And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16
The chronology of events in the Garden of Eden shows that God commanded Adam before Eve arrived on the scene. But, Eve was certainly aware of the command not to eat the fruit from the tree. She indicated as much when she spoke with the serpent:
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden and you must not touch it or you will die.'” Genesis 3:2
Either God repeated the ‘rule’ for her or Adam passed on the message at some stage. I suspect the latter is true since God, in His typically misogynistic manner, created Eve merely as a ‘helper’ for Adam. Regardless, they were both aware of the warning by the time the serpent came slitherin’ along. But, let’s just take the serpent out of the equation for a moment and have Adam and Eve wander around for a couple weeks eating the fruit from every tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I’m reminded of poor ‘Ralph’ in William Golding’s ‘Lord of the flies’. The diarrhoea must have been something wicked on a diet of nothing but fruit! Anyway, they pass the tree a few times and remember that they were told not to eat its fruit – on penalty of death. Wait! Adam and Eve are the first humans on earth and – up to this point – nothing (and definitely nobody) has died. Where did they acquire their knowledge of the concept of death?
OK. Let’s just assume, for the sake of continuity, that God has already provided an explanation of death to them (whatever that might be), so that they understand the severity of the penalty should they eat the forbidden fruit. Although, having said that, we are barely into the third chapter of Genesis (the first book of the sixty-six books of the Bible – that we know about) and the assumptions are already adding up. Maybe we should just read it like we do our favourite fiction writers – suspending belief for the greater good. But, as is so often the case, I’m digressing again!
Why put the tree there in the first place, unless God deliberately wanted to test their ability to obey i.e. not succumb to the temptation of eating the fruit they have been told will result in death? It is quite possible that they passed that tree umpteen times and refrained from eating the fruit to the point that God decided He needed to ‘up the ante’. Enter stage left, another one of God’s creations – the serpent.
So, God tells Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from a tree he put there and they are deceived into eating the fruit by a serpent that God also put there. What game is God playing?
We’re moving into Walt Disney territory now – with a serpent that openly converses with Eve. We know the serpent isn’t human – there are only two of those on earth at this point. So, the serpent is either a figment of Eve’s imagination (manifest by her desire to succumb to temptation) or it must be an animal of some sort. The latter appears more in keeping with the narrative. The interpretation down through the ages has been that the serpent is some sort of snake – at least it has been portrayed as such in images associated with the official repetition of the story. So, we have a talking snake, tempting Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A talking snake which we must assume is another one of God’s creations since He has just been credited with creating every living being on earth.
At the tender age of 12 and accustomed to top marks for creative writing, I received a considerably upsetting deduction of one point (9/10) from Daniel McNelis, my English teacher, for an essay which referred to (the pathetic fallacy of) a bridge which experienced human-like stresses as thousands of soldiers crossed it. The author of Genesis 3 deserves a similar deduction for attributing human abilities to a snake. While talking snakes most certainly appeal to the infinitely-flexible imaginations of the younger generation, arguably the most indoctrinable target market for such cartoons, it beggars adult belief that the physiological evolution of the snake has deteriorated in the interim, having its magnificent ability to (albeit it sibilantly) chat with humans replaced with an unintelligible ‘hiss’ and a flicking of its devilishly-forked tongue!
But, you might say, God gave Adam and Eve free will to choose not to heed the serpent’s exhortations, not to eat the fruit. You would be spot on with such a precisely-timed sequitur. I would immediately counter with the fact that he certainly did appear to grant them ‘free will’, but that ‘free will’ is actually not as free as it might seem. God intervened in the ‘free will’ process by introducing a test. Why else would he create a ‘crafty’ serpent to appear in the garden and tempt them?
The next question can only be: What did God expect them to do? Wait! He created them. Just as a computer programmer decides the outcome of a decision in code, God knew exactly what options were available no matter what Adam and Eve decided to do. In programming we call it an ‘if/else’ statement. In this case, if: they succumb to temptation they will die
else: they live forever.
