The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad

by God_Delusion 17 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • JT speaks-out
    JT speaks-out

    Great article! I like the point you make about the contradiction regarding whether or not Adam and Eve were made in god's image.

  • smiddy

    If Adam and Eve were perfect wouldnt it make more sense to eat from the tree of life first ?

    Unless of course Eve was a blonde .


  • God_Delusion

    It's really easy to throw the "symbolic" card onto the table whenever something doesn't make sense. I suppose the entire bible is one big symbolism then....

    Cheers for the comments too guys!


  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    [Part 1 of 2] - from Jewish Scholar Marc Zvi Brettler:

    The Meaning of Genesis 2:4b – 3:24

    The story as widely known has been filled out through various (Christian) interpretations. For example, nowhere does the text itself tell us what the forbidden fruit was. In early Christian tradition it was generally understood as an apple, whereas early Jewish tradition offered several opinions as to the fruit's identity, with the fig being the most popular—and contextually the most appropriate (see especially Gen. 3:7).

    Other dearly held views of this text are also not borne out by a close reading. Thus, we might believe that its main theme is the curse received by the woman (and all women), yet the word "curse" is absent in God's comments to her (Gen. 3:16), while it is present in God's statements both to the serpent (3:14) and to the man (3:17). Moreover, the doctrines of the Fall of Man or original sin are nowhere to be found in this passage, though they appear in early Christian interpretation of the text.

    The Garden Story is about immortality lost and sexuality gained. It begins from a simple premise: originally, people were immortal. In fact, the huge life spans recorded in the early chapters of Genesis are part of an effort to make a bridge between that original immortality and "normal" life spans. As immortal beings, they were asexual; in the Garden story God does not tell them to "be fertile and increase" as they were told in the first creation story (Gen. 1:28). Sexuality is discovered only after eating from the tree, when "they perceived that they were naked" (3:7). In fact, the divine command of 2:17 should not be understood as often translated—"for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die" (so the JPS translation)—but rather "for as soon as you eat of it, you shall become mortal." The connection between (procreative) sexuality and mortality is compelling and was well understood even in antiquity—if people were to be both sexually procreative and immortal, disastrous overpopulation would result.

    Many details within chapters 2-3 support this interpretation. The tree that is first forbidden is (literally) "the tree of knowledge of good and bad." Here da-at ("knowledge") is being used in a sense that it often has in the Bible: intimate or sexual knowledge. "Good and bad" is being used here as a figure of speech called a "merism": two opposite terms are joined by the word "and"; the resulting figure means "everything" or "the ultimate." (Amerism is likewise used in Genesis 1:1, "heaven and earth," which there means the entire world.) The words "good and bad" have no moral connotation here.

    [continues in following post]

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    [continues from previous post]

    The renaming of the woman as Eve, chavvah ("progenitress"), "because she was the mother of all the living" (Gen. 3:20), happens only after eating from the tree. This too bolsters the "sexual" reading of this story—eating of the tree of ultimate "knowledge" turns the wife of Adam from ha-ishah ("the woman") into a (potential) mother.

    God's response to the woman after she eats from the tree is not a curse. The words "And to the woman He said, / 'I will make most severe / Your pangs in childbearing; / In pain shall you bear children. / Yet your urge shall be for your husband, / And he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16) are a description of women's new state: procreative, with all the "pains" connected to procreation in the premodern world, including the natural pain of childbirth. This verse is not stating (as a harmonistic reading of Genesis 1-3 might imply) that before eating the fruit women gave birth painlessly, but now they would have labor pains. Furthermore, it notes that women will not do what most people do—try to avoid pain at all cost—because "your urge shall be for your husband, / And he shall rule over you." The meaning of this last section is ambiguous. The root m-sh-l ("to rule") has a general sense, so that its use might suggest an over­all hierarchy of male over female. However, the context of this verse suggests that it means merely that men will determine when couples engage in sexual intercourse.

    It is difficult to determine the attitude of this mythmaker toward the new state that he is describing. Is he happy that a boring life as asexual immortals in Eden has been traded for a challenging, sexual life outside of Eden? Or does he miss immortality? Or is he being merely descriptive, noting how humankind moved from an earlier stage to its current one? The Bible (in contrast to much of Victorian and post-Victorian society) has a generally positive attitude toward human sexuality, as may be seen most clearly from the Song of Songs. In various places, it sees women in particular (in contrast to men) as very sexual beings (see especially Proverbs 1-9). Thus, it is quite reasonable within a biblical context to see Eve as a type of Pandora figure, who is to be commended for bringing sex into this world.

    Implications and Conclusions

    Genesis 1:1-2:4a and 2:4b-3:24 are two separate stories, written by different authors using different styles. They are both myths—neither aims primarily at offering a scientific description of "the earth and everything upon it" (Neh. 9:6). They are metaphors on the story level, traditional tales dealing with issues of collective importance. As such, they are "creating" worlds.

    The first story describes a very good world, which is highly structured and controlled by a most powerful God who in some ways is so dissimilar from humans that he even has his own word, bara, to express his creative activity.

    The world of the second story is much more ambiguous. Its God, a master potter (Gen. 2:7), is much more humanlike, walking and talking, even sewing (3:21). Also this world is unlike that in the previous story: it lacks the gender equality of the previous story, and it is not "very good."

    Modern "critical" biblical scholarship fosters these observations by allowing the stories to be disengaged from each other, allowing each to be seen as an independent story, reflecting its author's perspectives. It understands them as constructive myths, which helped to frame the very essence of Israelite self-understanding, as well as their understanding of their relationship to their God, and to the world that they believed He had created. (“How to Read the Jewish Bible”, Marc Zvi Brettler, pages 45-47)

  • tomble

    thanks for the awesome post, I will be sure to read this out @ my sons birthday tomorrow!

  • kaik

    Tree of knowledge means different things to different people. Since medieval times there were circulating stories taken from Judaism, that the tree of knowledge was Adam's penis, and fruit was Eve's breast. These stories are in existence since 1300's and also portraited in Renaissance. Other philosophers under influence of Judaism think that tree of knowledge was the sexual act between Adam and Eve. It was driven by lust, not by love. The lust entered both of them and destroyed their innocence. Kabbalah considers the Tree of Knowledge as opposite of Tree of Live and is sometimes referred as a Tree of Death. Eve wanted to achive this knowledge in order to create and destroy life and if she possess the knowledge, it would make human too dangeours because they would be the creator of life.

  • Crazyguy

    The original story is from samaria and is about a demigod named Adamu (means man, Adam also means man) he is trying to gain immortality and passes some test of knowlegde anyway some god tell him to come and eat some food they left for him but his father tells him no its a trick. He finds out later that this food would have given him immortality. The adam and eve garden of eden is just an adaptation of this original story, just like the Noah's flood story is a copy of the epeic of gilgamesh....

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