Humanity's First Sin


So I have an atheist friend who was visiting the other day… we don’t often engage in conversation on religion, but every once and a while we do. This other day was one of those days, and unfortunately, he chose to try and discuss a topic I don’t know enough about. I even had another Catholic friend over, and a Lutheran friend, and we just didn’t know how to answer his question.

It was a relatively simple question too. He said, “Most religions are big into free will, right? Well my question is, how did Adam and Eve have the free will to choose whether or not to sin if they didn’t have the knowledge of good and evil? That was the tree of knowledge God forbid them from eating of, and that just seems unfair. How were they supposed to know that they were committing a sin?”

We tried explaining to him that Eve had chosen to follow the words of someone who wasn’t God, had chosen to eat of it because the serpent had said it would let her become like a god, how God had even warned them of punishment if they chose to eat of the tree, and yada yada, but in the end we didn’t answer his question satisfactorily enough for him or us. He just kept going back to, “But she didn’t know it was evil, because she didn’t have the knowledge to know the difference between it and good.”

We were able to answer a variety of his other questions, but he got stuck on that one. Now I want to know the answer in case it ever comes up again. How were they supposed to know that they were sinning if they didn’t have the knowledge of good and evil? I had never looked that far into it before.

Thanks ahead of time for your time in reading this!


Because when God tells you not to do something, you are not to do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know exactly what will happen or why. All that matters is that God told Adam and Eve that they were not to eat from the tree of thr knowledge of good and evil, or they would surely die. They disobeyed God’s command and did die, losing the state of grace that they were given.

However, “God so loved the world that He gave us His Only-Begotten Son” to save us from our sins an dbring us to eternal life. Amen. :slight_smile:

May God bless you and your non-Catholic friends and guide them to the Truths of Catholicism! :slight_smile:


If Adam and Eve didn’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil would it have been possible for them to sin? I don’t read about anything else that God forbids them to do. If they were to commit any acts that later would be considered sinful, would they be held responsible for there acts. They seemed to have free reign otherwise.:confused:


Obedience was the primary virtue in Eden. Disobedience is a misuse of the freedom which God guaranteed us. Obedience and disobedience are not predicated upon knowledge of good and evil. A child should obey its parents, even though it may not understand, or have any knowledge of the danger which is to be avoided.


I think maybe he’s getting hung up on the name of the tree. I don’t think it’s so much ‘knowing or not knowing good from evil’ so much as ‘I’m going to decide for myself what’s good and evil.’ The sin isn’t knowledge, it’s pride…humans making themselves the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong, moral relativism.

Does that distinction make any sense? :confused:


No, no other sins would have been practiced, because in the state of original holiness and justice that Adam and Eve had before the Fall, the natural law that God has impressed upon all of hearts was so strong and they had such a direct communication and vision of God that no type of sin would ever be able to break through that.

I hope this makes sense; I don’t really know how to exactly explain it in words.

May God bless you and lead you to the Truths of Catholicism! :slight_smile:


Ontologically in order to have free will you do not need to know the difference between good and evil.

GOD gave them a command “do not eat from the fruit of this tree”

They could either obbey or disobbey, they had free will to do either. Did the serpent force them to eat from the tree?
The story tells us he did not.
They fell for the lie he told them and disobbeyed the command from GOD.

People always get hunged up of the definition of sin. Wether they knew or did not know.
Seems like asking for the definition of “is”.
Did not GOD tell them in no uncertain terms NOT to eat from that tree in particular?
Did not GOD tell them in no uncertain terms PUNISHMENT would follow had they decided to not follow the prohinition?
What is unclear about all this?

They were told and disobbeyed, they are guilty. End of story.


Also, there is a good philosophical conversation on the difference between the “knowledge” of good and evil vs “wisdom”… they were only mentioned to have been lacking one, although the other might not necessarily be assumed. It is, at the very least, not mentioned as lacking but they walked with God, in the holy of holies of the earthly temple, so the argument could be made that they were immersed in wisdom (or the Holy Spirit)


Adam and Eve had certain God-given attributes before The Fall. They had free will since God did not want to create robots but those who wanted to love Him. It’s as if the lies told them by a being they did not know mattered. They had that one rule and decided to break it. It was clear and specific.



Please give me the chapter and verse which says that Adam did not have the knowledge of good and evil.

Perhaps it is in 3 Corinthians. :wink:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit