Category Archives: Old Testament

The Original Sin

Introduction

The Bible begins with the story of God creating the heavens and the earth and all that is in it. On the sixth day of creation God makes man (both male and female) in his own likeness and image and blesses them and then immediately gives them the command to be fruitful and multiply so that they can fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over it (Gen 1:26–28). This delegated authority was second only to God and we should immediately recognize the prominent position that God placed them in because once we realize how high they were it exposes just how far they fell. God goes on to tell the original man and woman that he has given them every plant and tree that yields fruit for food (Gen 1:29), which may seem like a trivial statement at first but is actually quite important for understanding the events that follow.

The second chapter of Genesis gives a more detailed account of the creation of the first man and woman and their original home in the garden of Eden. The text says that “out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:9). We’re told shortly after this that “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Gen 2:15–17). Their temptation and subsequent fall was documented for us in Genesis 3.

The Fall (Genesis 3:1–13)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 

Much could be said about this passage but we’ll limit ourselves to a few important observations. First, the serpent (who will later be identified as the devil in Revelation 12:9) began his deception by twisting the command of God.

Genesis 2:16–17 

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 3:1–3

 He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

God said that they could eat from every tree but one while the serpent changes this to any tree. The woman (Eve) responds by twisting the command herself in saying that they couldn’t eat of the one tree nor could they touch it or they would die. Yet God never said anything about touching the tree. It stands to reason that touching the tree would have been a part of their duty to work and keep the garden (Gen 2:15).

But notice how the serpent tempts the woman. He begins by denying the consequence that God promised for disobedience. His second line of attack is to point out that the woman lacks something that God has. Let’s look at the text again:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

He doesn’t focus on how good the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil looked. He doesn’t focus on how good it would have tasted or the fact that it was good for food (these things were already obvious from Gen 2:9). He focuses on the fact that eating it would open her eyes and make her like God in knowing good and evil. It wasn’t simply the allure of being like God that drew the woman in. She was already created in his image and likeness (Gen 1:26). It was the allure of being like God in knowing good and evil that was the ultimate temptation. This desire for knowledge and wisdom is what ultimately drew the woman and her husband into disobedience.

The Knowledge of Good and Evil

This raises the question of what exactly the knowledge of good and evil is and what it means to know or to have knowledge. How do we come to know anything? We know through:

  1. Learning (Someone told us)
  2. Experiencing (We have gone through it)
  3. Determining (We have determined—in the sense of caused or decided—a matter)

Now remember the serpent’s sales pitch. He tempted the woman with being like God in knowing good and evil. So how exactly does God know? Does God learn? That is, does God acquire knowledge through someone else telling him? It doesn’t seem so. God speaks through the prophet Isaiah saying:

remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10    declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
       saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isa 46:9–10)

God “declares” the end from the beginning. “Declaring” in this context means to “make known” or “announce.” In other words, God can make the end known from the beginning because he knows the end from the beginning. He doesn’t acquire knowledge of things as they happen. This is also not an instance of God simply looking into the future to see what will happen and having a passive knowledge of what will occur. He “declares” or “makes known” the end from the beginning because he determines the end from the beginning. This is made clear when he says that his counsel shall stand and he will accomplish all his purpose (cf. Eph 1:11).

Job asks the rhetorical question, “Will any teach God knowledge, seeing that he judges those who are on high?” (Job 21:22 cf. Isa 40:14). This type of question expects a negative answer. Of course no one will teach God knowledge! But the clearest statement comes from the First Epistle of John when he says, “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

If God doesn’t learn then he certainly couldn’t have had the knowledge of good and evil through someone telling him what good and evil were. Is it possible that God acquired the knowledge of good and evil through experience? John again tells us that “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Darkness is often used as a metaphor for evil in Scripture. This is certainly how John used it throughout his writings. For example, he says that “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). Darkness and evil are synonymous in this passage. He records Jesus saying, “the light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going” (John 12:35). So when John tells us that there is no darkness in God he means to communicate that there is no evil in God.

Later in his first epistle John says that “everyone who hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). Again, God is pure, and thus not tainted by evil. In Mark’s Gospel a man runs up to Jesus and calls him “Good Teacher” (Mark 10:17) to which Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). Goodness rather than evil is attributed to God. It stands to reason that since God is without darkness, pure, and good that he does not experience evil. And yet God has the knowledge of good and evil, so if he doesn’t gain it through learning or experience, then how does God know good and evil?

