All Christians are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and know that, because they disobeyed God by eating a particularly forbidden fruit, they introduced sin and death into the world. But not very many people have thought much beyond the basics of that story and fewer still have contemplated the dynamics of what happened and its doctrinal implications
When we take the time to do that we discover some interesting and perplexing questions that most Christians have trouble answering. To understand why, let's take a closer look at what the Bible tells us.
On the third day of creation we read: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:11-13).
There are a couple of things we learn from this statement. The first is that God caused grass, herbs, and fruit trees to appear on the earth, thereby transforming it from a barren planet to a world of lush vegetation. Furthermore, the vegetation contained its own seeds by which is could keep reproducing itself on its own.
The second thing we learn is that when God looked over His work He pronounced "that it was good." The Bible doesn't specifically define what "good" means but we can reasonably assume that God was pleased with His handiwork. However, that doesn't mean the entire earth was a land of paradisiacal beauty. The Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon have a certain sense of beauty to them but no one would want to live there. God must certainly have been pleased with the creation of the Rainforest and would have no doubt declared it to be "good" but it is not a very hospitable place for humans to live.
Therefore, when God "formed man (Adam) of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" on the sixth day we have no idea what the area looked like where that event took place. It could have been in a grassy field, or a forest, or a desert but the scriptures tells us that if was after that when "the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:7-9).
There are a number of things we learn from these verses. The first is that after God separated the water from the land, created grass and trees, and then put animals on the earth that Adam was made but this didn't happen in the garden of Eden. It was after God had made Adam that He next planted a garden which takes us to the second thing we learn. Although the world was already covered with vegetation, it must not have been a place where Adam could live comfortably therefore, God deliberately had to "plant" grass and fruit trees in a specific area so as to make it into a garden. This seems to indicate that the rest of the world was not a very comfortable place for humans to live otherwise God would not have had a reason to plant a garden for Adam.
Furthermore, to plant something requires cultivating the ground to make it soft enough for putting seeds in it, then watering them and tending to them as they grew. In addition to this, the garden ground everywhere had to be soft enough that a naked man could easily walk around without feeling any foot pain. Apparently, this was not the case outside the garden area, hence the need for making a garden specifically for Adam. Also, from the way it appears in our biblical record, it seems that Adam must have lived somewhere else for awhile during the time the garden was being made.
The third thing we learn is that Adam was in a land called Eden. Exactly where this land was or who gave it that name, the scriptures don't say but, after planting and making a garden in the eastern part of the land of Eden, "the LORD God took the man, and put him there "to dress it and to keep it" (Genesis 2:.15). By this time, Adam was a living, breathing soul and could move on his own but God "took" Adam from where he had been living up until that time and then "put" or deposited him into the garden where he now had a new, more luxurious environment in which to live in. Exactly how God did this or how far away the garden was from where Adam was living at the time of his creation the Bible doesn't say.
The fourth thing we learn is that in this garden God had planted "every tree that is pleasant to the sight and [was] good for food." In his new surroundings, everything Adam needed for survival was provided for him, thereby making it unnecessary for him to venture out of the garden into the outside world for anything. This seems to indicate that the environment outside the garden held nothing of interest for Adam, again supporting the idea that it was not a comfortable place to live.
Included among these trees of the garden were two in particular. One was called "the tree of life" and the other was called "the tree of knowledge of good and evil" and the fifth thing we learn is that these two particular trees were "in the midst of the garden" or, in other words, they were in the middle or center of Adam's living area thereby giving him easy and frequent access to them. Furthermore, we learn that the fruit of both of these two trees were pleasing to the eye and, apparently, delicious to the taste. So God provided everything Adam needed to live a comfortable and enjoyable life here on earth.
But God didn't let Adam just lounge around the garden all day doing nothing. After putting him in his new living quarters, God commanded Adam "to dress it and to keep it." Apparently, if this wasn't done then the garden would have fallen into disrepair so Adam was required to maintain it and do the necessary upkeep on the garden.
However, this wasn't all. God had every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; "brought… unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him" (Genesis 2:19-20).
