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Handout 3: Eating of the Tree of Knowledge

From Hebrew scripture, Genesis 3:1-6. Commentary from Danna Nolan Fewell and David M. Gunn's book, Gender, Power, and Promise:the Subject of the Bible's First Story (Nashville: Abington Press, 1993), p.30.

Read this portion of the scriptural account of Eve's choice to eat fruit of the tree of knowledge. Reflect on the passage and on the commentary from Gender, Power, and Promise.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat from any tree in the garden'? The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

From Gender, Power, and Promise:

The woman reaches for sustenance, beauty, and wisdom. And for doing so she is blamed both within the text and by countless generations of biblical interpreters in the text's afterlife. Particularly through the influence of Augustine, she has become known as the authoress of what Christian theology has come to know as "The Fall." Human sin is laid at her door. Why? Because she reaches for sustenance, beauty, and wisdom — and disobeys the divine command to eschew the knowledge of good and evil.

Yet, like God, the woman is an explorer. She seeks the good, fruit that is good for food. She delights in beauty (God took care to create trees that were beautiful) and the fruit is a delight to the eyes. Furthermore, she seeks to learn, to discern. The commentators cry for her blind obedience, her trust. But mature trust grows out of experience. How can the woman discriminate between God's words and the serpent's words until she has the experience of failure or the discrimination she seeks? Why should she believe that one peremptory command is in her best interest and not another? She seeks, reasonably, to be in a position to make a choice.

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Last updated on Saturday, October 29, 2011.

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