ORIGIN 1.4

Garden of Eden

God shows up

What happened in Garden of Eden?

God talks to man
(Genesis 2:8-3:2)
God created humans to rule the earth. Now for the first time ever, the Creator reveals himself to man ... gives instructions ... and initiates a whole new dimension of life: a personal relationship with God and the possibility of eternal life.

God shows up

The earth had been billions of years in the making. Then God shows up! And starts establishing personal relationships with humans!

He chose one man – Adam – to make the first move from physical life to spiritual life. Man had never encountered God before, and now a whole new quality and dimension was added to human life.

People outside the Garden lived and died completely unaware of what was happening inside the Garden. As it is even to this day, for reasons we don't understand, God chooses to reveal himself to some people but not to others, mostly a consequence of historical time and geographic place [see Origin 1.6].

NOTE: God has showed up to everyone reading these words! Today God is not speaking in physical presence but through the Holy Spirit [see Purpose 2.5].

When and where

The story of the Garden of Eden – the story of man's first encounter with God – is told in Genesis 2:8 - 3:24.

'Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.' (Genesis 2:8)

'The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'' (Genesis 2:15-17)

Eden is both a time and a place.

According to Bible genealogy, and general agreement by Bible scholars, the time was approximately 4000 BC.

The Bible says the place was at or near the headwaters of four rivers (Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates). The first two rivers are unknown today, but the Tigris and Euphrates run relatively close and parallel to each other together in Iraq (formerly Mesopotamia), which is the most probable location of the Garden. This is the same general area as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The exact location and size of the Garden of Eden is unknown.

THE TABLE ABOVE gives perspective for the number of people alive at time of Adam and the numbers of people at various points in time ever since. Experts who study populations in ancient history estimate that more than 100 billion people have already lived on earth.
Two things stand out: (1) How fast the world's population is accelerating and (2) how few Jews (Israelites, descendants of Jacob) there ever were in the world, with over-size influence, and how their percentage of the world's population is shrinking rapidly (now only two-tenths of one percent).

The Eden story

In this story, God showed up in person, for the first time ever, and talked to man, establishing a personal relationship and setting rules. The almighty designer-creator God of the universe! Almost inconceivable!

The Garden of Eden was a paradise, but not perfect. God said it needed people to work it, presumably because of normal aging, death and re-birth throughout nature. And Satan – and sin (Satan's lie and temptation) – were already there!

In ancient times – before writing, books and general literacy – information was transmitted as stories that could be remembered and passed on from generation to generation. Each part of the story was packed with meaning and was explained over and over again by elders to youth.

Major elements of the story of the Garden of Eden are summarized in Origin 1.4.1

What was Adam's sin?

A quick reading of the story indicates that Adam's sin was eating forbidden fruit. Actually, that was just an outward manifestation of the real sin. God looks through the action, into the heart, and sees the motives.

'You will not certainly die, the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked [God saw their motive] ...' (Genesis 3:4-7)

Adam's sin was that he wanted to be his own God and follow his own wisdom, no longer constrained by God's rules.

Where did Eve come from?

For thousands of years people have been asking many unanswered questions about Eve.

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man ... That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24).

Obviously, this was not a birth but rather some kind of instant cloning ... happened after God had already created man and woman from dust of the ground (atomic structure) ... and teaches about marriage.

Was Eve really the first woman on earth? Was she really made from Adam's rib?

These and other questions – interesting but non-essential – about Eve are addressed in Origin1.4.2.

Who recorded all this?

The Bible's own genealogical records show that Adam was born approximately 4000 BC and Moses was born approximately 1500 BC. If Moses was writer of Genesis, as generally believed by Bible scholars, that means that the story of Adam and Eve was transmitted by oral tradition for 2,500 years!

It is not reasonable to believe that exact words and sequence of words could be preserved by word of mouth from generation to generation over that long a time without critical distortions and conflicting versions. That's why we have the Bible in the first place, a written document to keep the message pure and trustworthy.

There is only one rational explanation: God gave the words to the writer (though we don't know how).

In the Genesis story, we cannot prove the actual words spoken because no one was there to record them as they happened. Furthermore, words ascribed to God and others occurred before written languages and oral languages capable of conveying nuanced meanings.

So how do we know the ancient events and conversations recorded in the Bible are trustworthy? We back into those Bible statements logically.

If we can trust the transmission method, then we can trust the transmission.

