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A tempting way out of the problem would be to suggest that somehow, it was all a set-up: God really did want people to have the knowledge the tree would give them, and was in fact "glad" when they ate from it. For the way the Torah tells the story, the Almighty seems pretty disappointed with Adam and Eve after they ate from the tree; he in fact punishes them severely. It seems a little perverse to imagine the Almighty secretly chuckling with pleasure that Adam and Eve finally ate the fruit he put off limits - but hiding His joy behind a mask of displeasure and anger.

Clearly, God really did want Adam and Eve to avoid the Tree of Knowledge.

Is there a question of this sort -- a question of this magnitude -- that we need to deal with when reading the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Let's talk a little bit about this mysterious tree in the Garden, the one that God places off-limits. It is known as "the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil". A person with all the faculties we associate with humanity except for the capacity to understand right and wrong is someone who could slaughter people with an axe the way you and I mow the lawn.

By any measure, that's a pretty strange name for a tree -- but if that's what the Bible calls it, then that's presumably what it is: It somehow conveys a "knowledge of Good and Evil," an ability to distinguish right from wrong to those who partake of its fruits. In a sentence, it is this: "Why would God want to deny this knowledge to people? Are human beings better or worse off, for their knowledge of "good and evil"? Did God really want to create a society filled with such people?

Okay, you've taken some time to re-read the story of Adam, Eve and the Snake.

Hopefully, you've read it with fresh eyes, and asked yourself that very basic of questions: "What is strange about this picture?

He gives them virtually free reign over the territory.

There's only one restriction: A certain tree is off-limits -- it's the tree labeled "the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil".

Imagine a world in which people were pretty much the same as they are now -- they were smart, they could walk, they could talk, they could drive cars and become investment bankers. So why would God pretend that having such knowledge is undesirable?And that would mean that the tree was useless, nothing but an empty farce. It's the kind of question that you should lose sleep over.For as long as you are stuck with this question, the story of Adam and Eve simply fails to make any sense at all. I'd like to sketch the outline of an approach we may ultimately find useful. We've casually assumed that we knew what kind of knowledge the Tree gave to Adam and Eve: A knowledge of "good and evil," of "right and wrong." But on second thought, just because it's called a "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" doesn't mean that Adam and Eve were ignorant of morality, of right and wrong, beforehand.If this seems a little obscure, try thinking about it this way: Nowadays, when we do something right, we think of it as "good".And when we do something wrong, we think of it as "evil".

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