Is God a 5+ type civilization




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Why did God put a forbidden tree in Paradise? Was he trying to lure people into a trap? Then God would be to blame for the fall.


An elementary school student raises this objection and has to write five hundred times "I mustn't blaspheme God." Isabel Allende relates this in one of her novels.1 The incident is made up, but well made. For little Gregory Reeves it marks the turning away from the peculiar religiosity of his father - an itinerant preacher - and the decision to take his life into his own hands. That makes Gregory the typical modern person.


Got to Is it not possible to renounce a God who rules us out with prohibitions of arbitrariness? Is the absurd punishment of Gregory by his religion teacher something other than the ecclesiastical enforcement of an arbitrary prohibition of thinking that God himself imposed on the first humans?


"Then the Lord God commanded man: You may eat of all trees, but you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, for as soon as you eat from it you will die." (Gen 2:17)


People from many centuries suspected the God of the Fall of Man as a capricious tyrant: in recent educational literature (Alice Miller), in Enlightenment thinking since the 18th century, and in Gnostic texts in early Christianity. But the first to express this suspicion was the snake in paradise.


“Then the snake said to the woman: No, you will not die. Rather, God knows: As soon as you eat it, your eyes open, you become like God and recognize good and bad. "(Gen 3,5)


So is God a jealous God who wants to prevent man from rising to his own greatness? Is that the reason for the ban in paradise? Man has to emancipate himself from such a god in order to be himself, autonomously and with his own responsibility. - That's how the snake saw it. And the gnosis2, the Enlightenment, as well as the modern criticism of religion prove the snake right.


Such suspicions undermine the history of Christian cultures. They also deeply shape our present world. They pervade the religious practice of even staunch Christians with a poisonous touch of embarrassment. As if piety inevitably meant resignation and regression: "All you can do is pray." That sounds like: "Papa will sort it out".


Such reservations are rarely discussed openly. Theology does not usually deal with it. The question of why God put a forbidden tree in paradise seems naive. Who still believes today that there was literal paradise? So there was no literal forbidden tree either. These are pictures!


But just: In pictures, the story of the Fall articulates a deep rift between trust in God and personal responsibility, between theonomy and autonomy. She tells of the basis of this rift, which according to the later Christian conception is universal: as original sin. A rift between God and man so pervasive that even the story it describes seems contaminated by it.


The question of God is as relevant today as it has ever been. Where the word God has lost its meaning, the "thing" addressed with it has not disappeared. Even anonymously - without there being a language for it - suspicion of God continues to mischief , to our living environment, to ourselves and entangles us in the problems that we grapple with every day:

  • from family quarrels to bullying in school and at work to the wars in the world;
  • from private household worries to climate catastrophe;
  • from personal identity problems to the identity crises of states and globalized world society.

This makes the story of the Fall of Man burning topical: as the story of the lost God, it is at the same time the story of the lost neighbor, of the lost world, of the lost self. And this is how the Bible says it when it describes the consequences of the fall of man: As a result of the loss of God, the relationship between people is corrupted when the woman longs for the man, but the man rules over the woman (Gen 3:16). The relationship to the world is corrupted when the soil is cursed and man has to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow (Gen 3: 17-19). His relationship to existence is corrupted if he has to fear death (Gen 3:19). And his relationship to himself is spoiled if he is ashamed of his nakedness and anxiously covers it up (Gen 3: 7).


This book was not created at your desk; it has grown over the years in lectures and discussions. It owes a lot to attentive listening and critical inquiries from students and participants in adult education, especially from the Vienna distance-learning theological courses. This book is dedicated to them. I would also like to thank Simone Paganini for expert advice based on the expertise of the Old Testament scholar, as well as Maximilian Paulin, who, as a lecturer, was extremely committed to improving the manuscript.


God - a black educator?


Isn't God himself ultimately responsible for the fall of man? He put the forbidden tree in the middle of paradise! Didn't he lure people into a trap? First he created them as creative and curious beings (Gen 1.28; 2.19f), and then piqued their curiosity with an arbitrary tree ban!


This is the direction in which Alice Miller's angry criticism, a contentious educator and writer, points:


“Why did God plant the tree of the knowledge of good and bad in the middle of the Garden of Eden if He did not want the two people He created to eat its fruits? Why did he tempt his creatures? Why does he need this when he is the Almighty God who created the world? Why does he need to force the two people to obey when he is the omniscient? Did he not know that with man he had brought into being a being that was curious and that he had forced it to become unfaithful to its nature? "3


Alice Miller notes that she asked herself these questions as a child. She never received a satisfactory theological answer in her life. She concluded that the Bible was written by men who had received a violent upbringing - black pedagogy - and therefore could only imagine God as violent.


