Adam.” The first Adam sinned and caused the Fall. But the second Adam came to die and redeem humanity. 

References

Schneider, Tammi. et al. 2018. The Bible Book. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited. p. 26-35. 

Leeming, David. 2010. Creation Myths of the World [2 volumes]: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 303.

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