What this suggests is that Adam not only knew how to speak but had a well developed vocabulary and intellect by this time to the point where he could make decisions for himself and had problem solving skills. To do all that God required of him also took some strength so it is obvious that Adam was not a child but a full grown adult. Although this is what most Christians believe about Adam, the Bible doesn't specially state this. We come to know it through inference
Apparently the work that God required Adam to perform took considerable effort so God created "an help meet for him." It should be noted that the phrase used is not "an help mate " but rather a helper who was meet " for him" or, as other translations render it, "a suitable helper" or a helper who could compliment Adam's skills. In other words, God provided someone who was just as competent in doing the required tasks as was Adam and that someone was Eve. She possessed all the intellectual and divine characteristics that Adam had and was therefore equal to him in every way.
"And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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" (Genesis 2:16-17).
These verses of scriptures presents us with some interesting questions. The Lord specifically told Adam that he could freely eat from every tree in the garden except one. The only tree he was forbidden to eat from was the tree of knowledge and he was told that if he did eat from this tree he would die. All Christians understand this to mean that as long as Adam obeyed what God told him he would live forever. In other words, most people think of Adam as being immortal at this point in time. If that is true, then what would have happened to him if he never ate from the tree of life?
According to the biblical account we have, it seems that Adam could only die if he ate from the tree of knowledge yet we are told that after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit, God "drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24). The reason why God did this was "lest he (Adam) put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" (Genesis 3:22).
This raises an interesting question. If God prevented Adam and Eve from the tree of life so they could not "live forever" then it would seem that eating of its fruit was what gives eternal life. But if that is the case then if they didn't eat from this tree before eating the forbidden fruit it follows that they would have eventually died anyhow yet that contradicts what the biblical account says about what causes death. And this raises another question which is: Do you have to eat from the tree of life continually in order to live or does eating from it just one time cause a person to become immortal just like eating from the tree of knowledge one time causes death?
Interestingly, the Bible also tells us that there is a tree of life "in the midst of the paradise of God" and that those "that do his commandments" and overcome the temptations of the world "have [the] right to the tree of life" and will be able to "eat of the tree of life" (Revelation 2:7,14). Christians believe that those who accept Christ as their Savior will live forever with God in heaven. If that is true, then why is there a tree of life in paradise that those who are saved have the right to eat its fruit? Is this the way we become immortal and if not, then what is the purpose of this tree being placed in the midst of the garden of Eden and in the midst of paradise if eating from it doesn't give us eternal life?
Furthermore, in the beginning Adam and Eve were told they could eat of every tree except one, which would include eating from the tree of life. As we have already seen, the fruit of every tree was pleasing to the sight, delicious to the taste and was therefore desirable to eat. Considering that the tree of life was in the midst of the garden, it seems hard to imagine that Adam and Eve never ate the fruit of this tree. Given the fact that Adam first took care of the garden by dressing and keeping it, then naming the animals before Eve was given to him, it seems certain that Adam was in the garden for a considerable amount of time before Eve joined him. We can reasonably assume that Eve also lived in the garden for some time before eating the forbidden fruit therefore it seems highly unlikely that they didn't eat from the tree of life.
Then, does eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge act as an antidote to the fruit from the tree of life thereby nullifying its effects of immortality? And since God later prevented Adam and Eve from having access to the tree of life it seems that this tree would certainly have been the antidote to eating from the tree of knowledge.
Of course, the full name of this tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which strongly implies that without eating from it Adam and Eve would have no knowledge of what was good and what was evil therefore Christians believe they lived in a state of innocence, being oblivious to anything wicked or sinful. If that were the case then they could not have any conscious thought that disobeying God's commandment was sinning. In their naivety all they would know is that they would die if they ate from that tree.
However, if eating from this tree is what brought death into the world, how would Adam and Eve even know what death was unless they first partook of its fruit or witnessed something dying? It's clear that even though God told them they would die if they ate from this tree, they obviously had no concept of what that meant. Therefore, they had no real idea of the consequence of disobeying this commandment of God. As such, it had to be a meaningless, incomprehensible statement to them.