For example [see Origin 1.1 and Origin 1.2 for background data]:

  • Bible says – correctly – that the earth had a beginning, contrary to what was 'settled science' until less than 60 years ago. How would Moses know that unless God told him?
  • Bible says – correctly – that the earth began as swirling gas in total darkness, contrary to all theories of ancient times. How would Moses know that unless God told him?
  • Bible says – correctly – that there was vegetation before sunshine, contrary to common-sense observation. How would Moses know that unless God told him?
  • Bible says – correctly – that fish came before birds ... birds before animals ... and animals before humans, an order that was out of sequence in ancient thinking. How would Moses know that unless God told him?
  • Bible says – correctly according to New Testament 1500 years later – Eve's offspring (Jesus) will crush Satan. How would Moses know that unless God told him?

These are things Moses could not know unless God told him. The probability is nil that Moses could get it right on all these points just by guessing. God gave the words to him (though we don't know how).

Therefore, if Moses got it 100% right about matters that were counter-cultural and counter-intuitive but now verifiable, we can trust the transmission method (God to man) for other matters in this story, too.

Christians believe that God superintended and preserved the writing of this story in a way that is adequate for all people at all times and places to grasp its essential meaning.

Moses was the ideal person for God to choose to do the writing. He was born an Israelite (slaves in Egypt) but was adopted as a son into Pharaoh's household. He was well-educated and understood the world around him. Then God called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery and form a new nation to proclaim to the world that there is only ONE GOD and that God must be worshiped and obeyed.

Real or myth?

Here are reasons why we know that the Garden of Eden was a real place at a real time with real people:

  • Context. There is nothing in the account to suggest that this is allegory. Genesis 5:1 says, 'This is the written account of Adam's line" and then, starting with Adam, gives a long list of people who really existed. It is clear that the list does not mix mythical people with actual people.
  • Location. Genesis 2:8-14 describes the location of the Garden east of Eden, where there are four rivers (Piston, which winds through Havilah where there is gold, aromatic resin and onyx; Gihon, which winds through land of Cush; Tigris, which runs along the east side of Asshur; and the Euphrates.) After six thousand years, the smaller rivers Piston and Gihon are no longer recognizable, but the Tigris and Euphrates are still flowing the course to the Persian Gulf. It is clear that this is a description of a real place, not a mythical place.
  • New Testament references. The New Testament refers to Adam extensively in Romans 5 and I Corinthians 15 and contrasts Adam to Jesus. It is clear that this is a contrast between two persons who really lived, not just two literary figures.
  • Jesus' family tree. The Bible's family tree goes back as far as Eve, where the recorded history begins. The genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 link the life of Jesus in a whole line of male succession from Eve through Seth, Abraham, Joseph, David, dozens of others, and ultimately to Mary, virgin mother of Jesus. It would make no sense for Luke to name real person after real person but have it all start with a mythical person.

However, the Eden story is told in the way of ancients, not the way we report stories today with sophisticated language. Back then, ethereal concepts were often represented symbolically.

For example, serpent meant evil; so there may not have been an actual talking snake, but a temptation to violate God's rule. Similarly, God walking in the Garden may not have been actual movement on legs and feet, but God's spirit present throughout the garden (can't hide from Him). And the angel with flaming sword guarding the Tree of Life may be a symbol of God keeping people away.

Whether or not the story has symbolic elements, the people are real and the meaning is clear either way. The temptation resulted in a deliberate act of defiance to God – the first culpable sin.

Other religions

The Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions all teach the Genesis story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. More than half of the population of the world today identifies with one of these religions.

Many other religions have their own versions of the story. Most systems of mythology make the serpent a symbol of evil and some divine personage the destroyer of evil. The Sumarians (area of Garden of Eden) say that the God Enki ate eight plants in the paradise of Dilmun, which the goddess Ninhursag considered a mortal sin and inflicted great punishment. Buddhist and Chinese traditions say that the beginning of sin was eating forbidden fruit and desiring forbidden knowledge. The Greek legend of Pandora traces the entrance of evil to a woman. Over thousands of years, the story has been transplanted and mixed in many ways with geography and mythology but has not changed so completely that it cannot be recognized.

For most of mankind, past and present, the Garden of Eden is the basic story of first sin.

Big question

In the Old Testament telling, it is clear that Eve sinned before Adam sinned. '... she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.' (Genesis 3:6)

This is confirmed in the New Testament. 'And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.' (1 Timothy 2:13–14)

Furthermore, millions of people, even Satan, lived on earth before Eve sinned.

So why does Romans 5:12 – the key verse supporting the doctrine of original sin – say that '... sin entered the world through one man [Adam] ...?' Why do Christians say that Adam was the first sinner?

The biblical answer is found interwoven in the entire Romans 5:12-19 passage, which is the only portion of scripture that expands on this subject. That passage is very deep and requires much more than a quick read. It is studied in detail in Origin 1.4.4.

From this study we learn that sin is not simple black and white. There are different types and degrees of sin. That is why there will be a judgment at end of physical life. (But only God is to do the judging!)

