How were Adam & Eve supposed to know it was wrong to eat the fruit?

I’ve been an atheist since 5th grade. One plot hole has always bothered me about Christianity. According to the Bible when God created Adam (& later Eve) he made them completely innocent with no knowledge of good or evil. He then created an easy method for them to acquire such knowledge, but forbade them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent (whom God created and put in Eden) convinced Eve to disobey God. Eve did and conviced Adam to do likewise. This made God angry and Adam & Eve were banished from paradise forever. But if Adam & Eve didn’t have any knowledge of good or evil then they wouldn’t know right from wrong. How could they have known it was wrong to disobey God? I can’t be the first person to ask this; how have theologians answered this? Are there any Christian dopers who can answer this

Not knowing good from evil does not preclude knowing right from wrong. I think it is safe to say Adam & Eve were intelligent and “just knew” that you obeyed God and that disobeying was an incorrect move. God explicitly forbade them to eat from the tree of knowledge but they did and were thus expelled from the garden as punishment.

More disturbing to me is how the world got populated from one man and one woman who had two sons but that is another thread I suppose.

I’m pretty sure God instructed them not to eat of that specific tree…but my recollection of the Bible from my Catholic days is misty now. I seem to recall something talking about God saying they could do whatever they wanted in the garden except eat fruit from this tree in the corner…

The irony, for me, is that while this story is supposed to show how disobeying God will get one in hot water, and that it was wrong of them to eat of the tree of knowledge, I think this is one of the best things they could have done (if one takes the leap an imagines the story was real). Further, I always felt that this was a test of Gods…sort of a right of passage. i.e. God (if there was a god) secretly WANTED them to eat of the tree of knowledge…and grow up to fulfill mankinds potential.

Either that, or God is a complete asshole…I mean, what kind of entity puts in something that attractive, then tells his creations that they can do anything they want EXCEPT eat of this nice shinny apple here, and then waits around for them to do what they naturally WILL do…then leaps out and says ‘Gotcha! Of you go suckers! Hope you like getting hungry and getting sick and dieing…should be a blast for you!’. Pretty freaking sick to do that to what were essentially children…unless God had a different (mysterious? :wink: ) plan.

Of course, there not being a God and all, I translate the secret motive to whoever wrote the story…sort of an early Ayn Rand type, projecting the glory of Mankind striving to be all they could be, etc etc. :stuck_out_tongue:


Well, remember, this was the beginning of Creation, so the whole “human nature” thing wasn’t as well known yet… :smiley:

I’m not sure what the story is ‘supposed to be saying.’ I always saw it as a reference to man learning of his mortality. Life involves pain and death, and ignorance is bliss. If Adam and Eve had been obedient and refused to acquire knowledge, they would have lived in their perfect bubble forever.

Could you expand on this? I’m having a hard time seeing them as anything but synonymous.

Seems to me this is a matter of unquestioning obedience versus the temptation to disobey, rather than a moral matter.

The story doesn’t make much sense in the Christian “original sin” interpretation (which seems to be the OP’s assumption), but remember that Judiasm doesn’t really have any such concept, and this was their scripture first and foremost. Without that concept, it’s just basically a mythical allegory about how childlike disobedience destroys ones innocence.

An example.

I know it is wrong to dump the water you just gave me on the floor but if I did so I do not think anyone would call it evil. So, I could be oblivious to the concept of evil yet still know it is wrong to spill water over your carpet.

This one, perhaps? :wink:

I’ve always interpreted the story as a statement that people are sinful. In other words, people do things despite knowing that they should not do those things. That idea is central to both Judaism and Christianity.

In Genesis 1:29, God clearly says that he has put everything that is good to eat into the Garden, and that Man can eat of any fruit from any tree except for the tree of knowledge. It was hardly a starvation situation; A&E would have been okay if they hadn’t gotten that craving for apples.

Genesis 5:4

Zev Steinhardt

Yup. Many people are unaware that Adam and Eve had many children who neither murdered anyone nor were murdered. It’s the messy stuff that makes the headlines.

Yes, I’m sure my interpretation is not correct. As I said…its how I see it. :stuck_out_tongue:

Right. Now…anyone who has had children should be able to follow this. If you put some kids in a room with a whole bunch of toys and say to them that they can play with all the toys in the room except for this one shinny fire engine here, and then walk out…whats going to happen? Human nature and all that…and supposedly this came as a surprise to an all seeing, all knowing God? :smack:

No, it wasn’t a starvation situation…never thought it was. It was a psychological situation dealing with basic human nature. Thats why I think that secretly God WANTED them to eat of the tree of knowledge and WANTED them to grow up and move on, painful as that is.

Again, this is just MY view on it…God was unavailable for comment unfortunately, and the guy that wrote (or told) the story originally isn’t even dust anymore…


After writing the above I did see that there were more children but anyway you slice it it looks incestuous to me.

So ingratitude and/or vandalism isn’t evil, just wrong? Why is that? What is the difference? A&E weren’t oblivious to God’s command. Wouldn’t any disobeying of God’s commands be a sin? Are there some sins that are not evil?

As mentioned before by someone I think you can equate A&E to children. Is a 2-year old evil if they spill water even if they know they are not supposed to spill because dad told them not to? If the child has no concept of evil can you say their actions are evil?

I guess it depends on how one defines evil. Does the definition depend on the difference between knowing something is wrong and knowing why it is wrong? Or is the necessary ingredient agreeing that it is wrong?

To give a factual answer, most theologians seem to take it for granted that what A&E lacked was the ability to determine for themselves what is good and what is evil. They do not assume that the concepts of good and evil were so alien to them that when they were told what to do or not do and given a specific consequence that this meant nothing to them. (This seems to be what Whack-a-Mole is saying.)

Furthermore, it is often stated by theologians that, sin being separation from God, and A&E being perfect creations of God, that in their pre-fallen state A&E would have been in perfect communion with God. So even without knowing good and evil as abstract concepts, they would have known beyond doubt that God created them, that they were entirely dependent on God, that their purpose was to obey God, that God loved them, and that God desired them not to eat the fruit.

I’ll also add that many scholars of Hebrew consider “knowledge of good and evil” to be an idiomatic expression in which a pair of opposites is used to indicate totality (akin to the English expressions “heaven and earth,” “top to bottom,” or “night and day”). Others see “knowledge of good and evil” as having a specifically sexual component, emphasized by their sudden awareness of their nudity.

I think knowledge and motivation have a lot to do with it. If I am hungry and bang your dog on the head and eat it I think it would be easy to describe my act as evil. If a mountain lion came down and ate your dog I do not think anyone would describe the mountain lion’s actions as evil.