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The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Why did God forbid Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge?

Asked by The_Compassionate_Heretic (14596points) May 22nd, 2009

I don’t see the heresy in pursuing knowledge.

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43 Answers

DrasticDreamer's avatar

You’d think so, right? If I remember correctly, it was simply to test their obedience. Kind of like… If you take a dog off a leash, will it stay by your side or run?

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

How many of us would eat the apple from the tree of knowledge given the opportunity? I bet a lot would.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I definitely would. :)

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

My thoughts exactly. What is wrong with a little experimentation? More to the point, what would have happened if they fed the fruit to a lab rat, then to a pig, then to one of their children (if they had children before being kicked out)?

oratio's avatar

I don’t know what to read out of that metaphor. It could be a test of free will, moral, release from bondage, going into bondage or just the influence of evil. You could read several meanings into the story depending on your view on it. The Bassari legend from West Africa has close to exact the same story. You have the Mesopotamian creation stories that involves revolting against the will of gods as well.

susanc's avatar

The dilemma of all child-rearing – after awhile they grow up, no matter how many nice things you give them when they’re little.

suzyq2463's avatar

It’s not just the “tree of knowledge,” it’s the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The question “why” still remains. Wouldn’t God want them to know the difference between good and evil? Wouldn’t God want them to experience both? Unfortunately, the author never explains what is meant by “knowledge of good and evil.” It apparently isn’t moral reasoning since commanding them not to eat implies that they must already know the difference between good and bad. All sorts of other suggestions have been made over the centuries—sexual knowledge, divine knowledge, simple disobedience, etc. It’s certainly not divine knowledge since after they ate the fruit (it’s never specified as an apple, that’s just tradition) all they know is that they are naked. So much for omniscience!

In my view, what the knowledge of good and evil is ultimately is irrelevant—it’s how they acquired the knowledge—i.e. without God. They asserted their independence from God in an attempt to become “like God” (=immortal). In the OT (and other Ancient Near Eastern texts), attempts to attain immortality are (almost) always thwarted by God or the gods (one exception is Utnapishtim in the Gilgamesh Epic).

The story is an attempt to explain the human condition: why childbirth is so *&%%## painful; why growing food is next to impossible; why people hate snakes; and, most importantly, why people die.

mattbrowne's avatar

My interpretation is this: there’s nothing wrong with pursuing knowledge, in fact, it’s great. But Adam and Eve and all the rest of us have to leave the paradise. When we seek knowledge, we will also discover the ugly parts.

A modern variation of the theme is part of ‘The Time Machine’ by H.G. Wells. The Eloi live in a (temporary) kind of paradise. To remain in this paradise they show no interest in knowledge at all. The time traveler discovers that none of the books in the old library has ever been opened. He wants them to pursue knowledge, but this means they will have to leave the paradise. And they will find ugliness.

spresto's avatar

@DrasticDreamer You say would, but that is based off of what you already know of knowledge. Try to think about it as if you had no knowledge…like any other animal on earth.

ubersiren's avatar

“Ignorance is bliss”, I think is the moral of the story, here. It seems that the instruction to maintain the bliss of not knowing what is good or evil would keep them conveniently childlike, obedient, and submissive to their God. I don’t know exactly why, but that’s my best guess. I actually think the whole story is a metaphor for the basic instructions for being a good God-fearing Bible follower——I was about to write “Christian”, but this story was written before Christ.

Growing up, I went to church willingly without my parents (what kid does that?) but always had questions. More often than not, my questions were met with answers like, “Don’t question God—you’ll find out all you need to know in Heaven” or even as extreme as, “Only devil worshipers dare question Christianity.” We are taught to just follow and have faith in order to reach “paradise” when we die. Would I rather live in ignorance in paradise without ever wanting to know where all my pleasantries come from, or gain the knowledge required to create my own personalized paradise? The second option comes with struggle, therefore knowing the evils of the world, but at least I’m making my own choices and living the good with the bad. If you live in complete bliss, then you don’t know good or evil because there’s nothing to compare your situation with. So you’re sort of like a Doll on Dollhouse. To them, getting a massage every day and having everything provided is just life as they know it, so they don’t know how good they’ve got it. Knowledge of good and evil makes me human, so I’m going with that.

