What can I learn from the story of the Garden of Eden? That’s the question I pose. But before I get into a discourse on the subject, perhaps a short synopsis is in order. Please bear in mind the following is from religious training in my younger years:
A beautiful garden. Two human beings in the garden – one man (Adam), one woman (Eve) and one serpent. As the Bible says, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” (Genesis 1; 16-17)
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3; 4-5)
“And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden….” (Genesis 3; 22-23)
“In Christian doctrine, the fall of man, or simply the fall, refers to the transition of the first humans from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience to God.” (Wikipedia)
Now, as humans, we are always trying to understand our place in the universe, generally, and on Earth, more specifically. And since I am a human, I find in the above story, or myth as Joseph Campbell has taught, an attempt at explaining how humans are different from all other species – in one way because we developed the ability to choose.
I do not, as others do, see Adam making a choice as a “disobedience to God.”
God did not say not to eat from that tree. Rather, as I read the story in the Bible, God said if you do, or do not, eat from that tree you will experience the consequences of your choice. And when Adam and Eve made their choice, they did indeed experience the consequences.
From this myth, I get an attempt to explain two things: 1) That human beings are different from God; and, 2) That humans are different from all other species in that we have the attribute of free will – the ability to choose; and that from every choice consequences follow, like night follows day.
So, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil….. [and] He must not be allowed to ….live forever.”
From this is my understanding informed about death. I am not God, or even a god. I am a man. Mortal man. I will not live forever. I will die. And, as I have experienced throughout my life, my choices do have consequences.
PS – Even though I do have an ‘Adam’s apple,’ I am not overly fond of apples.Terrence Zander is chairperson of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation social justice committee and a member of Veterans for Peace – Rachel Corrie chapter 109. Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.