But up until this point they had not yet eaten the forbidden fruit so God pushes them a little harder by introducing the serpent to the plot. This would be analogous to the computer programmer testing his software by deliberately ensuring a particular path is executed in the code. In this case the ‘disobedience’ path. But, ensuring one path is executed is not ‘free will’. It eliminates the choice from the process and makes me wonder if God didn’t have a few more tricks up his sleeve should the serpent have proven unsuccessful. Remember, nothing in Christianity happens without the preordination of God. He is all-powerful, all-present and, most notably in this case, all-knowing. So, He must have known the serpent would be sufficient to tempt Eve and that Eve would subsequently pass her ‘weakness’ on to Adam.
Incidentally, it appears Adam didn’t have much of a backbone. When accused by God he instantly blames Eve for his digression. Jesus Christ, take responsibility for your own actions Adam or as we say these days, take it like a man. In this case, take it like the first man on earth instead of passing the buck to your good lady wife, weak and all as she has proven herself to be by succumbing to the temptations of the serpent!
God’s barking of the rule – to not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – appears to have lacked the bite that one would correctly assume should follow. Adam and Eve disobeyed the rule but neither died. Well, not for another 930 years anyway, in which time, first, Cain and Abel were born to the couple. We are then told that Adam was 130 years old when another son, Seth, was born. It’s not categorically stated who Seth’s mother was but the assumption (given no evidence of an alternative) is that Eve’s biological maternity clock was still ticking along nicely at the ripe old age of 130 – ish. If the time-based limitations of the present-day female birth-cycle are reasonably used as a basis for calculation, it appears more likely that Seth’s mother was one of Adam’s own great-grand-daughters but let’s not allow our modern sensitivities, with respect to the nature of incestuous relationships, deny the truth of the biblical text. I’m still wondering what age Adam actually was when God created him – and Eve for that matter. Were they already adults or were they new-born children? Again, a serious lack of detail on the part of the author(s) leaves the making of (often outrageous) assumptions as the only reasonable course of action!
Let’s assume, again for the sake of continuity, that by using the word ‘die’ in his original threat, God meant they would ‘eventually’ die – when they got old or at some distant point in the future. This presupposes that He originally meant that they would never die, that they would live forever. Otherwise, the threat of death would be meaningless – that proberbial bark without a bite to which I have already alluded. So, what was the point of having a ‘tree of life’ in the garden as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? If God, as the text appears to suggest, had originally intended for Adam and Eve to live forever, they would have no need to eat the fruit from the tree of life – they were going to live forever anyway. Whoever wrote this shit clearly hasn’t considered all the angles! I’ll get back to the tree of life a little later in this article. It really should have been called the ‘tree of contradiction’!
The alternative is that He meant they would instantly die, which is more in keeping with the nature of a threat as we know it today. If we don’t obey the laws of the land in civil society the justice system, as it should, deals with us. While it often takes some time after the offense, the system does attempt to punish as quickly and efficiently as it can. The threat of disobeying the rules of society is a punishment laid down in the statutes of that society. Should you commit murder, there are over thirty states in the USA that potentially have the terrors of death-row waiting for you. The statute does not intend for you to go to death row when you are older or at some stage in the future. It intends for punishment to be as swift as possible – despite the various delays incumbent in the processing of most modern-day death sentences. At least you are given the benefit of a trial by a jury of your peers. No such luxury was afforded Adam and Eve. A jury of twelve peers would have been hard to find!
So, God presided alone over the hapless couple in the ‘Court of Eden’ and instantly sentenced them to a different set of trials and tribulations – not the death penalty with which He had first threatened them. There must have been unmentioned and extenuating factors he took into consideration before passing sentence!
Eve was sentenced to labour pains and obeying Adam’s rules who, it appears from a literal reading of the text, has suddenly become her husband. Really? In a single statement, God shows Himself to be a sadist, a misogynist and a matchmaker! Well, two out of three are unforgiveable for a god! The matchmaking is unavoidable – Tinder, with only two active members.