“Your God thought up a cruel scenario, gave Adam and Eve the tree of knowledge, but forbade them to eat the fruit of all things, that is, to grow up to be knowing and autonomous people. He wanted to make her totally dependent on himself. I describe such an approach by a father as sadistic because it contains the joy of tormenting the child. Punishing the child for the consequences of fatherly sadism has nothing to do with love, but rather with black pedagogy. But this is how the Bible poets unconsciously saw their supposedly loving fathers. "4


God a sadist and black educator? The attack could be irritating. Is that how you deal with the Bible? But even if one perceives such biblical criticism as absurd and blasphemous: We must admit that it did not arise from malice, but from serious irritation. That is why we have to openly accept the allegations. Taboo criticism continues to work subliminally and poisons the relationship to God. It leaves the suspicion that God may not mean it so well for us humans after all; that I will lose my freedom and maybe my sanity if I go unreservedly with God.


So let's try to get to the bottom of Alice Miller's criticism. Let us imagine a father and a small child. We certainly agree that the father does not lock the child in a walking school, but gives him the opportunity to follow his curiosity by exploring his little world. Similarly, according to the second creation account, God also placed man in a garden in which he could move freely and where he had free access to the trees. - What would we say if the said father placed a dangerous object in the middle of the playroom, if he forbade the unsuspecting child with wild threats and then leaves the child alone with his curiosity? We would condemn such a father as irresponsible and malicious. We would ask ourselves what he was thinking, and we would suspect that the father wanted to nip in the bud any autonomy of his child with his action. First it lures out an autonomous behavior from the child, in order to then frustrate it all the more effectively. If the child really burns their fingers on the forbidden object, in future they will only fearfully ask Papa before they try something new.


The serpent as a redeemer from an evil god?


Alice Miller's allegations are not new. The Gnostic commented as early as the second century AD5 Text "Testimony of Truth" the story of the Fall in an extremely critical way:


“What kind of god is that? / At first he did not allow Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge. Second, he asked, 'Adam, where are you?' He didn't know from the start! So God has no foreknowledge. / Then he said: 'We want to throw him out of this place, otherwise he will eat from the tree of life and live forever.' With this he has undoubtedly shown that he is vicious and jealous. "6


The unknown author of the "Testimony of Truth" thus agrees with the serpent of Paradise. Even more, he sees in it a model of the redeeming Christ. And he is not alone with this conception; various Gnostic movements agree with him in this.7 It is not the devil, therefore, but Christ who appeared in the form of the serpent; and he appeared to free people from the clutches of a violent and envious creator god.


God as the moral cause of the Fall?


In the 18th century, Hermann Samuel Reimarus, one of the fathers of the philosophical Enlightenment, anticipated Alice Miller's criticism in the sharpest possible way. Let's listen to Reimarus in the original sound:


“Assuming that I foresee that Simplicius will get drunk, and that he and his offspring will contract an incurable disease, the severe trouble, if you see a beautiful Roman with wine in front of him, and a cunning person there who will make him drink. I make my best room in the house ready: every now and then I put all sorts of food, including water, beer, tea, coffee around, but in the middle I put a large Roman on the table, whose wine with its glowing shine and refreshing smell unites the more pleasant the taste promises. Under the table there is an ante of the same wine, from which more can be tapped; I give it the name Vin de joie. Now I ask Simplicium to come to me, lead him into this room, and say: Listen, I cannot be with you for a while; but if you get an appetite in the meantime, there is all kinds of food and drink around the room for refreshment; but be careful for the vin de joie in the middle that you do not drink from it; for where you do this you will contract an incurable disease. Then I go away; but let Cacochartum in immediately without him having anything to do with it. In the meantime I know that he is usually happy when he can lead someone to do something wrong, and that he is far too clever for Simplicio. This starts a friendly conversation with Simplicio, finally comes to the wine and forces him to drink. Simplicius refuses, with repeated warnings from the host. Hey, says Cacochartus, don't you notice that the landlord only wants to keep this wine to himself? Just smell the wine once and see how it plays in the glass: it's not called Vin de joie for nothing: if you drink it, you will be as happy as a king can always be. Let us be merry today; I want to have the first drink, you should see that it does not harm me. My Simplicius allows himself to be talked about, drinks, gets a taste for it, gets intoxicated that he goes out of his mind, and gets serious trouble; there he lies! Now I come back to how Simplicius is recovering a little, narrow8 I with Cacocharto as well as Simplicio, that they would both suffer their misfortune as punishment. At last I chase Simplicium out of the room and the house, lock the room and put a pair of servants with bare swords in front of it, so that no one should come further in and drink the wine. "9And with regard to the angel with the flaming sword who prevents the return to paradise (Gen 3:24), Reimarus adds one more thing: "Would the cherubim with their flashing swords not have done better service near the forbidden tree?"10


However, Reimarus did not see himself as an atheist. He also did not see the Bible as a book of mendacity. Instead, he criticized the theologians and preachers who misunderstood the Paradise story as a historical account of the fall of mankind. He saw himself as a critical Bible writer, and as such he went down in history. But he knew that his criticism was explosive and therefore never published it. It was only made public through his estate and triggered an earthquake.11


