The Roman storyteller and writer Gaius Julius Phaedrus is credited with having said,
“Things are not always as they seem, the first appearance deceives many.”
When speaking of first appearances and deception, the story of Adam and Eve comes to mind. Most of us are familiar with the story recorded in the book of Genesis chapters 2 and 3. The Lord planted a beautiful garden for the man and woman to maintain. The garden contained many trees from which they could freely eat good fruit. At the same time, the Lord warned the man and the woman not to eat the fruit from a certain tree or they would die. Some time later, the couple came upon a deceiving serpent who convinced them to eat the forbidden fruit. After they ate the fruit, the Lord located the man and woman, found out they ate the forbidden fruit, and proceeded to inform them of the consequences of their choice. He then expelled them from the garden He made for them.
At this point, the man and the woman became separated from God and subject to death because they had become “sinners”. The religious among us have pretty much accepted this traditional rendering of the story without questioning it. After all, if The Holy Bible says it, it must be so. Right? It certainly appears that way at first glance.
But upon closer examination of the attributes of God, certain questions arise. From the beginning, the scriptures tell us that the Lord created everything that exists, both visible and invisible [Genesis 1:1; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11]. Not only that, but everything He created is good. It reflects the image of his character [Genesis 1:26,31; Mark 10:18; 1 Timothy 4:4] and demonstrates perfect love [Joel 2:13; 1 John 4:8, 16], sinless perfection [Matthew 5:48], and not a trace of evil [Job 34:12]. If everything that the Lord created is good, where did this obviously bad tree [Matthew 12:33] come from?
In addition, God refers to Himself as “Almighty” dozens of times in the scriptures [Genesis 17:1; 35:11; Exodus 6:3; Psalm 46:7, 11; Amos 5:27]. In other words, He has the power to maintain His creation as it was created. He also addresses Himself as “I Am” [Exodus 3:14; John 8:58], meaning that it is impossible not to be in His presence [Psalm 139:7]. If God is everywhere, why does it appear in the story that He shows up only after the damage has been done?
The scriptures tell us that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in faithfulness and love [Exodus 34:6]. He does not change [Malachi 3:6], nor will He ever leave or forsake us [Genesis 28:15; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13;5]. Given what we know about the Lord’s character, the outcome recorded in Genesis 3 makes little sense.
And what about the issue of sin? If God is “…over all, through all, and in all” [Ephesians 4:6], yet all of humanity has sinned [Romans 3:23], doesn’t that imply that in some part of God there exists sin? Yet the scriptures tell us there is no evil in God [James 1:13; 3 John 1:11].
Clearly, there is some kind of error in the way we have traditionally understood this story. In part 2 of this series, we will begin reinterpreting the story by looking first at Genesis 2.