The Crux Chapter 1 Problem and Purpose (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-18)

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1 BIBLE STUDY (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-18) What s This Passage All About? The book of Genesis is about beginnings the beginning of the world, the beginning of humankind, and the beginning of our relationship with God. In particular, our goal in utilizing chapters two and three of Genesis is to reveal God s purpose for us and the effects of sin in our world and our own lives. Before we come to know a solution, we must first realize that there is a problem. As we consider the world around us and reflect on our own lives, we have an innate sense that something is wrong. Prince Charles of England once said, For all the advances of science, there remains deep in the soul, a persistent and unconscious anxiety that something is missing, some ingredient that makes life worth living. The early chapters of Genesis provide a narrative that explains this problem: Adam sinned and the consequences of this sin echo to this day in our world, in our relationships, and in us. At the same time, the problem reveals our original purpose to be in a relationship with God. This passage in Genesis spurs us on to find the solution and our true purpose in life. Context The context of a Scripture passage is vital in understanding it. The phrase There is a man in the room with a gun can be taken quite differently depending on the context. If we were talking about a police officer, than there would be no need for alarm; if we were talking about a man who escaped from prison, that would be a different story. In Scripture, the context can refer to the historical context of the passage (for example, the time period, geographical location, or culture) or the passages of Scripture that come before and after the passage you are examining. For the book of Genesis, context and background are critical. It is easy to turn the early chapters into a debate about history or science. While these are important issues, we should shift our focus elsewhere for the time being. The author is not trying to tell us exactly how God created the world but to understand the world in which we live, the Divine Creator, and our own role to play in the world. The genre of writing is also important to consider. While the author is reporting historical events, he is doing so in an allegorical way. For this particular passage, it is important to set the scene. In the beginning, God creates the world and humankind and calls them very good (Genesis 1:31). Humankind has a close relationship with God and there is an original order and structure that God creates. The Big Picture The Big Picture Genesis reveals our purpose and our problem. It echoes the longing we have deep inside that we are made for more. This passage is mainly about the problem and not the solution. The worse the bad news is, the better the good news sounds. The more we let this passage from Genesis soak in, the more responsive we will be to the ultimate solution to our problems Jesus Christ. Continued on page 2

2 2 Role and purpose (Genesis 2:15-18) God places Adam in the garden and tells him, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 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" (Genesis 2:16-17). God also gives Adam a role and purpose. The distinct role He gives to Adam is to till and keep the garden. In Hebrew, the word for keep is shamar, which can mean protect. The command is suspenseful: from whom or what is Adam protecting the garden? Then, in verse 18, God creates Eve to give Adam a partner. Adam has a choice to follow God s commandment or to reject it. Here is where the drama begins. to Your Life The early chapters of Genesis give us an insight into the brokenness that we feel in our world and in our hearts. At the heart of temptation (Genesis 3:1-7) Here is the classic part of the story. The serpent enters into the garden, offers the woman a fruit, the woman eats it, and the rest is history. You might ask, So, they ate a fruit, what s the big deal? Let s rewind. The serpent begins by misquoting God in verse one he says that God told them they cannot eat from any tree (God just said not to eat from one tree). Eve responds by exaggerating God s command she says they cannot touch it lest they die (God said they could not eat, nothing about touching). Finally, the serpent tells Eve that they will not die if they eat the fruit, directly contradicting God s command. What is going on in the story? It is not about the fruit; it is about God s identity. God is a loving father to Adam and Eve; He has provided them everything they need in the garden. The serpent, however, paints the picture of a God who is a liar and a senseless rule giver. When Adam and Eve eat the fruit, they buy into the serpent s lie. Their act involves more than the breaking of a rule; they break their relationship with God. In the end, this was the purpose of the tree. God could not know if Adam and Eve truly loved Him unless they had the opportunity, the choice to disobey Him. The blame game (Genesis 3:8-12) Embarrassed about their sins, Adam and Eve hide from God. God finds them and questions them about what happened. Adam immediately blames Eve. But there is a deep irony here. Adam was told to protect the garden and Eve with it. He fails to fulfill the purpose for which God created Him. The punishments (Genesis 3:13-18) The deep meaning behind the punishments that fall upon Adam and Eve as a result of this Original Sin is too lengthy for a full explanation here. However, the Catechism gives a short summation: 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. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and Continued on page 3

