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The fall refers to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, as recorded in the biblical book of Genesis, and the consequences of that expulsion. Interpretations of the account vary a great deal within Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
Although the "Fall" is not mentioned by name in the Old Testament, the expulsion from Eden is recorded in Genesis 3, and served as the foundation of the Christian teachings of St. Paul in Romans 5:12–19 and 1 Corinthians 21–22, and, in particular, the Christian doctrine of original sin.
Accounts of the fall
According to Genesis, God created a garden in the land of Eden, and placed Adam and Eve in the garden. He placed a number of trees in the garden, which were good to eat. He also placed two trees which are named specially in the text: the Tree of life and the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil . Adam and Eve were told that they were free to eat from any tree in the garden, but not of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because if they did, they would die.
For an unspecified period of time, Adam and Eve obeyed the rule. However, one day, a serpant came to Eve and told her that God had lied, that the fruit would not kill her, and that he only told her not to eat the fruit because if she did, she would become like God, knowing the difference between good and evil.
According to the account, Eve was convinced. She ate the fruit, and went to Adam and convinced him to try it, too. After eating the apple, both Adam and Eve realized for the first time that they were naked, became ashamed, and made clothes to cover themselves.
Later, God came walking through the Garden looking for Adam and Eve, but could not find them, because they were hiding. God called out to Adam, "Where are you?"
Adam responded, "I heard your voice, and I was afraid, because I was naked."
God questioned him further, "How did you know you were naked? Did you eat of the fruit of the tree I told you not to eat?"
Adam admitted that he did, and blamed it on Eve. Eve subsequently blamed it on the serpent.
As a result of these events, God cursed all three. He decided that because mankind knew the difference between good and evil, it would not do for him to live forever. Therefore, he required them to leave the garden, and sent Cherubim to guard the garden and prevent manking from entering it to eat from the tree of life.
He cursed the serpant by requiring it to move on its belly. He cursed Eve by giving her pain in childbirth. He cursed Adam by requiring him to work and "eat by the sweat of his brow," and required man to die: "From dust you came, and from dust you will return."
The Quranic account of the fall is much more brief, and recounted in Surah 2:35-39. It reports that Adam was originally created as viceregent of the Earth, the angels were commanded to bow to Him, and Adam was permitted to live in the garden with his wife and eat what we wished. But Satan caused Adam and his wife to slip from the garden, so that God removed them from the garden to live in enmity. However, even having removed them from the garden, God promised that if man should follow God's guidance, he would have no fear. However, those who rejected faith would suffer the fire.
Judaism and Islam
Judaism and Islam interpret the account of the fall as being simply historical, and draw no particular theological implications or implications for human nature. Quite simply, because of Adam's actions, he and his wife were removed from the garden, forced to work, suffer pain in childbirth, and die. However, even after expelling them from the garden, God provided that men who honor God and follow his laws would be rewarded, while those who acted wrongly would be punished. As such, both Islam and Judaism reject the Christian doctrine of original sin.
Christianity interprets the fall in a number of ways.
- The doctrine of original sin, as articulated by St. Paul and St. Augustine, provides that the fall caused a fundamental change in human nature, so that all descendants of Adam are born in sin, and can only be redeemed by divine grace.
- Many branches of Protestantism, such as those founded by Martin Luther and John Calvin, hold that the fall stripped man of any semblence of free will, so that man sins in all things unless he be aided by divine grace.
- Catholicism holds that man is born in original sin, but retains some degree of free will, so as to be morally responsible for his sin, and dependent on both divine grace and works for salvation.
- Pelagianism rejects the doctrine of original sin entirely, holding that the fall did not permanently taint human nature, and that man is capable of choosing good, even without divine aid.
Felix Culpa (the fortunate fall)
One interpretation of the doctrine of the fall is that it is necessary in order human's might benefit from God's grace. It includes the notion that, had mankind not been given the capacity for evil, our choice through free will to either serve God or not would not have been as meaningful. For example:
- "A fall it might seem, just as a vicious man sometimes seems degraded below the beasts, but in promise and potency, a rise it really was" (Sir O. Lodge, "Life and Matter", p. 79
There is, however, a second interpretation of 'felix culpa.' If Eve had not given the fruit to Adam to eat, none of us would be here to enjoy this wonderful world.
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