Opinions on faith and life

Death-- Plus Interest?


Time to take another close look at Genesis, the second and third chapters. I will highlight the verses I’m keying on:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it. And the LORD God commanded the man, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die. (2:15-17 )
  • Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? The man said, The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. (3:11b-12)
  • ----Then the LORD God said to the woman, What is this you have done? The woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate. (3:13)
  • --------So the LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, (3:14:a)
  • ----To the woman he said, (3:16a)
  • To the man he said, Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ’You must not eat of it,’ (3:17a)

Notice two important things here: the mirrored order of confrontation and results, and the interest.

God confronts the three in the order man, woman, serpent, but the responses are in reverse order: serpent, woman, man. And note especially the fact that while God said Because you... to both the man and the serpent, he said nothing like that to the woman.

But we must ask: Why the second layer of responses? Didn’t God say you will die, and didn’t it happen to both Adam and Eve? Then why the added items: the curses on the ground and the serpent? Was there interest on the original penalty?

When a second layer of results is added, we must look for a second cause. God did not charge interest on the death penalty, but instead was dealing with a second issue. But remember that the serpent was never part of the first warning. Only humans were told they would die. And since Eve was not cursed and God did not say because you did this to her, that leaves Adam with receiving a second penalty. Why?

We’ve been over that before, but it bears repeating: Adam alone rebelled against God to the point of blaming Him and Eve for his sin. He didn’t point at himself or the serpent, but at Eve and God. So he alone was driven out to work the ground that he alone was taken from. Adam alone blamed God, and Adam alone was the cause of the cursed ground and the entrance of sin into the world.

As the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), then, Jesus came to pay for Adam’s unique penalty: hostility toward God. This is the difference between the sins of Adam and Eve; both ate the fruit, but only one turned against God. It is this turning against God that broke the relationship, and which required Jesus’ death to repair. Otherwise we can make no sense of why only Adam is blamed for sin (Rom. 5:12).



It is a chiasm, in fact there are many chiasms in the early Gen text. The structure is part of the story.

Paula Fether

Yes, and a really obvious one. I may see if I can bring this out a little more in the Handbook.

For any who don’t know what a chiasm is, here is a definition from This Link:

A rhetorical device used in ancient writings, including Biblical Greek, in which key words in a phrase, verse, or series of verses is repeated in an inverse pattern. It is sometimes called "inverse parallelism."

This device takes its name from the Greek letter chi, (X), because it has a structure that resembles the letter ’X.’

The repeated elements are often designated with letter and superscripts, such as A, A’; B,B’, and so on.. In a chiasm, these elements are related to each other in parallels so that the first and the last are parallel, the second and the second from the last are also parallel, and so on. There can be two or more elements.

The device is generally used to draw attention to the repeated words, to give them a special emphasis. The repeated words or phrases - while they may differ slightly in grammatical or syntactic form - always exhibit the same meaning.

An example of chiasm is the familiar saying of Jesus: "The first shall be last and the last shall be first." The chiasm is: "first...last ; last...first," forming the pattern, AB B’A’. The structure can be extended to include many repeated elements in complex patterns, stretching over many verses.


And the center is the most important part. This is important to know as we look for the most important today at the beginning, like a newspaper headline or at the end, like a math proof, where here it is in the middle.

Greg Anderson

Hi Paula,

I hope it’s not too far off topic, but I think this recent stuff on your site concerning Genesis , pounds another nail into the pine box that holds the doctrine of total depravity.

I have never really looked into the underpinnings of this doctrine until now. I had always accepted it as true and necessary Lutheran doctrine. I never really read Luther’s "Bondage of The Will", but I’m told that it’s Luther’s answer to Erasmus’ claim that humankind has the free will to choose or not to choose Jesus’ salvific grace.

What I’m struck with, is the sacramental view of paedobaptism in both the Roman Catholic and Lutheran religions. It becomes apparent that infant baptism is practiced in order to keep the bodies and souls of little ones from being consigned to flames of woe should they become victims of untimely death and their totally depraved natures. (not my view, I believe it maligns everything God stands for)

When Genesis 2:17 says..."thou shalt surely die".... I am inclined to believe that it refers to physical death, and that the support for "spiritual" and "moral" death is tenuous at best, and arrived at through Aristotelian and Augustinian philosophy more so than scripture.

Paula Fether

It’s only off-topic if I say so. ;-)

Good observations Greg, and tough questions for those who hold to such teachings. Most people don’t know how heavy an influence human reasoning/logic and legalism had on the so-called church fathers, and how much of that influence has steered the commentaries and other influential teachers over the centuries. Yes, a monstrous edifice has been built on the foundation of basic errors in interpretation!

I too believe the death spoken of in Genesis’ early chapters is primarily physical, as you probably know from earlier articles. But even if we consider as equally plausible the concept of death as separation, as a broken relationship, we still have nothing at all like the idea of being spiritually dead as the Calvinists define it, claiming the dead spirit is just like a dead body. All the complexity in their theology is due to having to "bypass" what scripture so plainly says in order to build on this sand-pit of Total Inability-- which in turn is built on the bog of Aristotelian logic as you stated, instead of the Rock of scripture.

That’s why many of us are working so hard to get every little detail right in these crucial beginning chapters of the Bible.

Greg Anderson

Here’s a link to a google book that is a refutation to the doctrine of total depravity.

It was written in 1859 by Aylette Raines, so it predates by a century what present day Calvinists say about objectors to their doctrines as being post-modern whiners.

Raines argues entirely from scripture, no Patristics involved.


Paula Fether

Thanks, Greg, I’ll check it out.