Original Sin as you (hopefully) know is that first sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they ate the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 3:1-7). It is clearly a sin that involved both of them. And yet, both in Scripture and Tradition when this sin is referred to formally by name it is called the “Sin of Adam” or “Adam’s Sin.” It is also described as coming to us “through one man” not “through Adam and Eve” or “through a man and a woman.” Consider the following quotes from Scripture and then from the Catechism:

  1. Like Adam, they [Israel] have broken the covenant— they were unfaithful to me there. (Hosea 6:7)
  2. Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man….death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam…. (Rom 5:12, 14)
  3. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:22)
  4. All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man…. (CCC # 402)
  5. Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin….(CCC # 403)
  6. How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”.293 By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. (CCC # 404)

Why just Adam? Now, to be sure, both Scripture and the Catechism describe the Sin as involving both Adam and Eve, but neither formally refer to it as the “Sin of Adam and Eve” but only, the “Sin of Adam” or “Adam’s Sin.” Sin comes to us through Adam. Why is this?

I want to propose several answers, not all of them politically correct. Now in doing this I am not hereby indicating that everything I am about to say is the formal teaching of the Church. Some of what I present is speculative. Hence I hope you will feel free to critique it and add to what I have written as well as subtract. Here are a few “explanations” as to why it seems fitting that Original Sin is referred to formally as the “Sin of Adam.”

1. Parallelism – St. Paul makes it clear that we are saved by Christ alone. This is because sin came through “one man” and hence we are saved by “one Man,” the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as in Adam all die, so in Christ are all made alive (cf Rom 5:17; 1 Cor 15:22). So parallelism makes it fitting that since one Man saved us, hence we were steeped in sin through one man. Now this argument is ultimately unsatisfying since is amounts to a kind of post hoc, propter hoc sort of argument. We’re really back-loading the whole thing here by starting with a conclusion (we are saved by one Man) and then developing the premise (one man, sinned). But, it is a true fact that the New Testament guides and influences our understanding of the Old Testament, and it should. Hence there are two Adams, a “man-for Man” parallelism. And in this sense the first sin is fittingly called the “Sin of Adam.”

2. The headship of Adam – Scripture teaches of the headship of the husband in marriage (cf Eph 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1; Titus 5:2; Col 3:18). When God ordained marriage he stated that “A man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two of them shall be one” (Gen 2:24). Hence it is the man who leads the marriage and is its head. But this makes him finally responsible for takes place in that marriage.

Now our modern age tends to think of headship in terms of privilege but Scripture speaks of it more in terms of responsibility and service (cf Mark 10:41-45; Lk 12:48). Thus the headship of the husband brings to him a final responsibility for what happens under his roof. This does not mean his wife is without guilt, any more than Eve was without guilt. But headship does mean that the head has to answer for what happens.

I am the head of my parish. Now if some members of my parish or a staff member do something wrong, the Bishop does not call them, he calls me and expects me to handle the matter. I am ultimately responsible for what happens in my parish and must account for it, correct it and accept that I share responsibility for what has happened. This may be because I failed to teach properly, or perhaps I failed to exercise oversight or due diligence. It may not be all my fault, but as head, I have to answer for it.

Hence Original Sin is called the “Sin of Adam” since he was the head of that early household and was finally responsible for what took place. In this regard, notice that when God was looking for them in the Garden after they had sinned he did not say “Adam and Eve where are you?” He said, Adam, where are you? (Gen 3:9) It is Adam who must render an account. Eve is not without blame but God calls out Adam. Adam had headship and in this sense the first sin is fittingly called the “Sin of Adam.”

3. The “Complexity” of Original Sin – When we think of the first sin we tend to think of it as simply the eating of a forbidden fruit. But I want to suggest to you that the first sin was a little more complicated than that and thus involves Adam a little more we commonly think.

Adam had been placed in the Garden and, even prior to Eve’s creation, been told to work the garden and keep it (Gen 2:15). Some translations say he is to work in and guard it. After the creation of Eve and at the moment of temptation we see that Eve has something of a long conversation with the devil wherein he spars with her to cause her to be tempted and ultimately to fall.

Now during this time where is Adam? He would seem to be far off since nothing is said by him. But the text quite remarkably discloses that he was standing right next to her the whole time she converses with Satan! (Gen 3:6). Why this silence from Adam? One would expect Adam to say to Satan, “Why are you speaking with my wife?….What are you saying to her?……Why are you trying to mislead her….?” One would further expect Adam to retort what Satan was saying and defend his wife from this temptation and error. Surely Eve should not have had to answer the Devil all on her own. She does well to begin but then grows weak under the onslaught. Why does Adam not step in to protect and augment his wife’s strength? Why does he not assist her in this struggle and help defend against this threat? Is his silence not part of the first sin? Is his omission not integral to the fall of them both?

