What was the original sin?
The kind of fruit is irrelevant; the point is that Adam & Eve disobeyed God . . .
First of all, the Bible never says that Adam and Eve took a bite out of an apple. The fruit they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is never identified in Scripture. The kind of fruit they ate is irrelevant. The point is that Adam and Eve disobeyed God.
Original sin is the term used to describe the first sin of our first parents. As prototypes of the human race, their sin had consequences — not just for them, but for their descendants. It is called “original” since it was the first sin committed by any human.
Original sin’s effects are significant. If Adam and Eve had been exposed to radioactive material, they would have passed the effects on genetically to subsequent generations. Spiritually, their sin was transmitted in the same way. We have inherited their proclivity to sin; we are born with a tendency to sin.
Original sin is like being born without a resistance to temptation. When God created the first man and woman, He endowed them with sanctifying grace, which makes a person holy. Though sanctifying grace does not make you sinless, it makes you spiritually strong so you can better fight temptations to commit sin and evil.
Original sin wounded human nature like a viral infection can wound a physical body. Disobeying God is more than just breaking divine law — it is dangerous to the health of your soul. Sin is as much a spiritual disease as it is an act of defiance against the law of God.
Death and the loss of heaven were the final consequences of original sin. God had given mankind the preternatural gift of immortality, and the disease of sin killed that. The gravity of the offense is measured by the dignity of the person. If I slap my brother, it is wrong. If I slap my mother, it is worse because she is my mother and deserves more respect and honor.
Disobeying God is a slap in His face, and since His dignity as the Almighty Lord of Heaven and Earth is infinite, the offense against Him is equally infinite. Original sin meant humanity needed a savior and a redeemer.
This column is reprinted with permission from “The Catholicism Answer Book: The 300 Most Frequently Asked Questions” by Rev. John Trigilio Jr and Rev. Kenneth D. Brighenti (Sourcebooks, 2007).