THE ORIGIN OF SIN ACCORDING TO THE STORY IN GENESIS 3.
In your judgment is the story of the man and the woman in Genesis 3 a chapter from the life of a certain man and woman, or a faithful reflection of universal human experience? Most of the elements which are found in the story may likewise be traced in earlier Semitic traditions. The aim of the prophet who has given us the story was, according to the view of certain interpreters, to present in vivid, concrete form the origin, nature, and consequences of sin. This method of teaching was similar to that which Jesus used, for example, in the parable of Dives and Lazarus. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with the command not to eat of it, apparently symbolizes temptation. Is temptation necessary for man’s moral development? The serpent was evidently chosen because of its reputation for craft and treachery. The serpent’s words represent the natural inclinations that were struggling in the mind of the woman against her sense of duty. Note that in the story the temptation did not come to man through his appetite or his curiosity or his esthetic sense but through his wife whom God had given him. Was the man’s act in any way excusable? Strong men and women often sin through the influence of those whom they love and admire. Are they thereby excused? What natural impulses impelled the woman to disobey the divine command? Were these impulses of themselves wrong? How far did her experience reflect common human experience? What was the real nature of her act? Was it wrong or praise-worthy for her to desire knowledge?
In what form did temptation come to the man in Genesis 3. Does temptation appeal in a different form to each individual? The Hebrew word for sin (which means to miss the mark placed before each individual) vividly and aptly describes the real nature of sin. The ideal placed before each individual represents his sense of what is right. If he acts contrary to that ideal or fails to strive to realize it, does he sin?
THE EFFECTS OF SIN UPON THE WRONG-DOER.
What was the effect of their consciousness of having disobeyed upon the man and woman in the ancient story? Did they believe that they had done wrong, or merely that they had incurred a penalty? Does sin tend to make cowards of men? Were the feelings of shame, and the sense of estrangement in the presence of one who loved them, the most tragic effect of their sin? When a child disobeys a parent or a friend wrongs a friend is the sense of having injured a loved one the most painful consequence of sin? Was the penalty imposed on the man and woman the result of a divine judgment or the natural and inevitable effect of wrong-doing? Why did the man and woman try to excuse their disobedience? Was it natural? Was it good policy? Was it right? If not, why not?