The Glossary of Terms

The fall (version

Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer

Biblical scholars today have strong evidence that the creation story of "the fall" in Genesis 2 and 3 represents an earlier tradition than the creation account in Genesis 1. (For example, see The Old Testament Library: Genesis, by Gerhard von Rad, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972, pages 24-25. See also HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition, edited by Paul J. Achtemeier and the Society of Biblical Literature, New York: HarperCollins, 1996, pages 210-211)

There are actually two different accounts of creation in Genesis:

  1. Gen 1:1-Gen 2:4a, where God is known in the Hebrew text as Elohim, which in English is simply translated "God."
  2. Gen 2:4b-Gen 3:24, where God is known in the Hebrew text as Yahweh Elohim, which in English is typically translated "Jehovah God" or "Lord God."

The Adam and Eve story provides us with great object lessons but not with a historical record of our actual ancestry. The Adam and Eve story, which is told in the second account of creation, is an ancient allegory. Bible scholars at the best seminaries have recognized this for well over 100 years. (See

A major part of Paul's 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians serves as an excellent commentary on those two creation accounts, as explained at The discovery that the Genesis 2 and 3 ("Adam and Eve") account of creation likely was composed several hundred years earlier than the Genesis 1 ("In the beginning...") account of creation fits well with what Paul wrote to the church in Corinth (1Co 15:45-49, NRSV):

It is helpful to note that Paul's word translated above as a "being" is translated from the Greek word "psuche" <Strong's #5590>, which in English means a "soul" or "breath-based, sensual, animal-like life." Here Paul is directly paraphrasing from Genesis 2:7. The word translated above as "physical" is translated from the related Greek adjective "psuchikos" <Strong's #5591>, which in English means "breath-based, sensual, animal-like."

To explore the close correlation of Gen 1:26,27 with 1Co 15:45-49, browse The contents of this article includes:
  1. Soul defined from its Hebrew word nephesh
  2. Two accounts of the creation of man/woman -- man/woman as originating from the dust/earth (Gen 2:7) versus man/woman as the image of God (Gen 1:26,27)
  3. Two types of man/woman -- earthly, physical man/woman of the dust versus spiritual, heavenly man/woman (1Co 15:45-47)

Regarding doctrine of "the fall" and the teaching that we continue to inherit its consequences, it is well to remember Ezekiel's words (Eze 18:1-9, TEV):

1 The LORD spoke to me 2 and said, "What is this proverb people keep repeating in the land of Israel? "The parents ate the sour grapes, But the children got the sour taste.' 3 "As surely as I am the living God," says the Sovereign LORD, "you will not repeat this proverb in Israel any more. 4 The life of every person belongs to me, the life of the parent as well as that of the child. The person who sins is the one who will die.

5 "Suppose there is a truly good man, righteous and honest. 6 He doesn't worship the idols of the Israelites or eat the sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines. He doesn't seduce another man's wife or have intercourse with a woman during her period. 7 He doesn't cheat or rob anyone. He returns what a borrower gives him as security; he feeds the hungry and gives clothing to the naked. 8 He doesn't lend money for profit. He refuses to do evil and gives an honest decision in any dispute. 9 Such a man obeys my commands and carefully keeps my laws. He is righteous, and he will live," says the Sovereign LORD.

A Dictionary of Christian Theology

edited by Alan Richardson (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969) in William Hordern's article on "Doctrine of Man"

Original Sin and the Fall... In the early history of the Church, the story of Adam and Eve was taken as a historical account of the first man and woman. Because they disobeyed God's command, they were driven from the garden. In their disobedience all men fell into 'original sin'. One line of thought, represented by Augustine, saw this original sin as being biologically transmitted to later generations through the sexual procreation of the human race. This inherited sin meant that man is born both guilty and with a corrupted nature that is prone to sin. Another line of thought, represented by the Westminster Confession of Faith, has seen Adam as the federal representative of the human race who acted on behalf of the future generations of man. Thus a man's sinful state consists in his sharing of the guilt for Adam's sin, the corruption of his own nature and the actual transgressions which he commits as a result of his corruption.

Nineteenth-century biblical criticism discredited the historical nature of the Adam and Eve story. At the same time the wide acceptance of the evolutionary hypthesis led to the view that man had progressed from his primeval state instead of falling from a higher one. Ninteenth-century theology tended to see man, not as a sinner, but as an essentially good creature who was destined to become better. The doctrines of the fall and original sin have been revived in the twentieth century. Few theolgians today accept the view that guilt can be inherited. But theologians are widely agreed that the state in which we find man is out of harmony with God's will and purpose for him. The universality of sin remains a fact even if we no longer think in terms of Adam's fall. Today theologians point out that 'Adam' is the Hebrew word for a human being or mankind collectively. There seems to be a legitimate reason to interpret the Genesis account as a teaching about man as such and not as the history of the first man. [page 204]

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Fall, the, the original disobedience of Adam and Eve and the results of this disobedience, as depicted in Genesis 3. There are two different accounts of creation in Genesis 1-3. The second, found in 2:4b-3:24, is the older of the two and is considered part of an ancient history of Israel known as the Yahwistic history (dating from perhaps as far back as 950 b.c.). This history, designated ‘J,’ was one of the various collections of traditions later combined and edited to form the Torah or Pentateuch. The J creation story depicts God forming a male human being, placing him in a garden, and eventually creating a suitable mate for him. The subsequent disobedience of this human pair and their expulsion from the garden is usually designated as ‘the Fall.’

According to the story, the serpent (not Satan or the devil, as assumed by later interpreters) deceived the woman into eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, that is, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and she, in turn, gave the fruit to the man. The meaning of ‘knowing good and evil’ may indicate the ability to make moral judgments, as some interpret it, but it more likely carries the connotation of ‘knowing everything.’ The central idea, however, is that human sin is rooted in the desire to ‘be like God,’ to usurp God’s rightful place as Creator, and for humans to have life revolve around themselves and their own desires.

Because of the Fall, the positive relationship the humans had with God was broken, and all evil and tragedy in the created order were explained as a result of this rebellion and disobedience. The Fall resulted in humanity being trapped in its sinful state, which issued in death, not simply (or primarily) physical death but rather spiritual separation from God.

The doctrine of the Fall is never worked out in any systematic manner in the OT, but, in the NT, Paul alludes to the story, setting up a parallel between ‘the first Adam’ and Christ as ‘the last Adam’ (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45-49). In later Christian theology, the doctrine of the Fall is developed in great detail.


All glossary terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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