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1 John 3:8: for the devil sinneth from the beginning.

The serpent lied to Eve before Adam's fall. If lying is a sin, and death comes from sin, how could death come as a result of Adam's sin instead of the serpent's?

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  • Welcome the group user3844898. Apr 12, 2023 at 20:24

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Sin had certainly been committed prior to Adam and Eve sinning. The question is, who, or what sinned in order to get the couple sinning? You say "the serpent", but as God had stated that the sin in question would lead to death for the couple, but that the curse on the serpent was not death - just crawling on its belly (indicating it was not crawling at first), and eating 'dust' all the days of its life - we need to stop and think.

"The wages of sin is death" the Bible tells us (Romans 6:23) and the couple did, indeed, die as God had forewarned them. But any literal creature who apparently deceived Eve was but a mouthpiece for the spirit creature using it. Whether this involves ventriloquism or not is not the point. This account in Genesis is about an already evil creature, unseen to humans, who remains alive to this day, still evil, still unseen to humans. This creature used serpentine means to lie in the garden. And lying certainly is a sin. God hates liars, and no liars will be in his Kingdom (Revelation 21:8).

Jesus teaches us about the connection between lying, murder, and becoming 'children' of this unseen deceiver. This is what he said to people in his day who prided themselves on their religiosity:

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it." John 8:44 K.J.V.

Is this murderous, lying devil the same as the serpent in the garden? The apostle John makes this link when writing to Christians:

"He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8 K.J.V.

This shows that the devil had sinned from the beginning, but Adam and Eve were not created "in the beginning". Other things were first created, and Earth prepared for them, before they were created. Therefore, the devil had already sinned. And is this devil linked to the serpent in the garden? The risen Christ explained, in the last book of the Bible that a symbolic great red dragon also has these names of identification:

"The dragon fought, and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world. He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." Revelation 12:7-9 K.J.V.

This revelation was not given until Christ had triumphed at the cross, over sin, death and the Devil. That was when he and his demonic angels were cast out from heaven, but he (and they) remain unseen to humans whilst even greater deceptions (i.e. lies) are spewed out. Therefore, the real deceiver of mankind is not a physical, literal snake. It is this malevolent spirit power who worked his first deception on mankind in the garden, turning humanity away from God, heading them towards the pit.

The literal serpent in the garden did not live forever. Like all creatures on Earth, it would die, though plenty more serpents would have been procreated by then, the Earth now teeming with billions of such crawling creatures. Humanity could not live forever either, death being the outcome for all their sin, because all humanity sinned more and more once Adam disobeyed God, and "the Fall" occurred. All of Earth's teeming billions of humans lie and sin in many other ways, having their backs to God (despite much religiosity on the part of many). Adam died for his sin; we die for our sins. Yet what Jesus achieved through the cross and the empty tomb saves us from that lost, hopeless situation - if we believe Jesus and follow him in faith, for he destroys the work of the Devil, that one called "serpent".

The Devil is a dead demon walking - and he knows it. We know it too, because God has told us in his word all that we need to know to avoid being deceived with his continuing lies. It's not literal snakes we need to consider, but the father of lies, that murderer from the beginning, who still tricks people into misunderstanding what God has said by his subtle distortions to the written word of God. That is why accounts about the garden, the fall, and the serpent need to be very carefully considered. Every word in that written word needs to be weighed, and all unbiblical interpretations cast aside.

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The serpent was just the form that the devil chose to take--at that time a beautiful and innocent-looking creature. Satan knew that God's angels would have warned Adam of the enemy (remember that there had been war in Heaven before Satan had been cast down to this earth), and that if he had appeared as a noble angel, Adam and Eve would have been on guard and wary of him.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:9, KJV)

The Bible is clear that Satan had sinned already prior to his disguised appearance in the Garden of Eden.

As already partially quoted in the question:

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8, KJV)

Jesus also alluded to this.

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44, KJV)

The fact that the devil "sinneth from the beginning," is "a murderer from the beginning," and is "the father" of lies implies he was the first to commit these sins.

Conclusion

Yes, Satan, also called the Devil, the great dragon, and "that old serpent," was the first to sin, sinning before being cast out of heaven and entering the Garden of Eden where he next tempted Adam and Eve to sin.

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Well, technically in this account, Eve was the first to lie.

The serpent asked her what God said with a leading question.

Gen. 3:1 NASB

Now the serpent was more cunning than any animal of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”

Then the woman lied saying the following:

Gen. 3:2, 3 NASB

2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

Not what God said. Where did He mention touching it?

What God said:

Gen. 2:16, 17 NASB

16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.”

God only forbade eating it...not touching it.

But back to your original question... Did the Serpent sin before Adam and Eve?