Fall story without God


At that time, philosophers escaped the sharpness of such criticism by the trick that they retold the story of paradise without God being included. This is what Immanuel Kant said in his work on the presumed origin of human history (1786):12 In contrast to animals, humans went beyond their natural instincts. Curiously, they grabbed food that they couldn't digest. They covered their nakedness with fig leaves and thus stimulated their sexual drive through fantasies. They worried about the future and so fell into restlessness and fears. And they began to see themselves as the only purpose of the world and to exploit the world for their benefit. In this way man drove himself out of paradise, where he only had to satisfy his most immediate needs in quiet inactivity. Much problematic arose in this way - desires, vices and all kinds of hardship - but also the extremely good thing that people began to develop the skills they had and to go their own way. "Sapere aude - have the courage to use your reason." Kant raised this motto to the program13 and thus founded the epoch of an Enlightenment based on religion and criticism.14


This guiding principle has had a tremendous history of impact and still shapes our understanding of education at schools, universities and in the "upper" areas of the press and media. Autonomy - in the sense of moral self-determination - is the central catchphrase.


In itself, autonomy is also a positive value for the Bible and Christianity: According to the biblical creation story, God did not make man a puppet, but created him to shape his world independently. It corresponds to this when the Second Vatican Council advocates freedom of conscience and uses the word autonomy in a positive way.15


The fact that the masterminds of the Enlightenment placed human autonomy in the middle was therefore not problematic. But it was dangerously misleading that they contrasted this ideal with God. And it is oppressive to find that the otherwise so independent thinkers had simply adopted this error from Protestant and Catholic theologians. Like them, they were convinced of an opposition between God and autonomy - only that in view of this supposed opposition they took the side of human autonomy.


Even if they - like Kant in his work on the origin of human history - tried to leave God out of the game, they turned the meaning of the story of the fall into its opposite. For them, reaching for the forbidden fruit marked the transition from an animal-like nature to sensible freedom; he became a symbol of the growing up of mankind. What many thought at the time, Friedrich Schiller formulated with exuberance:


"This fall of man from instincts, which brought moral evil into creation, but only to make moral good possible therein, is without contradiction the happiest and greatest occurrence in human history, from this moment on his freedom is written, this is where the first removed foundation stone was laid for his morality. "16


This is how the philosophical Enlightenment of the late 18th and early 19th centuries understoodCentury the story of the fall of man as a story of emancipation: the Bible would tell how the children of men grew up and thus only became human beings in the full sense; and how they mustered up the courage to break free from their initial immaturity and foreign control. People no longer allowed themselves to be determined by God-given or natural commandments and prohibitions, but prepared themselves to himself to discover and determine what is good and what is bad. Autonomy, the unauthorized knowledge "on" good and bad - this fruit from the tree of knowledge could not be withheld from people.


Protest against the god of the fall of man


What did all of this have to mean if God was no longer - as Kant did - kept elegantly out of the story of the Fall? Then God could only appear as a dubious despot who enviously withheld from people what was decisive for them. A few decades after Kant, Heinrich Heine drew this conclusion in an evil poem:


You sent with the flaming sword
The heavenly gendarmes
And chased me out of paradise
Without any right or mercy!

I'm moving away with my wife
To other lands on earth;
But that I have enjoyed the fruit of knowledge,
You can't change that anymore.

You can't change that I know
How much you small and vain
And no matter how much you make yourself
Important by death and thunder. [...]

I will never miss it
The paradisiacal spaces;
That wasn't a real paradise -
There were forbidden trees there.

I want my full right to freedom!
I find the smallest restriction
Paradise is changing for me
In hell and prison.17


From here it is not a further step to the radical atheism of Friedrich Nietzsche, for whom just being like God - which the snake promised with the enjoyment of the forbidden fruit - only against God can be realized: "If there were gods, how could I stand not being a god!"18


After all, Heine and Nietzsche deserve credit for getting to the heart of a problem that had existed for a long time, but remained veiled. We too live in a time of veiling. The atheistic pathos of Nietzsche is no longer popular, but the poison of a deep-rooted distrust of God - that poison of the paradise snake19 - still works. Not only does it lead to enlightened people perceiving the Christian faith as unreasonable, it also paralyzes the vitality of Christians and thus causes what Nietzsche of all people criticized about them: "You would have to sing me better songs so that I would learn to believe in their Savior: his disciples should look redeemed to me! "20


Instead of drawing greater strength from the deeper power of faith for self-reliant global engagement, many Christians limit themselves to a lazy compromise: not too pious not to be branded as unworldly weirdos; and not too involved in the world so that piety is not neglected. There is a gap between the world and belief here: religiosity appears to be unproblematic if it is restricted to sacred times and private places. Outside of church it quickly becomes embarrassing, such as the sign of the cross in a restaurant or the prayer that a Christian tries to stammer outside of church locations and occasions.


