Hamartiology Theology

Hamartiology: The Fall

I think we’ve all had an event in our lives that shaped us forever. That one event that happened at a specific point in time in the past that has effected every part of our lives since then. Every day we do things and think thoughts that remind us of that event.

Hamartiology - The Fall

An event like that occurred in the third chapter of the book of Genesis. The event which I’m describing is the “Fall“[ref]The word “Fall” does not occur in the Bible, but that is the term which is often used to refer to the events of Genesis 3[/ref] in which Adam and Eve ate fruit from a tree that God told them not to eat from. And as a result, they negatively effected their lives and our lives forever.[ref]Former President of Dallas Theological Seminary once said, “The one sin of Adam has plunged the whole race into sin without exception.” (John Walvoord, “Is More Progress Possible” in Bibliotheca Sacra, July-September 2018, p, 262)[/ref] Let’s take a look at the Fall.

The Fall

I. THE FALL[ref]I have always found outlines a helpful way to summarize passage of Scripture. Another way to outline Genesis 3 is: The Conversation (Gen 3:1-5); The Casualty (Gen 3:6-7); The Con (Gen 3:8-13); The Curse (Gen 3:14-19); The Consequences (Gen 3:20-24).[/ref]

The third chapter of Genesis contains what many people call “The Fall.”

Allen Ross describes the importance of this chapter this way, “Genesis 3 provides the record of the historical fall of human beings into sin and death. It is also a picture of what temptation is like. The passage is about Adam and Eve to be sure, but it also about all of us, every man and every woman” (Allen Ross, “Genesis” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentaryvol. 1, p. 50).

This one event has ramifications seen in the rest of the Bible and in our lives today. Let’s take a look at Genesis 3 which I have outlined as the conversation (vv. 1-5), the rebellion (vv. 6-7), the lie (vv. 8-13), the curse (vv. 14-19), and the result (vv. 20-24).

A. The Conversation (Gen 3:1-5)

The Fall starts out with a conversation between Satan and Eve.

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit[ref]Notice is says “fruit.” Often American culture thinks it is an “apple” probably from the Brothers Grimms fairy tale, Snow White. But note that biblical text says “fruit” not “apple.”[/ref] from any of the trees in the garden?”
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Gen 3:1-5, NLT)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are from the New Living Translations[/ref]

This conversation between Satan and Eve starts the Fall in motion. It starts with Satan questioning God’s truthfulness and goodness, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (v. 1). Then he questions God again saying that what God said was wrong, “You won’t die! . . your eyes will be opened . . . and you will be like God” (vv. 4-5). Satan clearly has an agenda here: to thwart God’s promise to the woman (that they could live in peace and harmony in the Garden of Eden) and deceive the woman (saying she could be like God by eating the fruit).

B. The Rebellion (Gen 3:6-7)

God’s instructions to Eve were clear: Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17). Yet, Eve allows her conversation with Satan to deceive her and she rebels against God. The passages continues:

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.[ref]Often people connect this sentence with 1 John 2:16[/ref] So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. (Gen 3:6-7)

Notice it says “she wanted the wisdom it would give her” (v. 6). The rebellion of Adam and Eve wasn’t just that they disobeyed God, but they wanted to be like God. It was a desire for power and influence. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “They wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 75). 

The tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” appears to give Adam and Eve the ability to understand “moral qualities.” Or another way of saying it is that the tree gives them the ability to know what is right or wrong. Furthermore, they would not just be able to recognize what was “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong,” but because they would be “like God” (Gen 3:3) they would be able to determine what is right or wrong. In other words they would be able to operate according to what is right or wrong, not according to what God had told them. This “one sin of Adam has plunged the whole race into sin without exception.”[ref]John Walvoord, “Is Moral Progress Possible?” an article in Bibliotheca Sacra in 1944, republished in BibSac 175 (July-September 2018), p. 262[/ref]

C. The Lie (Gen 3:8-13)

Adam and Eve have eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They have sinned and now feel the effects of that sin in their lives by realizing that they are naked and feeling shamed because of it.

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
“Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” (Gen 3:8-13)

Effects of the fall are continued here in the interactions that God and Eve have with God. When confronted by their loving and gracious Father, they both point the finger to someone else to blame for not following the instructions God had given to each of them specifically.

Man Before & After the Fall

Before the Fall

Man had a relationship of fellowship with God, man was the mediating ruler of God’s creation, he had a relationship with his wife of openness and nakedness, he was secure and unified in his relationship to himself, and enjoyed freedom.

