In Chapters 1 and 2, Adam is created. The reader is left in no doubt that Adam was created in God’s “image”.
“Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness… and God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.” – Gen 1:26,27
The traditional assumption as to the meaning of God’s having created Adam “in his image” is that he imbued man with his own qualities or characteristics – the predominant quality being love. Love is essentially an emotional attribute, and I have long wondered what would have been the end result if God had chosen NOT to create man in his image for whatever reason. Would the resulting humans have been devoid of emotion? Or naturally heartless, cruel, and animalistic? But I digress…
Along with the creation of the first human pair, the creation of two special trees is given centre stage in the narrative. One tree is the “tree of life”, and the other is dubbed “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad”. It wasn’t until my late teens that I grasped the existence of two trees in the narrative rather than just the one that was forbidden. The exact properties of both trees are unclear, but much is learned from reading on into Chapter 3.
Evidently, the tree of life was the source of Adam and Eve’s everlasting life, and it was among the trees from which they were encouraged to “eat to satisfaction”. On the other hand, the “tree of the knowledge of good and bad” was strictly off limits, but it was the properties of this tree in particular that confused me.
Remember that Adam and Eve had ALREADY been created “in God’s image” or “likeness”. Notice what God says after the fruit of the contraband tree has been eaten:
“Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad…” – Gen 3:22
So my obvious question was: if Adam and Eve had already been created in God’s likeness, then how was it that by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad they became LIKE God and Christ? This was, after all, the whole gist of the serpent’s temptation of Eve, when he said:
“You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad”. – Gen 3:4,5
Technically speaking, nothing that the serpent told Eve was untruthful, because the fruit wasn’t itself deadly, and the claim that it would make the eater “like God, knowing good and bad” is later confirmed by the words of God himself in the previously quoted Genesis 3:22. The only way in which the serpent could be said to be misleading Eve was in its failure to warn her that she would die as an indirect consequence of eating the fruit. That is to say, it wasn’t the fruit that killed Eve, it was the punitive actions taken by God in response to Eve’s act of disobedience that killed her – albeit hundreds of years later (according to biblical chronology).
Notice what God goes on to say in Genesis 3:22:
“and now in order that he [Adam] may not put his hand out and actually take fruit also from the tree of life and eat and live to time indefinite…”
God’s statement in verse 22 is cut short, almost as though God needs to act SO quickly in retribution that he simply doesn’t have time to regale us with an explanation and finish his sentence. Here is what happens:
“With that Jehovah God put him [Adam] out of the garden of Eden to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken. And so he drove them out and posted at the east of the garden of Eden the cherubs and the flaming blade of a sword that was turning itself continually to guard the way to the tree of life.”
So it’s clear from the above account that the tree of life, whatever it actually was, was a source of eternal life to whoever ate from it – and the banishment from Eden was a punitive measure taken by God to ensure that the serpent’s claims would not come true. The serpent, Satan, claimed that the newfound “knowledge” obtained from the contraband tree would indeed make Adam and Eve “like God” – which it evidently did. The only issue was that they could not be permitted to live with this knowledge forever by eating further from the “tree of life”. God evidently determined that having BOTH the new knowledge AND eternal life was inconceivable – hence the banishment.
As you can imagine, this has left more questions than answers in my mind, as follows…
Just what was it about “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” that made Adam and Eve even more godlike than they already were? Was it in fact “sentience” itself – or human self-awareness? This might explain the reaction of Adam and Eve to their nakedness. But if this WAS the case, then why would God want to prohibit humans from having such a basic human attribute? And if it made such a fundamental change to them, what were they like before this transition? Were they mindless automatons?
If these super-imposed godlike traits were something altogether more profound, do we still live with them as descendants of Adam and Eve, or did they take these enhancements to their grave?
Above all, where does the concept of “inherited sin” and human perfection fit into all of this? Irrespective of what the forbidden fruit contained or actually did to Adam and Eve, in God’s own words it made them MORE like him as opposed to making Adam and Eve sinful, or less like God. Obviously the act of eating the fruit was sinful, but not necessarily whatever it was that the fruit did to them. So where does the notion of inherited sin and the ransom fit into all of this?
I pose all these questions not in the hopes of trying to stir up doubts in others, or make you all as confused as I am. It is merely to share my own genuine doubts in the hopes that likeminded ones will succeed where the Society has failed and actually be able to explain everything to me in a way that makes sense. After all, the above events set the stage for the entire theme of the bible, so without having any true grasp of the beginning, I find it extremely difficult to truly comprehend where I personally fit in to the broader scope of the biblical narrative.