Religious Beliefs

What is original sin?

According to mainstream Christian tradition, the story Adam and Eve is critical to an understanding of the relationship between human beings and their Creator. According to Genesis 2:16-17 and 3:1-24, God commanded these first human beings not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A tempter tried to persuade them that God was merely attempting to prevent Adam and Eve from becoming like Himself. Once the primordial couple succumbed to the lure of such dangerous knowledge, they became aware of their potential for disobedience and lost their pristine innocence. Christian theologians have interpreted this critical moment in human history, known as the Fall, in various ways. From the time of the early Church Fathers on through the Middle Ages, theologians have discussed how the descendants of Adam and Eve inherited both their guilt and their inherent moral weakness. Protestant reformers stimulated further debate in the context of their discussion of faith and works. To what extent, they asked, can human beings remedy the situation by well-intentioned action?

A detail from the façade of Orvieto Cathedral, Umbria, Italy, depicts Adam and Eve being tempted by the serpent.


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