Bible Review 15:1, February 1999

Toxic Knowledge

The Garden of Eden comes with a warning label.

By William H.C. Propp

Bible Review

In Eden, we are told, God planted an orchard for primordial Man and Woman stocked with many ordinary trees and two magical ones: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad (Genesis 2:9). The nature of the Tree of Life is obvious: A person who eats from it will never die (Genesis 3:22). It is the ultimate medicinal herb.1 The Tree of Knowing Good and Bad, on the other hand, is somewhat more ambiguous.2

In some contexts, “Knowing Good and Bad” appears to connote omniscience, as in 2 Samuel 14:17, 20: “For my Lord the King is like God’s angel, understanding Good and Bad…My Lord is wise like the wisdom of God’s angel, knowing all that is in the world.” Divine knowledge is implicit in Genesis 3:5, 22, too: “God knows that in the day of your eating from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God(s), knowing Good and Bad”…“And the Lord said, behold, Man has become like one of us [i.e., God and his angels], knowing Good and Bad.”

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