God's justice and judgment takes into account the kind of spiritual revelation a person has received – time, place and situation. In other words, people will be judged according to the light given to them, which varies from person to person.

Adam was the first person who had a personal encounter with God ... received an unmistakably clear rule (law) directly from God ... and deliberately chose to defy God by trying to become his own god. That crossed the line, beyond ordinary misdeeds and misunderstandings. It was much more than eating forbidden fruit. It was rebellion!

Major Bible themes

The story of the Garden of Eden is an introduction to the major themes of Christianity. The themes are mentioned here but explained in other parts of the Bible. See list of the themes in Origin 1.4.1.

This section challenges two old church teachings:
> spiritual death
> original sin
NOT 'SPIRITUAL DEATH'
but 'final death' (in hell)
What's the difference?
SPIRITUAL DEATH = Burn forever in hell
FINAL DEATH = Deserved punishment in hell, then end of existence
Now comes an important theological point that requires a decision regarding interpretation for the meaning of death.
God said to Adam:
'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, FOR WHEN YOU EAT OF IT YOU WILL SURELY DIE.' (Genesis 2:16-17)
How we interpret 'die' in this story sets the pattern for how we interpret death and eternal life in other parts of the Bible.
What does 'DIE' mean?

Common interpretation

Many Christians – probably a majority – believe that the word 'die' as spoken above by God to Adam means 'spiritual death.'

However, the interpretation on this site is that die means simply what it says: final end of existence (after judgment and in hell); the only exception to final death is salvation through Jesus.

The term 'spiritual death' does not appear anywhere in the Bible, but Christians have invented the term and use it frequently.

In interpreting scripture, there is great danger in assigning to a word a meaning that is not the normal meaning of the word. By doing so, the Bible can be made to say whatever anyone wants it to say, and the Bible loses authority.

Problems

Here are some problems with the common interpretation:

  • OXYMORON. It doesn't make sense to redefine 'death' to mean 'doesn't die.' The concepts of no existence and burning forever are mutually exclusive.
  • LIFE PRECEDES DEATH. It doesn't make sense to say that a person can have spiritual death without first having spiritual life.
  • COMPREHENSION. Adam could not have comprehended anything other than the ordinary death he observed before he sinned.
  • DEATH IS NOT PUNISHMENT. Birth-aging-death is the natural order of all life, existing before sin, a necessity to make room for new growth and improvement. Even stars and planets die, unrelated to decisions about good and evil. [See Origin 1.3]
  • COMPLETE IGNORANCE. There were many millions of people who lived before Adam sinned (see table above). On what basis would they have eternal life in heaven? On what basis would they burn forever in hell? They simply didn't know anything about what God was doing. Who can say with scriptural support that they don't just die (final death)?

Romans 5 helps with interpretation

The problems above are common sense responses when the concept of 'spiritual death' is substituted for the plain meaning of death in Genesis 2-3.

However, the resolution and deep theological Christian understanding comes to us from the New Testament book of Romans. Genesis 1-2 must be read – and studied – together with Romans 5:12-21!

Romans was written by the Apostle Paul about 1500 years after Genesis, and it incorporates greater understanding coming through the life and teaching of Jesus.

TAP HERE for Origin 1.4.3, a deep study of Romans 5:12-21, the scripture often used as a basis for the concept of 'spiritual death.' Church tradition aside, an objective re-reading and investigation of this passage supports the concept of 'final death' rather than 'spiritual death.'
The logic (or illogic) of 'spiritual death'

God claims to be all-good,

and

If, at time of Garden of Eden, God holds all people outside the Garden guilty for a sin Adam committed inside the Garden,

and

If God condemns them to eternal hell for something they knew nothing about,

and since

God had not appeared to them or given them any means of salvation,

then

God is NOT GOOD, and is a liar,

therefore

NOTHING THAT GOD SAYS IS TRUSTWORTHY.

'Spiritual death' must be wrong interpretation. Not consistent with Christian belief that God's word is trustworthy. With 'final death,' these people might just die – not punished for what happened in the Garden and never knowing about the Garden.
IMPORTANT
In addition to Romans 5, what else does the Bible say about what happens after bodily death? See Origin 3.5.1 for a deep Bible study covering all explicit scripture passages on death.

NOT 'ORIGINAL SIN'

but human 'sin nature'
What's the difference?
ORIGINAL SIN = Guilty because of Adam's sin
SIN NATURE = Guilty only because of our own sins
Now comes an important point that requires a decision regarding interpretation for guilt and punishment of sin.
Does God ever hold a person guilty for the sin of another?
How we interpret Adam's sin here sets the pattern for how we understand sin and eternal life in other parts the Bible.