Adam had an obligation to rebuff Satan and guard his wife and the garden. But he is passive. As head of the house he has the first responsibility to defend his household from all error, sin and threat. Eve should not have had to face the devil and answer him alone. He was worse than useless, his silence gave strength to Satan’s arguments. Eve is not without sin but Adam has failed miserably to assist Eve and provide the support she needs and deserves.

Now, dear reader, permit my flourishes here. After all I am a preacher at heart and preachers love hyperbole. I admit some excess in my cross-examination but also stand by its basic point which is that the first sin involved more than eating the fruit. That was its culmination. But complicit silence from Adam was integral to the fall as well. It set the stage for the first sin. In this sense too, the first sin is fittingly called the “Sin of Adam.”

Well, enough said by me. Have at it. Add other points. Distinguish what I have already set forth or wholly reject it if you wish. But ponder with me why, when original sin is called by name, it is called, “the Sin of Adam?”

69 Responses

  1. Bender says:

    Hence it is the man who leads the marriage and is its head. But this makes him finally responsible for takes place in that marriage.

    Close, but ultimately misses the mark because that essentially contradicts that unity of the two, driving apart what has been joined, treating Adam and Eve as two, not one, and separate and apart, rather than a communion of persons.

    We may thank Blessed John Paul II, in his Theology of the Body, for reminding us of some basic truths that we tend to gloss over and forget — the original unity of man and woman. As revealed in scripture, “man” is male and female, not male or female. That is, the complete man is both male and female, two become one. Thus, “the man,” i.e. “Adam,” by himself is incomplete; he is made complete and whole only when joined with the woman, i.e. Eve.

    Conversely, Eve by herself is incomplete — she does not and cannot make up the whole man. It is only by her joinder in communion with Adam, two become one, that she and he comprise “man.”

    As such, when Eve ate of the fruit, since she was only partial man, the sin was still inchoate, still in formation. It was only when both parts of man, male and female, had ate of the fruit that there was sin by the whole and complete man. Eve began and Adam completed a single act of sin by man, a sin which was committed by the entirety of humanity. All of mankind committed that one Original Sin.

    If we look at the question from another perspective, considering that man, male and female, is made in the image of the Triune God, we might ask — when can we say that God has done a given act? When are actions the act of God? Is an act of merely the Father an act of God? Or a solitary act by the Son? No, it is only when the entirety of the Trinity acts that God acts, that is to say, whenever God acts, the entire Trinity is at work — neither can or does work in isolation from the others.

    In like manner, it was only when the two, both Eve and Adam, had acted that the sin of the one man was accomplished. Thus, it is wholly appropriate to say the sin of Adam (especially since “Adam” is Hebrew for “man”).

    • How do you not hereby set aside the Biblical concept of headship? (cf Eph 5, inter al. )

      • Bender says:

        How do you not hereby set aside the Biblical concept of headship?

        Well, I hope I don’t. To clarify — the head is part of the body. A headless body or a disembodied head are not the whole person. They are incomplete in and of themselves. It is only the head and the body which make up the complete person, it is only when the two, head and body, are made one that there is the complete man.

        Accordingly, if the two are one, if we stick with Adam the head analogy, should we not clarify that it is not Eve-the-body (marriage/home) doing one act and then Adam-the-head doing a separate act, but only when body and head, Eve and Adam, both act that there is a single completed action? The body began the one original sin, but the head completed it. The body began the sin by picking the fruit and biting into it, but the head culminated the sin by chewing it and swallowing it.

        Adam and Eve are two become one, such that the sin becomes the act of the one only when committed by the two. In the civil law, a corporation or partnership is said to act only when the entirety of the corporation or partnership has acted; an act by the corporation president or CEO or a single corporate officer or shareholder or partner is in itself not legally an act of the whole body.

        If we also look at the New Adam and the New Eve, then we see that the “one Man” who saves us is Himself a fusion, a unity of the two, both divine and human become one, and the flesh of Jesus being one with the flesh of Mary. Salvation comes about, not by God simply saying, “you are forgiven,” but by the unified and joint action of the Son of God and the son of Mary, two become one.

        The headship of Adam is a good explanation, but we need to remember in that headship the unity of the two. We know for certain that Adam’s was the Original Sin, such that it could be the first sin only if the actions of Eve and Adam are seen as a single unifed act.

        Otherwise, if Eve and Adam are separate, with separate actions, we must say that there were two sins here, first Eve’s then Adam’s, such that Adam’s sin was not the original sin, but was instead the second sin. The only way to avoid that two-sin conclusion is if we then fall back in time and adopt the argument that Adam’s sin was not in seeking to be a god (by eating the fruit), but in failing to protect Eve in the first place, but which would make Eve’s action in wanting to be a god the second sin (unless we look at it as a three-part process in order to complete the sin, Adam’s failure to protect, then Eve eating the fruit (with delusions of godhood), then Adam eating the fruit).

