7-Minute Parish Theology Lessons – Lesson 5c (Genesis 1-3)

The Fall of Man

Genesis 3:1-6 – Satan successfully tempts Eve.  Adam and Eve had everything.  They had sanctifying grace and eternal life, both spiritual and physical.  They lived in a garden designed for them and had dominion over creation.  They had one another in a state of innocence and mutual cooperation.  And God walked with them in the cool of the evening (3:8).  Their souls governed their bodies.  Their intellects governed their wills and their passions.  In a word, they were perfect.

So, how did Satan tempt Eve?  Satan appealed to her highest power, the place where we make sense of everything.  He appealed to her intellect.  Notice the doubt he attempts to sow in 3:1 – “Did God say…?”  Then notice that Eve communicates her certainty about God’s command (3:2-3).  Then Satan tells her that God is a liar (3:4).  Finally, Satan says, “God knows that when you eat of [the tree] your eyes will be opened (they will have “real” knowledge), and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  God’s knowledge of good and evil is intimate, but man must experience good and evil to know it intimately.

Eve saw “that the tree was desired to make one wise….”  Wisdom is good and the tree was good for food.  However, Eve sought wisdom by disobeying God.  How many times to we seek shortcuts and quick fixes that end up creating bigger problems?  Then, Adam was apparently next to Eve when this happened because she gave the fruit to him right after she ate from the tree.  Adam, who had primary responsibility, failed to execute his responsibilities with integrity.  Therefore, Adam is primarily blamed for man’s downfall (1 Cor 15).   

By eating from the tree, Adam and Eve wanted to be their own moral standard and chose to replace God’s moral order with their own.  Thus, Adam and Eve desired to be like God in a way that was not proper to their nature.  How many times have we rationalized or justified an immoral act knowing full well that the act was wrong?  When we do this, are we not attempting to usurp God’s authority, thereby trying to become God?  Think about this the next time you declare something to be morally licit that is objectively immoral (e.g., abortion, transgenderism, homosexual behavior, pornography, fornication, adultery, etc.). 

3:7 – Original Sin equals the loss of sanctifying grace.  Adam and Eve could not pass down what they no longer possessed.  Their eyes were opened (i.e., they lost original innocence).  Consequently, man no longer has a right to grace.  As the first human, Adam passed human nature from himself to all humans.  In the state of Original Justice, human nature had sanctifying grace and a right to it.  However, after Adam and Eve lost grace, they lost the right to it and could no longer pass it to other humans.  The human nature passed down from Adam lacked something, namely, the right to grace, which was a supernatural gift meant to aid their human nature.  Consequently, every individual must approach the One Who has the right and ask Him for it.

Also, Adam and Eve sold themselves and the entire human race to death.  Thus, man needs a redeemer, someone who has the power to buy us back from death, someone whose death has infinite value to cover the infinite chasm that sin places between God and man.

3:8 – “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking.”  God does not have legs.  Another indication that the author is allegorically communicating a true story.  Also, this indicates that Satan might not have been a physical serpent but simply as cunning and poisonous as one.  Next, Adam and Eve “…hid themselves.”  They became afraid of the loving Father who created them in His image and likeness.  Although designed to be reflections, they became distortions.

3:9 – God asks, “Where are you?”  God knows where they are.  He is asking them why/how they have spiritually separated themselves from Him and is offering them an opportunity to confess. 

3:12-13 – Adam confesses.  But instead of expressing sorrow and seeking forgiveness, he blames Eve, and God saying, “The woman whom you gave to be with me….”  Eve subsequently blames Satan.  “The devil made me do it.” 

3:14-15 – God curses Satan as the lowest of all creatures.  Although created with a superior nature and intellect, Satan is now inferior to humans.  The irony here is that Satan’s superior intellect caused his inferiority.  “On your belly you will crawl” indicates his newfound lowliness, one lower than the animals.  Although enmity between Satan and Adam/Eve was present before Satan tempted Eve, God places permanent enmity (division), a kind of perpetual struggle (not just a one-time thing in the Garden), between them.  The upside for humans is that God lets us know He will overcome Satan: “he (the Savior) shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.”

3:15 – Protoevangelium (first good news).  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal (cf. Romans 16:20).

Catholic Apologist John Martignoni wrote, “This is the only place in Scripture that I know of where it mentions the woman’s seed, and not the man’s seed. We normally associate the seed with the man, not the woman. And, of course we know why it says the seed of the woman here in Genesis, because Mary conceived Jesus of the Holy Spirit, not of man. So, the woman spoken of in Gen 3:15 is, in a very fundamental sense, Mary. Now, what do we have going on here? God Himself tells Satan that He, God, will put enmity between the woman (Mary) and Satan. Enmity, in my dictionary, is defined as hostility between enemies. If you sin, can you say that there is enmity between you and Satan? By sinning, aren’t you actually taking Satan’s side? So, if God put enmity between Mary and Satan, how can you say that she ever sinned? That would put her on Satan’s side, at least some of the time.”

3:16-17 – God metes out punishment to Adam and Eve.  Adam, by listening to Eve, put Eve and the tree’s fruit above God.  Now, he will bow to the earth by way of toils and hardships.  Before the fall, man’s works were joyfully ordered toward God, but after the Fall, he must struggle to order his work toward God.  Also, the wages of sin is death (2:17).

3:21 – God made garments of animal skins for them.  God did not stop caring for Adam and Eve.  He gave them what they needed.  However, St. Augustine points out that they exchanged their souls’ dominion over the bodies for bodily dominion.  Thus, they became more like animals, which is why God clothed them in animal skins.

3:22 – “…man has become like one of us.”  “Us” is the Trinity.  By doing what is immoral, we “presume to exercise lordship over the moral order and redefine good and evil in opposition to the Creator.  Only in this disordered way has man’s transgression made him like God.  Adam would have attained true godliness had he humbly obeyed the Father as Jesus did” (Truth and Life Study Bible commentary).  Man “living forever” occurs only two other times in Scripture; John 6:51 and 58, when Jesus says we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to “live forever.”  Again, the tree of life points to Jesus in the Eucharist, Whom we must eat to have eternal life.

3:23 – Finally, God banishes Adam and Eve from Eden.  We, their progeny, have no right to it.

3:24 – Adam and Eve will not enter Eden until….

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