After the Fall

Man hid from the presence of God because of his guilt (his fellowship was gone), as soon as man obeyed the word of the serpent he was then ruled by the serpent (he was no long ruler over God’s creation), he was shameful and wanted to hide his nakedness from his wife (he previously enjoyed the openness and nakedness they both had), personally man became divided in his emotions wanting to cover up himself and was ashamed (previously he exhibited no internal conflict), and lastly the man was enslaved in his sin because he was not ruled by Satan (instead allowed the freedom to rule God’s creatures as before) “God created the body, but not illness; and likewise God created the soul, but not sin. Rather, the soul is made evil through a perversion of what is according to nature.” ~ St. Basil the Great, On the Human Condition, p. 73

D. The Curse (Gen 3:14-19)

As a result of their rebellion and sin against God, God gives both the man and woman a curse as well as the serpent.

Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.[ref]Perhaps a reference to the virgin birth since God gives the curse to the seed of the woman instead of the man. See J. Vernon McGee, Genesis  1-15, p. 97.[/ref] 
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.
And to the man he said,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.” (Gen 3:14-19)

First, God curses Satan-the serpent-saying that the he will always crawl on his belly (v. 14). God adds that eventually the serpent will receive a death blow (v. 15) and one day will be conquered through the seed of the woman (v. 15). Second, God gives a curse to the woman. Her curse was that the pain of her pregnancy will be increased, she will desire to control her husband but the husband will ruler over her (v. 16). Third, God gives a curse to man that he will struggle to gather a living from the ground (v. 17). The ground will grow thistles and be a difficult way for the man to earn a living (v. 18). It will only be through the sweat of his brow that he will have food to eat (v. 19).

E. The Result (Gen 3:20-24)

In Gen 3:20-24 we see the immediate result of the fall: Adam and Eve banished from the Garden of Eden.

Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife. Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen 3:20-24)

Sadly, the Lord “banished” Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden (v. 23). No longer did Adam and Eve eat freely from the Garden of Eden in which God had provided for them. Now, Adam was sent out to cultivate from the ground (v. 23) as the fulfillment of the curse which God gave in Gen 3:17-19.

Surprisingly, even non-Christians can sometimes recognize that something just is not right with our world today. In his book, Genesis in Space and TimeFrancis Schaeffer writes, “Surely there is something wrong with the world we are confronted with now. Whether we look at ordinary modern man or the tortured works of modern artists or the world around us, there seems to be a flaw. And indeed the flaw is in man, but it is also in the world around us which is not at peace with itself” (Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 65). 

II. ADAM, EVE, AND A LITERAL FALL[ref]”If Genesis 3 were not in the Bible, there would be no Bible as we know it. Why? Because the rest of Scripture documents the sad consequences of Adam’s sin and explains what God in His grace has done to rescue us. By grasping the basic truths of this important chapter, you can better understand Paul’s discussion of justifications in Romans 5, his teaching in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 about men and women in the church, and his explanation in 1 Corinthians 15 of the future resurrection.” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Basic: Believing the Simple Truth of God’s Word [Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010], 67)[/ref]

My goal with this section is to show you that the event which we call “The Fall” described in Gen 3:6-7[ref]The fall is also described in 2 Esdras 7:48-49, a book of the Bible that is not the protestant Canon, but is in the “Orthodox” Christian Bibles[/ref] was a real historical event.[ref]”If the fall of man didn’t actually occur, then the Christian faith is built on fables, not fact, and Jesus Christ suffered needlessly on the cross” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Basic: Believing the Simple Truth of God’s Word [Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010], 67)[/ref]

Why insert this section into the blog post when describing the “Fall”? J. Scott Horrell writes, “The historical fall has been the confession of virtually all church in every century until modern skepticism. Theological changes have not occurred for exegetical reasons but because of exeternal arguments owing to rationalism, evolution, and ancient Near Eastern religious studies” (Horrell, “The Fall and It’s Five Seperations,” class notes from ST103 at Dallas Theological Seminary, p. 2). 

It is not a fable, folklore, myth, or legend. It was a real event. Adam and Eve were real people, there was real fruit, and there are real consequences for what they did.

A. Old Testament Evidences

There are five separate references to the Fall in the Old Testament by two different authors.

