In my last post I looked at how the Veda Pusthakam (Bible) describes us as corrupted from the original image of God that we were made in. A picture that has helped me to ‘see’ this better was the orcs of Middle Earth, corrupted from the elves. So this is how the Bible describes us. But how did this happen?
The Origin of Sin
It is recorded in the book of Genesis of the Bible. Shortly after being created In the Image of God the first humans were tested. The account records an exchange with a ‘serpent’. The serpent has always been universally understood to be Satan – a Spirit adversary to God. Through the Bible, Satan usually tempts to evil by speaking through another person. In this case he spoke through a serpent. It is recorded in this way.
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. (Genesis 3:1-6)
The root of their choice, and thus the temptation, was that they could ‘be like God’. Up to this point they had trusted God for everything and simply taken Him at His word for all things. But now they had the choice to leave that behind, become ‘like God’, trusting themselves and taking their own word for things. They could become ‘gods’ themselves, captains of their own ship, masters of their destiny, autonomous and answerable only to themselves.
In their rebellion from God something in them changed. As the passage recounts, they felt shame and tried to cover up. In fact, just afterwards, when God confronted Adam about his disobedience, Adam blamed Eve (and God who made her). She in turn blames the serpent. No one would accept responsibility.
The Consequences of Adam’s Rebellion
And what started that day has continued because we have inherited that same innate disposition. That is why we behave like Adam – because we have inherited his nature. Some misunderstand the Bible to mean we are blamed for the rebellion of Adam. In fact, the only one blamed is Adam but we live in the consequences of that rebellion. We can think of it genetically. Children acquire the traits of their parents – good and bad – by inheriting their genes. We have inherited this mutinous nature of Adam and thus innately, almost unconsciously, but willfully we continue the uprising that he started. We may not want to be God of the universe, but we want to be gods in our settings; autonomous from God.
The effects of Sin so Visible Today
And this explains so much of human life that we take for granted. This is the reason that everywhere people need locks for their doors, they need police, lawyers, encryption passwords for banking – because in our current state we steal from each other. This is why empires and societies all eventually decay and collapse – because the citizens in all these empires have a tendency to decay. This is why after trying all forms of government and economic systems, and though some work better than others, every political or economic system seems eventually to collapse on itself – because the people living these ideologies have tendencies which eventually drag the whole system down. This is why though our generation is the most educated that has ever existed we still have these problems, because it goes much deeper than our level of education. This is why we identify so well with the prayer of the Pratasana mantram – because it describes us so well.
Sin – To ‘miss’ the Target
This is also why no religion has fully brought about their vision for society – but neither have the atheistic ones (think of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia) – because something about the way we are tends to make us miss our vision. In fact, that word ‘miss’ sums up our situation. A verse from the Bible gives a picture that has helped me understand this better. It says
Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. (Judges 20:16)
This verse describes soldiers who were experts at using slingshots and would never miss. The original Hebrew word translated ‘miss’ above is יַחֲטִֽא׃. This same Hebrew word is also translated as sin across most of the Bible. For example, this same Hebrew word is ‘sin’ when Joseph, sold as a slave to Egypt, would not commit adultery with his master’s wife, even though she begged him. He said to her:
No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God? (Genesis 39:9)
And just after the giving of the Ten Commandments it says:
Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Exodus 20:20)
In both these places it is the same Hebrew word יַחֲטִֽא׃ that is translated ‘sin’. It is exactly the same word for ‘miss’ with soldiers that sling stones at targets as in these verses which means ‘sin’ when dealing with people’s treatments of each other. This provides a picture to help us understand what ‘sin’ is. The soldier takes a stone and slings it to hit the target. If it misses it has failed his purpose. In the same way, we were made in God’s image to hit the target about how we relate to Him and treat others. To ‘sin’ is to miss this purpose, or target, that was intended for us, and which we in our various systems, religions and ideologies also intend for ourselves.
Bad News of ‘Sin’ – An issue of Truth not Preference
This corrupted and missed-the-target picture of humankind is not pretty, it is not feel-good, nor is it optimistic. Over the years I have had people react strongly against this particular teaching. I remember one student at a university here in Canada looking at me with great anger saying, “I don’t believe you because I do not like what you are saying”. Now we may not like it, but to focus on that is to miss the point. What does ‘liking’ something have anything to do with whether it is true or not? I do not like taxes, wars, AIDS and earthquakes – no one does – but that does not make them go away, and neither can we ignore any of them.
All the systems of law, police, locks, keys, security etc. that we have built in all societies to protect ourselves from each other does suggest that something is wrong. The fact that festivals such as the Kumbh Mela draws tens of millions to ‘wash our sins away’ indicates that we ourselves instinctively know that in some way we have ‘missed’ the target. The fact that the concept of sacrifice as a requirement for heaven is found in all religions is a clue that something about us is not right. At the very least, this doctrine deserves to be considered in an even-handed way.
But this doctrine of sin existing across all religions, languages and nations – causing all of us to ‘miss’ the target raises an important question. What was God going to do about it? We look at God’s response in our next post – where we see the first Promise of the coming Redeemer – The Purusa who would be sent for us.