To answer the title question, it’s my opinion that it’s a story to keep it’s people “in line” like most Bible stories are.

CMaz's avatar

As the saying goes. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yes a test of obedience. But, by eating the apple from the tree of knowledge. They acquired insight to their surroundings and who they were to one another. Freedom of choice was then put into play. When your children get to be too much of a know it all and now want to interject into your way of doing things. What do you do? You throw them out of the house.

Darwin's avatar

I think He just didn’t want to let them grow up. We are much cuter when we are innocent.

noelasun's avatar

I had the impression it was to serve as a barrier between Adam and Eve and God. Adam and Eve “walked with God” so to speak and had dominion over the earth… in God’s image all that stuff. The tree was one thing that differentiated them from God, a reminder God was superior?
This is my thought on why God might have forbidden Eve and Adam from the tree.

galileogirl's avatar

I saw a really interesting documentary called something like The Search for Eden. The proposed that all myths and stories like Genesis are handed down from oral traditions that tried to explain the unknown. 10’s of thousands of years ago there was an Agricultural Revolution that spanned centuries as humans passed from Paleolithic to Neolithic cultures. There existed groups living as hunter/gatherers and subsistence farmers at the same time. The idea was that hunter/gatherers had a much simpler,purer life and the Tree of Knowledge represented the necessity to master nature in order to farm. Having nothing precluded most of the ‘evils’ of the world but the accumulation of property necessary for a settled life is the source of bad acts and feelings.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

When I saw this question I immediately thought of this quote:

“If you love something set it free; if it returns its yours forever, if not it was never meant to be.”

The “heresy” wasn’t the pursuit of knowledge but in doing exactly what God asked Adam and Eve not to do—it was the disobedience. Why did God choose to submit them to this test? Well, how else would people, who originally knew nothing of evil from experience, learn the value of good over evil? Being persons of free will, it’s simply in our nature to wander away from our origins and seek knowledge from other places/sources—making mistakes, falling for the ruses of others and coming to false conclusions along the way, in the end suffering the consequences and (hopefully) growing from them—but eventually we’ll have to come to our own conclusions and beliefs about life and the nature of our existence.

Whether that search leads us back to God or someone/something else is entirely up to us, though. This is, I think, both the beauty and the curse of life.

CMaz's avatar

“Well, how else would people, who originally knew nothing of evil from experience, learn the value of good over evil?” If Eden was perfect. A place that God made for his two children. What would be the need for the lesson, the need for a set up?

Introverted_Leo's avatar

Your question is suggesting that if Eden was perfect then man would have no need to learn the lesson of choice and the nature of good and evil. The basis for the question doesn’t seem to have any relevance…

CMaz's avatar

I see the relevance, in this way. God forbid them to eat from the tree of knowledge. Preventing them from knowledge. This knowledge would just cause conflict where conflict was not needed or a part of. ( since the big bite, we have had nothing but conflict, was anything really learned?) As much as it can be see as a test, due to being tempted by the devil. I think in time their curiosity would have got the best of them any way. I mean Eve did not have to have her arm twisted nor did Adam from taking a bite. :-)

Crusader's avatar

Because evil is too tempting and persuasive to be confronted with without having vast experience and knowledge of the long term consequences of such behavior, gained only through maturity, a maturity Adam and Eve did not possess yet, and we still, in large measure, do not possess now..

fundevogel's avatar

I think the more interesting question would be, why did God put two trees he didn’t want Adam and Eve even touching in the garden at all, let alone prominently placing them at the center?

