Rethinking Eden

In Christianity, there is one story from which all other stories flow. One act that dooms all of mankind. It’s the story of Eden. It takes place in Genesis three. And it’s a familiar story: in Eden, life was presumably perfect. Adam and Eve, were in God’s presence, and had only one job: not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

But why was there a tree in the first place? For moral agents to love, there needs to be a choice. This was their choice, and their test.

Here’s God’s warning to Adam and Eve:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Here’s the temptation from the serpent:

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

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.’”

You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Notice that Eve says that ‘you must not touch it’ which was not included in her warning from God. I think this was Eve’s mechanism to protect her from eating from the fruit. If there is only one thing in your universe that you can’t eat, why not just not touch that thing. It seems like a smart boundary to make. 

But Eve touches the fruit and doesn’t die. Of course, in reading the story, we know that she wouldn’t die. But if she had convinced herself that touching the fruit would kill her, it didn’t. She had sinned in her own mind, but nothing happened. So why not eat the fruit?

Then Adam clearly sees that Eve is still alive after eating the fruit. Eve now knows good and evil, but he doesn’t. Eve is more like God than him. So if eating from the Tree didn’t kill her, and now she was more like God, wouldn’t it be wrong for him not to eat the fruit?

You see, under a more careful reading, the temptation was much more clever than I imagined. I always thought that the Fall was preventable. Maybe it wasn’t.