        But wanting to equate ourselves to God, wanting to be gods unto ourselves by our own will and doing, would seem to be an infinitely worse sin, infinitely more detached from Truth and Love, than merely failure to protect, which can often be due to ignorance of danger or negligence, rather than a knowing and willful culpable act. Maybe Adam was merely stupid and intimidated, rather than wrongful in failing to defend Eve. Besides, every other sin committed after that first sin is, in a sense, reflective of, not a failure to protect, but of that desire to be gods ourselves, to be able to choose our own truth, our own concepts of right and wrong, good and evil.

        By the way, the idea here that man and women are not complete without the other, that woman needs man to complete her (and vice versa) is the height of political incorrectness today.

        • Bender says:

          By the way, it is interesting (to me personally) how I answered this problem a bit differently back in 2010, where I basically adopted the two-sin idea that I reject here (“The woman was responsible for her sin, and the man was responsible for his sin.”).

          Even so, the exercise of dialogue and dialectic, knocking around back-and-forth the various ideas and possibilities is useful if we are to be a faith that seeks understanding.

          Perhaps, as is often the case, the ultimate answer is not either-or, but both-and. Each of the posited possibilities contain measures of truth in them.

        • Anna says:

          In Bl.Emmerich’s writings /vision of the scene of the Fall, it is Adam who plucks the fruit and gives to Eve ; that might be an important point for our times that see subtle, if not overt antiwoman mindset , in many men , that manifests itself , even unknowingly to them , as envy , contempt for life , myraid and deceptive manner of using woman .

          Such a mindset , in those with very critical roles in The Church, has to have its vast ill effects that spill over into the public domain , as laws set to foster more of the measures to use and demean woman .

          The remedy given for our times is the grace to repent deeply for all such , all the way from what Adam did ; in the scene of the healing of the blind man , The Lord compassionately tells the crowd , that it was not the sin of the blind man or of his parents ..but then proceed to make mud , with spittle , as though , with a chuckle, letting us know, of the scene of creation of Adam and where in starts all disorders and blindness ..and where we too can start ..by calling on the new Adam and on Mary , concieved without sin , whose conception , in noncarnal manner , is also a step into the prefall state !

          Thus, when faced with any such painful traits in those in one’s life / Church , calling on the Father love, to fill all areas and moments of oneself and of the persons, to also thus receive , the love/blessings of generations past,who have been brought into the Father’e mercy, by repentant prayers for them , could be the mission that more Catholics need to do ..to remedy and prevent such , from overtaking future generations , by also living faithfully one’s own roles in the family , as spouses /parents .

          The Divine Mercy devotion and Vilnius Image seem esp. suited for such intercession , since , in that original image , The Father image of the Lord seems more pronounced .

          Would not hurt for every priest residence , to have such a large image , in the bedroom ; same true for families too …. to convey more , the presence of The Father ..which should be sufficient for us !

      • CS says:

        How about a solid Catholic “both-and”?

        I think Bender is right on the mark, but that doesn’t necessarily violate the phenomenal reality of the individual soul, right Bender? Yes Adam and Eve are joined together, perfectly, without confusion (at least before the Fall), but nevertheless experience this unity uniquely. Now that I think of it, it’s nearly as Mystifying as the relationship of the Trinity, wonderful how it all hangs together!

        In terms of practical reality, maybe because men need their ego’s massaged more, men lead in the dynamic union. I’m not so sure the Sin of Adam has much to do directly with the stewardship message, but it doesn’t seem incompatible in the slightest.

    • yan says:

      I don’t think that saying Eve and Adam, each considered alone, are ‘incompletely man’ is right. Each is man, one a male man and one a female man, and each is completely and wholly man. I believe that is precisely what JPII taught us.

      Also, I would submit that you are confusing an emotional completeness with an anthropological completeness when you say that the need for man and woman on an emotional level means that each individual man and woman is not yet ‘complete’ as a human being, created in the image of God and fully man. Male and female are two versions of man and each considered by itself is fully and completely man.

      • Bender says:

        It is precisely in the communion of persons that man, male and female together, is in the full likeness and image of God, who is a communion of persons in one being.

        The Original Unity of Man and Woman

        By the Communion of Persons Man Becomes the Image of God
        “Following the narrative of Genesis, we have seen that the “definitive” creation of man consists in the creation of the unity of two beings. Their unity denotes above all the identity of human nature; their duality, on the other hand, manifests what, on the basis of this identity, constitutes the masculinity and femininity of created man. This ontological dimension of unity and duality has, at the same time, an axiological meaning. From the text of Genesis 2:23 and from the whole context, it is clearly seen that man was created as a particular value before God. “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gn 1:31). But man was also created as a particular value for himself – first, because he is man; second, because the woman is for the man, and vice versa, the man is for the woman.
        “In this way the meaning of man’s original unity, through masculinity and femininity, is expressed as an overcoming of the frontier of solitude. At the same time it is an affirmation – with regard to both human beings – of everything that constitutes man in solitude. In the Bible narrative, solitude is the way that leads to that unity which, following Vatican II, we can define as communio personarum. . . . Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion.”

