Ten Questions About the Trees in Eden

I often think that in our discussions about the “Fall,” we skip over the most interesting parts of the story in Genesis 2 and 3. So here are ten questions to ponder and research about the trees in the Garden of Eden.

10. Why two named trees? Proponents of free will suggest that God put a tree and a prohibition into place in order to give us the chance to love Her freely. I accept this argument, but I still need to ask, why TWO trees? The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden, with the consequence being death, but the Tree of Life was never forbidden. In fact, God only closes access to it after Adam and Eve have their snack and get their curse.

9. What’s up with that name? Hebrew is a simple language, so Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is only four words, but still, that’s a lot of text. And it’s quite a cumbersome name. We’ve got the Tree of Life, and the Tree-of-the-knowledge-of-good-and-evil. Up until this point in the text, the word evil has not been used. Even when God declares that it’s not good for man to be alone, the text literally says “not good.” (I’m talking about the original Hebrew here too, not a translation). So the name of the tree introduces the very concept of evil. Everything in Creation is good or neutral or not good, and suddenly there’s this concept of evil, actual evil. Evil that can be known. Evil that presumably is known by God.

8. What does it mean to have knowledge of good and evil? God gives a prohibition to the man: don’t eat from this tree or you’ll die. But there is no judgment. It’s simply a consequence. There is no sense that the man will be evil or even not good: just dead.

7. Death is an integral part of the intricate and elaborate ecosystem that is the world, the universe, and everything. Without death, nothing functions. To say that death only entered the world as a result of the Fall (as some Christians do) is to ignore vast quantities of science and to ignore the very simple and inalterable truth that death is essential to life. What are we to make of the fact that death is an integral part of Creation, yet a consequence of eating from the Tree?

6. If Creation included death, and then God put humans in it and warned them about death as a consequence, does that imply that humans were immortal?

5. Or is questioning the mortality of humans being too literal? Perhaps the death is a symbolic death, or a death of innocence.

4. What if the real death caused by knowledge of good and evil is that it causes us to try and define good and evil? After all, at this point in Genesis there is nothing evil in the world.

3. Why doesn’t anyone talk about the fact that we had access to a Tree of Life, but instead we listened to the serpent and ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

2. What would change in our reading of this text if we saw it as a story about human development rather than Obedience = Good and Disobedience = Bad? I’ve heard some people suggest that interpretation and I find it fascinating.

1. How DO we define good and evil? My 5 year old defines her will as good, and anything opposed to her will as bad. We believe we are more sophisticated as adults, but are we? Don’t dismiss me too quickly. What do you base your knowledge of good and evil on?

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