Gen 2:17: Dying thou shalt die

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Wed Aug 23 09:52:24 EDT 2000

> These readings you propose do not explain it.
> Adam and Eve were created mortal. They were always
> going to die. 

This is a nice job of reading into the text.  Nowhere does it say 
that, and it makes the prohibition and its consequences 

They were kicked out of the garden because
> God was afraid they would eat of the Tree of *Life* and so
> live forever (3:22). Had they chosen to eat from that tree
> they would have lived forever, but they didn't. 

Once again the text doesn't say this.  All it says is that from then 
on, their access to it was cut off.  It never says they hadn't eaten it 
up to that point.  

God hadn't
> forbidden them from eating from that tree, they could have
> eaten from it but they didn't. Why didn't God want them to
> eat from the tree of life?  Because as the snake said, man
> has now become like one of us (like a god), knowing good and
> evil (3:22). If he ate from the tree of life and lived forever, he would
> truly be a god. 

This text is admittedly enigmatic, and I really don't think you've 
solved it.  The snake didn't say that living forever would make them 
like God, he said that knowing good and evil would.  The 
implication is that they already had immortality, which contradicts 
your first point.  I see no good reason not to simply admit that we 
don't know what this cryptic passage means.

> The point of the story is to ask what does it mean to be human.
> Prior to eating from the tree of knowledge, man was one of the
> animals. He ate only vegetation, went naked, and talked to the
> animals. 

Once again I don't see this in the text.  I don't see anyplace where 
he talked to the animals, and the text certainly doesn't describe 
him as one of the animals.  It describes him as "in the image of 
God," another cryptic phrase that we don't fully understand.

Prior to eating from that tree there were only gods and
> animals. As soon as they ate from the tree of knowledge, man
> no longer talked to the animals, no longer went naked. Instead
> of talking to the animals he ate them and wore them.  So now
> humans are midway between the gods and the animals. But if
> they reached out their hand and ate from the tree of life they
> would become gods, because the difference between mankind
> and the gods is eternal life. So to keep man from living forever
> he kicked them out of the garden.

This is certainly imaginative, but once again there is NO reference 
at all to talking to animals.  At this point I'm not willing to drag in 
other texts such as Jubilees etc. (if in fact that's what you're doing) 
because we need to deal with the text on its own terms first, and I 
don't see that happening here.  

> God didn't kick them out because they sinned, there is no 
> mention of sin at all, the word never occurs. God kicked them
> out for one reason only, to keep them from becoming gods.

Sin may not be mentioned by name, but virtually all of chapter 3 
makes it clear that the events that happened were consequences 
of their disobedience.  Whether the text actually uses the word 
"sin" or not is irrelevant, because it's perfectly clear what's going on 
here.  The implications of the broader text of chapter 3 are that, 
had they not disobeyed, they would not have become mortal and 
would not be facing death.  And as several have already pointed 
out, B:YOWM need not mean "in that specific day," simply "at that 
time."  From that moment they were mortal, which is the plain 
reading of the text.

> The story is not about the origin of evil (for that you have to
> wait till Gen 6:1). The story is about what it means to be
> a human being: it means to be different from the animals
> in that you have moral discernment, and yet to be different
> from the gods by being mortal.  

Of course it's not about the origin of evil; the existing presence of 
the enticing snake makes it obvious that evil already exists in 
some form.  This is a straw man, I'm afraid.  The story is about why 
death came into the world and why God provided ways to be 
reconciled to Himself.  You're trying too hard to skirt that issue, 
Liz, and as a result you're reading an awful lot into the text that 
isn't there.  The pragmatic context suggests strongly that they 
were in fact immortal before that moment, that their act of 
disobedience cancelled that immortality and began the process of 
death in them, since B:YOWM merely means "when," not strictly 
"in that day," and the ban on the tree of life is because a fallen 
creature was not allowed to live forever and would require 
redemption to be reconciled to his/her creator.  This is what the 
text actually says, and I really don't see any way around it that 
takes the entire text into account.

Dave Washburn
"Éist le glór Dé."

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