Genesis chapter 3, a historical event or not?

Gen 3 describes the fall of mankind in a very symbolic way (a talking snake representing the devil, symbolic trees, the Lord God walking in the cool of the evening). Due to disobedience (the first sin) A&E were kicked out Paradise, away from the presence of the Lord and living in different world, the same world we live in.

In what way is this a real historic event ?

I am used to think that without Gen 3 the Bible would have been a very thin book.

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Gen 3 describes the transition from hunting & gathering to agriculture (“By the sweat of your brow”, Genesis 3:16-18 or so)

I’m in the process of answering that question right now. Becoming Adam Podcast. You can listen to the podcast or read the blog. It’s brand new and I’m still waiting for Apple Tunes’ approval, so you’ll have to wait until next week to subscribe to the podcast.

But, if you prefer a short answer, the evolution of symbolic language allowed for the possibility of true morality. Only after acts became symbolized could they represent abstract classes of action such as “good” or “evil.” Multiple lines of evidence point to the period just before the “Out of Africa” migration as the time when humanity developed a lexicon of abstract words—the sine qua non for mature moral knowledge. Simultaneously, this was the birth of conscience. At that point, the “fall” was not only inevitable, it was historical.

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I am used to that as well. I am having to learn that symbolic or figurative language does not necessarily make a story “untrue” or necessitate “throwing out the entire Bible” as many have taught. Good for you for asking questions and being willing to wrestle with these issues – I hope it helps you to see Jesus in a whole new way, even though it is difficult.

Since history usually involves details about who, when, and where, I have a hard time with “historical event” because I don’t think we are given a history. We are given God’s story, which I believe is intended to communicate true things that really happened in human history, but that is not quite the same as “historical.”

I believe that at some point in time, some real humans were given a real commission by God to bear his image (corporately) and there was a real (corporate) failure that affected God’s (corporate) relationship with humanity. Maybe this happened more than once, with more than one group, but the record we have is the Israelite ancestors. Maybe this happened very far back in time. I don’t think knowing the historical details are the point.

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I view the events of Gen 3. as historical but they are not the first human couple to be made but the first humans to be in contact with God. The Garden was real but it was most likely an oasis. The tree’s where real in my opinion and the Tree of Life did offer the chance of immortality. Now it wasn’t a talking serpent that deceived Adam and Eve (and not their original names BTW, just their Hebrew equivalents) but it was a dark spiritual force (maybe the Satan/Devil or something else that we don’t know of) and the entity is represented via the serpent which would have represented a chaos creature. The eating of the Tree of Good and Evil wasn’t the issue of the tree itself, it was the command to not eat it and the serpent chaos creature tricked Eve and then Adam into eating it making them think that they can become God and create order and rule from within themselves.

I consider the Bible as progressive and the development of the human conscience also, they seem to go hand in hand. While Christianity is in decline, at least where I live, Biblical goodies flourished often without Christian influence especially after WW2, basic human rights, decolonization, anti-racism, anti war crimes, the current Me Too revolution etc. etc.

Surely the world today is a better place than (say) 100 years ago. And perhaps this is a continuing process as one of the goals of Creation?

Curious about your opinions.

How do you know these developments were without Christian influence on worldview? The abolitionist movement was led by Christians. There has been interesting research on the effect of Christianity on the development of African democracies. Advances in maternal and children’s health and education in many developing countries are often led by Christian charities.

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I understand, but what strikes in in the Gen 3 story is that the garden is described as a divine place where non-natural rules apply. No cruel food chain, men and animals eating every green plant and fruits only [1:29-30] as it will be again on the New Earth [Jes 11:6-7, 65:25], mankind living in the presence of God.

And by their sin they were thrown out of that divine place to the natural place we are all familiar with. Natural rules, death, suffering, natural disasters, sickness, wars, eat or be eaten.

  1. I said often, not always. :grinning:

  2. Most Biblical goodies are (were) driven by secular people.

This does seem to be a repeating and vexing subject. It seems that many believe that if it isn’t based on reality the whole Bible becomes invalidated. I am not quite sure why, because not all the bible is reality or History so why would this particular episode have to be? The usual argument is that it needs no more to be real than the details of parables. What matter is the meaning… but then that seems to be even more debated and controversial
My view I that it does not have to be based on reality. I will not repeat the rest for now. I have said it all elsewhere on this forum.


Here’s an article from a few years ago that validates Christy’s point. I’ve been to Africa enough myself to corroborate all that he says is accurate

As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

“ Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”

Yes, I’ve seen that one. There is also the research by sociologist Robert Woodberry

