Art and the Bible Study 1: The Downfall of Adam and Eve

Genesis 2
8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil...15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 3
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then 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. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”...21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove them out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.


Scripture taken from the Holy Bible,
Copyright © 2001, 2005 by Biblica®. Used by permission of Biblica®. All rights reserved worldwide.


circa 1509
Artist: Michelangelo
Location: fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Rome Italy

This is only one of many biblical scenes depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  They depict a summary of the entire Bible.

  1. Look at the painting. Who do you think are the various characters in the picture? Describe the faces and the facial expressions of each character.
  1. Read the story in Genesis. Does this give you a better understanding of who these characters are?  Who do you think each one is now?
  1. What points or actions in the story do you see in the picture?
  1. How is the painting similar to the story? How is it different?
  1. According to the story, what was life like for Adam and Eve in the beginning?
  1. What did God tell Adam he COULD do? What did God tell Adam NOT to do? 
  1. What did Adam and Eve do?  Why do you think they did this?
  1. In the story, how did Adam and Eve change and how did their life change after they disobeyed God? (this is the biblical definition of “sin”) In the picture, how did Adam and Eve change?
  1. In what ways do you think Adam and Eve died when they disobeyed God?
  1. What do you think is the difference between “knowing from experience” and “knowing from studying or knowing facts”? When do you think it is better to know from studying or facts rather than from experience?

The serpent here represents Satan or the Leader of Evil.   It seems to look like a woman.  Many times in the Bible and other traditions, temptation to do something bad is described as “she”.  (However, wisdom is also described as “she”)

  1. Who is usually perceived as innocent, or someone NOT to be feared – a man or a woman? How could this characteristic be used to subtly tempt someone?
  1. What actions, thoughts, or attitudes seem innocent or harmless but could ultimately hurt you or hurt society?

Scriptures Referenced

Genesis 2:8-17
Genesis 3:1-24