Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
The Book of Genesis is an amalgam of religious traditions, some of which are dated to about 950 BCE and some of which were developed as late as 450 BCE. Today’s reading is part of an early tradition. One clue to the date of today’s reading is that God’s name is printed in the New Revised Standard Version as “LORD” in all capital letters. LORD is the translation of YHWH.
Today’s reading is part of the Second Creation Story (the First is in Genesis 1 and recounts creation in six days and God’s resting on the seventh day).
The earliest written tradition presented God anthropomorphically – a God who formed “adam” (the Hebrew word for “earthling”) from the fertile earth (adamah in Hebrew), breathed life into the earthling, and placed him in a garden to till it and keep it (2:15) showing that productive work was part of the original blessing.
The complex myth-story of the serpent, the woman (not yet named Eve) and eating the forbidden fruit by the woman and adam (who was “with her” – 3:6) has been interpreted on many levels. Some see the story as the beginning of disorder in human relations (as opposed to good order inherent in creation). Others see the development of human consciousness and the loss of innocence from knowing “good and evil” and having one’s “eyes opened” (3:7).
Although the story is often taken by Christians as an account of “Original Sin,” the word “sin” does not appear in the story. “Original Sin” was a concept developed by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE).
Paul’s letter to the Romans is his longest, last and most complex letter. It was written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) – at least ten years before the first Gospel (Mark) was written – to encourage respectful and supportive relationships between the Gentile Jesus Followers and the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome. In today’s reading, Paul (who remained a Jew all his life) interprets Adam’s disobedience as introducing “sin” into the world. Through sin, death spread to all (v.12) – just as the LORD had told Adam would occur (Gen.2:17).
For Paul, the good news is that the obedience of Jesús the Christ brings to all the gifts of “righteousness” (being in right relation with God and others) and grace so that life now has dominion over death (v.17).