Dating the Fall, Part Two

As we began our Bible detective work last week, we affirmed that it is crucial to recognize the history given in the Bible as infallibly reliable. We also offered a helpful observation to keep in mind when trying to date the primeval Lapse or other Biblical events, namely that we are not always given an exhaustive chronicle. As an example of that, we considered Christ’s earthly life of approximately thirty three years. The Gospels do not provide a complete biography, but focus primarily on the last three years or so.

Part one concluded with a promise to provide some some clue texts for dating the Fall of Man. Here they are:

1. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Genesis 4:1,2). This text immediately follows the account of our first parents’ being cursed and expelled from Eden.

2. “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, ‘For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.’ ” (Genesis 4:25). So, Seth was born after the murder of Abel by Cain.

3. “And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Genesis 5:3). Worthy of noting here and elsewhere in this genealogical chapter, the longevity of Adam and the other antediluvian patriarchs was marked by a reproductive vitality that lasted for centuries.

4. “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:4). This verse tells us that Adam and Eve had other children besides their three named sons. Comparing this statement with the aforementioned reproductive vitality, we can infer that families were extremely large in those days!

(In The Works of Josephus, A.D. 94, that ancient historian asserts that “The number of Adam’s children, as says the old tradition, was 33 sons and 23 daughters.”)

Bringing all this together, we conclude that the second generation of humanity was born after the Lapse. Sin entered the world before Adam and Eve became parents; all their children were born sinners, as Cain’s despicable deed makes clear. Their three named sons and all their unnamed children were conceived in sin, as King David would later affirm that he was per Psalm 51:5.

Since we are told that Seth was begotten in the one hundred and thirtieth year of the world (coinciding with Adam’s age), we cannot date the Fall later than that. And enough time must have passed before Seth was begotten for his older brothers Cain and Abel to have reached maturity, in order for Eve to be able to make that statement about Seth as murdered Abel’s replacement in Genesis 4:25.

(For example, we cannot date the Fall to the one hundred and twenty fifth year of the world. If we hypothesize that Cain was born in that year, and Abel shortly after that, we would have to maintain that the statement about their respective vocations of farmer and shepherd, their acts of worship, and the murder of the younger by the elder all had happened by the time Cain was five years old, and Abel even younger!)

Here is one more clue text: “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8)

Evidently, the period during which Adam and Eve were in the garden, naked and unashamed, was long enough for them to have become familiar with a tangible, regular manifestation of God’s presence (a theophany). Perhaps this was a daily time of special communion between them and their God; perhaps the LORD Himself led the first daily household devotional times. How sad, after their sin they had to hide from Him Who is the fountain of all goodness, truth, beauty, and joy!

One other consideration is worthy of mention. When they were created, God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.” Before the Fall, being perfectly obedient to God, they would have begun immediately to obey that command. Yet we have already argued that all procreation was after the Lapse, indicating in turn that this great apostasy occurred very shortly after creation itself. But prudence should ever limit speculation

To conclude, did the Fall occur on the first sabbath itself, on the eighth day of the world, within the first few months or years after creation? How long were the first pair in Eden before they succumbed to temptation and were cast out? We cannot know for certain, but in this writer’s opinion it was very early in history, and could not be later than approximately the one hundredth year of the world.

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