3 3 hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay". Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground", for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history (CCC 400). Chaos now reigns between God and humankind, between certain members of humankind and others, between humankind and creation, and within all members of humankind. We all now suffer both physical death (eventually) as well as spiritual death. To be continued As verse 15 notes, this chaos and battle with the devil will continue for the entire human race. It is so severe that it affects our very nature; this nature is passed down from Adam and Eve to us today (for more, see Romans 5:12-17). For instance, how do we view God? Is He a merely a lawgiver or a father? If we follow Him, do we think we will be slaves or sons and daughters? Do we experience the brokenness of Genesis in our own lives? Do we experience the tendency to be selfish in ourselves and others? The power of this story is that it continues to resonate in our lives today. to Ourselves We can encounter God through His living Word that is able to speak into our lives. Continued on page 4

4 4 DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR YOUR BIBLE STUDY Opener Can you think of a situation where something started off so right but ended up as a disaster? Perhaps it was a day planned with fun activities or a pivotal sports game. Backdrop Today, we are going to study parts of two chapters from the beginning of the Bible in the book of Genesis. Genesis means beginnings. For Jews and Christians alike, Genesis is the beginning of the story of humankind. It gives us a unique insight into some of the most basic and important questions that humans have: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? The author of Genesis tells the story of Adam and Eve in order to answer some of these questions. Through figurative language and metaphor about actual events, the author attempts to answer these questions for the reader. In the beginning, God created man and woman and called them very good (Genesis 1:31). God and man had a strong relationship with one another. Here, in chapter 3 of Genesis, Adam and Eve encounter their first temptation that will test this relationship. To begin, let s set the stage with what God tells Adam and Eve in chapter 2. Passage Read Genesis 2:15-17 and 3:1-13 together. Exploration 1. What is Adam s role in the garden? 2. What does God command Adam not to do? 3. What does the serpent ask Eve? 4. How does Eve respond? 5. Was either the serpent or Eve telling the truth? 6. Let us look at the connection between what the serpent was telling Eve and the sin Adam and Eve committed. What do Adam and Eve believe about God when they eat the fruit? 7. Why do you think it is easy for us today to fall into the trap of viewing God as a rule giver instead of a father? 8. Why do you think God put the tree in the garden? 9. How do you think temptations can help or can hurt your relationship with God? 10. After they eat the fruit, what do Adam and Eve do when God calls them? 11. Why do you think Adam and Eve respond this way? 12. What is Adam s response to God? 13. What do we do to justify the things we do that we know are wrong? 14. What have you found to be the best way to recover from something you have done wrong? 15. In light of the role and purpose given to Adam in Genesis 2:15, what is so wrong about Adam s response? 16. Do you think that you have a specific purpose here on earth? 17. Read Jeremiah 29:11. Scripture tells us that God has a plan and purpose for each one of us. Why is it hard to trust this plan at times? 18. What is the connection between our own doubt in God s plans for us and in Adam and Eve s sin? 19. Genesis, chapter 3, lists several consequences of Adam and Eve s sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums these up well. Read CCC Have you experienced or observed what the Catechism talks about? Continued on page 5

5 5 Answers 1. See the Role and Purpose section in the What s this passage all about? 2. You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 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 (Genesis 2:16-17). 3. Did God say, You shall not eat of any tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1). 4. We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die (Genesis 3:2). 5. No. The serpent is wrong because they are allowed to eat from every tree but one. Eve is wrong because God never said that they could not touch it. 6. They believe that God is a liar. Rather than viewing Him as a loving Father, they suspect that He is giving them rules because He wants to hide something from them. 7. Allow the group to discuss this. Several reasons apply: we do not understand God s rules; we feel far away from God; rules stand in the way of our own desires. 8. This is a thought provoking question. Probably the easiest answer is that the tree gives Adam and Eve a choice: to obey or to disobey God. There has to be a choice involved in loving someone. The tree gives Adam and Eve this choice. 9. Allow the group to discuss this. 10. They hide from God. 11. They are embarrassed by what they have done. 12. The woman gave it to him (Genesis 3:12). 13. Allow the group to discuss this. 14. Allow the group to discuss this. 15. He is supposed to be protecting (shamaring) the garden. Instead of protecting his bride, he blames the mistake on her. 16. Allow the group to discuss this. 17. Allow the group to discuss this. 18. Just like Adam and Eve, we doubt that God is really being honest with us. We doubt He has a good plan for our lives. 19. Allow the group to discuss this. End FOCUSequip is based on Ephesians 4:12 for the equipment of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ. These materials seek to equip you for lifelong Catholic mission. We would love to hear your feedback at: Copyright 2011 FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). You are free to make copies for non-commercial use as along as you attribute the material to FOCUS. For commercial use please contact us.

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