Poor Adam, his crime having involved nothing more than joining (his new wife) Eve in the consumption of what must have been the most delicious fruit ever, was sentenced to – wait for it – farming!
As an aside, it’s not clear when we started specifying that the fruit was actually an apple. There is no clear indication in any biblical texts other than references to ‘fruit’. I have lived the better part of my life under the illusion that the variety of apple colloquially known as ‘Granny Smith’ has been around since the days of Adam and Eve!
A great irony surrounding the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is that modern-day theologians repeatedly argue that without a belief in God, humanity would be bereft of morality. At its core, morality is an awareness of the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil. God forbade Adam and Eve from eating the fruit that would actually teach them the difference between right and wrong but, since they did, theists might as well add it to their principal list of arguments for the existence of God. The story of Adam and Eve teaches us that we need God to learn morality, they say. How convenient! How magnificently erroneous!
To be clear, we do NOT need God (or religion) to be morally upstanding citizens. Good role models (parents, teachers, peers etc) are sufficient to ensure we develop into morally decent adults. Granted, it may have been because Adam and Eve had no parents or peers that God intended for them to listen to Him – a substitute teacher if you will. But it must be simultaneously granted that He ultimately intended for them to disobey Him at some stage. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil wasn’t just an ornament in the Garden of Eden! Forbidding them to eat its fruit was an easy precursor to what would follow, knowing full well they would eventually disobey and pluck its fruit. When they didn’t He introduced the serpent. For a father-figure to ‘up the ante’ to ensure the outcome He wanted reeks heavily of the disingenuous, moves swiftly passed deliberate and unavoidable entrapment and, given the consequences for every single human being that followed, quickly ascends all the way up to the lofty heights of pure evil. To use another passage from the ‘good’ book, the sins of the father have ever since been visited upon the sons – and daughters. Free will my hole! Do what you are told or suffer the consequences would be more like it.
I would be falling short of a thorough analysis (of chapters two and three of Genesis) if I didn’t mention again the other tree in the centre of the Garden of Eden, the tree of life. God apparently ‘discovers’ that Adam might also eat from this tree and live forever so, he immediately banishes him from the garden. The contradiction in respect of a God that is supposedly all-knowing is overwhelmingly obvious. If I were all-knowing, there would never be anything to ‘discover’. I would already know everything!
The only logical conclusion here is that either God or the author is ‘winging it’ – making it up as He (or he) goes along. Not very ‘God-like’ I think you’ll agree? Sounds to me more like a writer furiously penning word after word, sentence after sentence without retracing his steps to ensure the quilt isn’t too patchy. Genesis 3 is more like a sieve than a patchwork quilt! While the plot is simplistic enough, the need for a complete suspension of belief (in the face of contradictions, the improbable and the downright impossible) is overwhelmingly difficult to swallow.
The litany of assumptions required to fill in the gaps in the story of Adam and Eve (where the author has lazily or deliberately omitted critical detail) makes it an incredibly easy convenience for believers to complete the story according to their own particular outlook. But, as Christopher Hitchen’s was contrarily fond of reminding us:
“That which is asserted without evidence can just as easily be dismissed without evidence.”
The ‘opening of their eyes’ also bequeathed upon Adam and Eve one final insult, the effects of which have evolved over time but have nonethess plagued humanity ever since. Immediately after taking their respective bites of the fruit, both Adam and Eve discovered they were naked. Their first reaction to eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to discover they were naked. The inference here is as clear as the hand in front of your face. Nudity is evil. The best interpretation I can offer for this ‘dilemma’ is that they became aware of their nudity as an analogous attempt to explain, or even initiate the concept of, self-consciousness. This verse (Genesis 3:6) was clearly added by one of Calvin Klein’s ancestors when nobody was looking – an astute businessman with an eye on manipulating the circumstances for profit. From fig leaves to boxer shorts indeed!
Seriously though, who wrote this shit?