Adam and Eve fell when they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Many Christians to this day have thought that this was the fruit of an actual tree. But would God, the loving Parent of humanity, make a fruit which could cause the Fall to look so attractive?1(Gen. 3:6)RS|KJ|NI Would He place it where His children could reach it so easily? Furthermore, Jesus said, "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."2(Matt. 15:11)RS|KJ|NI How, then, can a food which one eats cause one to fall?
Humankind is beset by the original sin, which has been inherited from our first ancestors. Yet how can something one eats cause a sin which can be transmitted to one's descendants? The only way something can be inherited is by being passed down through the lineage. The temporary ill effects of eating something cannot be perpetuated through the long descent of lineage.
There are those who believe that God made the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and commanded Adam and Eve not to eat it in order to test their obedience to Him. We may ask: would the God of love test humans so mercilessly by a means that could cause their death? Adam and Eve knew they would die the moment they ate the fruit, for God had told them so. Yet still they ate it. Adam and Eve did not lack for food. They would not have risked their lives and disobeyed God only to obtain some delicacy. Therefore, we can surmise that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil could not have been an ordinary fruit. Rather, it must have been something so extraordinarily stimulating that even the fear of death did not deter them from grasping it.
If the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not a material fruit, then it must be a symbol which represents something else. Why should we stubbornly adhere to a literal interpretation of the fruit when so much of the Bible makes use of symbolism and metaphor? We would do well to abandon such a narrow and old-fashioned attitude of faith.
To learn what the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents, let us first investigate the
tree of life, which stood next to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.3(Gen. 2:9)RS|KJ|NI When we grasp the meaning of the tree of life, then we can also understand the meaning of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Tree of Life
According to the Bible, the hope of fallen people is to approach or attain the tree of life: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."4(Prov. 13:12)RS|KJ|NI Thus, the Israelites of the Old Testament Age looked to the tree of life as their hope. Likewise, the hope of all Christians from the time of Jesus until today has been to approach and partake of the tree of life: "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates."5(Rev. 22:14)RS|KJ|NI Since the ultimate hope of humankind is the tree of life, we can infer that the hope of Adam was also the tree of life.
It is written that when Adam fell, God blocked his path to the tree of life by stationing the cherubim with a flaming sword to guard it.6(Gen. 3:24)RS|KJ|NI From this we can also deduce that Adam's hope before the Fall was the tree of life. Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden without having attained his hope, the tree of life. For fallen people ever since, the tree of life has remained a hope unfulfilled.
What was the hope of Adam during the time he was immature and growing toward perfection? He must have hoped to become a man who would realize God's ideal of creation by growing to perfection without falling. The tree of life in fact symbolizes a man who has fully realized the ideal of creation. Perfected Adam was to be this ideal man. The tree of life thus symbolizes perfected Adam.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
God did not create Adam to be alone; He also created Eve to be Adam's spouse. Just as there was a tree in the Garden of Eden which symbolized a perfected man, there also should have been a tree which represented a woman who has fully realized the ideal of creation. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, standing beside the tree of life,(Gen. 2:9)RS|KJ|NIwas this tree which, by fulfilling its good purpose, represents the ideal woman, perfected Eve.
The Bible refers to Jesus using the metaphors of a vine15(John 15:5)
RS|KJ|NIand a branch.(Isa. 11:1)RS|KJ|NI; (Jer. 23:5)
RS|KJ|NILikewise, to give us a hint about the secret of the human Fall, God provided the symbolism of two trees to represent perfected Adam and Eve.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was shown earlier to symbolize Eve. What does the fruit of this tree represent? It signifies the love of Eve. As a tree multiplies by its fruit, Eve should have borne good children through her godly love. Instead, she bore evil children through her satanic love. Eve was created in an immature state; she was to reach full maturity only after going through a period of growth. Thus, it was possible for her to bear either good fruit or evil fruit through her love. This is why Eve's love is symbolized by the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and why Eve is symbolized by the tree.
What did eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil signify? When we eat something, we make it a part of ourselves. Eve was to have eaten the fruit of goodness by consummating her God-centered love. Then she would have received the essence of God's divinity and multiplied a good lineage. However, she ate of the fruit of evil by consummating her evil love centered on Satan. Hence, she received the essence of his evil nature and multiplied an evil lineage from which our sinful society descended. Accordingly, Eve's eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil denotes that she consummated a satanic love relationship with the angel which bound her in blood ties to him.
God cursed the fallen angel, saying, "upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life."28(Gen. 3:14)RS|KJ|NI "Upon your belly you shall go" means that the angel would become a miserable being, unable to function properly or to perform its original service. To "eat dust" means that ever since the angel was thrown down from heaven,29(Isa. 14:12)RS|KJ|NI; (Rev. 12:9)RS|KJ|NIhe has been deprived of life elements from God. Instead, he has had to subsist on evil elements gleaned from the sinful world.