If neon lights had been invented I bet he would have used some of those too.

pats04fan's avatar

The tree of knowledge of good and evil was a choice that god gave adam and eve. when god created man he wanted them to be able to make decisons and choices. He did not want to make a toy that he could control cause frankly, that would be boring. He also kicked them out because in the garden was the tree of life, which gives everlasting life. If they were aware of sin and could live forever then we would all be filthy in sin and no way to get out of it.

CMaz's avatar

“He did not want to make a toy that he could control cause frankly, that would be boring.”
True, but, God know the outcome of everything. Why would he do something, knowing it would take thousands of years to correct?
Since God is eternal and a few thousand years is not but a blink of an eye. Could it have been to break up the routine of the day? There by making his actions, (forgive me God) an act of entertainment? Making them nothing but toys.

pats04fan's avatar

He is waiting for the day that we all come to heaven to be with him, and why ask for forgiveness for something forgotten. Simply thank him because he forgives.

fundevogel's avatar

@pats04fan – when you want to teach a child about choices you allow them to choose what clothes to wear or what book to read or ham or turkey, you don’t give them a choice that could cause them harm. They haven’t learned enough to be prepared to make that choice. How could God honestly expect two brand new people, without knowledge of good and evil, to able to make good, moral or informed choices? And how could he judge them for not being prepared for such a choice?

As a parent you simply wouldn’t allow a child an opportunity to make a harmful choice. By putting two totally forbidden trees (with no reason to be around other than to be forbidden) God is essentially showing them where he keeps his loaded gun in an unlocked drawer, and then telling them not to touch it. If he really cared about them not touching the gun he’d at the very least lock the drawer.

And I don’t think this is a test either.

As it was set up Adam and Eve had to indefinitely follow an arbitrary and unexplained rule. As would any and all offspring they would have had. Could any sane God really doubt that given enough time, the test would end in failure?

Especially, since there is no way to pass a test that continues indefinitely.

When a test is un-passable, it is meant to be failed. And when a test is meant to be failed, what is the point of the test?

pats04fan's avatar

Fundevogel, like I said the first time i explained it, is that he wanted us to make choices for ourself. He knew what would happen when he placed Adam in the garden. If he didn’t want us to make a choice for our self, he would have never made the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I believe that he wanted us to see sin, know the terrible that comes out of sin, and then choose between being perfect or being filled with problems. If you ask 100 people if they would want a perfect life or a life filled with stumbling stones, all of them would choose a perfect life. Everyone has their differences but all it comes down to is that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and we all will find the TRUTH to everything, because we haven’t scratched the surface of answering this question.

fundevogel's avatar

@pats04fan How is this a choice if God already knew what would happen? The future can not be known if true free will exists.

Either God knew what would happen and there is no free will, or he didn’t, he isn’t omniscient and he was feasibly testing them or allowing for them to make a very bad decision. Which as I said before, isn’t ethical on God’s part. The very thing that would enable them to make an informed decision about eating fruit from the tree, is eating fruit from the tree. It’s a catch-22. In order to be capable of making the right choice, they have to have already made the wrong choice (in God’s eyes). God really never gave them a choice any way, he explicitly said, don’t do this, or your will die. That’s not giving a choice, that’s giving an order. One that wouldn’t have been necessary if had put his trees somewhere else.

And I don’t see why God wants to keep Adam and Eve ignorant. This is blatantly anti-education and you see it continue to pop up in the Bible, and other religious text and narrative. Faust is a prime example. It’s also an antisemitic but that’s beside the point.

Either he knew, that his actions (putting the tree in the garden) would lead to staggering hurt to the entirety of the human race, and took those actions despite their hurtful consequences.

Or he didn’t know and he was testing them. With a poorly conceived test.

Choice isn’t an issue. You don’t need to put your life on the line to make choices. You can’t actually live without making choices. I can assure you Adam and Eve had been making little choices since their first day. Adam had helped God name all of the animals, that is a discision making process. If this was a test, it wasn’t about making good choices, remember until they actually eat the fruit they weren’t able to judge between right and wrong. If this was a test is was purely about blind and unquestioning obedience, which certainly isn’t compatible with freewill.

