The Tangled Web of Christianity
Christianity has always been a puzzle to me. After all, how did a bunch of Jewish zealots produce arguably the greatest religion ever known?
The origins of Christianity are a tangled web of conflicting beliefs. During its formation (the 350 year period after Jesus), the church fathers, certain influential church bishops and different Christian groups, including Arianism, put forth their ideas for the new religion resulting in diverse interpretations of Christian beliefs. Out of all the confusion finally arose the Catholic Church with its Roman imperial theology which ruled the day and defined what Christians were, and were not, to believe in. Eventually, Christianity would splinter into the Orthodox Church and into Protestantism (through the Reformation) and the Protestant movement would further splinter into a myriad of different denominations and beliefs.
The roots of Christianity, however, go back much further – arguably to the Garden of Eden. The core tenet of Christianity is salvation through Christ and this presupposes the concept of Original Sin (otherwise, if a person was not born in sin, they might not need to be saved) and this in turn is based on the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall of Man. The problem is that the interpretation by Christianity of the Genesis story runs counter to Jewish custom, tradition and religious belief.
This tangled web has its roots in Judaism, as the Genesis story is part of the Jewish Bible (i.e. Old Testament). The Jewish Bible, of course, was written by Jews, about Jews and for Jews. It was never intended for Gentiles. It was never meant to be transformed from a story that is allegorical in nature to one that is supposed to be taken literally. As Origen of Alexandria (the first theologian of Christianity) said about the Genesis story, “For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally (emphasis mine).”
The Jewish Bible/ Old Testament is not about salvation, but rather is about the Law (the Torah). As Jesus himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18). Yet, how many Christians today believe in and obey the Torah. None, of course. However as the Dead Sea Scrolls make clear, the disciples observed the Torah – because they, like Jesus, were Jewish. Therefore, they did not believe in Original Sin (as Judaism did not recognize it); besides Saint Augustine (354-430 A.D.) was the first theologian to teach the concept.
Among the great minds of ancient times, Philo of Alexandria and Saint Augustine did not believe in the literal interpretation of the creation story either. Further, Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 refers to the Genesis story about the sons of Abraham as an allegory. So even the New Testament views that the Old Testament was, at least in part, allegorical (i.e. not the literal Word of God). Surprisingly, there is a diversity of opinion on Original Sin even within Christianity, with some Christian churches accepting the concept and others not. The Vatican, for its part, recently announced that aliens may be real and, if so, may be free from Original Sin!
So if the Genesis story is allegorical, then the concept of Original Sin is just that – a concept, based on a much later interpretation of scripture (Jewish scripture at that). Without the premise of Original Sin, there would be then be no need for a messiah like Jesus. Besides, Moses said, in effect, that a messiah was not necessary as man can and must merit his own salvation (see Deuteronomy 30:11-20). If Moses believed that, why would anyone want to change it? …unless….
“… and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth….” (Genesis 8:21). According to Genesis 8:21 then, man was not born evil, he became evil during his life.