the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Fall of Man
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
A change from the beatific condition, due to the alleged original depravity of the human race. The events narrated in Genesis 3 leading up to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden are held to support the doctrine of the fall of man and to be the historical warrant for its assumption. According to this doctrine, man (and woman) was first created perfect and without sin. Placed by God in the Garden of Eden, he found his wantsprovided for. In a state of innocence, he was not aware of his nudity, since, not having sinned, he was without the consciousness of sin and the sense of shame had not yet been aroused in him. Man could have continued in this blissful condition and would never have tasted either the bitterness of guilt or that of death had he not disobeyed the divine command, according to which he was not to partake of the fruit of the tree of life, under penalty of immediate death. (See see ADAM (2); Eden; EVE) Expelled from the garden under the curse which their disobedience brought upon them, Adam and Eve were doomed to a life of labor and pain which was the prelude to death. Happiness, innocence, and deathlessness were forever forfeited. And in their fall were involved all of their descendants, none of whom in consequence was exempt from the corruption of death and from sin.
This theological construction of the narrative in Genesis assumes the historical authenticity of the account; and finds corroborative evidence in the many stories current among various races positing at the beginning of human history a similar state of blissful perfection which, through the misdeeds of man, came irretrievably to an end, giving way to conditions the reverse of those hitherto prevailing. Among these stories, that of Zoroastrian origin, concerning Yima, the first man, presents a striking parallel to Genesis. Having committed sin, he is cast out of his primeval paradise into the power of the serpent, which brings about his death. In a later version concerning the first pair, Masha and Mashyana, is introduced the incident of eating forbidden fruit at the instigation of the lying spirit. For other parallels see J. Baring-Gould, "Legends of Old Testament Characters"; Tuch, "Genesis," on Genesis 3
Views of the Critical School.
The critical school views these parallels in the light of non-Hebrew attempts to solve the problem with which Genesis 3 is also concerned, viz., the origin of evil. This problem at a comparatively early period of human thought impressed itself upon the minds of men, and, owing to the fundamental psychic unity of the human race, found similar solution. Sin and suffering, the displeasure of the gods and human misery, are correlatives in all early religious conceits. As actual man suffered, struggled, and died, this fate must have been brought upon him by disobedience to the divine will and by disregard of divine commands. Under tribal organization and law, combined responsibility on the part of the clan for the deeds of its component members was an axiomatic proposition. The guilt of the father necessarily involved all his descendants in its consequences. These two factors—the one psychological and religious, the other sociological—are the dominant notes in the various stories concerning the forfeiture of pristine happiness and deathlessness by man's sin.
Biology and anthropology are in accord in demonstrating that the assumed state of perfection and moral innocency is never found in the beginning of human civilization. There is no proof of a fall either physical or moral. The reverse is, on the whole, true: all evidence points to a rise from primitive imperfection.
The story in Genesis 3 belongs, in all probability, like the other incidents related in the Book of Genesis up to the twelfth chapter, to a cycle of adaptations from Assyro-Babylonian creation- and origin-myths (COSMOGONY; see Eden), though the exact counterpart of the Biblical narrative of the temptation and expulsion has not as yet been found in the tablets. Two human figures, with a serpent behind them, stretching out their hands toward the fruit of a tree, are depicted on a Babylonian cylinder; but the rendering of the third creation-tablet is so much in doubt that no conclusion may safely be based on this representation (see Sayce, "Ancient Monuments"; Schrader, "K. A. T." 2d ed., p. 37; Davis, Genesis and Semitic Traditions").
The Biblical myth elaborates also culture-elements. It reflects the consciousness that in remote days man was vegetarian and existed in a state of absolute nudity, fig-leaves and other foliage furnishing the first coverings when advancing culture aroused a certain sense of shame, while subsequently hides and skins of animals came to be utilized for more complete dress.
Relation to Old Testament Theology.
The story of the fall of man is never appealed to in the Old Testament either as a historical event or as supporting a theological construction of the nature and origin of sin. The translation in the Revised Version of Job 31:33 and Hosea 6:7 ("Adam" for the Hebrew ), even if correct, would not substantiate the point in issue, that the Old Testament theology based its doctrine of sin on the fall of Adam. The Garden of Eden is not even alluded to in any writings before the post-exilic prophets (Ezekiel 28:13, 31:9; Isaiah 51:3; but comp. Genesis 13:10, and even in these no reference is found to the Fall. The contention that, notwithstanding this surprising absence of reference to the story and the theme, the Hebrews of Biblical times nevertheless entertained the notion that through the fall of the first man their own nature was corrupted, is untenable. Psalms 51:5, the classic passage of the defenders of the theory, is, under a fair interpretation, merely the avowal of the author that when he or the Israel of whom he speaks was born, Israel was unfaithful to Yhwh; and Psalms 14:3 does not give a general statement applicable to the human race, but depicts a condition existing at a certain period in Israel.
