Two Trees

Session 7.23


by Faithelement Podcast | Session 7.23


There are two special trees in the Garden of Eden – one is the tree of life, which we assume gave the human immortality and the second is that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God tells them that they are allowed to eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Which tree would you choose?

Scripture: Genesis 3:1-21

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LordGod had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’   Read More

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Nikki’s Notes

Nikki shares some of her sources for inspiration and study as she develops her video script.

Some of my favorite stories in the Bible are the ones we read in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. These stories are in here to help us understand who God is, who we are, and what the nature of our relationship with God is meant to be. Today’s text about Adam and Eve leaving the garden is a great text to help us think about choices, consequences, and the grace and mercy of God.

I am often disappointed when I think about the traditional teachings of this text because I think that they have left us with a one-dimensional reading of the text. Traditionally, the text has been used to talk about original sin and the disobedience of human beings.

Many of the early church theologians contributed to these ideas. Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas are two that rise to the top in discussing these ideas. Both have intersting things to say about the idea of original sin and they do not agree entirely. For a summary of their ideas, go here. 

It is not a comprehensive account of their thoughts on the issue, but it is a good place to start and there are suggestions at the bottom of the article for further reading.

If I were teaching this session, I would begin by getting the group to talk about their own impressions of the text and what they have been taught over the years. I may even ask them to tell me the story before we read it out loud. I would want to see what they remember and what they assume before we actually look at the text.

When we make the videos for FaithElement, there is rarely enough time to put everything in that I am interested in using. If I had more time, I would have talked about what we learn about the nature of God in this text. God’s response to Adam and Eve is first care, concern, and grace. Surely, God is disappointed…and, God is gracious. God does not get mad. God is honest with these first humans, but does not yell. In the end, we know that God allows them to face the consequences of their actions; but God also gives them clothes to cover and protect themselves. I think that God is very parental in this story and it is a helpful model for us to follow. (Editor’s note:  check out the podcast for this session to hear the team discuss this issue).

Nikki’s Video Script

Two Trees

Today, we going all the way back to the beginning – well almost the beginning, and we will be looking at Genesis 3:1-21. It is the story in which Adam and Eve eat from the tree that God has told them not to eat from; and then they are given clothes and then told to leave the garden to live the life God instructed them to live.

The lectionary focuses on verses 8-15, but I want to encourage you to look at the entire chapter. I also want to encourage you to take a few minutes to name all the things you know, think, and feel about about this very familiar text. After you have taken time to name those things, try to put them aside and listen to the details of the story. See if you notice anything new. This is important to do with stories that are so weighty with meaning for our time.

I want to begin our conversation by pointing out a few words that are never used in the story — they are the fall, original sin, Satan, afterlife, or apple. Now, of course, all of these words are words, for good or for ill, that have come to be associated with this text. This story is often referred to as The Fall, however, that is never mentioned in the text. Calling the event, “The Fall” is our own theological understanding that has been articulated by people who have studied the text.

It is not wrong to have theological understandings of stories, but it is important for us to remember that these interpretations are not scripture or considered a part of the inspired canon. Rather they are ideas from scholars throughout time and around the world. Some of these interpretations gain tremendous traction and others do not. This story is laden with meaning – some good, some not so good and it can be difficult to hear the story anew if we are not honest about this fact.

Let’s begin by remembering that there are two special trees in the Garden of Eden – one is the tree of life, which we assume gave the human immortality and the second is that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God tells them that they are allowed to eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – for if they do, they will surly die. The idea seems to be that they consume this fruit they will loose their innocence and gain a deeper knowledge about what is right and what is wrong – on some level they will be like God in having this knowledge. This of course gives the humans opportunity for temptation, choice, and disobedience.

So….our story today begins with the serpent offering a choice to Eve of which she has not yet thought. I want to be clear in stating that the serpent is never identified as evil or as Satan – there is a Hebrew word for Satan and it is never used in this text. The serpent is identified as crafty or cunning – take a minute to look at the different translations in your group. The text does not judge the serpent, at least not at this point. The serpent’s questions do cause Eve to ask her own questions. To question what God said.

And we know what happens next – she eats the fruit she’s not supposed to eat, then she gives some to Adam. They both feel ashamed of what they have done, they realize that they are completely naked and they go to hide. God comes strolling in the garden to find them and it seems as if God doesn’t know they will be hiding. He finds them and tries to figure out what has happened. Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the Serpent. God ends up sharing with each of them what their consequences will be and then makes them leave the Garden so they would no longer have access to the tree of life. And while they do not die immediately, their access to the tree that offered them immortality is taken away and they are forced to figure out how to make it work outside the glorious garden of Eden.

I want us to think for a minute about the two trees. While they were in the garden, Adam and Eve had unfettered access to the tree that gave them immortality — the tree of life. That access is restricted when they eat the tree that gives them an awareness of their own choice, their free will, and the difference between right and wrong. It makes me wonder if that was the choice all along. We could live immortal as long as we maintained our innocence – and maybe that is what God wanted for us. At the same time – if I had to give up Perhaps Gods actions were not actions of punishment, but of protection, and grace, and love.

Which tree would you choose?

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