Douglas Stuart is an Old Testament scholar who has attempted to explain the meaning and the philosophy of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in an article. In the article, he states that the concept of the tree of knowledge caters to two extremes aiming to place everything in between. Stuart terms it merism.
He further explains that both the concepts of the tree of knowledge and Adam and Eve represent omniscience. Having more knowledge than we can morally handle is the main summary of this story. This talks about human dilemmas as a consequence of failures. It says that knowledge gives the power to humans to do both good and evil things.
What is the purpose of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?
The actual story of the tree of knowledge of good and evil goes like this; a forbidden tree was planted in Eden’s garden on the sixth day. Through the different narratives, it is derived that there are two perspectives on its purpose. Providing man with a choice to love and serve God is the first purpose of the tree of knowledge or rebel against him by rejecting all the prohibitions given by him.
The second purpose that is stated is complex and unclear. But ‘Genesis 2:9’ tries to sum it up like all the trees are described to be pleasant for their beauty and edibility. But on the other side, the fruit Eve and Adam ate from the tree of knowledge was certainly not good for them and we get no prior indications about its reaction to animal bodies. This is the reason the second purpose is confusing and complex.
The source of the sin of the tree of knowledge of good and evil
In ‘Genesis 1:31’, it is said that any creation by God cannot be evil or bad. So, it is quite clear that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not evil itself. There is a very clear command to humans by god in Genesis 2:17. It says “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
The above-mentioned command is a very simple statement that if a man with problems eats the fruit of the tree will surely die. Hence, it is proven that the fruit or the tree isn’t poisonous but man is. The tree had no contribution behind the man’s sinful deeds but it had provided a prior opportunity for obedience and disobedience. There was a command for the man to not eat the fruit, yet he did. A very basic example of parents warning their children regarding something and the child not listening to it increases the risk factors for the child.
“Knowing Good and Evil” of the tree of knowledge
- Making judgments: The statement refers to an active phrase for making judgments. It does not mean possessing some information about an object or being. The phrase is vast and has a broader spectrum of aspects.
- Moral maturity: The tree of knowledge of good and evil also talks about the morality and maturity of a man. A man needs moral maturity to be able to issue moral judgments. Statement in Deuteronomy 1:39’: “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day do not know good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it”
- Right & Wrong: If God didn’t provide the choice for wrongdoings it, the concept of right and wrong didn’t exist and the ability made no sense. So the tree of knowledge of good and evil is the symbol of the two binaries of the universe where God has warned man to not eat the fruit he disobeyed the command. That’s where the moral maturity and ability of judgment arise.
Summary of the tree of knowledge good and evil
A forbidden tree called the tree of knowledge of good and evil was placed in Eden’s garden on the sixth day of God’s creation. There was no wickedness in the tree till then. The wickedness comes later too through a man. Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree despite God’s warning about not consuming the fruit. Here, Adam chose to disobey and rebel against God’s commands and died after a while.
The choice of disobeying God’s command is represented as the sin that caused death. The existence of good is understood only through the existence of evil. So, in a nutshell, the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not evil but it was the man’s fault to make a wrong judgment that lead to death.