Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Genesis is the first book of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). The Torah also called the Pentateuch (“five books”) in Greek. Genesis covers the period from Creation to the deaths of Jacob and his 11th son, Joseph, in about 1650 BCE, if the accounts are historical.
The Book of Genesis (like the Torah as a whole) is an amalgam of religious traditions, some of which are dated to about 950 BCE and some of which were developed as late as 450 BCE. Since the late 19th Century, Biblical scholars have recognized four major “strands” or sources in the Torah, and these sources are identified (among other ways) by their different theological emphases, names for God, names for the holy mountain, and portrayals of God’s characteristics.
Today’s reading is part of the Second Creation Story. The First Creation Story is Genesis 1 and recounted creation in six days and God’s resting on the seventh day.
Today’s reading is part of an early tradition. One clue to the date of today’s reading is that God’s name in the New Revised Standard Version is “LORD” in all capital letters. LORD God is the translation of YHWH and is a different name for God than the one used in Genesis 1 (Elohim, literally, “the gods” or “Providence”). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary points out that in Chapter 3, when YHWH is used in the Hebrew text, it is translated as “LORD God” and in places where the translation is simply “God” (vv. 1b, 3 and 5), the Hebrew word is Elohim.
The earliest written tradition presented LORD God anthropomorphically – a God who formed the “adam” (the Hebrew word for “earthling”) from the fertile earth (adamah in Hebrew) (2:7), breathed life into the earthling, had conversations with humans, and placed the “adam” in a garden to till it and keep it (2:15) – showing that productive work was part of the original blessing – as opposed to unproductive work that is one of the results of the Disobedience Event (3:17).
The complex myth-story of the serpent, the woman (not yet named Eve – see 3:20), and the eating the forbidden fruit by the woman and by the adam (who was “with her” – v.6) has been interpreted on many levels. The New Oxford Annotated Bible says that snakes were a symbol in the ancient world of wisdom, fertility, and immortality. Only later, was the snake in this story seen by interpreters as the devil.
Some see the story as the beginning of disorder in human relations (as opposed to the good order – shalom – inherent in creation). Others see it as the development of human consciousness and the loss of innocence that resulted from knowing “good and evil” – gaining wisdom and having one’s “eyes opened” (v.7) as correctly predicted by the serpent (v.5a).
The Jewish Study Bible describes “good and evil” (v.5) as a merism — a figure of speech in which polar opposites denote a totality. “Knowledge” in the Hebrew Bible can have both an experiential sense and an intellectual sense — the forbidden tree offered an experience that was both pleasant and painful. It awakened those who partook of it both higher knowledge and the pain that comes from being faced with moral choices.
The JSB also notes that the woman never heard the commandment directly (2:16). In reciting the rule to the serpent, she added (perhaps as suggested by the adam) that they should not eat it or touch it (3:3). Prohibiting touching the fruit was not in the LORD God’s original command and may represent a rabbinic addition analogous to making a “protective hedge around the Torah.”
The serpent was also correct in telling the adam and the woman m that they would not die (3:4) – at least not (physically) immediately. The NAOB notes that seeking to cover nakedness with clothing (3:7) was often a mark of civilization in nonbiblical primeval narratives.
Although the story is often taken by some Christians as an account of “Original Sin,” the word “sin” does not appear in the story. “Original Sin” was a concept developed by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE).
12 As sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned —13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Paul’s letter to the Romans was his longest, last, and most complex letter. It was written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) to a Jesus Follower community that Paul did not establish. Among other messages in the letter, Paul sought to encourage respectful and supportive relationships between the Gentile Jesus Followers and the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome.
The “backstory” is that in 49 CE, the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. His successor, Nero (54-68 CE), allowed Jews (including Jewish Jesus Followers) to return to Rome, and this created tensions about leadership and worship within the Jesus Follower Community. (They were not called “Christians” until the 80’s.)
Paul died in 63 or 64 CE. Accordingly, the Temple in Jerusalem (which was destroyed in 70) was in full operation all during Paul’s life. As a Jew who was also a Jesus Follower, Paul saw the Jesus Follower Movement as part of a broader Judaism and continued to have expectations about the fullness of the Coming of the Messiah/the Christ.
In today’s reading, Paul interpreted Adam’s disobedience as introducing “sin” into the world. Through sin, death spread to all (v.12) – just as the LORD had told Adam would occur (Gen. 2:17), although the texts are not clear if the “death” is physical death or a spiritual death, or both.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that this passage contrasted Adam as a sinner and Jesus the Christ as obedient. The JANT points out that there is no article in Greek in verse 13 before “nomos” (law), so the phrase reads better that “sin was in the world before law” meaning that there was sin before the Torah established moral conventions for Judaism.
