Messianic Apologetics

Addressing the Theological and Spiritual Issues of the Broad Messianic Movement

Genesis 3:22-24: “Original Sin?” – Messiahship of Yeshua

“And the LORD God said, ‘Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!’ So the LORD God banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken. He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life” (NJPS).

Genesis 3:22-24

“And the LORD God said, ‘Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!’ So the LORD God banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken. He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life” (NJPS).

reproduced from the forthcoming Salvation on the Line, Volume III

posted 03 October, 2019


“And the LORD God said, ‘Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!’ So the LORD God banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken. He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life” (NJPS).

What were the consequences of Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden? According to the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For since by a human being came death, by a human being also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah will all be made alive” (PME). Sin and death came through Adam, but life and resurrection will come through Yeshua.

Customarily, in Jewish and Christian polemics, the former will conclude that the latter is in error for promoting some kind of doctrine of “original sin.” In Judaism today, for certain, it is outright denied that human beings have inherited any sort of “sin nature” from Adam and Eve violating God’s command and eating the forbidden fruit.[1] In Judaism going back to Second Temple times, it has been widely concluded that two inclinations, the good inclination (yetzer ha’tov) and bad inclination (yetzer ha’rae), battle inside a person. As is noted in the Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period,

“[T]he two inclinations in every person, to do evil and to do good. They contend with each other; when the impulse or inclination to do evil prevails, a person sins, and the contrary is the case as well. These terms occur in the rabbinic literature.”[2]

In his deliberations against the Messiahship of Yeshua, Asher Norman stresses that in Jewish theology, human beings have to choose to either do good or do evil. Christian theology sits in stark contrast to this, as it is believed to promote ideas such as total depravity, and even predestination. In his words,

“The Jewish Bible teaches that God has given mankind a dual inclination towards good and towards evil, and free will to choose between them. In Hebrew , the inclination toward good is called the ‘yetzer hatov’ and the inclination toward evil is called the ‘yetzer hara.’…The Jewish Bible teaches that it is the proper channeling of the inclination toward evil that creates personal greatness and is responsible for civilization. The Christian Bible teaches the non-Jewish doctrine of original sin in the Garden of Eden, which asserts that we are doomed from birth to do wrong and thus to be cut off from God…The Jewish Bible teaches that God is the source of good and evil. God is the source of evil in the sense that He allows humans free will, who are therefore free to choose evil. Some Christian denominations believe in predestination, which completely negates the concept of free will and directly contradicts Judaism.”[3]

How are historic Christian approaches to sin, and seemingly what human beings need to be redeemed from, connected to the Messiahship of Yeshua? While the influence and negative effects of sin play a significant role in us deliberating on the purpose and intent of Yeshua’s death, whether one believes that God has predestined some individuals to salvation and others to damnation, or not, is a secondary issue. Many religious Jews, upon hearing about some historic Christian doctrine—where all human beings are condemned as sinners—will not want to hear about it. Others will be more reserved, perhaps because they are open minded and at least want some more information, or they find it experientially difficult to believe that dictators such as Adolf Hitler were born with the inclination to do both good and evil, and that he fully chose evil—as opposed to being born with some significant sin nature.

A broad selection of Christian history does reveal different approaches to sin in the lives of human beings. Many have promoted theologies of total depravity, where the sin of Adam and Eve directly affects all humans, others are much more in alignment with historic Jewish ideas of humans having a complete free will to choose good or evil, and still others believe that an environment caused by sin is the impetus to cause people to choose evil. Gregg R. Allison summarizes a number of major ideologies present, in his Historical Theology:

“The church has historically affirmed that God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ is necessitated by and a response to human sin. This sin manifests itself in evil actions, destructive words, improper motivations, wrong attitudes, and a depraved nature. Indeed, ‘sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature’ {Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology}. Moreover, from early on the church formulated a doctrine of original sin, or ‘the sin that is ours as a result of Adam’s fall…the guilt and tendency to sin with which we are born’ {Grudem}. At times the church has given further detail about this inborn tendency to sin, speaking in terms of (1) total depravity, meaning ‘every part of our being is affected by sin—our intellects, our emotions and desires, our hearts (the center of our desires and decision making processes), our goals and motives, and even our physical bodies’; and (2) total inability, meaning ‘not only do we as sinners lack any spiritual good in ourselves, but we also lack the ability to do anything that will in itself please God and the ability to come to God in our own strength’{Grudem}.

“Throughout history, different theologians and different churches have placed different emphases on the above-noted elements of sin, leading to different doctrines of sin. One such view—Pelagianism—denies that people bear any relationship whatsoever to Adam and his sin; therefore, original sin, total depravity, and total inability are all denied. Another view—semi-Pelagianism—denies liability for guilt from Adam but agrees that people are corrupted by sin. The Augustinian or Calvinist is the full orbed-doctrine of original sin described above, which includes both guilt and corruption—characterized by both total depravity and total inability—because of Adam’s sin.”[4]

I personally was raised in a Wesleyan-Arminian tradition, which did stress the total depravity of human beings, as a consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve. But, this theological tradition, unlike that of Calvinism, did not promote the concept that some people were predestined to salvation and others were predestined to damnation. Instead, in God’s foreknowledge, He knew the decision that people were going to make, whether to choose Him or to choose evil. And, even though some other theological traditions might disagree, I do think that because all humans are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), that there is enough common goodness in most that the unrighteous, even in their own strength, are capable at times of performing some limited good works.

While having some understanding of historical Christian thought of humans beings’ relationship to the negative force of “sin” is important, it is not necessary to discuss all of its nuances in the context of defending Yeshua’s Messiahship. When Paul communicated “For just as in connection with Adam all die…” (1 Corinthians 15:22a, CJB/CJSB), it has to be recognized that this is not just all that he said about the sin nature of humans. While the transgression of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from Eden, did affect their descendants, his view of sin in Romans 3:9-18 appeals to sentiments witnessed throughout the Tanach Scriptures, specifically reflecting on the widespread mortal tendency to reject God and His ways:

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT, EVEN ONE” [Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20]. THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING [Psalm 5:9], THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS [Psalm 140:3]; WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS [Psalm 10:7]; THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN [Isaiah 59:7-8; Proverbs 1:16]. THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES’ [Psalm 36:1]” (PME).

Just as Genesis 3:15 hardly gives Bible readers the full picture of the Messianic expectation, so should it be fair to deduce that the expulsion of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:22-24 hardly gives Bible readers the full picture of the devastating impact of sin. Romans 3:9-18 serves as evidence that those who believe that human beings have a sin nature, and are to a broad degree corrupted by sin’s influence, have surely considered a wider scope of data in coming to such a conclusion.


NOTES

[1] Federow, 18.

[2] “inclination, evil and good,” in Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period, 312.

[3] Norman, 4

[4] Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 342.