Fall Of Man
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In Adam's fall
We sinned all.

—New England Primer, 1784

Basic Information

Sources

The Creation account in Genesis 1-2 describes the world as a perfect place, a garden where Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, lived in peace and harmony. Then something went wrong. Chapter 3 describes what is called the Fall of Man.

The story begins with the Serpent, who was more subtle than any of the other creatures of the earth. The Serpent persuades Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is the only tree int the Garden whose fruit God has forbidden them. "You shall become like God, knowing good and evil," the Serpent promises her1.

Adam and Eve do eat the Forbidden Fruit, and the immediate result is that they suddenly realize they're naked; something which hadn't bothered them before, and they cobble together makeshift coverings out of fig leaves. They also try to hide from God, which naturally doesn't work.

When God asks Adam if he's been eating of that tree he commanded them not to eat from, Adam says: "The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Classy guy; not only does he blame Eve, he also suggests that God is somehow at fault2 for giving him a woman in the first place. Eve tries to pass the buck too: "The serpent deceived me and I ate." The snake, strangely enough, has nothing to say3.

God then pronounces a series of curses on the three. The Serpent is cursed to crawl on his belly and eat dust. To Eve, the curse is to be pain in childbirth; and to Adam it is that he will have to work hard to gain his daily bread. (Whether these are intended to be punishments, or merely that God is stating the consequences of their actions is a matter of theological difference).

In order to prevent Adam and Eve from also eating of the Tree of Life, which would grant immortality, God banishes Adam and Eve from Eden and places a cherubim with a flaming sword to bar their way back.

So what was with the talking snake? Traditionally, the Serpent has been regarded as Satan in disguise, acting through the Serpent. Didn't Eve find the oratorical ophidian to be just a little peculiar? Perhaps Eve wasn't experienced enough to know that serpents couldn't talk. Another explanation is the Medieval belief that Adam and Eve had the ability to comprehend the language of animals, which they lost after the Fall.

What was the fruit? Genesis doesn't say. It's been traditionally portrayed as an apple, but that's because in the Middle Ages, "apple" was a generic term for "fruit"; (as "corn" was generic for "grain")4. Since Adam and Eve made clothing out of fig leaves, it's been speculated that the fruit was figs5. Other scholars have suggested that the fruit was a pomegranate. It's anybody's guess.

Was it all Eve's fault? According to the Genesis account, Adam was standing right there when it all happened (v. 6) He could have said or done something, but he didn't. But he wasn't the last one to try putting all the blame on Eve.

The curse God puts on the snake, ("I will put enmity between you and the woman…" v.15)) has been interpreted by Christians as a prophecy of the Messiah: that Christ, a descendant of Eve, would ultimately crush Satan, (i.e. the Serpent).

Another weird but fun Medieval belief was that snakes originally had limbs and could walk upright, until God cursed them to crawl on their bellies6 (v. 14)

From the story of the Fall, the Roman Catholic Church developed the doctrine of Original Sin, that all of Adam and Eve's descendants are tainted not only by their own sins, but by the primal sin of their progenitors.

There's been a long-standing school of thought, usually outside of official doctrine, that the Original Sin had something to do with sex7. Nothing in the Bible explicitly states this, but some people have dirty minds and will read sex into anything8. Nudity was not wrong in and of itself; but once Adam and Eve knew evil, they also knew shame, which led them to become ashamed of their own bodies. God gave them clothing to wear (v.21) as a concession to that shame; (and possibly to climate change).

The tree Adam and Eve ate of is often mistakenly called "The Tree of Knowledge", implying that knowledge itself is somehow evil. Some Gnostic sects and other philosophers have taken the opposite view and declared that Adam and Eve's sin was a good thing because by seeking knowledge, they were able to grow beyond their original innocence9.

Game and Story Use

  • If your original gameworld has a tradition of a primeval Golden Age, then it probably also has stories about how that Golden Age was lost. The idea of Disobedience leading to Divine Punishment is one possible explanation.
    • Many cultures have used the story of the Fall to justify their attitudes and practices towards women
      • Not to mention towards snakes.
  • A Medieval belief persisting up through the Renaissance insisted that the Garden of Eden still existed in some remote corner of the world.
    • The Tree of Life would make a tremendous plot device and object of a quest.
    • For that matter, so would the Flaming Sword wielded by the guardian cherubim.
  • Snakes have traditionally been seen as evil. Part of the Genesis 3:15 curse? Maybe. But it never hurts to give your villain reptilian qualities.
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