When Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, she had no way of knowing that it was wrong. She could not have known that the snake–or God for that matter!–was good or evil. Therefore, she cannot be blamed and the punishment was unjust. Therefore, there is no need for salvation from God because the Fall was God’s fault, being omniscient thus aware of what would happen.
Let’s recap the story just for fun, eh?
God creates Adam…
2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
After some naming ceremonies and all that, God takes a rib from Adam and makes a woman. Then a snake comes into the picture. Here is the text from Genesis:
3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
What happens next? God comes down and throws a fit, kicks them out of the Garden, and then they go on to somehow populate the earth with only one surviving son after Cain kills Abel.
But let’s take a close look at the situation that Eve finds herself in upon talking with the serpent. Eve has no knowledge of good or evil when the serpent approaches her. She can’t because she has not eaten the fruit of the tree yet. She has heard, whether from God directly or through Adam, that if she eats of the fruit she shall die on that day. The serpent says otherwise.
Now eve, in not having any knowledge of good nor evil, can’t judge whether the serpent is good or evil. She also can’t know whether God is good or evil. She is left with competing pieces of information and little to make a good judgment with. If she has any logical skills, she will have to recognize that she is in a situation with conflicting proposals. God says one thing, but this snake, being wise itself, says something else. How is she supposed to pull the truth from this?
Experiment. That’s right folks, she has a situation where the only way to find out the truth is to eat the fruit and see what happens. She has to be the world’s first scientist, doing a primitive science-like experiment, in order to find out the truth. And what happens? Well, she doesn’t die, and neither does Adam. The serpent was the one telling the truth, not God.
And as a result we have something like science associated with the Fall of humankind. To test God is to sin. That is, if you find yourself in a situation where conflicting information about what God says, to test it in any way is akin to the Fall of humanity, to repeat the original sin for which salvation is necessary.
No wonder Biblical literalists and science are so often at odds.
I’ve heard apologetics that argue that this act was a Fall from God’s grace, but that’s not what the story says. Genesis says that “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This is supposed to be some kind of spiritual death, but that’s also not what God said earlier. Why would God be so vague when the future of all humanity is at stake, especially when God must know what will happen.
But there is a further point here. Isn’t god supposed to be all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere? Wouldn’t god know that the serpent would say what it said, Eve would eat then give the fruit to Adam, and created the universe just this way anyway?
I know, I know….God gave us free will. except if God knows literally everything about the universe, God would know every “free” choice people would make and made it that way anyway. Thus, didn’t god create the universe, including us, just the way he wanted to?
Doesn’t that put the cause of this Fall, whether spiritual or otherwise, squarely in God’s lap?
I much prefer the gnostic interpretations of this story. In one version, God is not the true god but a demiurge–a lesser god, and in many cases an evil god. The serpent is a representative of the truth, of the true god, and is the hero of the story or the savior who becomes a kind of sacrifice. In some versions of ancient Gnostic Christianity, the serpent represents Christ.
And while I find this interpretation fascinating, it does not jibe with the Christian salvation story that I hear. In fact, it nullifies the necessity of salvation. It makes the Fall nothing more than pissing off a “god” that lied from the beginning anyway. Who needs salvation from that? (when typing, I mistyped ‘salvation’ as ‘slavation,’ and made myself laugh…some out there will find that funny).
Bottom line: God lied, the serpent didn’t, Adam and Eve get punished because the serpent called God out on the lie, and as a result we are all sinners. Yeah, makes perfect sense….