The book of Genesis tells us that Eve had been tempted by a serpent to eat from the tree of knowledge. What was the reason for humankind’s Fall? It was the curiosity, the thirst for knowledge. Why is the curiosity, the knowledge, something wrong? How can anyone know God’s moral nature if he or she doesn’t know what is good and what is evil? Knowing God, according to the Bible, and knowing His moral nature, is the sense of the eternal life. (John 17; 3) How can anyone know God and establish if He is good or if He is evil if that person doesn’t know the difference between good and evil? To be in the likeness of God means firstly to have a moral nature like Him, but that is impossible unless one has a good knowledge of what good and evil mean.
About the knowledge of the good and evil there is a big contradiction when comparing Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2. In Genesis chapter 1 mankind was made in the likeness of God but in chapter 2 the aspiration of humankind to be like God, knowing good and evil, was harshly punished. The text in Genesis chapter 1 sets forth:
“26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ 27 So God created humankind* in his image, in the image of God he created them;* male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1; 26-27 NRSV)
Contrary to the declaration found in Genesis chapter 1, in Genesis chapter 3, verse 22, man became like God following the acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil and not from the beginning of his creation. According to the book of Genesis humankind would have been created in a blissful ignorance, a situation similar to that of the children who depend totally on their parents. At the same time, children don’t always remain in that stage of development, they turn into mature human beings and in this way they become like their parents. A similar process would have happened with Adam and Eve; they would have followed the natural stages of human development in their way to become like God, their divine Parent. What is strange in the biblical texts is that God would have tried to stop this natural process of human development, preventing the first human beings becoming like Him. No good parent does such a thing and this divine intervention in the course of human history according to the book of Genesis would have generated a colossal drama.
God didn’t offer the knowledge of good and evil freely to humankind and the price for the possibility to acquire this knowledge was their eternal lives. If they wanted to be like God they had to die because living eternally and being like Him would have been an unwanted competition against Him.
- 1 -
“22 Then the LORD God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’— 23, therefore, the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.” (Genesis 3; 22-23 NRSV)
The texts from Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis chapter 3 contradict each other. Humankind was made either in God’s likeness from the beginning of their creation or they became like Him against His will after eating from the tree of good and evil. Both statements don’t go together.
In the continuation of the story, Eve was allegedly deceived by a serpent but that animal was telling the truth and truth can never be deceiving. Everything said by the serpent happened in practice. After eating from the tree Adam and Eve really became like God, knowing good and evil as the serpent said, and that was confirmed by God. Man did not die on the same day, as God said in Genesis chapter 2, neither physically nor spiritually, but he lived for many centuries ahead.
In Genesis chapter 3 the reader is informed how Eve has been deceived by the serpent:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ 2 The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ‘ 4 But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,* knowing good and evil.’ 6 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. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” (Genesis 3; 1-7 NRSV)
- 2 -