This schizophrenia is actually incomprehensible if man is really created in God's image, and if consequently "God's honor is living man" and "God is man's honor", as the Church Father Irenaeus said.21 The embarrassment towards everything pious is, however, logical for a world in which self-determination and God-centricity, autonomy and theonomy, have come into irreconcilable opposition. Then prayer can mean nothing more than regression to a stage of early childhood when you asked your dad to fix it instead of rolling up your sleeves yourself. Only when nothing really works is turning to God tolerated: "You can only pray there." Prayer here stands for resignation and regression.


* * *


We have seen how the story of the Fall ignites an irreconcilable opposition between trust in God and human autonomy. Is there another way of understanding the story of the Fall? To do this, one would have to have a better answer to the question why God put a forbidden tree in paradise. In the fourth chapter we will elaborate this answer. To do this, however, we must first understand how the Bible describes the relationship between God and man. We need to develop an idea of ​​how man is grounded in God. That will happen in the third chapter. Hence we can then understand the fall of man as an exemplary story of how man loses God. But first we have to clarify how we should understand the biblical story at all: Is this a historical report or a mere fairy tale, a myth or an exemplary story?


Why did God plant a forbidden tree in Paradise? Was he trying to trap people? Such questions are asked up to the present day. But are they not done long ago? Who today seriously believes that at the beginning of world history there was a paradise, and that evil, calamity and violence are merely the consequences of the original sin of two people, called Adam and Eve? With the exception of some Bible fundamentalists, there are no longer any doubts about an evolutionary worldview, according to which mankind has developed from more primitive forms of life; and for these earlier forms of life, too, the competition for resources and better reproductive conditions were commonplace. An initial paradise full of peace, harmony and abundance is unthinkable here.


But if there was no paradise, then there was no forbidden tree, no seductive snake and no sin. So why so much fuss - even a whole book - about a mere myth, a fairy tale?


The Myth of the Fall


However, myths deal with primal experiences of human existence that are always topical. They tell of basic tensions that underlie our understanding of the world and ourselves, our morals and which are difficult to describe directly. Because they are always decisive ahead of our concrete descriptions of the world and approaches to solving our world problems.


For the problem area of ​​evil and guilt, the basic experience that myths tell is an inextricable tension between human responsibility for evil and the fact that evil is not exclusively goes back to human responsibility. There is also such a thing as seduction. And there is a momentum of their own in things that causes us to be pushed into disasters that we did not intend.22 With our efforts and actions, we are caught up in this polarity of personal responsibility for evil and an elusive given nature of evil. Whether and how we can find a balance here is hardly an issue for our human sciences, ethics and personal worldviews. Rather, they are influenced by how you accentuate this basic tension:

  • Anyone who, in the face of the evil in the world, makes human responsibility absolute, puts a burden on people that is hardly bearable. Almost inevitably, there are attempts to exonerate, for example by shifting the main blame on certain people, turning them into downright devils. One can live with limited guilt as long as one other are the main culprits. That is the moralistic Resolution of the paradox of evil; it leads into the accusation.
  • Those who, on the other hand, unilaterally emphasize the given nature of evil as temptation and seduction, have thereby defused the question of human responsibility overall. The burden now falls on a tragically understood world, on a creator god understood as ambivalent or evil, or on devils and demons who limit the power of the good God. In any case, humanity as a whole becomes the victim of fateful circumstances. That is the defeatist Resolution of the paradox of evil; it leads into the resignation.

So myths determine the basic directions for our view of the world. They operate the adjusting screws on our world views, on our attitudes to the basic tensions of human existence. And myths do this by telling initial stories - for example, about the question of how evil came into the world. Paul Ricoeur, the important French philosopher and myth theorist, distinguished several basic types of myths:23

  1. The Basic type of the creation drama assumes that evil is always in the world. It is based on a dramatic battle between hostile primeval powers. Salvation is realized by the forces of chaos being pushed back by good gods.
  2. Myths from tragic basic type write down evil in the essence of man. Existence itself means guilt. Salvation can only be achieved beyond this world (for example after physical death); in this world, at most, through the attitude of patient and compassionate self-modesty.
  3. For the typical Myth of the Fall on the other hand, evil is not original. Evil comes into the world retrospectively through a "fall", which various myths describe differently. Since the fall takes place within history, salvation, as overcoming this fall, is fundamentally possible within history.

According to Ricoeur, myths can usually not be clearly assigned to one of these three types. The biblical narrative of the fall is primarily to be assigned to the type "fall into sin", but also processes parts of the other two types. For philosophical-ethical (and not religious) reasons, Ricoeur attaches a higher value to the type of fall in its biblical form: between He is most likely to find a center for the extremes of total human responsibility and the fateful pre-existence of evil, which realistically underpins human responsibility for evil and how to overcome it.


So myths explain essentials by telling initial stories. And the essence that myths tell is so fundamental that it is difficult to express otherwise. So mythologies are not "children's stories"; they are not subsequent simplifications for people who do not understand the scientific representation. Myths convey through the narrative what cannot be said directly or can only be vaguely said.