For Paul, the good news is that the Christ’s saving work surpasses the effects of Adam’s disobedience. Salvation is much more than forgiveness. The obedience of Jesús the Christ brought to all (Jew and Gentile alike) the gifts of “righteousness” (being in right relation with God and others) and grace so that life now has dominion over death (v.17). The JANT notes that “justification and life” (v.18) is better translated as “justified life” because the word “and” is not in the Greek text.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary describes Paul’s teaching about Adam and the result of the Disobedience Event as “novel” and “the first clear enunciation of the universal baneful effect of Adam’s sin on humanity.” The NJBC goes on that Paul does not explain how that harmful effect takes place and that Paul makes no mention of its hereditary character as Augustine later would. Paul “does not speak of original sin, a term that betrays its western theological development.”
Paul recognized that not all human sinfulness is attributed to Adam in stating that “all have sinned” (v.12). The NJBC suggests that in Paul’s view, although there were far-reaching consequences of Adam’s sin, the effects of the Christ were “far surpassing” and “incomparably more beneficent toward human beings.”
The NJBC observes that Paul divided human history into three periods: (1) from Adam to Moses which was law-less and human beings did evil but did not transgress the law; (2) from Moses to the Messiah when the Law was added and human sin was understood as a transgression of the Law; and (3) the period of the Messiah where there is freedom from the Law through the grace of the Christ.
1 Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
The Gospel of Matthew highlights Jesus’ origins and identity. Written around 85 CE by an anonymous author, the Gospel began Jesus’ genealogy with Abraham and depicted Jesus as a teacher of the Law like Moses. More than any other Gospel, Matthew quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures (using the Greek Septuagint translation) to illustrate that Jesus was the Messiah.
Having been written after the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Gospel reflected the controversies between the Jesus Followers and the Pharisees for control of Judaism going forward. Accordingly, the Gospel contains many harsh sayings about the Pharisees. The Gospel is intended primarily for the late First Century Jewish Jesus Follower community.
The Gospel relied heavily on the Gospel of Mark and included all but 60 verses from Mark. Like Luke, Matthew also used a “Sayings Source” (called “Q” by scholars) which are found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark and John. There are also a substantial number of stories that are unique to Matthew: the Annunciation of Jesus’ conception was revealed to Joseph in a dream (rather than by an angel to Mary as in Luke); the Visit of the Magi; the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod; the Flight to Egypt; the Laborers in the Vineyard; and the earthquake on Easter Morning, among others.
Matthew presented Jesus of Nazareth as a “New Moses” whose life was threatened by the temporal king (Pharaoh/Herod), who traveled to Egypt, came back from Egypt to Israel (the Exodus/return to Israel in Matt. 2:21), went into the water (Moses in the bulrushes and the Sea of Reeds/Jesus’ Baptism), spent time in the Wilderness (40 years/40 days), and taught from the mountain.
The Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness in Matthew’s Gospel precedes the commencement of Jesus’s public ministry after John the Baptist was imprisoned (5:12). The JANT opines that being “led by the Spirit (v.1) suggests that God “destined the temptation.” The NOAB notes that the testing of righteous persons has a history in the Hebrew Bible, such as the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham in Genesis 22.
The Gospel of Mark very briefly recounts that Jesus was tempted (Mark 1:12-13). Luke has the same temptations as Matthew, but in a different order. The additional details in these two accounts are “Q” material.
The “devil” (v.1) is diabolos in Greek and shows the continuing evolution of ha satan from the adversary or accuser in the Hebrew Bible to a tempter or force for evil.
Jesus fasted (v.2), just as Moses fasted on Sinai (Deut 9:9). The use of “40 days” is a euphemism in Scriptures for “a log time.” The NAOB observes that verse 3 contains the first reference to Jesus as the “Son of God” — one of the names by which Caesar Augustus was known.
All of Jesus’ responses were from Deuteronomy. Verse 4 is a close paraphrase of Deuteronomy 8:3, in which Moses told the Israelites that YHWH fed them manna to humble them and to remind them that they were to live by the word of the LORD. In verse 6, the devil used a close paraphrase of Psalm 91:11-12. Jesus’ response (v. 7) tracked Deuteronomy 6:16 in which Moses told the people not to test the LORD as they had done in demanding water at Massah (Ex.17). The verse quoted by Jesus in verse 10 was a loose paraphrase of Deuteronomy 6:13.
The JANT points out the Deuteronomy is the most quoted book of the Torah in the Christian Scriptures, the Dead Sea Scrolls and in rabbinic literature. It also observes that the devil’s offer of all the kingdoms of the world (v.8) indicated that all these kingdoms are within the devil’s control – a reference that would have clearly resonated with a First Century Jewish Jesus Follower community still under repressive Roman rule. The NJBC observes that “all their splendor (or glory)” (v.8) was a customary term for wealth.
In A Season for the Spirit, Martin Smith observes that Jesus’ Baptism emphasized his uniqueness, but these temptations placed at risk Jesus’ solidarity with ordinary human beings. All of his responses rejected seeking or exercising a special status and rejected power rather than servanthood.