*I’m running the snow cone stand solo on opening weekend, so forgive me for pulling into my drafts and grabbing this piece. Hope it’s something to chew on. Please see my disclaimer page for a list of disclaimers.
What does The Tree of Knowledge represent?
As Christians, especially Christian women, we are taught to check our emotions, reason, and intellect at the door, all in the name of faith.
Who told us to leave our God-given wisdom and common sense at the door of our beliefs?
According to most of our ancestors, the Bible did. Our fear of knowledge appears to begin right at The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, a symbol so misunderstood, it’s terrifying.
We don’t even truly know the history of the story, and yet, most Christian beliefs about sin, redemption, the role of men and women, the Earth, eternity, gaining knowledge–everything!--results from this one story.
We will get to that. But first, I want to talk about good versus evil.
Forgive me for using Wikipedia, but at its most basic level, it’s the easiest go-to for what I’m about to show you. I’ve fact-checked all of this, but please feel free to do so on your own.
Carefully read the following excerpt from the Wikipedia page: Good and evil. I’ve bolded some important parts worth mulling over:
History and etymology [of good vs. evil]
Every language has a word expressing good in the sense of “having the right or desirable quality” (ἀρετή) and bad in the sense “undesirable”. A sense of moral judgment and a distinction “right and wrong, good and bad” are cultural universals.
The philosopher Zoroaster simplified the pantheon of early Iranian gods into two opposing forces… which were in conflict.
This idea developed into a religion which spawned many sects, some of which embraced an extreme dualistic belief that the material world should be shunned and the spiritual world should be embraced. Gnostic ideas influenced many ancient religions which teach that gnosis (variously interpreted as enlightenment, salvation, emancipation or ‘oneness with God’) may be reached by practicing philanthropy to the point of personal poverty, sexual abstinence… and diligently searching for wisdom by helping others.
Similarly, in ancient Egypt, there were the concepts of Ma’at, the principle of justice, order, and cohesion, and Isfet, the principle of chaos, disorder, and decay, with the former being the power and principles which society sought to embody where the latter was such that undermined society…
In Western civilization, the basic meanings of κακός and ἀγαθός are “bad, cowardly” and “good, brave, capable”, and their absolute sense emerges only around 400 BC, with pre-Socratic philosophy…Morality in this absolute sense solidifies in the dialogues of Plato, together with the emergence of monotheistic thought… The idea was further developed in Late Antiquity by Neoplatonists, Gnostics, and Church Fathers.
This development from the relative or habitual to the absolute is also evident in the terms ethics and morality both being derived from terms for “regional custom”, Greek ήθος and Latin mores, respectively.
According to the classical definition of Augustine of Hippo, sin is “a word, deed, or desire in opposition to the eternal law of God.”
Many medieval Christian theologians both broadened and narrowed the basic concept of Good and evil until it came to have several, sometimes complex definitions such as:
- a personal preference or subjective judgment regarding any issue which might be earn praise or punishment from the religious authorities
- religious obligation arising from Divine law leading to sainthood or damnation
- a generally accepted cultural standard of behavior which might enhance group survival or wealth
- natural law or behavior which induces strong emotional reaction
- statute law imposing a legal duty
I hope that you will read and reread the above passage, digging into it for a moment to get a sense of how the Christianity we believe today was meshed together, formed and molded by human hands into something that might have been unrecognizable to the earliest of Christians.
In fact, the first followers of “The Way,” those who would have had direct contact with the living Jesus, didn’t fully understand his divinity until years later and never believed that the Jewish law should cease being followed! And these were the people who had lived, talked and walked with Christ!
If you’ll also take a moment to go back and reread Genesis 2, I believe you’ll see so much of the Creation Story through fresh eyes. If you take each verse piece by piece, reading and pondering the story as if it is just that, an allegory, you will see the beautiful moral that lies within it.
Ancient scholars often wrote about opposites as a symbol meaning “everything.”
Seen this way, The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for them represented everything good and bad. Partaking in it meant never being satisfied.
To never be satisfied will kill you.
Our pride never wants us to be content. It is constantly seeking more and never satisfied with enough. “Did God really say…” begins every fool’s question, right?
Study the following passage from Exodus 20:
[Exodus 20] Then God gave the people all these instructions:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
3 “You must not have any other god but me.
4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.
7 “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
8 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
12 “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You must not murder.
14 “You must not commit adultery.
15 “You must not steal.
16 “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
17 “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”
18 When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.
19 And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!”
20 “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”
21 As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.
I wanted you to read the Ten Commandments with fresh eyes because if you see them as the benefit they are, as opposed to something that is meant to hold society down or cause us to fear burning in Hell for eternity, I think you’ll understand how pride gets in the way of life and makes us fearful of ourselves, others and God.
Note a couple of things: God didn’t say He made these laws to test people so they’d be afraid. Moses said that.
We have this really strange way of applying this overall rule to the Bible that God ultimately says everything in it, and I would argue that’s simply not true! For example, there’s a verse in Psalms that says, Happy is the man who smashes babies’ heads against rocks. Let’s please not start a rumor that God said that!
Second: If you are a Christian, you should understand that God walked as flesh to cover our humanity. Love covers a multitude of sins. We technically do not have to follow a single, solitary law, except the law Jesus left us with, which was: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. We are free from Earthly demands. But if you reread these ten commandments, what you’ll find is that practicing the two most important laws upholds the rest of them by default.
By loving God and loving others, you are living the Ten Commandments, though imperfectly–because we are ALL imperfect!
Happy Sunday, y’all,