And then there’s the little matter of God lying to them. He said that they would surely die if they ate from tree of knowledge, but they didn’t. Adam lived something like 900 years. Some argue that prior to that humans were immortal, but if they were immortal God would have hardly needed to put a tree that redundantly granted eternal life in the garden as a temptation.

He provoked Adam and Eve to disobey him, lied to them in the process and them judges them and the entire as yet unborn human race when two people, without the knowledge of good and evil, aren’t able to make the choice he wants them to. That’s just plain ludicrous and extreme. It’s also the exact sort of thinking that allowed people to justify slavery with God for years, the idea that an entire line of people could be punished for their parents perceived wrong. It happens explicitly when Noah curses Hams descendants into eternal slavery when Ham sees his dad naked.

Frankly I think God should have eaten from the tree of good and evil because there seems to be a lot of time he doesn’t know the difference. Of course, how could a being that doesn’t understand good and evil create something that reveals good and evil?

Perhaps the knowledge that Adam and Eve gained from the tree was flawed. Afterall, the great revelation after eating was that they were naked, which hardly qualifies as evil. Adam says that their nakedness causes them shame, but why? It wasn’t the tree of shame and social niceties.

pats04fan's avatar

I did use choice but i also said that he used it as a way of showing us sin to show us which way is the smartest. Like I said take 100 people and ask them if they want a perfect life or a life of unease. Since we have already gone through a life of unease, we would automatically pick a perfect life where there are no worries.

fundevogel's avatar

they didn’t learn from God, they learned from the magic apple.

If he really wanted them to understand he could have just given them the apple in the first place. Or just told them himself. Instead he explicitly told them to not do the thing that would give them understanding and then punished them for the an action born of a lack of understanding he had withheld from them.

I don’t see what this “life unease” has to do with justifying sadistic mass punishment for what was essentially a victimless crime, if it even was a crime. I never said anything about the world needing to be perfect. I just think someone that theoretically loves you shouldn’t lie and curse the ones they claim to love. It’s two-faced. God should be be able to handle the the standards of morality we apply to imperfect people. If he’s perfect and good that should be easy for him, people shouldn’t need to make excuses for him or justify his immoral or unjust behavior.

Zuma's avatar

There is no God (in the sense conceived) and there is no “tree of knowledge.” This is just a myth that seeks to explain why life is hard.

As others have pointed out, it makes no sense for an omnicient being to pose a “test” of which he already knows the outcome. If you think about what omnicience really means, it means God would exist in a state of perfect knowledge where the past, present, and future are present all at once. Omnipotence is an inexorable implication of omnicience, since in a state of perfect knowledge, God would not have to do anything, since everything is already done and nothing is left undone.

For a God to take offense at his own creation is likewise nonsensical. Therefore, an omnicient a God would have no use for obedience, since that would imply God made a mistake. Nothing we do or fail to do can perterb his state of perfection, because whether we obey or not has already been laid out since the beginning of Creation.

The only beings that do have use for obedience are priests and kings, and that no doubt is the real agenda.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

If a god were to get all bent out of shape about them eating from the tree, why would His Royal Omnipotence put the damned tree there to begin with? Sounds like a set-up meant to assist himself in blaming someone else for his bestowing them with free will. Some god, huh?

CMaz's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly – Ya got that right.

Nullo's avatar

Ladies and germs, it’s not the Tree of Knowledge. It’s the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Partaking thereof requires one to be responsible for his actions.

@Rufus_T_Firefly C. S. Lewis thought that there would be a time for the eating of the tree, on the basis that the sin that day was disobedience.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@Nullo – Simple semantics. Whether you refer to it as the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ or ‘Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil’, if god knew that both good and evil existed, then he either enjoyed keeping them in the dark about it or he also created evil and didn’t want them to know he was responsible. Either way, it looks suspiciously like a set-up.