If one understands the story of the fall of man as a myth in this way, then in the context of this narrative one can vividly discuss the difficult problem of where the evil originated. One can ask why God put a forbidden tree in paradise. In pursuing this question, one explores the biblical determination of the relationship between personal responsibility and the given nature of evil.


When we discuss the question of the origin of evil in this way, then means origin by no means a chronological world-historical one Beginningthat could be ridiculed from an evolutionist view of the world. It is not about the question of where the evil started or prehistoric comes from, but in what it founds. Up for discussion is the factors to which it can be traced, wherever it occurs:

  • on the responsibility of man? - as suggested narrative by the transgression of Adam and Eve;
  • on the fact that "the worm is inside" in the world from the beginning? - symbolized by the forbidden tree and snake;
  • that God is responsible for the initial worm in the world? - suggested by the question of why God created a forbidden tree and a cunning snake into paradise.
  • We will deal with these alternatives in more detail later (p. 109ff). But first we want to dwell a little longer on the basic question of how the text form of the narrative of the Fall is to be understood and what relevance its statements are consequently for our world today.

So far our result is: If we understand the narrative of the Fall as a myth and not as a historical report, then we will avoid the contradiction to today's scientific worldviews ("evolution"), and at the same time the biblical text is becoming very topical we still ask it today when we exclaim in disbelief in the face of a monstrous crime: "How could anyone be capable of such a thing?" - With answers like "This person is a devil", or "Here it shows again: man is by nature a beast", or with the question "Why did God not prevent that?" We enter the subject areas that are at stake In no way do we devalue it to a fictional story. We rather ascribe a different type of truth to it than to the objective sciences - less tangible, but nonetheless indispensable. Because this is about areas where we are constantly making judgments and have always liked, mostly without our being aware of it, consequently with an incalculable scope. Judgments are determined by those judgments which we prefer from the variety of worldviews, anthropologies, ethics or ideologies.


Not just myth, but exemplary history


Myths are essence stories in the form of initial stories. With this formula the peculiarity of the biblical prehistory is often summed up. This explanation is often underpinned by reference to the peculiarity of the Hebrew language. This is not suitable for making general statements, like the ancient Greek language, which is recommended as the mother tongue of philosophy. If someone wanted to express in the Hebrew language that he had a corrupt nature, then he would say, like David after his affair with Bathsheba: "In sin my mother conceived me" (Ps 51: 7). And he certainly did not want an initial statement about it do what happened when he was conceived, but an essential statement: I am sinful through and through.


Much is correct in this explanation. But it also tempts one to "de-historize" the biblical language and thus miss its essential historical orientation. You now have a key with which one can effortlessly translate initial stories into ever-valid, "existential" truths. If the Bible tells of how Adam transgressed God's commandment, then with the help of this key we can read out how Adam - that is, man as such - has always been alienated from God through and through. Certainly the biblical prehistory knows something to say about our state of being lost to God. But we also want to understand how to do it comesthat man loses God. Does the Bible have nothing to say about this?


When we consider the Old Testament as a whole, we find that the opposite is true. Again and again the Bible reports of the Israelites and the people of Israel as a whole that they distanced themselves from God through their own fault; and not because they lacked something with God. Inexplicably, they fell from Him even then24 when they experienced happiness, wealth and success in His face. Why? - That was a puzzle that had to occupy the biblical writers. It was not a mere theoretical problem, but a question that determined whether the Jewish faith would end or continue to exist. We can understand the narrative of Adam's fall as an attempt to solve this puzzle "from the ground up".


Let's look at some examples of these Old Testament sin stories:25


* * *


King David with his successes and his wealth had received God's attention like no other Israelite before him. Although he clung to God in great piety and lacked nothing, he broke the covenant with God by violating Bathsheba and murdering her husband in a devious manner (cf. 2 Sam 11f). How was such a thing possible?

  • Had David planned his crime in cold blood? So was his piety just a facade? The affair with Bathsheba would have betrayed his hidden malice. True repentance, as reported in the Bible, would not have been possible then.
  • Or had some dark part of his human nature got away with David? Then he would ultimately be innocent; but man as a whole would be condemned to disaster because of an evil nature.
  • Or was it someone else's fault? Could Bathsheba try to seduce David with provocative nudity? The story of David gives no clue for such an interpretation. When David is confronted with his deed by the prophet Nathan, he makes no move to shift his guilt onto the woman - in contrast to Adam in the Paradise story (cf. Gen 3:12).
  • Or was it some other evil power - a demon or even the devil - that led David to evil? Such an assumption cannot be justified biblically, even if it is echoed in another story of David, namely in the story of David's illegal census (cf. 1 Chr 21).
  • Or was it even God himself who incited David to evil by driving him into a situation in which his weakness for women made him fall? This assumption is also not supported in the history of Bathsheba, but in a different narrative version of David's census (cf. 2 Sam 24).
  • Obviously, David did not intend evil in its full scope. In attempting to cover up a moral offense - his adultery with Bathsheba - he became entangled in the far worse sin of underhanded murder. So the evil that has happened cannot be completely blamed on David's evil will. Nevertheless, David unconditionally takes sole responsibility for his deed (cf. Ps 51: 6; 2 Sam 12: 13). And this attitude is confirmed by God by mitigating the announced punishment (cf. 2 Sam 12: 13f).

