Can sin be passed on to another generation?
Was Adam and Eves sin in the Garden of Eden passed on to their decedents? The doctrine of original sin has two opposing views. Christianity says sin is inherent while Judaism says it isn’t. Which is it? Lets start by looking at Scripture.
What was the “original sin”, or the first time man missed the mark? It is recorded in Genesis chapter 3.
Beginning with Genesis 2:16
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.Genesis 2:16 KJV
The commandment was given by the Lord that man could eat from every tree except for one, that was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then the Lord explained the consequence to him, if you do, then you will eventually die. The knowledge of good and evil will bring death to you.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.Genesis 3:1 KJV
Adam and Eve were apparently together and close to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, when the serpent addresses Eve, about eating the fruit from every tree. Eves reply is agreeing with one exception, and that is from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, if they eat of it they will die. The serpent says that they won’t die but they will be like gods, and there eyes will be open to knowing what is good and evil. Eve then took the fruit, enjoyed it and gave some to Adam. Thus they broke the commandment God had given them. They did not die upon eating from the tree, but death would follow, as there days are now numbered. Take note that the temptation was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes. How often can we justify a temptation, like Eve did with noting that it was good for food. Many times our temptations have a pleasant appearance to us, as it was pleasent to her eyes.
The Christian belief is that the sin of Adam and Eve eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, is generational. This means that it was passed down from them to their children, and then to all of mankind from generation to generation. This church doctrine was originally established by the church father Irenaeus1. Later St Augustine of Hippo2, Luther3 and Calvin developed it into what it is today.
The original sin doctrine is basically that everybody from birth has sin in them, because Adam and Eve disobeyed Gods directive, and is doomed to “hell”; unless they accept Jesus as their lord and savior. John Calvin states that, “Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul……..”.4 Today depending on the denomination of Christianity, will determine the specifics of this doctrine, but the basics remain the same.
And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.Genesis 3:13
God took it to the source, the one who gave into temptation and broke the commandment, with a transgression. Also this was a known sin, she new that she was disobeying God5, and perhaps there was some rebellion involved. She explained her side, and confessed her sin before God, “I did eat”.
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.Genesis 3:14
Note that no conversation takes place, only God is speaking, and no replies. The Lord says to the serpent, “Because you did this”, followed by cursing the serpent, and consequently the serpent looses his legs, condemned to be on his belly.6
And God puts enmity (hostility) between “the serpent”, and “the women”. This hostility will be between you (the serpent) and the seed from the woman (the generations of mankind that follow her). This is only referring to the enmity. Women do not have “seed”, they produce the “egg”. But they receive the “seed” from the man, in the process of fertilizing the egg, thus becoming pregnant. This becomes prevalent later. The phrase, “…it shall bruise thy head”; the word “it” is referring to the previous sentence, – the “serpents seed” ie. the offspring or descendants of the serpent.
The original text reads that the serpent will only be able to go after mans heal, but man can step on the serpents head. When the adversary is going after our heals with temptations, we have been given the ability to step on his head to overcome temptation.
This raises a question; “Who is the serpent?” Can/did a snake have that kind of intelligence to “tempt” the woman? Was something “possessing” the snake to do this? Is the serpent metaphorical, (the serpent is used to represent something else)? Did the serpent allow the tempter to enter it for this purpose? Perhaps this event is similar to the story of Job. However, Job didn’t yield to the temptation as the woman and man did. The tempter can only do what God allows it to do. The tempter is allowed to utilize the serpent, to have a physical presence to converse with the woman, making it easier to bring her into the trap. Maybe, in my opinion, the serpent receives the curse for allowing the tempter to use him.
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.Genesis 3:16
Another transgression is:
And to the woman (God) said, “I will greatly expand your hard labor-and your pregnancies; In hardship shall you bear children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”Translation of Gen 3:16 from the Sefara
She did confess, but there was consequence for the action. The consequence is stated in the verse. I believe we can all say there is sorrow in the birth process, but it is followed by great joy.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.Genesis 3:17
God begins with repeating the command to him, to make sure he knows what it is that he disobeyed. It is not recorded if Adam confessed or not, but likewise there is sorrow in his curse of tilling the soil until death. We will “eat the herb of the field”. We are formed from the earth, and at death we are to return to it.
The Jewish view is just as it is stated in these verses. The man aka, Adam and the women aka, Eve were disobedient by yielding to the temptation and they chose to disobey. There was consequence for there actions, but we serve a gracious God, a God that forgives. Eve confessed her sin, and the Jewish God forgave her when she repented. Part of the consequence was leaving Gen Eden, and making a life from the ground, and procreating, but they lived long lives, and were blessed with many grandchildren.
Jeremiah 31:29-30, and Ezekiel 18:20 – 22, Exodus 32:32 – 33, Deuteronomy 24:16, teach us that our sins cannot be passed on to another generation to be paid for. Everybody is responsible for their own sin.