God knows through determination, that is, he determines what good and evil are. Returning to the First Epistle of John we read that “everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). The “lawlessness” here is specifically a disregard for God’s law.  Repeatedly throughout the Old Testament we read of people doing what was “evil in the sight of the LORD.” This phrase has reference to various sinful acts, namely:

  • Making idols (Deut 4:25; 31:29)
  • Worshipping idols (Judg 2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1; 1 Kings 11:6; 15:26, 34; 16:25–26, 30 and dozens of other passages in 1–2 Kings and 1–2 Chronicles)
  • Transgressing God’s covenant (Deut 17:2)
  • Abandoning the Law of the LORD (1 Kings 14:22 cf. 2 Chron 12:1, 14)
  • Human sacrifice (2 Kings 17:17; 21:6; 2 Chron 33:6)
  • Consulting evil spirits & consulting the dead (2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron 33:6)
  • Forsaking God (2 Chron 29:6)

God explicitly forbids such practices (Exod 20:3–5; Deut 18:10; Lev 18:21; 26:14–46), so in committing them one does what is “evil in the sight of the LORD,” which is to say that God is the one who determines what evil is.

So was the allure of being like God in knowing good and evil a desire to acquire knowledge through learning or experience? No. It was a desire to determine what good and evil were as God had already done. The Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck said, “The knowledge of good and evil is not the knowledge of the useful and the harmful, of the world and how to control it, but… the right and capacity to distinguish good and evil on one’s own” (Reformed Dogmatics, 3:33). We see this play out immediately after they eat the fruit of the tree.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Once their eyes were opened they knew they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths (Gen 3:7). But why? The text tells us that when God went to meet them they hid themselves from his presence and when he called them Adam answered and admitted that he hid himself because he was afraid and he was afraid because he was naked (Gen 3:9–10). When and where did God tell them that being naked was a problem? God created them naked and called that act of creation “very good” (Gen 1:31). They determined for themselves that their nakedness was something to be covered.

Immediately after pronouncing the curse for their disobedience (Gen 3:14–19) God clothes them in animal skins and says that “the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:22). In other words, it’s not that they now recognized that their nakedness was evil and had been all along, it’s that they determined that this was so. God was saying that the man and the woman had become determiners of good and evil like him although in their case they didn’t have this by right.

Conclusion

This was the beginning of the disordering of God’s creation. Once sin entered the world everything was out of alignment. The “original sin” was a desire for autonomy. Autonomy comes from the Greek words “autos,” which means “self” and “nomos,” which means “law.” A literal way of understanding autonomy is as a “law unto one’s self, or self–rule.” A standard dictionary defines autonomy as “freedom from external control or influence.” Humanity in general now wants to call the shots and determine the parameters of good and evil. The repeated references to doing “evil in the sight of the LORD” that we find in the book of Judges can be paralleled with another phrase that we see repeated in the same book, namely that “in those days there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17:6; 21:25).

Centuries later the prophet Isaiah cried out:

20       Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter! (Isa 5:20)

This woe is reserved specifically for those who deny God’s pronouncements and substitute them with their own and unfortunately we have all at one time or another gone astray in the same way as our first parents.

B”H

Not His First Rodeo

After Jesus’ resurrection he walks with some downtrodden disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). They didn’t recognize him and he asked them what they were talking about as they walked. They responded with doubts about the claims and identity of Jesus because he didn’t do what they thought he would. Jesus responds by calling them foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken. He proceeds to interpret the Scriptures and show them how they spoke of him.

When they get near Emmaus they want him to stay with them and eat. He obliges them and sits down at table, takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and then vanishes from their sight, but not before they recognize him for who he is. It was in the breaking of bread that their eyes were opened. Jesus vanishes leaving them with the bread. This is a Eucharistic passage, undoubtedly. But it’s one that has been typified in the Old Testament.

When Gideon encounters the angel of the LORD (Judges 6) he asks for a sign that it is the LORD who has been speaking with him so he goes and prepares a sacrifice. The sacrifice consists of a young goat, some unleavened cakes, and broth. He brings the sacrifice to the angel of the LORD and the angel touches the meat and unleavened cakes with his staff and the offering is consumed by fire. The angel of the LORD then vanishes from Gideon’s sight and Gideon perceives that it was the angel of the LORD he had been speaking with all along.

I don’t know that it’s even proper to call what happened with Gideon a type of what happened with the disciples. The angel of the LORD was none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus. It seems better to say that the eternal Son has already had this experience. It wasn’t his first rodeo.

B”H

 

Israelite Alzheimers

I was in the middle of a haircut the other day and we got to talking about Alzheimers and dementia when my pastor/boss mentioned that he had watched a documentary about Alzheimers where they said that it was the brain hardening. The Alzheimers Association website says that there are “Two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles [that] are [the] prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells” in the brain. They say that “Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid (BAY-tuh AM-uh-loyd) that build up in the spaces between nerve cells” and “Tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau (rhymes with “wow”) that build up inside cells.”

But as my pastor shared this with me it got my mind going. A couple of weeks ago my dear friend Chris Tilling ably demonstrated that the New Testament doesn’t make the distinction between head and heart that many people think it does. In fact, when Scripture speaks of the heart it usually, if not always, has the thought life in view. Hebrews 3:8 immediately came to mind, which says, “do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.” I suggested that perhaps something like Alzheimers was going on with the Israelites as they wandered those 40 years in the desert.