        • yan says:

          Bender after further review I confess that I stand corrected on your point about the incompleteness of man. Thanks for the link, which I found to be educational. However I don’t think that your application of this teaching to the concept of headship in relation to Msgr’s argument is apt. On that point I think that CS and his ‘both-and’ analysis are correct.

  2. Annette Strachan says:

    Satan parties in our garden: Gods right arm reaches for us. “The Lord is a great God”.

  3. TaylorKH says:

    Adam and Eve are equal – they both sinned. Each responded to the invitation to sin in different ways, but both sinned.

    • No doubt they both sinned, Then why is it called the sin of Adam?

      • TaylorKH says:

        Perhaps because it began in Adam?

        • Repent and believe the GospeI! says:

          Original Sin is called “the sin of Adam” because Adam failed to be a man. That’s why 2000 years ago the real man (Jesus) showed up to lead us back to the Tree of Life! The tree of salvation – the Tree of the Cross.

      • taylorph says:

        I suggest that it’s called the sin of Adam primarily when speaking of its transmission to us (i.e. original sin), and that this terminology derives from ancient people’s understanding of how procreation worked. The man provided the seed; the woman the fertile ground. This way of thinking led them to believe that we inherited our natures (forms or essences) from our fathers and our matter from our mothers. So, Adam and Eve both sinned, but it was Adam’s sin that was inherited and passed along.

        Of course, we now know that this model of human development is not scientifically accurate. This doesn’t change the deposit of faith, the theological importance of original sin, or the beauty of Paul’s parallelism, and so on. But I think it means that we should probably not read too much into it, and instead treat it like we would the account of the “sun standing still” in Joshua (astronomically it would have to be the earth that stood still, and language about the sun standing still is just a manner of speaking).

  4. David says:

    I agree with what you say. Could you also add Mary into the mix of parallelism where Christ came to us through Mary and the first sin came to us through Eve?

  5. David says:

    Msgr. Pope,
    You’re right. I’ve seen that women are easily deceived when men don’t act like men. That is not a shot a women, I think the reverse is true also, but differently. All Adam really had to do was say “no”. That was the problem in the beginning and it’s a problem today. A very big problem today, as we try to live in this culture of death. It’s scary because most men are just flopping along with the culture.

  6. TaylorKH says:

    Perhaps it is the “Sin of Adam” just as much as it is the “Head of the Coin” instead of the “Tail of the Coin.” Was it not a coin toss? Could we say that, given the law of probabilities, that if Adam didn’t sin first, then Eve would surely have sinned first?

    That stated, both are equal except that one actually did sin first (because, perhaps, it was simply governed by the law of probabilities).

    I think that in this way we can understand that we should not judge Adam, but only acknowledge that, as far as probabilities go, well, he happened to sin first. It doesn’t mean that he is a poorer quality human being or less perfect than Eve. Or does it?

    Was it impossible for Eve to sin first? Well, if Eve came from Adam’s side, I would venture to say that she was at least as susceptible as was Adam to “Original Sin” since that ability to sin originates in our bodies…true? And her body was from Adam’s body, true?

    I think that what we should learn from Adam and Eve is that we all have different roles and we are responsible to each other for fulfilling those roles. Indeed, in fulfilling those roles for the sake of each other, we are loving each other. Both Adam and Eve failed in their responsibilities to love each other perfectly – Adam offered the sin; Eve accepted the sin. Both participated. True?

    Lesson for women: the fact or fear that Adam sinned first does not mean you are not susceptible to sin. You are just as susceptible and just as culpable.

  7. H. Hobbit says:

    When people think of the great ‘couples’ of all time, thoughts usually go to Anthony and Cleopatra, Scarlett and Rhett Butler, and of course, Romeo and Juliet. I’ve always suspected that Adam and Eve were the true romantic figures! We are told so little about them, but I have a feeling that their relationship was more than merely, “God put them together, they screwed up, and they lived out the rest of their lives mad and blaming one another” — yet many people describe them this way.

    These two were CREATED for one another, and despite the fall, theirs had to have been an intense, deep, and wondrous relationship. I’ve sometimes wondered if Adam did not suffer greatly when Eve died; she was the only other person on the face of the earth that had shared the garden with him…….did that magnify the loss? I don’t know…………..

    I once heard a protestant friend say that while Eve chose to eat the fruit, Adam’s sin was that he chose Eve over God. Adam knew that she had messed up– he knew her fate, but he decided to follow in kind so that he could be with her. Now that’s probably ghastly theology, and it has all kinds of biased implications– and yet, I understood the sentiment behind it even if the premise is wrong. I think many of us have been guilty of loving our spouses more than we love God…………..

    Another very thought provoking article, and I think you summed this all up very well. Thank you, Msgr. Charles Pope!