In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.Jeremiah 31:29-30
The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.Ezekiel 18:20-22
Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.Exodus 32:32-33
The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.Deuteronomy 24:16
Nobody can be punished for another persons sin or disobedience. The “original sin” was not inherent. We are all to study Torah, and individually choose to follow it as our guide to live a righteous life. When we sin or “miss the mark”, we are to repent and return to the mark, pressing on knowing that we have been forgiven.
What was the original sin, or was it more the first sin? The man was given a directive from God, that he could eat from any tree in the garden except, he was not to eat from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He passed this directive on to his wife. Having been given this commandment they are now set up for a temptation. Will they follow the commandment, or will they yield to disobedience, and eat from the tree? How committed are they to following God’s directive? Consequently they disobey, followed by the consequence. All three of the ones involved receives a respective curse.
- The man Adam was punished for directly disobeying God, when he ate the fruit from the tree. From now on he will have to work hard to obtain his food.
- The women, Eve yielded to temptation from the tempter, and ate the fruit from the tree. She will now have pain in giving birth to her children.
- The serpent allowed the tempter to use him to communicate, and will now loose the use of his legs, and only be able to craw on his belly.
A common thread in the curses is the word “seed”. All three contribute to seed. Women do not have “seed”, they receive the seed from the man, fertilizing their “egg”, becoming pregnant and then giving birth. In this scenario, the curse includes with “pain”. Until the curse, apparently Eve did not have pain in child birth. The Bible doesn’t give us information one way or the other. After Able was killed by Cane, and Cane was cursed by God to be a vagabond, he was frightened about being killed by other people. The question is “where did these people come from, if not not from Eve?” Where they expelled at the same time as Adam and Eve? Did Eve give birth to them prior to being expelled? We don’t know the answers to these questions. The seed of the serpent is also mentioned. Its seed will be hostile with the seed from the decedents that come from the women Eve. If we look at the serpent representing the animal world thus the animalistic soul (or animalistic tendencies) that tempts us to lean away from the Godly soul that was breathed into us from our Creator.
1https://unewsonline.com/2005/04/theteachingsofirenaeusoriginalsinasahopefuldevelopment/ Since we have been born into a world full of sin, it is only natural that we will sin. Individuals, societies and systems within societies constantly sin. When we, as children, are surrounded by these actions we cannot help but succumb to them ourselves, which further perpetuates the system of sin. This is the “original sin” Irenaeus speaks of.
2https://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/st-augustine-and-original-sin-ze0z1505zken/ The critical question was this: ‘Who placed this [evil] power in me, and who engrafted upon my stock this branch of bitterness, seeing that I was wholly made by my God, most sweet?’ Augustine believed that the Devil could not be the origin of evil, since even he was made by the ‘good Creator’.
3Luther never systematically pulls all of his theological ideas together in one work, but he discusses original sin throughout his writings. In particular, his early lectures on Romans are crucial in the development of his ideas on original sin because in connection with Romans he spends a lengthy amount of time considering this doctrine.17 Luther argues on the basis of Romans that original sin was not just a lack of a quality in the will or a lack of light in the mind, but a total lack of uprightness and power of everything in body and soul – a complete inclination to evil. https://reformedperspective.ca/original-sin-luthers-other-life-changing-doctrine/
4John Calvin on Original Sin and Human Nature, Predestination, and the Sacraments, Book 2, chapter 1,; www.academic.booklyn.cuny.edu
5The two types of sin are, the intentional sin and the unintentional sin. The intentional sin requires repentance, and charity, while the unintentional sin is atoned by sacrifice with repentance. See Leviticus chapter 4 for more detail.
6For those believing that serpents never had legs, you may want to check these three references out:
A. Snakes don’t have legs, right? Wrong–look closely! Pythons and boa constrictors have tiny hind leg bones buried in muscles toward their tail ends. Such features, either useless or poorly suited to performing specific tasks, are described as vestigial. They are also intriguing evidence of the evolutionary histories of species.
B. “I looked even closer—and my jaw was already on the floor by now—and I saw that it had tiny little front legs!” he says. Fossil-hunters have found several extinct snakes with stunted hind legs, and modern boas and pythons still have a pair of little spurs. “But no snake has ever been found with four legs. This is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.”
C. Snakes used to have legs. Now they have evolved, but the gene to grow limbs still exists.
Imagine a snake that has legs but can still slither. That’s how snakes used to be, and there’s evidence that legs have reemerged in some snakes. Why?
Trying to discover whether snakes evolved to slither and reevolved to produce legs, or whether there’s another explanation for what appears to be double evolution, two scientists recently discovered the “Sonic hedgehog” gene in pythons.
Sonic hedgehog is a gene that is necessary for limb development, one of several genes named after the hedgehog-like spines that grow from embryos when limb development begins.