Sunday, November 25, 2007

I. What Was The Forbidden Fruit And Why Was It Forbidden?
Three Interpretations Of The Forbidden Fruit
Although there has been much debate over precisely what the forbidden fruit was and exactly why it was prohibited, all the various interpretations fall primarily into one of the following three major categories:

1. An independent grasp for autonomy.

2. Adam and Eve wanted to become "know-it-alls."

3. Adam and Eve somehow misused sex.

Let's examine these three interpretations, one at a time.

1. An independent grasp for autonomy.
This position states that Adam and Eve didn't want God telling them what to do; they wanted to decide for themselves what was right and wrong. According to this interpretation, instead of trusting God, they became gods unto themselves. As a result, humanity chose to make ethical judgements totally independent from God. This one action resulted in humanity being separated in some sense from God, negatively changing their relationship forever.

The problem I find with that interpretation is simply this: The Bible tells us that Eve was genuinely deceived (2 Corinthians 11:3). The serpent persuaded her that she misunderstood God's prohibition. And as for Adam, it seems he was simply going along with what his wife wanted, probably because he loved her and was afraid of losing her. According to Genesis 3:17, God said to Adam:

"Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life" (NKJV).

Therefore, it seems Adam was motivated by a desire to please his wife, which took top priority. Adam knew better than to disobey God. Unlike Eve, Adam was not deceived. But he disobeyed God anyway, probably because he loved his wife more than he loved God. Therefore, an independent grasp for autonomy does not seem to be a motivating factor, either on the part of Eve or on the part of Adam.

Furthermore, God said they had, in some sense, become like God. God did not say they tried to become like God but had failed. Rather, God said they had attempted to become like God and were successful. Does an independent grasp for autonomy really fit our crime scene investigation? Did they really become gods unto themselves by deciding right from wrong independent of God?

To me, this seems like a flimsy explanation that just doesn't hold water. First, God is autonomous; we are not. We depend on God, either directly or indirectly, for everything. We are totally dependant on God for every breath of air, every morsel of food, and every drop of water. So if Adam and Eve's sin was an independent grasp for autonomy, they failed miserably. Contrary to popular opinion, God said they had successfully become like God. Not exactly like God, or course. But somehow in some way, they were now like God in a way in which they were not like God before. Whatever that way was, they did not become autonomous. Man may be rebellious. Man may be depraved. But man definitely is not autonomous. Therefore, since man is not autonomous, man is not like God in that way.

Neither did man become like God in the sense of being able to determine right from wrong independent from God. First, God wants us to use discernment to choose right from wrong. They had this discernment before the fall, but they didn't exercise it properly. God still wants us to exercise discernment and use this ability wisely. Even in man's fallen state, he still has the ability to choose what is right and to reject what is wrong. Finally, even when we do make bad choices, us making those bad choices do not make those bad choices good. Furthermore, just because we decide something is right or wrong, that doesn't necessarily make it so. Only God determines what is right and what is wrong. The sin of Adam and Eve did not change that. Therefore, the sin of Adam and Eve could not have been an independent grasp for autonomy.

2. Adam and Eve wanted to become "know-it-alls.
"The phrase "good and evil" sometimes refers to a totality of knowledge in Hebrew (see Deuteronomy 1:39 and 2 Samuel 19:35). According to this interpretation, Adam and Eve thought they would become "know-it-alls," knowing everything that God knows. God knew they could not handle such omniscience.This argument also seems weak. First, it seems highly unlikely that God would have made a tree that bore fruit which, if eaten, would have made them omniscient. Second, what's so bad about acquiring knowledge of right and wrong? Doesn't God want us to know as much as possible about what is right and wrong?

But the biggest weakness with this position is that they did not achieve omniscience. God knows everything; we don't. But again, God said they had successfully become like God in some way. Adam and Eve did not successfully become like God by achieving omniscience. Therefore, the idea that the sin of Adam and Eve was a failed attempt to become "know-it-alls" does not jive with the crime scene investigation.

3. Adam and Eve somehow misused sex.
This leaves only one possible explanation: the sin of Adam and Eve somehow involved a misuse of sex. Although nothing in the Eden story says anything about a sexual transgression per se, there are many clues that point in that direction. Here are just a few of many:

Before their transgression, they were naked and unashamed. Afterwards, they covered their bodies and were ashamed of their nakedness. Although this does not prove a sexual transgression, it certainly provides evidence pointing in that direction.
The Hebrew word for "knowledge" and "knew" can refer to sexual intercourse. The expression Adam "knew" Eve (Genesis 4:1) is a polite way of saying Adam "had sex with" Eve. Again, although this does not necessarily prove a sexual transgression, it certainly provides evidence pointing in that direction.

Throughout history, fertility cults worshipped both serpents and trees as symbols of the phallus and fertility. The serpent and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil are major elements in the Eden narrative. The ancient Jews living at the time of Moses would have been very familiar with these parallels. Although this doesn't conclusively prove a sexual transgression on the part of Adam and Eve, once again, it certainly provides evidence pointing in that direction.