* * *


Like David's tale, so does the story of his son Solomon Distress shines through that a king, to whom God did not refuse any gifts - even more generously than with David -, nevertheless apostates from God: Solomon, the first builder of a temple for Yahweh, had idol temples erected in Jerusalem and finally fell victim to idolatry himself. As with his father, women were the catalyst for the fall of man.


“In addition to the daughter of Pharaoh, King Solomon loved many other foreign women: Moabite women, Ammonite women, Edomite women, Sidonian women, Hittite women. They were women of the peoples of whom the Lord had said to the Israelites, You must not go to them, and they must not come to you; for they would turn your hearts to their gods. Solomon was attached to them with love. He had seven hundred princely wives and three hundred concubines. They made his heart apostate. As Solomon grew older, his wives led him to worship other gods, so that he was no longer completely devoted to the Lord, his God, like his father David. He worshiped Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milkom, the idol of the Ammonites. He did what was displeasing to the Lord and was not as completely devoted to him as his father David "(1 Kings 11: 2-6)


If we had a similar confession of guilt from Solomon, as it is handed down to us by David in Psalm 51, - like his father he would probably exclaim: "In sin my mother received me". That would also be, as we stated above ( P. 26), an essential statement in the form of an initial statement; but beyond that it would literally refer to a historical reality. David's fate condensed in the begetting of Solomon.


* * *


Not only Israel's representatives, but also Israel itself again and again fell away from God, even at times when it had received God's rich care. Psalm 78 is entirely devoted to this failure story. Let's take a look at an excerpt from it:


“In the sight of their fathers, he [God] performed miracles in the land of Egypt, in the plains of Zoan. He split the sea and led them through, he let the water stand like a dam. He guided them with the cloud during the day and with shining fire all night. He split rocks in the desert and gave the people plenty to drink, like the waters of the primeval tide. He made brooks spring from the rock, made water flow like rivers. But they continued to sin against him, they defied the Most High in the desert. "(Ps 78: 12-17)


What David, shaken after his Bathsheba affair, confesses - an abysmal entanglement of guilt - is confirmed by the prophetic judgment for the people of Israel as a whole:


“Can a black man change his skin, a leopard his spots? Then you too could do good who are used to doing evil. "(Jer 13:23)26


* * *


The repeated experience of a baseless apostasy from God is thematized and explained by biblical prehistory. The motif of paradise expresses that lack is not the reason for turning away from God. This does not stand for a fantastic land of milk and honey at the beginning of human history, but for a life full of unclouded closeness to God.27 The purpose of the Paradise story is to show that people fall away from God in this abundance situation. How is something like this possible? This question is answered in a narrative way by the story of the Fall.


This makes the story of the Fall of Man more than a myth that asserts, in the form of an initial story, that all human beings are alienated from God. Not only does she notice that God lost is, rather, how God lost goes. It describes a typical process that occurs over and over again. It tells an exemplary story. Not the fall into sin of the people who are called Status would be given equally at all times, is therefore the central subject of the fall of man story, but rather one typical sequence of events.


That may sound like a matter of course, but it is not - at least not in the usual interpretations of the fall of man:

  • Traditionally, the Fall was seen mostly as an event - even a historical event at the beginning of the story - but without any typical character: Adam and Eve were sinless until they ate from the forbidden tree. Their disobedience created original sin28: Since Adam and Eve, everyone has suffered from a broken relationship with God from the beginning. Because people have always fallen, something could become a sincase do not repeat. It is true that people sinned later as well, but this sin was something completely different from that of Adam and Eve, who failed each other in Paradise, that is, out of an unclouded relationship with God. The event of the fall fell completely out of our history; it was a prehistoric event that should explain why we are all fundamentally sinners. It was not difficult for modern criticism to ridicule this doctrine of the fall and original sin as mere fantasy about "backworlds".29
  • Against this criticism, newer interpretations attempt to emphasize the typical meaning of the story of the Fall:30 One understands Adam and Eve as a symbol for everyone, and the story of the fall as a symbolic condensation of our own living conditions far from God. The advantage of this interpretation: Adam is brought back from his exceptional role in our history; we are all adam. The story of paradise is gaining new relevance: it holds up a mirror to us about our own godlessness. But this interpretation has a catch: Like us, Adam and Eve behave as sinners from the beginning. They always act out of a state of alienation from God, of distrust and fear. It is no longer clear that this god-distant state is the result of a decision - it appears like a fate that has always been fixed in human nature. In this interpretation, the state of alienation from God is seen, but not the event that caused this alienation.

