There are many others, I’m sure, who have suspected the Tree of Good and Evil in Genesis was simply a ruse – but then why? One has to reject the idea that God is mean or whimsical in making up cruel and dangerous toys for his children. That’s never a correct solution. The idea that permeates the Old Testament with this suggestion is merely men’s interpretation, not God’s will.
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said,You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ “
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!
“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The great revelation is this: good and evil are not categories of being, nor are they values. They reflect kinetic, moving states of becoming of the human soul. Good and evil are, in a sense, verbs and not nouns. As CS Lewis implied, the entirety of existence of sentient beings involves becoming in harmony with good, or becoming in harmony with evil.
We seek reality in objects, and thus the tree in the middle of the garden had an object on it, that was said to convey a mystical power that it did not possess. What if a deer or rabbit or other creature ate of this apple – would IT then be a God Bunny or Holy Stag? No, of course.
This myth is one of the most powerful ones in the Bible – and it IS a myth, without any need to argue any simultaneous veracity and literality. It can represent both.
The term for God – not His name by any sense – is Quis fluendum est. One who flows. The physicists have come to an uneasy truce with Quod fluendum est, which one can say is the nature of the wave equation, a thing. Physicists have largely given up on what the wave equation is, and turn to the measurement of it in its presence in space and time. Feynman could diagram it, and show consequences of it. But what IT is, is mysterious; and that’s not from the perspective of theologians, but physicists such as Einstein and Bohr.
Note the myth of Tolkien about the very beginning, of the Song of Iluvatar, the harmony of the angels which gave light to the world. Tolkien existed recently, and claimed no particular spiritual insight. Yet his myth can be said to be true in some manner to Genesis. It speaks of becoming.
As humans flow in our becoming in time, we imitate God, which seems to please Him, at least in His writings. When we flow towards diminution, we no longer flow with Him.
To take from the Tree was to flow towards smallness, towards nothingness and evil. Adam and Eve were not truly expelled from Eden, but rather expelled themselves – they became what could not endure there.
It is not GOOD nor EVIL which God cares about – those are abstract terms. He cares about the flowing-of-being in human terms, towards Good – as we understand it – and Evil, as we understand it. When we do Good, even under terms which others might not agree were Good, but earnestly strive towards Rightness, then we do Good in the eyes of God, I expect.
The rest is commentary, go and learn it, the Reb‘ might say. Gotcha.