  8. Lamont says:

    Most significant is the fact that Eve was deceived. She did not act with full knowledge of what she was doing. Adam however, knew what he was doing and did it anyway. He thought the fact that Eve did not immediately die was proof that God was wrong and could not be trusted. He chose to decide for himself, in opposition to God’s command, who was right and who was wrong. That is the Original Mortal Sin that scars every human being to this day.

  9. Craig says:

    Good examples-and the Church should be politically incorrect since she is against Modernity.

  10. Francisco Samour says:

    I agree with you Msgr. Pope. Original sin is more than just eating the fruit. It is the dynamic of sin started with Eve’s own exaggerations and lies about what God had told them regarding the garden. It was Adam’s silence and indifference. It was a dynamic of sin. Original sin is somehow a social sin, a dynamic of sin that took root in our human relations and that only becoming part of a new social dynamic founded in God’s Love, the Church (or a church if you are feeling ecumenical), can be defeated and overcome. And it is through Baptism that we enter this new dynamic of Love that defied original sin.

    • I think, regarding exaggerations you mean Satan’s. At first anyway, Eve correctly rebuked the Devil’s exaggerations saying that God had only forbade one tree, not all of them. You are certainly correct in emphasizing the social dimension of Sin in this story.

  11. BJ says:

    Msgr, I love your posts. They are concise and complete with the essentials.

    Now regarding your comment about backloading in the parallelism discussion, I think this argument places us looking at salvation from God’s perspective since He sees the whole of His creation and eternity as we see the present moment. To me it is a perfectly valid and correct perspective.

    In your wonderful discussion of the complexity of original sin, I woud suggest an additional topic. Even after Eve sinned, then Adam still had a choice. God could not have shown up at this point, because it would have violated Adam’s free will. God had to let it play out…out of love. Didn’t Adam have the opportunity to redeem Eve somehow by not choosing to sin? Yet Adam was more concerned about harming or even losing his relationship with Eve than he was about harming his relationship with God. Up to this point as you said, Adam has been passive. Now he turns to action, and so Adam consciously chose Eve over God. Now Eve’s redeemer has fallen, and the fall of man is complete.

  12. Cathy says:

    In the Moral Theology sequence at Catholic Distance University, building upon the teachings of JP II, Fr. Stephen Torraco taught how critical it is for the woman to show her man the way. “In the original design of the relationship between husband and wife, woman has precedence, endowed by the Creator with S.P.I.C.E.–spiritual, physical, intellectual, communicative, and emotional fertility. By drawing man to herself and educating and ennobling his passions and imagination, woman brings him home to his own manhood and its hidden treasure, fatherhood.”
    Eve, the helpmate, with God-given identity as wife and mother, should have been faithfully at Adam’s side, “bone from bone and flesh from flesh,” teaching Adam the meaning of his humanity as husband and father. Without this feminine “genius” in play, the entire fabric of society falls apart at the seams, as we are witnessing today. It is Adam’s sin, but critical is the role of woman to be the voice of beauty, truth and goodness in society.

    • Micha Elyi says:


    • TaylorKH says:

      While Fr. Torraco’s SPICE tool seems creative, it makes a good point. It goes to show that Eve, as Adam’s helper, had a role in “helping” Adam to mend his ways. But she did not help so well. She is culpable, too.

      In contrast, Mary, in parallel with Eve, actually helps by saying “Yes!” to God to do the good – to be the Theotokos. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand this truth.

      And so, while we are saved by one “man,” Jesus Christ, Mary has been and continues to be a wonderful helper. Yes?

      • Cathy says:

        Yes, exactly. Mary is the second Eve. In contrast to the first Eve who introduced death into the world, the second Eve gave birth to the Church, the Body of Christ. To be a member of the Church is to be caught up in the nuptial encounter between the new Adam, Christ, and the second Eve, Mary.

  13. Daniel says:

    I agree that depending too strongly on a literary device like a parrallelism is unsatisfying ultimately, and can lead to false conclusions. For instance, if the Jesus/Adam link is to be maintained strictly it could lead to Adoptionism–whereas Adam was created a certain in beatitude and then veered to sin by his choice, Jesus corrected this by being created in sin and then making a choice of beatitude at his baptism…
    The rest of the argument seems to come down to the “headship” of males over females, suggesting that Adam’s first sin was in not preventing his wife from sinning. What implications does this have for how we regard Mary and her role in salvation? Catholicism has developed a rich and ancient tradition of regarding Mary’s fiat as playing a crucial role, but if she was not ultimately responsible because she was a female is there a conflict? What exactly is the culpability of females if men are ultimately responsible for the salvation of females?

    • What positively is your answer to the question of why it is called the Sin of Adam?

      • Daniel says:

        My answer would be that it makes for a nice, but ultimately unsatisfying, parrallelism. But to turn a literary device into an article of Truth about the Divinely-willed authority of males over females contradicts Genesis 1 and much of our Tradition about the dignity and equality of women.

