Shame and Guilt in Genesis 3
Shame and guilt are related and often used interchangeably. Duke (2015) defines guilt as the feeling of culpability after misconduct. Guilt is associated with feelings of responsibility and answerability for misconduct. Christianity perceives guilt to originate from sin. On the other hand, shame refers to the sense of humiliation that engulfs a person after engaging in actions that bring dishonor (Duke, 2015). Genesis 3 is about both guilt and shame.
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In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command; they committed sin and God found them guilty. He punished them, but since he is a merciful God, he provided ways for them to subdue their sins through sin offerings. Jesus Christ is seen as the perfect sacrifice that washed away the sins conducted by Adam, Eve, and their descendants. Feelings of culpability engulfed both Adam and Eve, and each felt that they were responsible and answerable for the sin. Guilt drove them to hide from God for they were afraid of punishment; “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked” (Gen 3:9 New Living Translation).
It is also clear that Adam and Eve felt ashamed after their misconduct. Before sinning against God (the misconduct), they did not have these feelings of shame because they had not hidden from God previously. The communion between them as well as with God was perfect. Then “… they felt no shame” (Gen 2:25 New Living Translation). After sinning against God by eating the forbidden fruit, “… the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:7 New Living Translation). Their behavior can be likened to the reaction of a child who has sinned against their parents, who at times hide for hours from their parents due to shame. They have difficulties looking at their parents in the eye. Feelings of shame persist until a confession is made or consequences such as punishment are suffered
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From the discussion, it is apparent that guilt and shame are closely related. While one is linked to feelings of answerability for misconduct, the other one is related to feelings of humiliation that consume a person after misconduct. In Genesis 3, both shame and guilt reveal themselves. Adam and Eve experience guilt and shame as depicted by their reactions.
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Hi! Thank you for your interactive post. Indeed, Genesis 3 is part of the biblical creation account that shows the origin of sin. It is an account of what happened in the Garden of Eden as Adam and Eve went against the will of God. In your discussion, you have asserted that the account is solely about shame. As much as this is true, I also feel that there were some aspects of guilt in the account as well. Guilt, which is a feeling of a person being responsible for misconduct, is clearly depicted in the account. Misconduct warrants punishment and thus guilty individuals in fear of punishment are likely to hide from the authority which they have wronged. After their misconduct, Adam and Eve hid from God. When God came looking for them, Adam responded “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked” (Gen 3:9 New Living Translation). I believe this is an indication of guilt.
Hello! You responded that Genesis 3 is a story of both shame and guilt. Indeed, both shame and doubt are evident in Genesis 3. Guilt is one of the forces that pushed Adam and Eve to run away from God and hide in the Garden. They knew that God would unleash His wrath on them and decided to run away. When asked where they were, Adam replied “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked” (Gen 3:9 New Living Translation). They were afraid of God for they were naked and knew that punishment was inevitable. Shame also contributed to their hiding from God. Before their transgression, they were not scared of being in God’s presence; it is only after sinning that they realized they were naked and shame drove them into hiding from God. As such, both shame and guilt are present in Genesis 3 account.
Duke, R. (2015). ‘Visiting the Guilt of the Fathers on the Children’: Is God Immoral? Evangelical Quarterly, 87(4), 347-36