Understanding Genesis and the Fall
In this video clip, Denis Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, discusses the description of the Fall found in Genesis. Alexander suggests that the picture we might have of the story owes more to the imaginative expansion of the narrative as found in Milton’s Paradise Lost than what is actually present in the biblical text itself. He notes that within the actual text the details are spare and do not fully answer all of the questions a reader might have.
But Genesis does have a clear storyline we can follow: humankind was in fellowship with God until humankind disobeyed, eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In doing so, they tried to put themselves in the place of God. For this, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden.
God warned Adam that on the day that he ate of the tree then he would surely die. Alexander points out that the Hebrew text is pretty clear in this reference, using the word “yom”, though physical death does not occur immediately. In fact, Adam and Eve go on to have a large family and live long lives.
In their moment of disobedience, however, spiritual death comes into being.
Alienation from God comes into being.
This story may be told in figurative language, Alexander comments, but it is a real story. Adam and Eve’s exclusion from the Garden illustrates that as human beings we cannot find our way back to God through our own works, efforts, and strengths. God’s grace is the key.
After watching this clip, consider going back to the N.T. Wright video we posted a couple of weeks ago. If they are correct, how do you think their view would enrich and enliven the first three chapters of Genesis? We would love to see your thoughts, but remember the question is not whether they are right. The question is if they are right, how would that enrich and enliven… ?
Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.
Denis Alexander is the Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge, to which he was elected a Fellow in 1998. Alexander writes, lectures, and broadcasts widely in the field of science and religion. He is a member of the International Society for Science and Religion.