The fall of man, as a theological concept, begins to appear only in the late Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, probably under Essenic (if not Judæo-Christian) influences. In II Esd. 3:7 it is stated that when Adam was punished with death, his posterity also was included in the decree (the variants in the versions, Ethiopic, Armenian, Syriac, and Latin, all point to a Hebrew ) II Esd. 3:21 has: "For on account of his evil will the first Adam fell into sin and guilt, and, like him, all that were born of him." This view is again stated in ch. 7:48: "O Adam, what hast thou done! When thou sinnest, thy fall did not come over thee alone, but upon us, as well, thy descendants" (comp. Ecclus. [Sirach] 25:24, "from woman was the beginning of sin; on her account must we all die"). Similarly, in the Apocalypse of Baruch (17:3)Adam is blamed for the shortening of the years of his progeny. Yet it would be hasty to hold that in these books the doctrine is advanced with the rigidity of an established dogma. Even in II Esd. 3:9 the thesis is suggested that the consequence of the Fall came to an end with the Flood, when a generation of pious men sprang from Noah, and that it was only their descendants who wantonly brought corruption again into the world.
Philo's allegorical interpretation ("De Mundi Opificio," § 56), making of the Biblical incidents typical occurrences (δεέγματα τύπων), represents a phase of Jewish thought on the whole more in accord with the teachings of Judaism on the Fall and on sin than is the quasi-dogmatic position of II Esdras. According to Philo, Adam typifies the rational, Eve the sensuous, element of human nature; while the serpent is the symbol of carnal lust and pleasure. After Philo, Samuel Hirsch, among modern expounders, treats the fall of man as a typical exposition of the psychological processes which precede sin (temptation) and gradually (through self-deception) culminate in actual sin (see his Catechism, ch. ).
Views of the Rabbis.
The sin of Adam, according to the Rabbis, had certain grievous results for him and for the earth. The Shekinah left earth after his fall (Gen. R.; Tan., Peḳude, 6). He himself lost his personal splendor, deathlessness, and gigantic stature (ADAM (2)). All men were doomed thenceforth to die; none not even the most just, might escape the common fate: the old temptation of the serpent suffices to bring on death (B. B. 17a; Shab 55b). Adam wished, therefore, to refrain from procreating children; but, learning that the Torah would be given to Israel, was induced to change his mind (Gen. R. ). Through the illicit intercourse of Eve with the serpent, however, the nature of her descendants was corrupted, Israel alone overcoming this fatal defect by accepting the Torah at Sinai, which had been offered to and rejected by all other nations (Shab. 146a; 'Ab. Zarah 22b; Yeb. 103b). If Israel had not made the golden calf, death would have been removed from the midst of Israel (Shab. 88a; comp. 'Ab. Zarah 5a).
Pious men and women overcame, at least partially, the consequences of Adam's fall. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam did not suffer death at the hand of the angel of death; they died through God's kiss (), and even their bodies were not consumed by worms (B. B. 17a; M. Ḳ. 28a; Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa ). Jacob and others entered into paradise while living (Ta'an. 5b; Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa ). While thus it is not altogether true that the fall of man had no place in the theology of the Talmudists, (against Nager, "Die Religionsphilosophie des Talmud," § 9) it is a fact that for the most part the foregoing notions were mere homiletical speculations that never crystallized into definite dogmas. R. Ammi's thesis (Shab. 55a) founded on Ezekiel 18:20, that every death is caused by an actual sin, is entitled to recognition as clearly as the opinion held by his disputant, Simeon b. Eleazer, who contends that death is the result of the Fall.
In modern Jewish thought the fall of man is without dogmatic importance (see ORIGINAL SIN; consult, however, Benamozegh, "Morale Juive et Morale Chrétienne," p. 117; David Castelli, "Il Messia Secondo gli Ebrei," p. 179, Florence, 1874).
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Fall of Man'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​f/fall-of-man.html. 1901.