Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Most of us probably think we know this story. God says, “Don’t eat the apple.” Adam and Eve disobey god and eat the apple — and sin comes into the world. The story has depicted in so many paintings and children’s books that it has become part of our subconscious. We know this story even if we weren’t raised in a church or never opened a Bible in our lives. However, I’d like for us to take a fresh perspective on this passage.
Before I go any further, I should probably say something about myth, which is the type of story this is. Being a myth doesn’t tell us anything about a story’s factuality, but it does mean that people who first told it thought it was true of every human. This is a story that happened, that happens, and that will always happen. As a myth, this passage says as much about us today as it does about Adam and Eve. Just like those earliest humans, each of us has eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Reading the story carefully, what are the consequences of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? God says if we eat of it, then we will surely die. The serpent says we will be like God, knowing good from evil. I believe both God and the serpent told the truth.
Unlike the rest of God’s creations, humans have the ability to know moral good from moral bad. We usually begin to gain this knowledge around the age of four. So eating from the Tree of Knowledge means that each of us is like God in that we know good from evil, but it also means that we will die. This causes profound problems for us.
The first problem is that, while we know good from evil, we don’t always do good. Although we are “like God” in our ability to differentiate between good and evil, we don’t have God’s perspective, so even when we think we are doing good, we make mistakes. This can paralyze us when we need to make decisions about what to do.
The second problem is that we fear death. The fear is not always strong, but the fact of our mortality is always with us, just under the surface. Sometimes the realization that we are mortal can paralyze us. We are afraid to things we know we should, because we don’t want to risk death.
I believe Jesus helps us to overcome these two problems. In the next week or so, we will look at how Jesus counteracts the effects from eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.