CMaz's avatar

A tasty set up.

Nullo's avatar

No, not semantics. Nor does the matter boil down to a simple either/or. For instance, God might have been waiting for a time when they were ready for TOKOG&E.
Or perhaps He was unwilling to sully their innocence right from the get-go. Family lore has it that my dad nearly cried when I got my first scar; surely God, who is rather paternal, would have a similar reaction. I could probably go on.

Evil is the absence of goodness, not a creation in its own right.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Nullo Surely humans were created inquisitive though, so it was merely a matter of time until Adam and Eve, or their children tasted of the tree. It wasn’t a real choice, it was an attempt to limit the desire of humans to learn so that our intelligence would only be used for one purpose.

CMaz's avatar

“God, who is rather paternal, would have a similar reaction.”
No, God knows the outcome. Unlike your father who fears the unknown.

“Evil is the absence of goodness, not a creation in its own right.”

Evil is a manifestation of man kinds dissatisfaction with himself.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@Nullo – It is absolutely a matter of semantics. To accept your theory, one would have to assume that the tree itself was completely unnecessary to begin with, which only validates and substantiates my point. It must have been a set up. If god created humans to be inquisitive then he, being omnipotent, would surely have known that they would eventually eat from the tree. Free will, as imbued by god himself, was the catalyst that allowed the transgression to occur.

CMaz's avatar

And, that is why there is no “free will.”

Free will = Set up.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ChazMaz That is why the story makes no sense, and isn’t historical or even conceptually valuable. Free will is not compromised based on the writings of some primitive priest.

Knowledge_Seeker's avatar

@fundevogel Please note that only one tree was banned at first, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; the Tree of Life was not banned until Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

@fundevogel I agree with you since I too don’t see nudity as shameful or evil. However, this is because I understand it. Imagine a child who says their first swear word. Of course, the child will be ashamed since he/she does not understand the new experience; however, a lack of understanding does not suggest new experiences are evil; I define evil to mean acts done at the expense of others.

@Nullo I liked this point: “C.S. Lewis thought that there would be a time for the eating of the tree…” Thus, the sin is not the act but the prematurity of the act. However, I am compelled to ask, when would have been the correct time?

I believe that God created humans for the same reason two people agree to have a child, He simply wanted a being that He could love and that could choose to love Him back. I am not a parent yet, but I would imagine that parents similarly want to hold onto their child for as long as possible. They don’t want the child to know the evils of the world; thus, since the contrast provided by evil defines good, parents can be similarly said to instruct their children to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

However, this brings up the question, why put the tree there in the first place? Well, let us examine it from this angle, would humans have free will if there were no tree? In other words, what other ways could humans disobey God if there were not any commands to disobey? The fact God gave an instruction opens the opportunity for disobedience.

Going back to my earlier analogy, think of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as the outside world. Sooner or later the child will wonder what is beyond the confines of his/her parent’s house because humans are naturally curious beings. However, if there is only a house, or garden, and no other options, then could the child actually love the parent? As I believe, God wants a being He can love and that could love Him in return. However, as is very apparent in the story of Christ, love requires sacrifice. Thus, God sacrificed the perfect world by placing the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden, in order so that true love can be achieved.

Also, the consequence of death from eating the fruit is not negative, as some may suggest. Rather, it is a blessing because we gain the opportunity to die like everything else in creation. On this Earth are abundant blessings in disguise. Opposites, such as death, allow us to further appreciate gifts like life.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Knowledge_Seeker “In other words, what other ways could humans disobey God if there were not any commands to disobey? The fact God gave an instruction opens the opportunity for disobedience.”

Why make it a matter of obedience vs. disobedience? If Adam and Eve had been truly free, they would have been treated as autonomous beings capable of reason. Rather than being given commands, God would have given them advice – “its not really a good idea in my opinion to do ______.”

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