Genesis 2-3: Adam and Original Sin



I wrote a post a while back on Adam and the significance of his character in biblical history. In this post, I want to go a little bit deeper into who Adam is. I was reading a book a while back entitled Four Views on the Historical Adam. To some, a book like this may be crazy. Many may see Adam as a necessary being for the Bible to function properly as a whole. However, I would make the claim otherwise. One of the contributors to this book, Denis Lamoureux, argued for a non-historical Adam. In the book, he makes a very profound statement:


“Adam [and Eve] never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.”


Now, I am unwilling to make this much of a profound statement. Why? Because I am unsure if I agree with the first part of it. Now, let me phrase it how I would:


“Adam [and Eve] may have never existed, but regardless of whether they did or not, this has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.”


Now, do I think Adam existed? I would argue that the question is completely irrelevant. It’s not a question I’m even willing to answer. The reason why is because the truth of Adam’s function does not hinge on his historicity.


In my last post on Genesis 1, I wrote about the purpose of the creation story was not to give an account of material origins, but rather an account of functional origins. Carry that over into Genesis 2. Now, the focus in this chapter is on humanity. God creates man for the purpose of giving him a function. The Hebrew word, “man”, literally means “Adam.” (This just happens to be a strange coincidence that the Hebrew word for “man” is also an english name.) I would propose that Adam is simply a representation of mankind as a whole. The function of Genesis 2 is to give man a purpose on this earth. God created us to thrive on this earth in perfect harmony with his creation, but, as Genesis 3 points out, we messed up and sinned against God. The focus is not a woman eating from a tree because a snake told her to. The focus is on the fact that humankind is sinful and we disobeyed God.


Now, I’m often asked how we can reconcile original sin and the human soul with evolutionary history. Again, I don’t feel it’s worth answering. The reason why is because adding evolutionary history into the mix literally does nothing to our understanding of the emergence of the human soul or original sin. Evolution is telling a story. It’s telling a material story of how we arrived here. The narrative in Genesis 2-3 is simply telling us that man is created in the image of God, and that we fell. The difference here is that one is a scientific truth, while the other remains a theological one. Evolutionary history cannot answer questions about God’s image being in human beings. Nor can it tell us about how human beings fell away from God. That is left up to a whole different set of issues.


So, in a nutshell, what is Genesis 2-3 trying to tell us? God created man in His image. He gave mankind a set of commands to follow and, as long as man stayed within those commands, they could live in His creation free from the effects of sin. Man sinned against God by breaking these commands and turning our back on Him, we fell away from His grace, and now we are forced to live in a world infected with sin. The purpose of Genesis 2-3 is actually very simple. It is just overcomplicated if you take a scientific approach to it.


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