Common interpretation

Many Christians – probably a majority – believe that the guilt for Adam's sin has been placed on everyone ... that everyone is born with this 'original sin' ... that everyone is subject to just as much punishment for it (eternity in hell) as Adam himself.

However, the interpretation on this site is that everyone has a sin nature that is inherent in free will ... that we are not guilty for Adam's sin ... that we are guilty only for our own sins.

The term 'original sin' does not appear anywhere in the Bible, but Christians have invented the term and use it frequently.

In interpreting scripture, there is great danger in assigning to a word a meaning that is not the normal meaning of the word. By doing so, the Bible can be made to say whatever anyone wants it to say, and the Bible loses authority.

'Original sin' and 'Sin nature' BOTH result in separation from God after physical death, but for different offenses and for different durations in hell.

Problems with common interpretation

  • FREE WILL. Free will is meaningless if we are born with maximum guilt and already subject to maximum penalty. Free will to do good or evil then makes no difference in eternal reward or punishment.
  • JUSTICE. We can no longer claim that we have a just God. It is difficult to conceive of anything more unjust than to condemn billions of people to eternal torment for something they did not do and offer only a single means of salvation which is either unavailable or unknown to them.
  • GOD'S WILL. 'He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance' (2 Peter 2:9). Then why would God design life so that everyone is doomed to perish from the moment of birth? And how do we repent for something we did not do or even know about?
  • GUILT OF ANOTHER. The Bible tells how people suffer the consequences of the sins of others, but nowhere in the Bible does it even suggest that a person is personally guilty for the sins of another; e.g., parents are not guilty before God for sins of children, and citizens are not guilty before God for sins of the king. The Bible teaches that each person must stand before God at judgment for his or her own sins.

Romans 5 helps with interpretation

The problems above are common sense responses when the concept of 'original sin' is injected into Genesis 2-3.

However, the resolution and deep theological Christian understanding comes to us from the New Testament book of Romans. Genesis 1-2 must be read – and studied – together with Romans 5:12-21!

Romans was written by the Apostle Paul about 1500 years after Genesis, and it incorporates greater understanding coming through the life and teaching of Jesus.

Also, in Romans 7:14-20, Paul's description of sin in his own life sounds more like 'sin nature' than 'original sin,'  In fact, he calls it 'my sinful nature.'

TAP HERE for Origin 1.4.3, a deep study of Romans 5:12-21, the scripture used as basis for the concept of 'original sin.' Church tradition aside, an objective re-reading and investigation of this passage supports the concept of 'sin nature' rather than 'original sin.'
The logic (or illogic) of 'original sin'

God claims to be just,

and

If Adam's guilt is placed on everyone (original sin),

then

Most people will be sent to hell as punishment for something they knew nothing about,

and since

Over 100 billion people have lived on earth so far (table above),

and

The great majority of people have never had an opportunity to hear clearly about God's offer of salvation through Jesus Christ,

then

Torturing 100 billion people forever for a wrong they never committed, and knew nothing about, would be the most monstrous injustice anyone can image,

therefore

GOD IS NOT JUST, BUT A CRUEL MONSTER.

'Original sin' must be wrong interpretation. Not consistent with Christian belief that God is just.
IMPORTANT
In addition to Romans 5, what else does the Bible say about what happens after bodily death? See Origin 3.5.1 for a deep Bible study covering all explicit scripture passages on death and hell.
KEY POINTS
  • First encounter with God. The Garden of Eden is the first time and place that man encounters God.
  • First law. God gives his first commandment (law) to man, very clear and simple.
  • First culpable sin. Man commits the first sin for which there is accountability and punishment, a clear violation of God's law, with intent to become a god. There was no guilt before the law.
  • First punishment. Man is punished for his sin by being denied access to eternal life.
  • First marriage. Man and woman are united as one flesh in marriage.
  • First promise. Satan knew – though Adam didn't understand – that this is a promise about Jesus who would come as Savior.
  • First themes. This Eden story introduces the major themes of Christianity, to be understood later from the life and teachings of Jesus.
  • First theology. This story raises controversial issues about basic Christian theology – as the difference between spiritual death and final death, between original sin and sin nature – which can only be resolved by carefully studying New Testament scriptures.
MAIN STORY LINE
Then everything changed! In human form, God appeared and conversed with a chosen couple, and their story has been reverberating throughout history ever since.
Until then, everything was physical, but in Eden God too them about a new dimension – the spiritual dimension – to human life.
Something is starting to build here – not yet clear at this point – but something far better than no physical death on earth. A whole new mind-blowing concept is developing: Eternal life with God in a better place AFTER PHYSICAL DEATH!
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