So, on the one hand, we have traditional interpretations, although the fall of man is event to see the loss of God, but without him as typical To understand event; it no longer has anything to do with our experiences. And on the other hand we have more recent interpretations that work out what is typical for us in the story of the Fall; but these interpretations see the fall no more as an event, - namely as an event of the transition from a state of familiarity with God to a state of alienation from God. Instead, they see it as acting within a state of alienation from God.


If we read the story of the Fall in connection with the many other falls in the Old Testament, then we come to a third interpretation approach: The story of the fall tells in exemplary condensation typical event; she tells how it happens that people who are familiar with God lose God - and as a result also become alienated from one another, from the world and from themselves. Such events occur again and again because God turns again and again to people and thus puts them in the decision-making situation to remain loyal to God or to renounce him. If and to the extent that people experience God's closeness, the fall of man becomes a topical issue for them. Like Adam and Eve, they run the risk of losing what they received as gifts. So it happened to David, Solomon and the people of Israel.


Later in this book we will show that closeness to God expresses itself in a successful relationship to fellow human beings, to the world and to oneself; and that the fall of man means a loss of God, which manifests itself in the loss and betrayal of love for one's neighbor, love of self and a healthy relationship to the world. Hence, the fall of man is not just an issue for chosen men and women of God, but for each of us. Therein lies the exemplary significance of the story of the Fall: it not only shows how to God loses; At the same time, it shows how it happens that happy interpersonal relationships, a careful handling of the things of creation and a healthy self-relationship are gambled away.


The story of the Fall is really an exemplary story for countless events in our lifeworld. It is more than an opening story describing the state of a godforsaken world; it describes events of falling and lost freedom that occur again and again, but not always in the same way. There are dark times in which people are exposed to the inherent laws of a godless world and so step from one disaster to the next without knowing what they are actually doing. And there are times when a light dawns on people and their basic relationships become unexpectedly salutary: In the life of a person or in an epoch for a people something breaks out like the dawn; there is a great expectation in the air that everything will get better now. Everything seems to run happily by itself, until in an incomprehensible way sand gets into the gears and the beautiful development collapses. These are the typical situations that are revealed by the story of the Fall. They happen over and over again, but not always to the same extent. For the development of history - in individual biographies as well as in world history - they mark decisive turning points.


Read in context!


The story of the fall of man is the key biblical text for the church's teaching on original sin.31 Biblical theologians who criticize the doctrine of original sin and its biblical justification often relativize the significance of the history of the fall by pointing to its isolated position in the Old Testament. In fact, the Old Testament Bible hardly ever makes any reference to the Paradise story, and when it does, only in late wisdom texts.32 An explanation for this could be given by the latest biblical research, which puts the time of origin for the story of paradise much later than previously assumed.33 This corresponds to the fact that the Old Testament almost never refers to the story of the Fall, but its central theme - the apparently baseless falling away of people from their bond with God - is mapped out in numerous Old Testament texts. In the previous chapter we showed this in relation to David, Solomon, and all of Israel.


It is therefore very possible to understand the story of Paradise in the overall context of the Old Testament Bible; and such a reading is indispensable for its correct understanding. The story of the Fall is particularly closely related to the biblical prehistory. This is a circle of narratives that precede the history of Israel, which begins in Genesis 12 with Abraham, and relates to all of humanity.


The beginning of the biblical prehistory - and with it the whole Bible - tells twice of the creation of the world, first in a dense, poetically composed text with a cosmic perspective: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth ..." (Gen 1,1) . In a work of six days, God effortlessly and sovereignly creates the world. Six times it is said: "And God saw that it was good"; - a statement that is finally outbid immediately after the creation of man: "God saw everything that he had made: it was very good" (Gen 1:31).


The following chapter deals with the creation of the world again, in a simple, narrative form: Like a craftsman, God creates a garden and in it forms man, first Adam, later Eve. The Garden of Eden is the setting in which the story of the fall of man takes place. The story of Cain and Abel follows; then a gender sequence is listed which parallel a growing cultural development with increasing corruption - until in the sixth chapter God judges the world as "corrupt and full of violence" and decrees the flood. Only Noah is saved; God makes one with him human "Urbund". He promises not to destroy the world again. Another gender sequence is sketched, which makes it clear that depravity continues to spread in the world. The Tower of Babel is an example of this - the reach of peoples for the stars, which God thwarted by a universal confusion of languages.


* * *


With the first account of creation, the Bible outlines the ideal idea of ​​a very good world created by an almighty and benevolent God.34 Isn't that a dreamy fantasy unrelated to a world full of suffering, evil and malice? How could such a worldview even come about?


One could imagine a rich scholar walking up and down his palace garden in the leisure of beautiful hours and putting the beautiful story of the creation of a good world on paper. Exegetical research gives a completely different background. The first account of creation presupposes the experience of the Babylonian exile. At that time, in the fifth century BC, Judah and its capital, Jerusalem, were defeated and the leaders of the people were exiled to Babylon. Suffering and violence were an everyday experience there, and the Jews assumed that their God had failed. Hadn't his promises been refuted, since the land he had promised was lost, his temple destroyed, and cultic veneration made impossible? Had not the gods of Babylonia triumphed over the god of Israel? This conclusion was the intended consequence of the political means of exile. Conquered peoples saw the inferiority of their religion, joined the victorious powers and victorious gods and thus lost their religious and cultural identity. In Israel, exactly the opposite happened. It emerged strengthened and deepened from the disaster.


