The Bible’s Viewpoint

What Was the Original Sin?

THIS question is far from academic. How so? Because Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God affected all future generations right down to our time. The Bible states: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) But how did the simple act of taking and eating fruit from a tree result in such tragic consequences?

When God created Adam and Eve, he settled them in a beautiful garden that was filled with edible vegetation and fruit-bearing trees. Only one tree was out of bounds​—“the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” Being free moral agents, Adam and Eve could choose to obey God or disobey him. Adam was warned, however, that “in the day you eat from [the tree of knowledge] you will positively die.”​—Genesis 1:29; 2:17.

A Fitting Restriction

This one restriction caused no hardship; Adam and Eve could eat from all the other trees in the garden. (Genesis 2:16) Moreover, the prohibition attributed nothing improper to the couple, nor did it rob them of dignity. Had God forbidden such vile things as bestiality or murder, some could claim that perfect humans had certain base inclinations that needed to be restrained. Eating, however, was natural and proper.

Was the forbidden fruit sexual relations, as some have held? This view finds no support in Scripture. For one thing, when God made the prohibition, Adam was alone and evidently remained that way for a while. (Genesis 2:23) Second, God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) Certainly, he would not command them to break his law and then sentence them to death for doing so! (1 John 4:8) Third, Eve partook of the fruit before Adam and later gave some to her husband. (Genesis 3:6) Clearly, the fruit was not sex.

A Grasp at Moral Independence

The tree of knowledge was a literal tree. However, it represented God’s right as Ruler to decide what is good and bad for his human creation. To eat from the tree, therefore, was not just an act of theft​—taking that which belonged to God—​but also a presumptuous grasp at moral independence, or self-determination. Note that after lyingly telling Eve that if she and her husband ate the fruit, they  ‘positively would not die,’ Satan asserted: “For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”​—Genesis 3:4, 5.

When they ate the fruit, however, Adam and Eve did not receive godlike enlightenment on good and bad. In fact, Eve said to God: “The serpent​—it deceived me.” (Genesis 3:13) Still, she knew of God’s command, even restating it to the serpent, Satan’s mouthpiece. (Revelation 12:9) Hence, her act was one of willful disobedience. (Genesis 3:1-3) Adam, though, was not deceived. (1 Timothy 2:14) Instead of loyally obeying his Creator, he listened to his wife and followed her independent course.​—Genesis 3:6, 17.

By asserting their independence, Adam and Eve irreparably damaged their relationship with Jehovah and inflicted sin’s imprint upon their organism, right to its genetic foundations. True, they lived for hundreds of years, but they began to die “in the day” of their sin, as a branch severed from a tree would. (Genesis 5:5) Moreover, for the first time, they sensed an internal disharmony. They felt naked and tried to hide from God. (Genesis 3:7, 8) They also felt guilt, insecurity, and shame. Their sin produced an upheaval within them, their consciences accusing them of wrongdoing.

To be true to himself and to his holy standards, God justly sentenced Adam and Eve to death and expelled them from the garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:19, 23, 24) Thus, Paradise, happiness, and everlasting life were lost, while sin, suffering, and death resulted. What a tragic development for the human race! However, immediately after sentencing the couple, God promised to undo all the harm resulting from their sin without compromising his own righteous standards.

Jehovah purposed to make it possible for the offspring of Adam and Eve to be freed from sin’s deadly grip. He accomplished this through Jesus Christ. (Genesis 3:15; Matthew 20:28; Galatians 3:16) Through him, God will eliminate sin and all its effects and will make the earth into a global paradise, just as he purposed in the beginning.​—Luke 23:43; John 3:16.


How do we know that the forbidden fruit was not sexual relations?​—Genesis 1:28.

What did eating the forbidden fruit imply?​—Genesis 3:4, 5.

What arrangement has God made to undo the effects of sin?​—Matthew 20:28.

[Blurb on page 29]

The forbidden fruit was not sexual relations

[Picture on page 28, 29]

Eve wanted to be like God, deciding for herself what is good and bad