  14. Dismas says:

    Since Jesus was fully human and fully divine, does that mean that Adam was also fully human and fully divine prior to the fall? In the fall, Eve was first tempted and assented, while Adam stood by and at Eve’s request then follows with his assent. In the Redemption, first Mary the New Eve, assents at the Incarnation and then requests a miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana while, Jesus the New Adam, stands by. Again, like Adam, Jesus stands by but doesn’t act without Mary’s request. It was almost like Mary was sacrificing her relationship with her Son by giving Him to us at that moment. At the crucifixion, Mary the New Eve, stands by and Jesus the New Adam, then gives his Mother the New Eve back to us.

    I know I haven’t said this very clearly and I suppose this doesn’t help in answering the question of why original sin is the ‘Sin of Adam’ but somehow looking at the diametrically opposed undoing and doing that occurs between the fall and the redemption seems to help. It’s frustrating, it’s like something on the tip of my tongue that I just can’t quite grasp, recall or verbalize.

    • I don’t think we can in any way suppose any antecedent divinity for Adam.

      • Dismas says:

        I think the thing I struggle with, in light of free will, is that it’s difficult to undertand how Adam’s fault of ommission and complicity is greater than that of Eve’s prerequisite pride and disobedience. I think what most disturbs me are the implications this predicates for our Church regarding the roles fo clergy (hierarchy/head) and laity (body/followers).

  15. Nick says:

    Some things I don’t understand:

    How can a man in sanctifying grace sin?
    Why did Adam take the apple if he heard and saw what Satan said and did to Eve?

  16. Nathaniel Campbell says:

    As another way of approaching this, I would suggest the visionary meditations on the Fall and Redemption offered by soon-to-be-declared Doctor of the Church, Hildegard of Bingen. Her first great visionary work, “Scivias”, is divided into three parts, which treat respectively of the work of Creation, the work of Redemption, and then the whole of salvation history recapitulated through the work of the virtues from an eschatological perspective. Although she treats of the creation and fall in the second vision of Part I, she returns to them again in the first vision of Part II in order to connect them to the coming Redeemer.

    She describes the part of the vision dealing with Adam’s Fall thus: “The blazing fire, by means of that flame which burned ardently with gentle breath, offered to the human a white flower, which hung in that flame as a dew hangs on the grass. Its scent came to the human’s nostrils, but he did not taste it with his mouth or touch it with his hands, and thus he turned away and fell into the thickest darkness, out of which he could not pull himself.” (Scivias, trans. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop, [Paulist Press, 1990], p. 149)

    The commentary that Hildegard’s gives for this striking vision explains: “For, after Adam was created, the Father in His lucid serenity gave to Adam through His Word in the Holy Spirit the sweet precept of obedience, which in fresh fruitfulness hung upon the Word; for the sweet odor of sanctity trickled from the Father in the Holy Spirit through the Word and brought forth fruit in greatest abundance, as the dew falling on the grass makes it grow. ‘Its scent comes to the human’s nostrils, but he does not taste it with his mouth or touch it with his hands'; for he tried to know the wisdom of the Law with his intelligence, as if with his nose, but did not perfectly digest it by putting it in his mouth, or fulfill it in full blessedness by the work of his hands.” (ibid., p. 153)

    Hildegard creatively inverts the traditional image of picking and eating of the fruit into a new image of Adam failing to pluck and eat of the flower of obedience. The imagery of eating of this flower of the Word then returns in the sixth vision of Part II, which treats of Christ’s Sacrifice, the Church, and the Eucharist. Here, Hildegard articulates that, by receiving the sweet body of the New Adam in the Eucharist, we perfect the original creation by doing that which Adam failed to do.

  17. Jon says:

    Thanks Msgr.

    I think this post is important simply because of the context it give to verses like Sirach 25:24- “From a woman sin had its beginning and because of her we all die.” and 1 Timothy 2:13-14- “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”

  18. Basil Cole, OP says:

    Dear Father,

    You might find an article I wrote supplementing your thoughts. See “A Note on Mulieris Dignitatem, in Angelicum, 67 (1990), 1, 121-128.

    All the best.

  19. yan says:

    Dear Msgr.,

    As observed already by Jon, Scripture does not call the original sin ‘Adam’s sin’ without exception. St. Paul once specifically declines to call the original sin ‘Adam’s sin’ in 1 Tim 2:14:

    ‘And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.’ And I don’t believe that the Fathers were averse from following St Paul in this passage and sometimes attributing the original sin to Eve. [My feminist friends have pointed this out to me.]

    So, in addition to your headship rationale, which I think is completely proper, I think that another reason the original sin is USUALLY called ‘Adam’s sin’ is for the sake of simplicity or elegance. If we started generally calling it ‘Eve’s sin’ people might start to think that there were 2 different sins or events or something like that.