1. Moses

In the book of Genesis, Moses mentions says that Adam named his wife “Eve” because she was the mother of all that live (Gen 3:20). In other words, she was a real person who is the ancestor of everyone who lives now. Additionally, in the book of Genesis, Moses lists out the genealogies of people. In each genealogies Moses he states that Adam was the first descendant of all people that had lived up until that time (Gen 5:1-5; 10:1-32; 11:10-32).

2. The Writer of Chronicles

In 1 Chronicles, the person who compiled the history in that book starts out in the first chapter in the first verse, “The descendants of Adam were . . . ” (1 Chron 1:1). The point seems clear: Adam was the literal physical descendant of every single person.

B. New Testament Evidences (2 Cor 11:3; 1 Tim 2:13-14)

There are ten separate reference to the Fall in the New Testament by five different authors.

1. Paul

The apostle Paul mentions Adam more than any other New Testament author. The clearest passage about Adam is in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:12-19, emphasis added)

Seems clear to me from this passage that Adam was a real man that did a real thing. Paul describes a real historical event that occurred and that now affects every single person. In other words, just as Jesus was a real person that did a real thing of dying on the cross, Adam too was a real person that did a real thing by eating the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden.

Paul names Adam again in 1 Corinthians, saying,

Just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life (1 Cor 15:21-22, emphasis added).

Paul later further clarifies,

The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam-that is, Christ-is a live-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. (1 Cor 15:45-47).

In addition to the passages above, in 1 Cor 11:7-9, Paul indirectly mentions Adam being a real person by referencing the creation account (Gen 2:21-23) that Eve was made from Adam. That “woman came from man”

2. Matthew

A little less clear than some of Paul’s references is Matthew’s quote of Jesus when some Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus with a question about divorce and marriage asking, “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for any reason?” (Matt 19:3). To which Jesus replied,

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ (Matt 19:4-5)

While Jesus does not specifically name “Adam” and “Eve,” Jesus does refer to real historical persons by quoting Scripture from Gen 1:27; 2:24; 5:2.

3. Mark

The Gospel writer Mark tells the same interaction of Jesus and the Pharisees in chapter 10. Yet again, it is another reference about Adam and Eve but from a different author. See Mark 10:6-7.

4. Luke

In the Gospel of Luke the genealogy of Jesus Christ ends with Adam, the first man (Luke 3:38). See the “genealogy evidence” section below.

5. Jude

Jude was the half-brother of Jesus Christ and wrote a letter talking about false teachers and rebellion against God. In that letter Jude wrote about these bad people saying,

Enough, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people (Jude 14).

Here Jude makes a quick reference to Adam assuming that his readers knew who Adam was and that Adam was a real historical figure.

C. Genealogy Evidence

Furthermore, there are genealogy lists in the Bible that makes it clear that Adam and Eve were real persons. It starts in the third chapter of Genesis.

Then the man-Adam-named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. (Gen 3:20)

Seems clear to me that Eve was a real woman who is ancient descendant of everyone who lives on earth.

The doctor, Luke, wrote out a detailed genealogy tracing the ancestors of Jesus. What list ends with,

Adam was the Son of God (Luke 3:38).

That obviously is the Adam described in Genesis 1-3. Furthermore, look at Gen 10:1-32; 11:10-32; 1 Chron 1:1.


A. Adam and Eve are my physical and spiritual ancestors.

Based on what I have shared above, I think we all can agree that Adam and Eve are our physical and spiritual ancestors. They were our physical ancestors because they were real persons that lived and died. They are our spiritual ancestors because the effects of what they did by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden are still felt today.

B. The Fall was a real event and I can see its effects in the world today.

Adam and Eve were real people and the Fall was the event that changed history forever. And, we see those changes in our world. Death, war, disease, feminine, etc. The list goes on and on.

“Whereas the pair had life, they now have death; where they had pleasure, they now have pain; where abundance, now a meager subsistence; and where perfect union and communion, not alienation and conflict” (Allen Ross, “Genesis” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, p. 50).

In Genesis 1-2 the world was perfect. Adam and Eve walked in harmony with God together in fellowship. One decision by Adam changed all that.

C. When I see the effects of the Fall, I can respond compassionately.

Because of the Fall, we need to acknowledge that bad things are not our fault. We need to have compassion and love for others. When others are hurting and in pain, let’s love those people. Let’s show them God’s love because we know that we live in a world were sin is everywhere and Satan prowls around looking to cause harm. Let’s be compassionate Christians that love each other as well as unbelievers.

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By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at