Even so, it appears from the biblical record that both Adam and Eve obeyed God's command not to eat from the tree of knowledge. It took the devil, speaking through the serpent, to trick Eve into taking the forbidden fruit. Here was the dilemma that she faced. Being innocent she didn't know what a lie was therefore when the serpent told her that she would not die as God had said, she was confronted with a contradiction. If God said she would die but the serpent said she wouldn't and if both were telling the truth (since she didn't know what lying was) she must have been very confused.
We can liken this to a con man telling someone a plausible story to swindle them out of their money. Because of a lack of knowledge, such a person would trust what they were told and act on what the con man suggested they do, especially if the con man applied a pushy sales technique. A more accurate illustration of what happened in the garden of Eden is someone lying to a young, inexperienced child. This is what the devil did to Eve.
Although she was an adult, Eve was as naive and innocent as a three year old child. Furthermore, the fruit of that tree "was good for food and it was pleasant to the eye." More than that, the idea of becoming wise is something to be desired. Who wants to live in ignorance all of their life? When Eve weighted all these things in her mind and, with the constant urging of the serpent, she "did eat" and then convinced Adam to do the same. And the serpent was correct in at least one thing he told Eve which was that "the eyes of them both were open" (Genesis 3:1-7).
When God discovered what they had done He made an interesting statement. "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (Genesis 3:22). When God had created Adam He gave him many of His own divine traits, such as intellect, speech, and emotions yet, while God certainly knows the difference between good and evil, He forbid Adam from eating something that would have given him this missing divine trait.
The question can be asked: Why did God do this? Why didn't He make both Adam and Eve with the faculty to discern good from evil at the time He first created them? What was His purpose in denying them this ability? And how could they even know why to obey God without the ability to comprehend the consequences of being disobedient? That would be like condemning a three year-old child for not obeying the command not to run out into the street when their ball rolls onto the road. Even though the child has been told what not to do, they lack the understanding of why they should obey their parents command.
But the situation with Adam and Eve was worse than that. Not only did they bring death upon themselves but they then transmitted that curse to all their posterity down to our present time and beyond. Why would God allow that to happen? If Adam and Eve were such disobedient sinners, as many Christians have been taught, why didn't God just kill Adam right then and there and start all over again by creating a second man from the dust of the ground? Why didn't God stop the cancer of sin when it first appeared instead of allowing it to spread throughout the entire world? That would have been a much simpler solution than having to sacrifice His own Son later in order to atone for so much sin
This then leads to a more troubling question. The apostle Peter explained that Jesus "was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" (1 Peter. 1:20). The New Living Bible translates this as "God chose him (Jesus) as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days." That means long before God began creating the earth He knew man was going to sin and chose Jesus long before the first sin was ever committed to be the one who would sacrifice His life to atone for the sins of the world. It seems apparent that the reason why God allowed sin into the world was because this was His plan from the very beginning!
But this is not what most Christians have been taught. Nearly all Christian faiths teach that Adam and Eve rebelled against God because they weren't content with what God had given them and wanted to have something that God had even though it wasn't good for them. It's been said that they wanted to be like God and thereby elevate themselves to His status rather than submitting themselves to worshiping Him. Most Christian denominations teach that God wanted beings who would willingly obey Him but that Adam and Eve deliberately choose to follow Satan instead. Therefore most Christians believe that Adam and Eve turned their back on God's plan for them.
In contrast, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the fall of man was not only expected but was a necessary part of God's plan. They teach that "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). When Satan talked Eve into disobeying God's command he didn't thwart God's plan for mankind but unwittingly helped put the plan into motion. This is why God allowed him to tempt Eve.
To understand why, all we need to do is look at the dynamics of what happened.
If God didn't want Adam to sin, then why did He create man without the ability to know good from evil? That knowledge is necessary in order to keep from sinning. And if it was God's intention that man should not have this ability then why did He put the tree of knowledge in the garden at all? Furthermore, he made the fruit of this tree pleasing to the sight and it was good for food and then put it in the middle of the garden where it was in constant view and easy access. There was no reason to do this if God truly didn't want Adam and Eve to gain any knowledge of good and evil. So obviously, there was something else going on in this story that the Bible doesn't explain.