Think about it, God has to constantly remind them of who he was and what he had done. He constantly told them that he was the LORD their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They clearly couldn’t remember his commandments, which is why he had to keep reminding them about his laws and statutes. If in fact this hardening of the heart was a hardening of the mind, which many believe to be seated in the brain, then is it so far fetched to think that there really could have been plaques and tangles at play? It’s definitely something to ponder and I’ll post something else on this with regard to some of the statements made about hardened hearts in the NT.

B”H

Just Ordered (and, Just Picked Up)

Indulge me a quick(ish) preface to this announcement of recent purchases. Today marks exactly one year since I stood before a room full of witnesses and made vows to my wife. I mention this firstly because it’s one of the more monumental moments in my life and secondly because it brings to mind something that we were told during out premarital counseling. The pastor who married us shared a story about how him and his wife have made it 40 years without impulse buying. They agreed that anything they wanted but hadn’t already planned for would be written down on a list in the kitchen and if they still wanted it after a day or two then they’d get it. He said that in all those years they never got anything off the list.

I’m not nearly as disciplined, but I have tried to implement that advice when and where possible. I share this anecdote because more than a week ago my buddy Michael Burgos started talking about getting a premium Bible. That sparked my interest and I began perusing evangelicalbible.com’s offerings. I found a couple that I liked but I determined that I wouldn’t get anything because I didn’t really need another Bible and I had no good reason to grab another at this moment in time. Well, after a week I still wanted one and I kept reading reviews, watching videos, and looking at pictures before finally deciding to pull the trigger.

I went with the Ocean Blue goatskin Crossway ESV Heirloom Legacy Bible. Now I’ve had an ESV Legacy before and I hated it. I ended up giving the thing away. It appears that this is an update and the major things that irked me are no more. I also went with this version because I had my heart set on blue (it really is quite striking!) and I’ve come to know and love single column texts over the years. As of late I read my Bible almost exclusively in my many Reader’s editions from Crossway. And though I haven’t handwritten anything in a Bible in quite a long time, this particular Bible has plenty of room in the margins and footer for note taking. I think I will pick the practice back up once I get it.

In addition to this premium Bible, my wife and I spent our first anniversary together out and about doing all manner of things. Our first stop was a Barnes & Noble for some Starbucks and book browsing. I ended up grabbing a copy of H. A. Guerber’s Classical Mythology for $7.98. I saw it the last time I was there and wanted to grab a copy but never did. I also opted to order a bunch of books from CBD’s Spring Sale before we went to see Death Wish, which was great, by the way! Here’s what I got from them:

The Structure of Sacred Doctrine in Calvin’s Theology

Translating the New Testament: Text, Translation, Theology

Rowan’s Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization*

The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church

What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat? Diet in Biblical Times

ESV Gospel of John, Reader’s Edition

Friends of Calvin

The Fourth Cup: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper and the Cross*

Abraham Kuyper: A Pictorial Biography

An Outline of New Testament Spirituality

Romans: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scriptures*

Treasures Old and New: Essays in the Theology of the Pentateuch

The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass As Heaven On Earth*

At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message

Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church*

Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism

The Gospel and The Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life

The Challenges of Cultural Discipleship: Essays in the Line of Abraham Kuyper

God Speaks: What He Says, What He Means

I got too many to link them all. Most of them ranged in price from $0.99 to $2.99. The notable exceptions are the volumes by Scott Hahn*, but I’m trying to get my hands on everything he’s ever written so I’m willing to pay the price for those. I’d love to say that this should hold me over for a while, and while it probably should, it definitely won’t. Until next time…

B”H

Home Library/Office Tour

I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.

B”H

Moses or God?

At about 6:20 in the above video Brant Pitre says that the feeding of the multitude account in the Gospels would remind first century Jewish readers of Moses. I’m not denying that but he said, “If you’re a first century Jew and you have a prophet who takes out a great crowd into the wilderness and feeds them with bread, who’s that gonna make you think of?”

I can see why Moses might be the connection that someone makes, but why not think of God instead? It was “the LORD, the God of Israel [who said]: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness'” (Exod 5:1 cf. 7:16). It was the LORD who parted the Red Sea so that Israel could pass through on dry land (Exod 14:21) into the desert. It was the LORD who rained down bread from heaven (Exod 16:4).

So yes, Moses was a type of Christ, I agree. And it is easy to make the association with Moses. But I think it’s just as easy to make the association with the LORD, and perhaps even more appropriate. As Sigurd Grindheim pointed out in a couple of books (reviewed here & here) a few years back, Jews certainly had messianic expectations, but they were primarily waiting for God to come into his kingdom.

B”H