In The Beginning…
We all know the story of Adam and Eve. If you have spent any amount of in Sunday school, you were no doubt exposed to the story of the first two people on the planet. Set in paradise, with one simple rule to leave the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil alone. Unfortunately, Eve is deceived into betraying the single rule God has put in place and commits the first sin. But what do we really know about the Tree of Know of Good and Evil? What was its purpose? How exactly did it effect Adam and Eve? We know that it made them ashamed, but what can we derive from that?
I believe that we can think of the name, Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as a merism. A merism is a rhetorical phrase that specifies the extreme points of something in order to convey the vastness in between. To search high and low for something, to spread something to the four corners of the earth. These are examples in which the phrase used is not literal, but indicates that someone has searched everywhere or something has been spread everywhere. If the name of the tree is a merism, then it would indicate that whomever ate the fruit would gain knowledge of the “goodness” or “evilness” of all things. We know this as judgement. If the tree taught Adam and Eve to judge the things around them, rather than to rely solely on God for judgement, then they may differ in opinion from God. Remember that all things created up to this point had been considered to be good by God. I am proposing that our very morality was impacted by the fruit. It opened our eyes to the very concept of good and evil whereas before our worldview had naturally aligned with God.
When Adam are from the fruit he was ashamed of the fact that he was naked. Shame is an emotion based on the moral judgement of an action. The act of being naked had suddenly become “wrong” in the eyes of Adam. Adam and Eve were the first people to experience “subjective morality”. They viewed an act as wrong even though God, the Creator of literally everything, did not declare it as wrong. This is why the emotion surrounding the act is so important. Adam and Eve weren’t trying to be fashionable, they felt as though their nudity was wrong and were ashamed.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil exposed us to the concept of subjective morality and the idea that some of us might not agree that something is good or evil. The tree opened the door to sin by allowing us to have a moral view separate from God and separate from each other.