    Now that I think about it, it seems like there was more than one sin….


  20. Andkaras says:

    A thourogh reading of “Theology of Body “,sheds a great deal of light on that unfortunate episode in the garden. In the Holy Trinity we often hear reference to the Holy spirit being the loving gaze between the Father and the Son. The serpent ( remember that old boy is real smart ) drew Eve’s loving gaze away from Adam and neither of them were gazing at God. Even if the sin wasn’t outright disobedience it gives us pause to wonder how dangerous it is to take our eyes off of God lest we become beguiled by the world ,the flesh ,and the devil.

  21. Martin says:

    1. As a married man, I always thought the Sin of Adam was listening to his wife … har har har. Actually, there might be some truth to that if applied to either your 2nd or 3rd interpretations.

    2. Do you have any thoughts on the idea that the snake is never named as the Devil or Satan in Genesis 3? (My protestant father-in-law does not believe in Satan.) There’s the direct reference in Revelation 12:9, which indirectly refers back to Genesis 3. (That she “wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth” points back to Genesis to me, but it is not enough for him.) What else can I tell my father-in-law?

    • Bender says:

      John 8 —
      Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. . . .”

      Jesus says that the “father of lies” is the devil. And who says the first lies in the Bible? The serpent. Ergo, the serpent is . . . the devil a/k/a Satan.

      As for not believing in Satan at all, not only was Jesus tempted by the devil, not only does He drive out demons, but Jesus uses the specific name “Satan,” as in Mark 3, “So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan?'”

    • Martin,

      I wonder what your fatherinlaw is getting at or why it is important for him to hold that the serpant is not the Devil? At any rate he is going against a five thousand years of Jewish and Christian antiquity and tradition that sees the serpent as an allegory for the Devil. It is good to recall that the Book of Genesis, while recounting historical facts, uses allegory, symbol and poetry, to speak these truths to us.

      • Martin says:

        Not having Satan, I think, is important for him to be consistent. He doesn’t believe in Free Will, either. Without Free Will, there is no opportunity for sin in the Catholic understanding, thus there is no need for Satan. I am not sure which came first for him, but at least there’s a consistency there. He’s a life long Presbyterian, so there’s a Calvinist link in not having Free Will. He’s also a retired professor of English Literature, so he’s well read, which leads me to my next item.

        He says, “My position rests on philosophy rather than theology. As a Platonist, I am uncomfortable with a dualistic universe. Like St. Augustine, I do not agree with the Manicheans.” I told him he’s got philosophy and theology in the wrong order, to which he gave a wry response of “Perhaps. But discussing philosophy does not raise such strong emotions (belligerence?) as theological debates do.”

        He then closed the e-mail with the following discussion, which I will indent (sorry for the long post, but I want to be complete):

        “More philosophical musings: I think words need to be separated according to their sacred
        or profane applications. Thus, I see good and bad and suffering as secular terms, sin
        and faith and evil as religious terms. As you know, ancient Greeks had no word for
        “sin,” but rather spoke of “hamartia” or “to miss the
        mark,” in other words “error.” I do not think that the Greeks had a
        specific concept of “evil” even as they well knew that bad things happened.

        I myself (as I recall having mentioned previously) do not see sin as an error or deed,
        but as a broken relationship with the Divinity. A Greek would oppose virtue/excellence
        to error. Kierkegaard proposed the opposition in a different way: “The opposite
        of sin is not virtue, but faith.”

        The greatest of the Neoplatonists, Plotinus, made the One at the center of existence. As
        things moved away from that One, they did not move toward Evil/Bad. They simply moved
        into nothingness.

        I previously touched on the issue of irrationality. Plato opposed knowledge/reason to
        ignorance/appetite. A third element, the “spirited,” should assist the reason,
        but Plato does not explain how these two components interact. He argued that one could
        not knowingly do wrong. In other words, to know the Good is to do the Good. Of course,
        people can be mistaken about what is Good, and they suffer later for their ignorance.

        But what is that murky region surrounding the irrational, that partly knowing, partly not

        Since it’s a long excerpt, filled with some pretty hefty philosophical and theological thought, I am still working on a response. Any help would be appreciated. Again, sorry for the long (and perhaps off-topic) post.

  22. RichardC says:

    I would say that what is good and true in our fallen lives was even more good and true in Eden. When a man and a woman get married, truly married, they are truly one in a sense we can’t fully understand in this life. So, Adam and Eve were one in an even fuller way than people of our ilk are one when we get married, even to the point that Eve’s flesh came from directly from Adam. One might even claim that even if Adam hadn’t eaten the apple that the sin would still have fallen on him. I am not sure of that.

  23. Annette Strachan says:

    And The Holy Spirit did not gaze lovingly on Adam.

  24. aga says:

    Check this link. It is simply Church doctrine that original sin is the sin of Adam

    From the earliest times the latter sense of the word was more common, as may be seen by St. Augustine’s statement: “the deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin” (De nupt. et concup., II, xxvi, 43).