After telling them what He expected, God then left Adam and Eve alone for a period of time. Since eating from this tree would kill them, imagine a parent putting an opened bottle of poison in the middle of a three year old child's play room, telling them not to drink out of it, then leaving the room and expecting the child to be completely obedient. No parent would do such a thing! Yet, that is exactly what God did to Adam and Eve.
Even so, Adam and Eve did obey God's orders and did not eat from this tree so God allowed Satan to come in and not only tempt Eve but to "beguile" (trick, deceive, con, dupe, hoodwink, mislead) her into eating it (Genesis 3:13). God could have prevented Satan from entering the garden but He deliberately went away and allowed him come in and beguile an innocent, naive Eve.
The question is: Why did God allow this to happen if it was His desire to keep Adam and Even in a sinless condition forever? And once they did sin, why didn't God correct the problem right then and there instead of letting sin be transmitted to every one of their children throughout all time? If God is all-knowing, all-wise, and all-loving, then the only reasonable answer is that this was what God wanted to happen and for a good reason. This is why He prepared a Savior who could overcome the effects of our sins before He even began making the earth.
Why didn't God create Adam and Eve with the faulty to understand good and evil? Because that knowledge is best learned through experience.
After Adam and Eve had confessed their disobedience, God told Adam, "cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:17-19).
Before Adam's disobedience, God had no reason to subject him or Eve to any harsh treatment even though that was how they would best learn to discern good from evil. But, once Adam had disobeyed, then a righteous God had every right to inflict suffering on His children as a consequence of their misbehavior. Now, instead of living in a world where everything had been provided for him, Adam was sent out of the garden to live in a harsh environment.
Instead of God plowing and cultivating the land, Adam would have to do that for himself. Instead of working at his own leisure, now Adam had to work hard just to stay alive. Instead of walking on soft ground, Adam now had to walk over stones and rocks. Yet, it was in this way that he grew in strength of character and wisdom far more than he ever could while living in the garden.
However, a loving God wouldn't deliberately cause man to live in a bleak land for no other reason unless it was for his good. A loving parent would provide the best for their child, which is what God did by putting Adam in a beautiful garden. Therefore, God had to wait until Adam did something wrong in order to justify sending him out into the harsh world where he could then learn about sorrow, pain, heartaches, and disappointments as well as appreciating joy and happiness through the experiences he had and where he would grow in knowledge and understanding because of the trials he would have to face.
But there was another reason why Adam had to fall from God's grace. The Bible tells us that "without faith it is impossible to please him (God)" (Hebrew 11:6) but the definition of faith is believing in something that can't be known with certainty. In order for Adam and Eve to have true faith in God they had to be prevented from being in His presence, but as long as they were obedient there was no justifiable reason for them to be prevented from being with Him. After all, this is what Christians believe will happen to them because of the blood of Jesus which takes away their sins thereby making them sinless.
When Adam and Eve were in the garden they were sinless and, as such, had every right to be in God's presence. However, that also meant they had no need for faith because they could see God and had every reason to trust His word. Therefore, it was necessary that Adam and Eve fall so God could be justified in shutting them out of His presence, along with all of their children. In so doing, Adam and his posterity would then learn how to live by faith rather than by sight, thereby acquiring another attribute of God and therefore eligible to live forever in heaven with Him.
Yet, God did not leave them entirely nor did He abandon them because of their sin. Instead, knowing that the fall was necessary, He prepared a plan to save them from their sins before He even began creating the earth and then, after they sinned, He provided a way to teach them how to become saved. (For a more detailed explanation of this subject read Adam - The First Man ).
But there is another lesson we learn from this story and that is that the Bible is not complete. As we have seen, there are many questions we have that the Bible gives us no answers to. If the Bible were truly the complete word of God, as nearly all Christians believe, it would answer each and every question we have. Yet, if there are questions that the Bible doesn't answer then it's obvious that God could reveal more of His word to us if He so choose. If it is possible for Him to do that then it cannot be said that the Bible is the complete word of God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only believes all that God has already revealed but that He has revealed more than what is contained in the Bible, that He continues to reveal more of His word even today, and that" He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (9th Article of Faith).
These are some of the things we learn when we take the time to more fully study the story of Adam and Eve.
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