TL;DR: Yes.

Motivation:
The Genesis narrative talks about 'The beginning', which is considered the start of creation, but what about the time prior to time and creation?

Consider what Job 38:4-7 has to say:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

From this passage, we see that the Angels were already there shouting for joy as God was laying the foundations of the Earth.

So if there were Angels already before Creation, then it is likely that the Devil sinned before Man was created.

Let's look to what the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel have to say.

Isaiah 14:12-16

“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble.”

Ezekiel 28:13-19

“You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more”*

There are 5 "I will" statements made by the Enemy. He was thwarted on all accounts and thus his original sin was Pride.

Death comes as a result of disobedience to God's command which is clearly what He said:

From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Perhaps prior to eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, man would have lived forever. We don't know for sure. We do know that after eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam did die...eventually. As mentioned in Gen. 5:5, "So Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died."

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  • You made some good points until your started inserting your opinions. There is nothing prior to Creation, hence the word beginning. Genesis 1:1-5 says that God created the universe or in Hebrew because they don’t have the word for universe, God created the heavens and the earth and this is day one. So if at the beginning on day one is when the heavens were created where could there have been someone who was also created like heavenly beings prior to? No where because only God is uncreated. So the heavenly beings come into the picture between day 1-4. That’s it, 2-6 days earlier than Adam. Apr 12, 2023 at 17:06
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    @NihilSineDeo The Bible is God's message to us, not to the unfallen worlds which God created before us (see Hebrews 1:2; 11:3). The word "heavens" has ambiguous application, and may very well be limited to that which we see connected with our own planet, i.e. the "firmament" (see Genesis 1:8). The "firmament" is not a reference to the place where God lives among the angels--it is our atmosphere/sky. The "beginning" referenced is our beginning, not that of the universe which preexisted.
    – Biblasia
    Apr 12, 2023 at 19:39
  • @Biblasia you are welcome to keep your extra-biblical opinions, extrapolations and presuppositional interpretations for yourself, I’ll stick to what the text actually says as good hermeneutics and exegesis demands fidelity to the text. Your comment has no backing in Scripture, your cosmology is not Biblical but secular and your claim of Creation prior to the beginning / first day has no backing. You are reading into the text without supporting passages. Apr 12, 2023 at 20:10
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    @NihilSineDeo I gave references to several supporting passages. Perhaps you did not bother to read them. The Bible speaks of other worlds, but they are not mentioned in the creation account. Furthermore, there are certain things (water, land) that God does not "create" during creation week--they were already there. God has created everything in the universe, but we are not given the timeline for all of it. We are only given as much as we need to know.
    – Biblasia
    Apr 12, 2023 at 22:57
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    Thanks @NihilSineDeo! My curiosity has been peeked to dive in and do more research in the Word. Good fruit! Have you published any of your research or would you recommend any by other authors?
    – Kemono
    Apr 13, 2023 at 15:53
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The text indicates that death would result from eating from the forbidden tree, not from lying. So while lying may have been the "first" sin it was not the "Original Sin" in the sense that Augustine used the term.

Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Gen. 2:17)

Whether or not lying is always as sin, it was certainly not morally justified in this case. Nevertheless it was also not expressly forbidden, nor was it linked to the punishment of death. Also, the serpent was not God's son or daughter, created in God's image. He was not to become the master of creation or the parents of humankind, so his sin of lying could not result in the type of harm that Adam and Eve's sin did. This does beg the question as to how eating a fruit could change human nature, but that question is outside the scope of the OP.

The basic answer is that the serpent's lie would not have been a serious problem if Adam and Eve had not responded to it by disobeying the key commandment: not to eat of the forbidden tree. That sin carried the punishment of death, lying did not.

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  • I left out the word "not" in the second sentence . I should have written lying was "NOT the Original Sin." [corrected this now] Leaving out "not" may be the Original Sin of writers. Apr 13, 2023 at 4:18
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It feels like a loaded question, but it is hard to unpack.

As you cited from John's Epistle, the devil sinneth from the beginning. Jesus Himself said He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44).

Scripture is not completely clear on the details, but we generally understand (1) that the angels were created before the earth1 and (2) that the demons and Satan fell from Heaven before man's transgression2 (Genesis features the story of man's fall, not the angels'). So sin had already been committed by the angels that followed Satan, but it had not yet touched man. The sin that begets death described by Paul refers to man's sin, not the sin of other creatures. If this were not the case, then man would have more or less been born dead on arrival, so to speak.


1. Cf. Job 38:4-7 - Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? ... When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Also John Chrysostom's Homily IV on Genesis; Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, Ch. 61; Augustine, City of God, Book XI, Chs. 9-10
2. Cf. 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6

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