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What Was the Original Sin?

The Bible’s answer

Adam and Eve were the first humans to sin. When they disobeyed God by eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad,” they committed what many call the original sin. * (Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:6; Romans 5:19) That tree was off-limits to Adam and Eve because it represented God’s authority, or right, to decide what is right and wrong for humans. By eating from the tree, Adam and Eve took matters into their own hands, choosing to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. In doing so, they rejected God’s moral authority.

 How did the “original sin” affect Adam and Eve?

Because they sinned, Adam and Eve grew old and finally died. They ruined their friendship with God and lost the prospect of living forever in perfect health.—Genesis 3:19.

 How does the “original sin” affect us?

Adam and Eve passed on their sinful condition to all their descendants. This is similar to the way human parents pass on genetic defects. (Romans 5:12) Thus, all humans have been born “in sin,” * meaning that we are born imperfect and inclined toward error.—Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3.

Because of inherited sin, or imperfection, we get sick, grow old, and die. (Romans 6:23) We also suffer the consequences of our own errors and those of others.—Ecclesiastes 8:9; James 3:2.

 Can we be set free from the results of the “original sin”?

Yes. The Bible says that Jesus died “as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10, footnote) Jesus’ sacrifice can free us from the effects of inherited sin and allow us to have what Adam and Eve lost—the prospect of everlasting life in perfect health.—John 3:16. *

 Misconceptions about “original sin”

Misconception: Original sin permanently alienates us from God.

Fact: God does not blame us for what Adam and Eve did. He understands that we are imperfect, and he does not expect more of us than he knows is reasonable. (Psalm 103:14) Even though we suffer from inherited sin, we have the opportunity and privilege of having a close friendship with God.—Proverbs 3:32.

Misconception: Baptism frees a person from original sin, so babies need to be baptized.

Fact: Although baptism is a vital step toward gaining salvation, only faith in Jesus’ sacrifice can cleanse a person from sin. (1 Peter 3:21; 1 John 1:7) Because Biblical faith is based on knowledge, it is not possible for infants to have faith. The Bible, therefore, does not endorse infant baptism. This fact was evident among the early Christians. They baptized, not babies, but believers—“men and women” who had faith in God’s Word.—Acts 2:41; 8:12.

Misconception: God cursed women because Eve was the first to eat the forbidden fruit.

Fact: Instead of cursing women, God cursed “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan,” who incited Eve to sin. (Revelation 12:9; Genesis 3:14) What is more, God placed the primary responsibility for the original sin on Adam, not on his wife.—Romans 5:12.

Why did God say that Adam would dominate his wife? (Genesis 3:16) When making this statement, God was not condoning such behavior. He was simply foretelling a sad consequence of sin. God expects a man to love and honor his wife and to show deep respect for women in general.—Ephesians 5:25; 1 Peter 3:7.

Misconception: The original sin was sexual intercourse.

Fact: The original sin could not have been sexual intercourse for the following reasons:

  • God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad while Adam was still alone, without a wife.—Genesis 2:17, 18.

  • God instructed Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and become many”—that is, to have children. (Genesis 1:28) It would have been cruel for God to punish the first couple for doing what he had commanded them to do.

  • Adam and Eve sinned separately—Eve first and her husband later.—Genesis 3:6.

  • The Bible approves of sexual relations between a husband and wife.—Proverbs 5:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 7:3.

^ par. 1 The expression “original sin” is not found in the Bible. In reality, the very first sin recorded in the Bible is Satan’s deceptive speech and his outright lie to Eve.—Genesis 3:4, 5; John 8:44.

^ par. 3 In the Bible, the word “sin” refers not only to wrong deeds but also to the imperfect, or sinful, condition that we have inherited.

^ par. 5 To learn more about Jesus’ sacrifice and how we can benefit from it, see the article “Jesus Saves—How?