Who invented the concept of sin?

Sin and vice

Ulrike Auga

To person

Dr. phil., born 1964; Junior professor for theology and gender studies at the seminar for religious studies, intercultural theology and ecumenics of the theological faculty of the Humboldt University in Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin. [email protected]

A hierarchical gender order is maintained not only in fundamentalist interpretations of biblical texts, but also in the symbolic order of the present: the cultural memory of modern societies, too, still works largely with images of female subordination and sinfulness. Women are often labeled as seducers and responsible for the evil in the world. Great Christian lines of tradition also chose the story of the "fall into sin" in order to develop the doctrine of "original sin" from it. It turns out, however, that this does not even occur in the texts of the Bible, although these are already context-related, literarily reformed records of human creeds.

In order to be able to show these reversals, on the one hand the early texts from the beginning of the Hebrew Bible, which are still influential today for the understanding of gender in philosophy, theology and intellectual history, have to be interpreted correctly; on the other hand, it is important to uncover the ominous history of the effects and reception of an almost "invented" misogynist tradition. In addition, it is worthwhile to work out the resistance and emancipatory counter-discourses, traditions and images of the past and present that have always existed.

Between being in the image of God and the fall of man

As is well known, there are two different texts in the Hebrew Bible that tell of the creation of man. The Old Testament is a structure that was composed of various pieces of text or just a selection of scriptures. It reflects the ideas of the people of the first millennium BC. BC, who each spoke differently about their experiences under certain historical conditions.

The text that is at the beginning of the first chapter in Genesis today has the effect of a song about creation, which encompasses everything that has been created in seven days' work. Beginning with the creation of heaven and earth, God's first goal is man: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; and created them male and female." The text was written in Babylonian exile, where the Jewish priests grappled with the celestial cults and the claims to creation of the Babylonian gods and distinguished themselves from them. [1] What is crucial, however, is that following this narrative all People are in the image of God, regardless of gender.

Chapters 2 and 3, which belong together, tell another account of creation that is 500 years older. We are in Eden, a lush, earthly garden. Here, from the very beginning, the focus is on people with their relationships with God and with others. The story goes as follows: "Then the Lord God made the Earthling figure (the man, Adam) from earth (adamah). "It is particularly important to underline that Adam so is not a proper name. The Adam (Earthling) becomes the adamah (Mother Earth) and denotes humanity as a whole. It is a collective term, of which there is no plural and which remains gender indefinite - this is the central aspect of the interpretation of this chapter. Adam and adamah thus form the first and most important play on words in the Book of Moses. That means: All stories of prehistory always relate to all genders: eating from the tree of knowledge, driving out of the garden and later dying in the flood.

In a further step it is told that God wanted the Earthling figure not to be alone: ​​"It is not good that the Earthling figure is alone, I want to provide help as a counterpart." In the original text, "help" is not a derogatory word. And the second figure can only be a suitable counterpart if it is an equal. No completely different second person is created from earth, the second is part of the first. Here the human being is shown in the ideal relationship. Only later was the simple word "Earthling" added "and his wife" in some places, whereby the former only becomes a male being. The addition also applies to the scene of temptation: "Adam and his wife were naked. "It is above all from these entries that an alleged subordination of the woman was later interpreted. [2]

Chapter 3, the subject of which is the "Fall of Man", describes the state of the world and can be understood as a story of parables about the temptation of human detachment from God. Even if it is by no means about how sin and vice come into the world, the scene of the naked woman with the snake became central to the devaluation of women as guilty of the evil in the world. But such interpretations are not tenable. The depiction followed ancient oriental iconography, in which on the one hand tree and woman and tree and goddess were interwoven and on the other hand nutrition was the domain of women. Only later was the story additionally charged with eroticism.