I think, and probably just me, that this is probably the worlds first hate crime. The serpent was actually a powerful angel that stood firm for God when others rebelled, but there was prejudice concerning these frail humans. Eating the fruit might put things back to just angels again. I think that God had the hope that having one of His strongest warriors around these frail humans would create a bond that no one between the two extremes could question. Problem is, he was an angel of might, and we are about as far from that as it gets. God can create matter from a thought, or word, so He is going to do things that might seem hard to understand. He wants trust built between creations, allowing himself to know all aspects isn’t a great way to start trust. God took him for what He knew, not what He could know, and the angel seemed more than willing to do whatever God would ask. That was crafty, he should have revealed his true feelings when told what he was to do. If that is correct, he was probably the strongest angel that we know; only one angel to look over Eden, and the new humans. Problem is, evil got into his head, and he basically put Adam and Eve in catch-22. Well, they could have avoided things, but God didn’t fully blame them for what took place. With all the fallen around, I would think that God told them to listen to what he was saying, and trust him. With the tree being the means to understand, I imagine without the knowledge they were like small children, it can be a catch-22; but no one said they had to eat anytime soon. That scene plays out when Christ is betrayed by someone he trusts, with evil again being puppet master; something God will make known with this story.
This would not have been an easy story to explain to the first generation from Egypt; he is not a demon since he really loved God, but no one knew that he allowed evil to twist his hate for humans into deception until too late. Not much trust for any angels then, so make him a serpent in the story.

I take the middle road. Historic event but told in a story with considerable symbolism which we see confirmed by the Bible itself.

  1. The snake is revealed to be the angel Lucifer.
  2. The tree of life is spoken of as many things like wisdom and fulfillment.
  3. It reveals that the earth is filled with people other than Adam and Eve’s descendants.

Because of this there is no reason to take this as a fairy tale comic book Walt Disney production about golems of dust and bone created by necromancy, with magical fruit and talking animals, but can about real life as we experience it ourselves. It is mythic in the sense that this comes from a time before modern specialization of human activities into things like history, science, law, philosophy and entertainment – and so it requires a little discernment to separate these elements. In any case, I see this story being about the first two human beings of human history but not the first homo sapiens because humanity is not just a species and we are not just biological organisms. We are children of both God and the apes – mind and body, with two different sets of desires, needs, and inheritance.

This way we can take both seriously, science and Christianity, and reality as both physical and spiritual. This is not dualistic in the classic sense, by the way – I am very much opposed to equating the mind with the spiritual. I am a scientist (physicist) and I not only embrace all the findings of science (consensus of the scientific community) but consider science to have the superior epistemological status as the only source of objective knowledge. But I balance this with an affirmation of the value and unavoidability of the subjective aspect of reality. Yes this means we have to accept a diversity of thought with regards to the spiritual/religious stuff, but that has been obvious to most people for a long time now.


Thank you for asking. Sorry that I took so long to reply. Such a complex question! It could be answered on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. I should preface everything by saying that I don’t believe in the myth of progress, in the sense that I don’t believe we, living in the 21st century, are any more moral or “good” than our ancestors. I also don’t believe that human progress in culture and morals will gradually usher in the kingdom of God on Earth. (The exact term for that escapes me at the moment, but I’m sure someone will supply it.)

With all those caveats out of the way, I would say that God charged humanity with culture-making, and progress has been made in that regard. But like all things human, everything we do is a mixture of good and evil, and every step forward is not necessarily permanent. Witness the rise of authoritarianism around the world.

As Christians, our kingdom is “not of this world,” since it is the kingdom of God. The worldview and culture that we are called by God to create should reflect the ultimate end – his kingdom. Paul described it in various ways, but ultimately it boils down to the fact that we are all one in Christ Jesus. Therefore, I believe we should work toward that goal now, all the while knowing we won’t reach it. By the same token, individually we work toward sanctification and maturity in Christ, all the while knowing we won’t reach it until the consummation.

Hope that made sense.

My take:
The two creation narratives are an example of God’s progressive revelation. The Gen 2-3 story was written first in the time of the united monarchy or early in the dual monarchy era about 1000-900 BCE to provide a creation narrative for the new Judah/Israel monarchy. It is intended to describe solely the creation of the Israelites in contrast to the creation stories of all their neighbors who had their own such narratives. It describes an early, more primitive viewpoint: a anthropomorphic, immanent Yahweh; a monolatrous view of the divine with minions; a story with oral and folkloric key elements; and animosity toward the Canaanites and their religion. The presented theodicy is that man’s disobedience of Yahweh is responsible for evil in the world. In contrast, the Gen 1 epic was written at the time of the Exile or shortly thereafter. It shows God as a transcendent, universal, monotheistic being; a poetic, sophisticated textual organization; and no implied reference to Canaanites. The theodicy is that evil was present from the beginning, even before the creation of the earth and universe. The Gen 2-3 narrative was intended for the Israelites when their power was at a maximum. In contrast, Gen 1 was intended for the Israelites when they were exiled and dispersed over the world. Each was a divine revelation appropriate for the conditions of the time. Both are intended to explain the Israelite situation at the time in terms of the past - which is the function of pre-Greco/Roman biblical history. They are not meant to be historical in the modern sense of the word, and thus do not record actual historic events.

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What about post #9 in combination with:

Rom 5:12 - Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned


1 Cor 15:21 - For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Seems to me Paul considered the story in Paradise as a real event.

Precisely not.

Paul is not claiming that Adam’s sin continues in any shape or form. Adam’s “gift” was the knowledge of good and evil. That was the consequence of his actions. Th result of eating the apple. So in that respect he brought sin into the world… By him we can sin.

Jesus brought the resolution into the world. The consequence of his action was that we can be saved.

Like for like.

Christ’s salvation is not automatically universal. So neither is the sin caused by Adam.


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Thank you all, time to leave.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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