Man sinned and nothing has been the same since, we all know the basic story. Personally, though, I think the classic images of Adam, Eve, and a fruit tree don’t do the story justice. For one thing, I think that the phrase, “the knowledge of good and evil” has generally been hollowed of meaning and glossed over. The emphasis then shifts to disobedience being the sin; Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command to not eat from that tree. Now, I don’t pose this question in order to frame these two things as mutually exclusive ideas, but I pose this question in order to provoke thought: Was the disobedience itself the deal-breaker, or was the deal-breaker the knowledge that they consumed?
Yes, I said that they consumed knowledge. If you can accept that the condition of Creation has been in decline since the fall, then look at how beautiful nature is now and send your imagination backwards to picture how marvelous it must’ve been back before the fall. What if the perceptible connected-ness of the physical and spiritual realms tracked just the same? The physical and spiritual don’t seem all that connected today. Conversely, I entertain the idea that the spiritual realm and the physical realm were much more connected at that time than they seem to be now. The trees of the garden were equally as much trees as they were neural-spiritual constructs. Think about it this way: our brains serve as the predominant biological interface for this critical-yet-less-tangible thing that we call the mind, soul, or consciousness. What if, in it’s perfect state, much more of the physical creation interfaced as cohesively as our brains do? Is it that much of a stretch? I say all this to further the suggestion that Adam and Eve did not simply eat the fruit; they ate the knowledge.
At this point, I do feel the need to explain ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ to the best of my ability. A big clue to it’s meaning, in particular it’s meaning to the human soul, is Adam’s response to God, “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10) Previously, “Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” (2:25) After they ate from the tree, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked…” (3:7). It looks like a change of consciousness for man; a type of self-consciousness. It is interesting to me that God’s first response to man’s actions was a question, and arguably, a question that wasn’t even specifically about the tree they had eaten from, (although, those questions would follow). God was walking through the garden at a particular time of day (3:8), which seems pretty routine, except that Adam and Eve were hiding, so God said, “Where are you?” There is something telling about how man assessed his own condition before God did. I think that says something about the nature, the consciousness, the mindset that is the knowledge of good and evil. Man assessed himself, took his own action, hid from God, and spoke his own condemnation saying, “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” (from 3:10).
That is a story told beginning with the middle. Adam told God the story starting in the middle. This has day-to-day application in that a distressed person will start telling their story in the middle. A person might come to you with a problem, talking about what their struggling with today, but today’s specific struggle usually is not the origin of the struggle; it might take a few well-placed questions to get to that critical origin. When someone starts in the middle of the story, they are simply speaking about the most recent link in a longer chain of dysfunction. If I may employ such a metaphor, each link in this chain of dysfunction is a reaction to the previous link. Reaction is an important concept, denoting something that is not really a truth of it’s own, but simply a deviation, whether great or little, from the truth that preceded it. Something about this chain of reaction seems counter to God’s nature and identity, in particular, the way God expressed himself to Moses in desert (Exodus 2:13-15), saying “I AM WHO I AM”. Moses had asked, when “…they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what should I tell them?” God replied “I AM”. That is what you tell them. God wouldn’t be defined by some preexisting frame of reference. That’s what I mean when I make reference to His identity; He is able to stand on His own. Surely this is a reason why He can do new things, His presence can bring new things into a person’s life, things that aren’t links in the old chain. This is different than the nature of Adam after he ate from the tree. Instead of the nature of certain existence, of sure identity, there was a chain reaction of self-dissecting questions, this consuming self-consciousness.
In eating the fruit, the serpent’s promise of becoming “like God”, was only fulfilled in the sense that the knowledge caused man to take on roles that only God should occupy, which, ironically, is the most essential transgression in the entirety of the Biblical account. He became his own judge, and attempted to be his own savior; assessing himself, taking his own action, hiding from God, and speaking his own condemnation saying, “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” (from 3:10).