Why Was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden?
Hi, I’m Rebecca and I’d just like to say at the outset that to the best of my knowledge I’m not actually crazy. And no drugs were involved in the making of this post. Of course, the only reason for someone to start by declaring themselves sane and not drug addled is because they are about to say something which will make people think otherwise. Which is what I’m about to do.
But first, a little background. Perhaps you recall me saying a few times that I have a bit of a fixation on the creation stories. I rejected a literal reading of them ages ago. A supposedly literal reading is incompatible both with the evidence from God’s creation and the text itself. I don’t honestly know if the stories are a figurative retelling of things that actually happened. Or if they are true myths in the sense that they are not true because they actually happened, but true because they happen all of the time. Probably as far as I would go is to say that they tell the story of a deep spiritual reality which has been made manifest in the material world.
I think that the creation stories are important because they are our faith’s explanation for the start of all things concerning us. They give us a peek at our true identity, who we were made to be, what our relationship with creation is, how God works and ultimately, hold the key to figuring out what is wrong with us. That last bit seems particularly important to me, as it is very hard to fix something if you don’t know what is wrong with it.
Over the last 20 years I have spent what probably amounts to an absurd amount of time meditating on and trying to puzzle out the creation stories. There are two things I have learned which are particularly relevant to our discussion here today. The first is that the garden was a place for Adam and Eve live and learn. It was almost like a playground for them in the sense that for a child, the whole world is a playground. Like a playground, the primary purpose of the garden was for Adam and Eve to have fun, but also to develop skills. And like a playground, it probably wasn’t entirely safe, but life with no risk isn’t really the sort of setting which mankind tends to thrive in. Too much is bad, of course, but too little is stunting.
The other thing I have learned is that Adam and Eve were children. Remember the other day when I explained that adam actually means mankind and that when God made and dealt with Adam, he was dealing with mankind? Well, just like each individual person is born needing time to grow up into maturity, mankind is likewise in the process of growing up. There has been a tendency to assume that Adam and Eve were just like us, only without sin. However, Adam and Eve were just like us the same way that 3 year old me was just like me today. I’m still me, and I may or may not have actually improved since them. But inevitably I’ve grown and changed a good deal between 3 and 39.
The point being that Adam and Eve were very young. We need only look at their actions immediately after the fall to see this. They were young enough to have no body modesty. They were not yet using the materials around them to make things. When God showed up after the fall, they were hiding like a couple of kids with their feet sticking out from under the curtains next to a broken vase. And when confronted, the response was “she did it!” These were not sophisticates. (I recently learned that this idea of Adam and Eve as children was also held by both Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus of Lyons. So I’m not the first to argue/pick up on this.)
OK, so that’s all interesting and maybe a bit challenging, but now I’m going to go all wack-a-doodle on y’all. See, what happened was that a little less than a year ago, I suddenly got really tired pretty early in the morning. I went to lay down until it passed and had a dreamy-but not really a dream thingy. It was like I was being told a story with a few images. And when it was over, I woke right up and told my husband about it. I’ve shared it with just a few other people in the time since and now I’m going to share it with y’all. Of course, as with all such claims, you need to “test the Spirit” as they say. And I have often prayed that if anything I say is false, that it would be allowed to slip away and be forgotten rather than taking hold and leading people astray, and this is no exception. But I think that if you open your mind to this, you’ll realize that everything I am about to say has been right in front of us in scripture and in human nature all along – we just hadn’t seen it before.
So, what I was told/shown started with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I have always wondered why in the world just a dangerous thing was put right in the middle of the garden the way it was. Some people would argue that it was a test of Adam and Eve’s obedience or trust in God, but that seems an awful lot like handing your little kid a ball and setting him down next to a highway to play with the warning, “don’t follow the ball into the street now!” Bad parenting. But what I was told was that the tree was actually there for a perfectly good and healthy reason.
Going back to Adam and Eve being children, imagine for a moment, what it would be like to be children in a world where adults didn’t exist. Not so much where adults didn’t exist in the sense of being there to provide correction or supervision, but didn’t exist in such a way that children would believe that there was nothing more to life than childhood. A lot of us grew up in times when children were basically allowed to run free. We could go for long stretches of time without dealing with an adult. Until pretty recently, it was normal for groups of kids to spend their time together in their own little universe. But always, you knew that there was a world of adults out there. Your child universe wasn’t all there was and you knew it. This was what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to Adam and Eve. It was the adult world which existed and let them know that there was more to existence than their childish lives.
Of course, kids do like to peek in on the adults from time-to-time. The hide on the stairs to try and catch a glimpse of what the grown-ups are watching on TV after they’ve been sent to bed. Put their ears up to doors to try and catch what the grown ups are talking about at the dinner parties that the little ones haven’t been invited to. Usually the kids figure out pretty quickly that grown-ups are boring with their talk about politics and money and whether the new drapes go well with the sofa. Soon enough they wander off to see if they can get enough air to fly by using bed sheets and jumping from one bed to another.
So, one day Adam and Eve were hanging out by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, listening in on the adults. And along came the serpent. “The cleverest of all the creatures.” And what happens next is actually more horrible and tragic than we have ever imagined. But, I have a messy house and dinner to prepare and all that other sort of boring adult stuff that needs to be done. So you’re going to have to stay tuned . . .
BTW, while you’re waiting here’s some of my other writing which touches on the creation stories: