Was there some kind of pain before the Fall?

{3:16} To the woman, he also said: “I will multiply your labors and your conceptions. In pain shall you give birth to sons, and you shall be under your husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over you.”

The above passage is sometimes misunderstood.  Some people claim that this passage suggests that there was some kind of pain or sorrow before the Fall and God increased it after the Fall. Their argument is: God says “I will multiply (or increase) your pain”.  He doesn’t say “I will give you pain”.  Thus, they conclude that there was some kind of minor pain or suffering in Paradise.

The answer is no. This is a misunderstanding of the narrative. There was no pain whatsoever before the Fall. To suggest that is tantamount of saying that God created people with the intention to make them suffer at least to some degree with no fault of their own. This is contrary to the Goodness and Justice of God and God cannot do things contrary to His Nature.

Pain and suffering are consequences of the free knowingly choice of our first parents to perform an immoral act (to sin) called ‘Original Sin’. God sent His only begotten Son to suffer in order to atone for our sins. Otherwise, if there were no sins at all, Jesus would not have to come to suffer for there would have been nothing to atone or repair for. People in Heaven are as God intended it in the first place where there is no more pain or suffering and everything becomes anew (Revelation 21:4).

The Council of Trent infallibly teaches that Adam’s body and soul changed for the worst immediately when he transgressed the commandment of God. (Trent, Fifth Session, Decree Concerning Original Sin #1).  This, of course, happened to Eve as well (See CCC #’s 399-400).

This Council also teaches:

“If any one asserts, that the prevarication of Adam injured himself alone, and not his posterity; and that the holiness and justice, received of God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone, and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has only transfused death, and pains of the body, into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul; let him be anathema:–whereas he contradicts the apostle who says; By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” – (Trent, Fifth Session, Decree Concerning Original Sin #2).

Trent infallibly teaches that due to Adam’s sin of disobedience, pains of the body, death, death of the soul (sin), entered into the world.  This means that there was no pain before the Fall.

The Compendium of the Catechism # 77 teaches:

“In consequence of original sin human nature, without being totally corrupted, is wounded in its natural powers. It is subject to ignorance, to suffering, and to the dominion of death and is inclined toward sin. This inclination is called concupiscence.”

Suffering is a consequence of Original Sin.  Therefore, there were no suffering before Original Sin.  Adam and Eve were not created by God subject to sufferings before they fell from grace.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent teaches:

When Adam had departed from the obedience due to God and had violated the prohibition, … he fell into the extreme misery of losing the sanctity and righteousness in which he had been placed, and of becoming subject to all those other evils which have been explained more fully by the holy Council of Trent.

Notice that as soon as Adam disobeyed God, he started to experience “extreme misery”, that is sufferings.  This is not to say that there was some kind of misery before the Fall.  As explained above, suffering was not the original plan of God for mankind [i].  It is from this point (Original Sin) onwards that Adam and Eve were able to experience pain (misery) and this occurred BEFORE God questioned them about this transgression.  So, immediately when they have fallen, they started to experience the pain of realizing that they have been deceived by the devil (Satan) and thus having offended God. They mourned this separation of having lost original grace.  By the time they were reproached by God, they were already fallen, having pains, thus God chastised the woman by increasing her pains during labor, when giving birth.

The fact that Adam and Eve felt shame, realizing that they were naked, hid themselves, were afraid and excused themselves before God by the time they were questioned by Him is an indication that they already started to experience a type of suffering which is the consequence of disobeying God (Genesis 3:9-10) (12-13).  Such pain they started to experience since the Original Sin onwards, not since their creation.  Immediately when they ate of the forbidden fruit, they started to experience the ‘pain’ of a fallen state [ii].  For the suffering of a loss is a type of pain. Deprivation is a type of “pain”, broadly considered. The deprivation of something good, something that is fitting to a person (physical evil), includes suffering. Physical evil is the result of moral evil (sin).

