The Fall and Sin: What We Have Become as Sinners

By Marguerite Shuster | Go to book overview

3
The Nature of the Fall

While we cannot — must not — explain the Fall, we can reflect descriptively upon its nature, as laid out in the biblical story. As an act, the seizing of the fruit1 was an act of disobedience to the express divine command, a disobedience that the narrative implies involved both disbelief in the divine word and a coveting of the divine prerogatives (pride).


The Significance of the Insignificant

On the surface, the disobedience seems paltry, inconsequential. How could the source of human ills be found in so petty a thing as the eating of an apple? Surely there is a wild disproportion between the seriousness of the offense and the magnitude of the result?2 But so to ar-

1. The traditional identification of the fruit with an apple rests on a play on the
Latin for "apple tree" (malus) and "apple" (malum) and the masculine and neuter forms
of the adjective "evil" (malus and malum, respectively) (Richard A. Muller,
Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms "Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985", p. 183).

2. So has gone an argument with a long history, taken up recently by James Barr,
The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), p. 12, who uses
this interpretation in support of his view that the whole story is really interested in
something other than the origins of sin and evil. Augustine, by contrast, argued that in
this one act all sins entered in: "For there is in it pride, because man chose to be under
his own dominion, rather than under the dominion of God; and blasphemy, because he

-49-

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The Fall and Sin: What We Have Become as Sinners
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Part I - The Fall of Humankind 1
  • I - Introduction: Primal History Viewed as Covenantal 3
  • 2: The Root of the Fall 37
  • 3: The Nature of the Fall 49
  • 4: Consequences of the Fall 62
  • 5: The Divine Purpose and Moral Evil 84
  • Part II - The Doctrine of Sin 97
  • 6: The Nature of Sin 99
  • 7: Sin and Sins 135
  • 8: Original Sin 159
  • 9: Problems of Freedom 182
  • 10: Civil Righteousness 212
  • Appendix I - Physical Death as Existential Reality 230
  • Appendix 2 - Biblical Vocabulary Relating to Sin 263
  • Subject Index 266
  • Name Index 271
  • Scripture Reference Index 275
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