What I first noticed as I started reading the Bible is that there are two different creation stories. The first is Genesis 1:1-2:3, and the second is Genesis 2:4-25. Lots of people have noticed this -- the helpful textual notes in the edition of the Bible I am using point that out, and tell me that it is thought that the two versions come from two different sources.
It is the first that sets out the seven days of creation:
- Day 1: heavens, earth, light, day and night.
- Day 2: the "dome" (sky) that separates the waters below (on earth) from the waters above the sky.
- Day 3: dry land and vegetation.
- Day 4: stars, moon, sun.
- Day 5: water creatures and birds.
- Day 6: land animals; humankind (both male and female). The number of human beings created is not specified. Also, God here gives to people "every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food" (Gen 1:29) -- no prohibitions.
- Day 7: God rested, and blessed this day.
- earth and heavens; no rain yet but a spring would well up and water the ground
- from dust, man was created (not woman yet)
- garden of Eden -- man is put here; garden includes the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil
- God tells man to till and keep the garden of Eden, but not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (note that Woman has not entered the scene yet! Man is alone).
- God notices that Man is alone and wants to find him a helper and partner, so He first creates animals and birds and Man names them. But still there was no helper as partner.
- God makes Man fall asleep, pulls out a rib, and makes Woman.
- The story of original sin then ensues.
In the first story, all of creation is good. In the second story, even the garden of Eden is not a place of relaxed enjoyment, but a place of work (Gen 2:15), and a place where something is off-limits (Gen 2:16-17). God tells Man that if he does eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he will die that very day (Gen 2:17). But later, that's not what happens.
While it may seem unjust that Woman, who wasn't even there yet when this prohibition was originally stated, then gets punished for eating of that tree, it is clear that she knew of the prohibition (Gen 3:2-3). Once Woman and Man eat of the tree, God says, "'See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever'" (Gen 3:22) and this is why they get kicked out of the garden of Eden -- so they won't become immortal.
While I find many aspects of this second creation story troubling, I am fascinated by the relating the concept of "knowledge of good and evil" with "wisdom" and that being a divine characteristic. Also, it is true that perceiving the world through a moral lens makes existence more painful. But what troubles me is that, as the story is told, originally amoral beings are yet held morally accountable and are punished. Without knowledge of good and evil, they couldn't have known it was bad or wrong to disobey God.
So, maybe the story shouldn't be read morally. Maybe it is not, after all, a story of punishment for disobedience. Maybe God really was trying to say, "if you eat of this tree, everything will change, and you might not like it." Eventually, they do eat of that tree. Sure enough: everything changes. God says, "ok, now this kind of existence will be much harder, so you won't want to live forever anymore..." and closes off access to the tree of life as an act of compassion.
If so, does this mean that the concept of "original sin" (the most common interpretation of this second creation story) is not so much due to a moral disobedience somehow present in us in the start (because this contradicts the original amoral casting of human beings), but is better taken to express the essential pain inherent in moral awareness? It's not that we've done anything wrong -- its that awareness of right and wrong simply does make life difficult and painful.
Anyway, the word "sin" has not at all come up yet in this passage of the Bible. So even interpreting this story as a tale of original sin must have been a later interpretation of it.