    Also I might point out the following: http://www.newadvent.org/bible/gen003.htm
    “And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: and she took of the fruit thereof, and ate, and gave to her husband, who ate. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened: and when they perceived themselves to be naked, they sewed together fig leaves, and made themselves aprons.”

    The woman ate first, gave to her husband and both of their eyes were opened. But only after he ate it second after her. So chronological timeframe is present. Then both, and only then, both of their eyes were opened.
    Yes, both responsible, but Adam’s choice caused original sin and its outcome. Its straight forward.

  25. Donna says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    Your article is quite timely. I teach 8th grade catechism to boys and this week’s lesson is on original sin. Part of my goal is not only to prepare the boys for Confirmation but also to try to form them into responsible young men. Your article on Adam is a perfect way of relating sin and the responsibility of leadership.

    Thank you,

  26. drustee says:

    If Adam was not deceived then is his guilt not the greater? If he CONSENTED to it with FULL KNOWLEDGE of what he was doing, is that not the very definition of a mortal sin?

    I think a good answer may combine the unity of man and woman (as in Bender’s comment), the headship of man (as in Msgr’s post) and the knowing consent of Adam.

  27. Thomas D says:

    The headship of Adam appears rejected by many today by preferring an unordered view of equality. God’s created order of original justice was lost and the Genesis prophecy (3:16) continues to show itself.

    “The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. CCC 400″

  28. Lewis Tillis says:

    Genesis 3:6 does not say Adam was standing by Eve. It does not say how long between Eve consumed the fruit herself, and she gave it to Adam. He could have been some distance, and never heard the discussion between Eve and Satan. This would undermine the argument that he refused to stand up for her.

    Interesting article.

    • Bender says:

      Good point. That Adam was there all along can only be inferred because it only says that he was by her when she offered it to him, but the text would also permit a reading that Adam was off somewhere on the other side of the Garden when the exchange between Eve and the serpent happened.

      But a thought occurs — what if the serpent had not come around and with perfectly innocent intent, either or both of them mistakenly ate the fruit late at night when it was too dark to see and they thought that they were eating of a different tree?

      Would it have been a sin then? Of course, that just gets us back to the whole question, which would seem to be dispositive of the “why the sin of Adam” question, of just exactly what was the sin, the eating of the fruit per se, disobedience by eating after God said not to, or seeking to be gods and manifesting that desire by consuming the fruit? What was the sin, and when did the sin commence and when was it completed?

      • Bender says:

        Or, instead of them innocently eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by mistake, the serpent had fooled them into thinking that some other tree was the Tree of Knowledge and they ate that fruit instead?

        In that case, they would not have eaten of The Tree, so would that have constituted disobedience? Would that have been a failure to protect by Adam? Would it have been a sin at all? But if so, what would it have been?

        Meanwhile, God never said to Cain (or anyone at that time), “do not kill each other.” So, when he did kill Abel, it was not in violation of, or disobedient of, any expressed commandment. And yet it was a sin even though it had not been explicitly prohibited.

        Prior to that, and prior to eating the fruit, God had given another commandment — be fruitful and multiply. And yet, by the time of the eating of the fruit, Adam and Eve had not complied. Was their failure to do as God commanded a sin? If so, then that would have been the first sin, but since it was not the first sin, their failure to multiply was not a sin even though it had been explicitly mandated.

        All of which is just a long way of, again, trying to properly identify the first sin (involving the Tree) and when it was committed and who committed it and how it was committed.

  29. Mary says:

    I love articles like this, especially when it asks for alternate interpretations.

    1) When I sin, it affects others, and when I sin it is my own responsibility, I cannot blame others for my actions. Eve’s sin brings Adam into sin. God does not let Adam place the blame for his actions onto Eve – ‘it isn’t my fault, Eve did it first so I thought it was OK’.
    2) God said, ‘don’t eat of that tree’. The Serpent said ‘Nah, you misunderstood Him’, ‘That is what He said, but not what He meant’, ‘He “misspoke”. We have a lot of “misspeaking” today.

    Doesn’t matter what the Serpent/Temptor/Devil says, we still have to follow God and when we stray we are responsible for our own actions. I sin. I must be the one to repent.

  30. David WS says:

    Forgive me if I’m reiterating something from an earlier post, but I have something to add:
    Men and Women are complementary… Men deduce a problem logically, “A” then B then C. Women will arrive at “Z” out of nowhere. I’ve learned in marriage not to dismiss a conclusion of “Z”. My wife is very often right and I need her to tell me “Z”. I need her to be a woman. But -women are easily deceived. They’re more easily deceived in not thinking through something and being deceived by false assumptions or a false sentimentality. My wife needs me to say “no”. She needs me to be a man. That can be a cross at times. Choosing what it true and good over her, for what is best for her.

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