The Book of Genesis recounts our birth into sin

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

“I wouldn’t know him from Adam.”

That is a way of admitting our ignorance of someone’s identity. The person does not stand out from the crowd, but blends into the faceless mass of humanity. But why Adam?

We sometimes give the name “Adam” to the very first human being. We pair him with Eve, the first woman. Aren’t they the ones who ate the apple?

But we should note that in Sunday’s first reading — Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7 — the principal character is called “the man.” The Hebrew word “Adam,” which often appeared in earlier translations of this story, literally means “human being.”

It is a generic term, and was not originally a proper name. We should also note that it does not automatically imply maleness. There is another Hebrew word  — “ish” — which does mean a male human being. 

In a sense, then, this is a story not just about the first two human beings, but about all humanity.

The first two people, Adam and Eve, represent all of us. The temptations that they face anticipate the temptations that we all struggle with. After all, we also experience the attraction of forbidden fruit. The sin that they commit foreshadows the sins that we fall into.

Those sins often represent a team effort, just as the serpent, the man and the woman all collaborate in their disobedience to God.

The sin committed by the first human beings is sometimes called “original sin.” It set the stage for the world in which we live.

Every day, we hear news about crimes being committed and wars being waged.

There has never been a moment in human history when we have been free of sin. That is the world into which we have been born. We have been born with original sin. It was not our choice.

We cannot escape this vicious cycle of sin on our own, but we can choose to turn to God for help. We need God’s grace. We need God’s help to become fulfilled human beings, to become what God created us to be.

The story in Sunday’s first reading pictures the world without sin as a paradise. That tells us that if we were able to rid our world of sin, it would once again become a paradise, heaven on earth.

Isn’t that what we pray for in the Our Father, when we say, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”?

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