A Primer On How To Lose Paradise
It never ceases to amaze me how people can read the Bible and come up with a different explanation from what the printed words say in plain language. I guess that’s what George Bernard Shaw meant when he said that, “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says – he is always convinced that it says what he means.” Here’s a case in point.
The question has to do with God telling Adam that he would die if he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. If you recall, here’s how the conversation went:
- In Genesis 2:17, God tells Adam: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
- In Genesis 3:17, God doles out his punishment for disobeying him with regard to eating of the Tree of Knowledge: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.”
The plain words of these passages tell a pretty simple story. God told man not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge (and Adam disobeyed him). The punishment was to live “a life of sorrow.” However, Adam did not die as God had warned him but rather lived to be 930 years old.
Actually, the serpent knew the truth all along and told Eve as much. Here’s the pertinent Bible verses:
- In Genesis 3:3, Eve tells the serpent, “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”
- In Genesis 3:4-5, the serpent responds to Eve as follows: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
What follows in Genesis 3:6-7 is also telling: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened….”
So, it was just like the serpent said. One doesn’t drop dead if they eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Further, what the serpent said would happen did, in fact, happen. That is, if you eat from the Tree of Knowledge “then your eyes shall be opened”…and they were indeed opened as the Bible states. The serpent also told the truth about what happens when your eyes are opened. He says in Genesis 3:4-5 that you will become gods, knowing good and evil. In Genesis 3:22, God actually confirms the truth about what the serpent said when he says, …“Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil….”
The fruit (apple) of the Tree of Knowledge is a universal symbol of temptation and the giving in to that temptation resulting in Paradise Lost, as Milton would have it. However, the use of the apple as this kind of symbol predates the writing of Genesis. For example, Greek mythology used the symbol of a serpent-like dragon that was coiled around a tree in the garden of the Hesperides protecting the divine golden apples. In fact, both Shakespeare and Milton later included the divine Garden of Hesperides in their works.
Today, most people would say that the world is not a safe place. Certainly, God, if he were here, would not look out over his creation and say that it is good. So, even religious people have to question how an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God created such an imperfect world. That’s why the Church came up with their theology of Creation Out of Nothing to explain how God was not the cause of evil. However, if God didn’t create evil, pray tell who did? Further, if Eve could be tempted by an evil being, then the temptation had to be the end-result of something that God both created (i.e. the serpent) and expected. After all, God was omnipotent and omniscient, wasn’t he?
As simple a story as Genesis is, some people still feel the need to reinterpret it. Thank you, George Bernard Shaw. After all, every story has to have a good guy and every story has to have a bad guy. Therefore, in the orthodox church, the snake has been forever known as the villain of this story. Yet, it was God that lied while the serpent told the truth. Of course, this wasn’t the first time that God deceived man. In the very beginning (Genesis 1), God originally gave the Tree of Knowledge to man, as the Bible says, to have dominion over. Who would have ever believed that Paradise could have been lost over a Tree that had been originally promised by God to man?
…”If you get mad at your Mac laptop and wonder who designed this demonic device, notice the manufacturer’s icon on top: an apple with a bite out of it.”
– Peter Kreeft