Let’s consider the story of Adam and Eve.1 It begins in the second chapter of Genesis where we are told that Yahweh took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden. With Adam in the garden, Yahweh commands Adam that he is free to eat from any tree of the garden, except the one in the middle, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. How peculiar that Yahweh even commands Adam. It comes off as an invitation with a warning.
The warning, by the way, is eating from the fruit will cause death. How would Adam know what death was? There isn’t any indication that Yahweh explained to Adam what death was. Even if Yahweh did explain what death was, how would he have done so? It would be akin to explaining what red is to a blind man. It might be said that Adam named all the animals, but he didn’t know what these animals were called. All right, but we know Adam was capable of speech and ideas.
Suppose we compare Adam to a child. A child is capable of speech and ideas, but that doesn’t mean this child knows what death is unless he has observed it for himself, either by seeing a dead insect, animal, or even a relative. Furthermore, children think differently about death than adults. They think it’s temporary until they mature in their understanding.2 It might be said that Adam was more mature than children, but the advantage that children have in knowledge is that death is a reality.
Adam could not have known that death was even unpleasant, since he lacked knowledge of good and evil. It would seem that Adam’s understanding of the world around him wasn’t good or evil, since there wouldn’t be any way for him to compare the two. Suppose two individuals who are the opposite. One is rich and the other is poor. The rich man has access to premium foods and drinks. Everything he purchases is of premium quality. In his eyes, such a quality is mundane.
On the other hand, the poor man wouldn’t see premium quality as mundane. It would be of the highest excellence and for this rich man to be anything but impressed would be unusual to the poor man. In Adam’s situation, he would be neutral like a balanced scale with neither side being weighed down, even insignificantly. In order for the scale to tip one way or the other, Adam would need to make a choice. Since there wasn’t evil, he wouldn’t even know what evil was.
Things become a little more interesting, however. We are told that the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that Yahweh had made.3 One might wish to interpret “crafty” to mean “prudent”, as it can be in other cases,4 but I don’t think it’s appropriate in this regard because the serpent uses his cleverness to deceive Eve. He is not regarded as prudent in Pseudo-Jonathan,5 nor by Josephus himself.6 Rather, the serpent is considered evil.
Since the serpent lies through half-truths,7 and since lying is considered sinful, as is deception, then sin must already be present. Even Eve tells Yahweh that the serpent he placed in the garden deceived her.8 I think Eve is right to put blame on Yahweh for placing the serpent in the garden. I’d even say it’s right for Eve to charge Yahweh for creating the serpent in the first place. God, in his vast knowledge, knew that he made the serpent this way and placed a forbidden tree in the center of the garden.
Certainly, Yahweh would know the risks, since even skeptics see a problem with their own finite minds. If it was part of Yahweh’s plan for Adam and Eve to disobey, then he cannot punish them, since they were simply doing what was part of the plan. It might be said they had free will, but the game was rigged from the beginning.
Yahweh knowingly created Adam and Eve. He knowingly placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. He knowingly brought Adam to the garden. He knowingly created the serpent to be crafty and did nothing to bar the serpent from the garden, although he had the power.9 Adam and Eve shouldn’t be guilty for acting as they did. If the outcome would have always been the same, whether Adam or Eve were in the garden, or if someone else, then the game was rigged.
- Genesis 2:15-17; 3
- A Child’s Concept of Death – University of Rochester Medical Center
- Genesis 3:1
- Proverbs 12:16 et al
- Pseudo-Jonathan, Genesis 3:1
- Antiquities, book 1, ch. 1, para. 4
- Genesis 3:4, 5
- ibid. 3:13; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14
- ibid. 3:24; Oddly enough, the text doesn’t say Yahweh drove Eve out with Adam.