A deepening of the understanding of God, which is expressed in the books of the great prophets, was decisive for this. These proclaimed an almighty God who was not only the God of Israel but also the Lord over the victorious power of Babylon. So Yahweh was by no means defeated by Babylon and his gods. Rather, He used Babylon as a tool to punish Israel for her apostasy. God is greater than the prevailing notions of a political victorious god; He is also present in the distance of exile without temples and ritual institutions and wants to be venerated there. When the rest of Israel repent and get faithfully involved with Him, He will raise Israel anew from the ruins.


The catastrophe of the Babylonian exile thus brought about a radical transformation and delimitation of the belief in God. It was only then that strict monotheism prevailed in Israel, in contrast to the previously dominant "monolatric" view, according to which there were many gods, but Israel was only allowed to worship Yahweh. Far from exile and in the clutches of an oppressive people went the Israelites the message that God is a God of all people, and that there is no place where God can no longer do anything for them.35


The idea of ​​the good and saving God, who had brought Israel out of Egypt, was now combined with the idea of ​​an almighty God who is the Lord and Creator of the whole world. But if a good and almighty God created the whole world, where does the evil, suffering and violence come from, which in Israel's own bloody experience pervades the world?


That is the central theme of biblical prehistory. The idea of ​​the good and almighty Creator God is expressed in the first account of creation on the first pages of the Bible. And the question of how the actually tangible evil relates to it is answered in biblical prehistory.


* * *


The first account of creation is anything but a detached, dreamy fantasy. It reflects the basic experience of a good and almighty Creator God who has the destiny of all peoples in hand - an experience that enabled the Israelites to survive in the midst of the suppression of the Babylonian exile - so that Israel's belief in this shock was not broken, but transformed and emerged stronger from it.


Accordingly, the negative sides of the world that initially fail come increasingly to bear in the following chapters, until it becomes apparent in the 6thChapter - in extreme contrast to the initial qualification of the world as very good - means:


“But the earth was corrupted in God's eyes, it was full of violence. God looked at the earth: it was corrupt; for all fleshly beings on earth lived corrupted. "(Gen 6: 11f)


Biblical prehistory draws a remarkable arc between the initial "very good" and the later "totally spoiled" (see Figure 1). She tells of how evil, once broken in, tends to multiply, and how the bad gets worse and worse. This tendency towards the escalation of evil and violence is easy to understand for us, we know it from our own experience. But how can evil even begin in a world that was initially created well by a good and almighty God? Two thousand years later, this problem, called theodicy question, became the most difficult challenge for Judeo-Christian belief in God. The biblical arc between the initial "very good" and finally "very bad" gives the world an answer to this question. The decisive factor is the beginning of the arc, where it is explained how and from where the evil in the originally very good world begins. This most sensitive part of the whole explanatory sheet is covered by the story of the Fall.


The biblical fall into sin can only be properly understood in this context.36 This means that we must first look at people in their originally positive possibilities, as they result from a biblical understanding of creation.



- Illustration 1 -


The biblical fall into sin is the exemplary event of the lost God. But one must first "have" God in order to be able to lose him. That is why we can only understand the Fall if we know what it means that man has access to God. We have to be able to explain what we are talking about when we speak of God, and we have to be able to say where the reality that the Bible calls God occurs.


"In the beginning God created heaven and earth", that is, everything that is - that is the first sentence of the Bible. It is the starting point of everything. The two creation accounts show what that means. It is a good and almighty God who World and especially the people Well, yes created very well. This includes that man is God's image.


“Then God said: Let us make people in our image, like us. They are to rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, over the cattle, over the whole earth and over all reptiles on the land. So God created man in his image; he created him in the image of God. He created them male and female. "(Gen 1,26f)


That means: when I look someone in the eye, God opens up to me. The fact that I usually do not experience it that way has to do with deficits in the being of the other and deficits in my ability to perceive, both of which are explained by the story of the Fall.


If man is God's image, it means that God is present in man forever. He did not just put man into existence initially. In every moment of his being he receives him, with everything he is and what he does. And He leads man on a path of perfection. According to the biblical understanding, this applies to all of creation: God is the creator in the past, present and future - namely by creating, maintaining and perfecting the world. In this sense the psalmist speaks to God:


“Lord, how many are your works!
With wisdom you made them all
the earth is full of your creatures. [...]
They are all waiting for you
that you give them food at the right time.
If you give them, then they collect;
if you open your hand, they will be full of good.
If you hide your face, they are disturbed;
if you take their breath away, they disappear
and return to the dust of the earth.
Do you send out your spirit
this is how they are all created
and you renew the face of the earth. "
(Psalm 104, 24-30)