tree of knowledge of good and evil and theology

From: John Hewlett <john.hewlett@usa.com>
Date: Mon Sep 12 2005 - 13:19:59 EDT

Hello all, here is a question that has arose in my mind. In Genesis of course we are all confronted by the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" and of course this lends its self to some form of interpretation. So having said this, I have noticed that there are infact several interpretations of this out there. One of which is the following:

 1. Morality. By eating from the tree of knowledge, humanity chose to discriminate between what is good and what is bad on the basis of their own judgment, rather than by automatically accepting God's definition. By acting on their own, the couple irrevocably separated themselves from God, and their relationship to God was forever changed.
    2. Knowledge. The Hebrew phrase "good and evil" can sometimes designate the totality of knowledge (see Deuteronomy 1:39 and 2 Samuel 19:35). Eating the fruit of that tree was an act of human pride, an attempt to know everything God knows. God would not tolerate any such challenge to his preeminence, and expelled the original couple from the garden lest they also eat from the tree of life and become invulnerable.
    3. Sexuality. The story in Genesis 2-3 deals quite a bit with sexual matters. The couple is naked and not ashamed. Later they experience shame because of their nakedness. Even the serpent has been interpreted by psychoanalysts as a sexual symbol. The Hebrew term for "knowledge" can have sexual associations, as in Genesis 4:1, where "Adam knew Eve," which is clearly a euphemism for sexual intercourse. The sexual interpretation suggests that coming to knowledge, symbolized by eating the forbidden fruit, signifies the passage from childhood through puberty to adulthood. Sexual experience involves the pain and alienation of coming to know oneself and the other in new ways. Discovering the sexual impulse means one cannot go back to the state of innocence ever again.
    All three interpretations have hints of truth in them. Yet the big affront to Yahweh seems to be humanity's desire to become like gods, to be independent, self-sufficient entities. By focusing on this dimension, perhaps the first interpretation contains the most truth. By their act of self-determination, the original couple expressed their intent to live by their own authority, not by God's. They tried to seize what could only be divinely granted. God would not abide this direct challenge. He expelled them and denied them access to perpetual life, symbolized by the tree of life.

This came from the following website: http://www.hope.edu/bandstra/RTOT/CH1/CH1_1A2B.HTM

I am just curious about perspectives on how this relates to the scientific disipline. John Wesley interpretted the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" to basically be a choice that man could make. In his notes he said the following:

"There was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - So called, not because it had any virtue to beget useful knowledge, but because there was an express revelation of the will of God concerning this tree, so that by it he might know good and evil. What is good? It is good not to eat of this tree: what is evil? To eat of this tree. The distinction between all other moral good and evil was written in the heart of man; but this, which resulted from a positive law, was written upon this tree"

A similar view of this can befound in the biblical commentary of William Henry as well. I suppose this view is that the to obey God and NOT eat is an act of goodness and to eat is defying God, therefor it is evil. And really doesn't have anything to do with worldly knowledge if you will.

My concern (if you would even call it that) is about the 2nd option above, and its relevance to the scientific pursuits.

"2. Knowledge. The Hebrew phrase "good and evil" can sometimes designate the totality of knowledge (see Deuteronomy 1:39 and 2 Samuel 19:35). Eating the fruit of that tree was an act of human pride, an attempt to know everything God knows. God would not tolerate any such challenge to his preeminence, and expelled the original couple from the garden lest they also eat from the tree of life and become invulnerable."

Ok so if we assume from this statement that "good and evil" represent the totality of knowledge. Then does this have anything to say about our pursuits in the field of science, where we are infact searching for reasoned knowledge or am I missing the mark entirely (I would be willing to bet if I was a gambling man that I am missing the mark because Proverbs says to pursue knowledge).

Shalom,
John

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Received on Mon Sep 12 13:21:59 2005

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