“Physical evil is contrary to the plan of God, and God only permits physical evil because of sin. Physical evil is any type of harm or disorder, including suffering; it is not necessarily literally ‘physical’”. – (The Catechism of Catholic Ethics, .190. Three Types of Evil (2)).

We all have different sorts of pain in this fallen state. Some pains are greater than others. Some pains are almost irrelevant, other degrees of pain are mild, but other types of pain are excruciating. In this fallen state, women experience different degrees of pain and more specifically during pregnancy, the physical pain is increased during the natural fallen state of giving birth to children.  Other types of pain which are not physical can also apply.

So, when God was telling Eve that her pains will be multiplied during childbirth, she was already in a fallen state, experiencing pains due to her, at this point in time (current), fallen state (but NOT before the Fall).  Physical pain is multiplied during childbirth for Eve, and her daughters as consequence of Original Sin, in this current fallen nature.

Now, regarding Adam’s chastisement, Pope St. John Paul II explains the following in his Encyclical Laborem Exercens, n 9:

““In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread”. These words refer to the sometimes heavy toil that from then onwards has accompanied human work”. 

In the above quote, the Holy Pontiff mentions about the chastisement regarding work, but it’s also certainly referring to the effects taking place ‘from then onwards’, that is, from God’s reproach onwards, not before the reproach and chastisements which were mentioned by God.  Work was certainly assigned to Adam before the Fall (Genesis 2:15), but this work was painless (Genesis 1:26-30).  You see, God also works, His work of creation (Genesis 2:2), but that doesn’t mean that He suffers while doing His works.  As sons and daughters of God we were meant to be like Him (Psalm 81 [82]:6) (1 John 3:2), but with Him and in accordance with Him (Compendium # 75).  The “heavy toil” for mankind is the result of sin.

The holy Pontiff then teaches that it was disobedience which from the beginning has burdened man’s history on earth” referencing Romans 5:19 (Laborem Exercens, n 27). So, it was since the disobedience of Adam and Eve that “burden” started. He also adds: “Sweat and toil, which work necessarily involves the present condition of the human race”. The “present” condition of the current fallen human race, NOT the “past” unfallen human race.

Jesus and Mary (who was preserved from Original Sin from the first instant of her conception) suffered different type of pains (Mary experienced spiritual pains) inflicted to them by this sinful world, not because of their own incorrupt condition such as sickness or decay.

-Francisco Figueroa.

[i] Animals and other living creatures would not have to be eaten or they would not have to kill each other in order to survive should man have not fallen.  At least that’s what we expect in Paradise (Isaiah 11:6-9).  Therefore, without the Original Sin, a fallen earth with fallen suffering animals, would not have existed.  In the Genesis narrative, Adam was told by God to eat “from every tree of Paradise” except one (Genesis 2:16-17) or from the seed-bearing plants” (Genesis 1:29).  Breastfeeding infants is another option (Isaiah 11:8), which gives the possibility that, before the Fall, grown up men could have been able to drink milk from certain animals of Paradise.  Animals could also eat from the trees or seed-bearing plants (Genesis 1:29-30).  However, there is no mention of killing and eating animals before the Fall or in the Paradise of Eden.  After Original Sin, Adam and Eve were expelled from the uncorrupt Paradise to this already fallen earth consequence of Original Sin.  This fallen earth is discontinuous with Paradise.  God is not limited by time.  When Adam and Eve came to this fallen earth, millions of our known years have already passed (on this earth). There were already fallen animals, fallen plants, etc.  Adam and Eve were placed by God on this earth fitting for fallen creatures.  “Fallen” meaning subject to corruption.  For more details on this that would be another post.

[ii] “Adam and Eve immediately lost for themselves and for all their descendants the original grace of holiness and justice.” – (Compendium # 75).

Recommended read: Adam and Eve versus Evolution.

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1 Response to Was there some kind of pain before the Fall?

  1. Ron Conte says:

    Thanks for posting this article, Francisco.

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