What is the knowledge of good and evil?

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What is the knowledge of good and evil?

Postby Skept » Tue Nov 29, 2011 9:29 pm

I have been trying to understand what Christians and Jews and Muslims actually mean when they talk about the knowledge of good and evil. So far I havent found any satisfactory explanation from Muslims what they think the transgression was all about.

The Jewish interpretation I get from reading the Haggadah. There the explanations seems to be that the tree of knowledge was reserved for God alone. It was his tree that he ate from to gain the knowledge on how to create worlds. Therefore when man took and ate from the tree it means that man is trying to be like God and create a world for himself. That could make some sense if by "world" they would mean nations, countries, states and cities where only humans but no animals are allowed to roam freely.

The Christian explanations however are a lot more problematic. These are some of the answers I found when searching the web:

"The knowledge gained is that you are incapable of keeping that law; living up to that perfect standard. The law, as a result, condemns you as a transgressor, and rightly so. We are all worthy of death."

***

"You become accountable when you know right from wrong."

***

"The Hebrew word for good is kreitton meaning; superior, better, or greater. And the word for evil is: ra – meaning inferior in quality, wicked, impure, sin, bringing to ruin. So the knowledge that God was speaking about is being able to recognise what both good and evil are. If we weren’t meant to be able to discern for ourselves the difference between good and evil, it means that we were meant to totally rely on God for our guidance. Without the knowledge of good and evil all Adam and Eve had to hold fast to when they were approached by evil was pure obedience.

[i]By wanting to “be like Godâ€
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ya gotta love 'em

Postby dobbie » Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:05 pm

the [Jewish] explanations seems to be that the tree of knowledge was reserved for God alone. It was his tree that he ate from to gain the knowledge on how to create worlds.
You gotta love interpretations. In this case, a tree knows more about something than the Bible God does. Okayyyy.

Therefore when man took and ate from the tree it means that man is trying to be like God and create a world for himself.
Okayyy, but there’s nothing in the Genesis story that says anything about anybody wanting to create a world.

The Christian explanation: Without the knowledge of good and evil all Adam and Eve had to hold fast to when they were approached by evil was pure obedience.
That’s a good one. They had “to hold fastâ€
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Postby eimerian » Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:32 am

As far as I know it is about sexual or carnal knowledge. Adam and Eve become as gods because now they can create new human life, while previously only God was able to create life. Thats why Eve got her name (mother of all living) after they are thrown out.

This can be seen more clearly when the Garden of Eden myth is compared to other myths of surrounding cultures like the Prometheus-Pandora story of Greek mythology or the story of Enkudu in the epic of Gilgamesh.

Prometheus tricks Zeus and steals his food. So Jahw-- erm I mean Zeus orders the first woman Pandora to be formed from clay. Since she is the first woman it is implied that there was no sexual reproduction before that.

Enkidu lives with the animals until a woman seduced him. After that he notices that all the animals are afraid of him and that he cannot live with them anymore:

But then he drew himself up, for his understanding had broadened.
Turning around, he sat down at the harlot's feet,
gazing into her face, his ears attentive as the harlot spoke.
The harlot said to Enkidu:
"You are beautiful," Enkidu, you are become like a god.
Why do you gallop around the wilderness with the wild beasts?



The two trees that were in the midst of the Garden of Eden is a metaphor of life and death that is set in the midst of every man's life. God's Word teaches us to chose the fruit of the Tree of Life, God's provision of eternal life. Do not trust in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for your provision of eternal life. The precept of self actualization is based on the knowledge of good and evil in this tree, leading to self-righteousness."


Who wrote this?!? Did this person ever read Genesis I wonder?

Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.â€
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Postby Skept » Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:13 pm

eimerian

I have seen similarities between the story of Prometheus and the Christian story of Lucifer as well. Since Lucifer means light bringer and Prometheus brought fire to the men. Zeus ties Prometheus to a cliff to be tortured and Jehova binds Satan/Lucifer in hell.

But there really is too much revisionist "interpretation" going on in these stories. All this appeal to allegory and mystery. Before science revealed the world anew people thought they "knew" that the world was flat and that heaven was on top of this world. Therefore it made perfect sense to them that people could ascend and descend to and fro all the time. Moses could reach God by climbing up a mountain. Jacob saw in his dream about the ladder how the world is being operated from heaven. God could take Elija with him "up" to heaven and make him into an angel. The mad Babylonians thought they could wage war on heaven by building their tower. But with modern science this just doesnt make sense anymore.

There is just empty space "up there". The Bablyonians could have continued to build on their tower forever. Moses could have climbed up Mount Everest if he wanted to, he would still not get closer to heaven. And where exactly did Jesus ascend to?

After scientists could see that the earth is round, that old flat earth worldview, with the exception of some nutcases, has now become forgotten. Believers today can come up with any excuse they want, but they must all read scripture as metaphore and allegory because it cant be literal anymore. And if it isnt literal, then what possible value would the stories have? Personally I dont even see any allegorical value in them. If youre not a literalist and actually believe those stories to be factual then they are just stupid stories from an ignorant age.

The value they have tho (not counting sentimental or nostalgic value) is historical and antropological, since we might learn more about how people thought and lived back then.

So Im afraid that I dont agree with you that the knowledge was sexual or carnal. In the story it led to them being kicked out of Eden, and after that the man calls the woman Eve and then he sleeps with her. It says nothing about sex in the story of the tree of knowledge. Instead it says plainly that it was a tree that gave knowledge of good and evil. Just because we can't seriuosly believe that people back then actually was this stupid and ignorant doesnt mean this is not what it actually was about. Because before we knew the earth is round, we were stupid enough to believe that there were worlds upon worlds upon worlds, stored on top of eachother like a layered cake. Six worlds beneath this one and six heavens above this one.

The simple fact is that the authors of these stories made up a bunch of stuff - wich ofcource is nonsense to us - to explain where humans comes from and how come humans are the way they are. No different from The Gilgamesh story where humans are born from dirt, or Zeus legends of Prometheus and Pandora, or Norse legends where humans are born from trees. Noone comes up and says that we have to revise the Greek legends about Zeus because there might be something we have misunderstood about them. This only happends with Abrahamic religions for some reason.
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Postby DjVortex » Thu Dec 01, 2011 6:25 am

Skept wrote:God could take Elija ... and make him into an angel.


Where did you get that from?
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Postby Skept » Thu Dec 01, 2011 2:57 pm

DjVortex

Sorry :)

I meant ofcource Enoch, not Elijah.

Enoch was translated to heaven and transformed into Metatron.
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Genesis 1 vs 3

Postby dobbie » Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:22 pm

byEimerian
As far as I know [the forbidden fruit, knowledge of good and evil] is about sexual or carnal knowledge. Adam and Eve become as gods because now they can create new human life, while previously only God was able to create life.

Wait a minute. Hold the phone. Stop the music. There’s this part in Genesis 1, where the Bible God already okays men and women to have kids:
Genesis 1:27 God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number. ... 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day.


So something tells me the knowledge of good and evil isn’t sexual knowledge.
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Postby eimerian » Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:16 pm

byEimerian
Quote:
As far as I know [the forbidden fruit, knowledge of good and evil] is about sexual or carnal knowledge. Adam and Eve become as gods because now they can create new human life, while previously only God was able to create life.

Wait a minute. Hold the phone. Stop the music. There’s this part in Genesis 1, where the Bible God already okays men and women to have kids:
Quote:
Genesis 1:27 God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number. ... 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day.


So something tells me the knowledge of good and evil isn’t sexual knowledge.


Nice catch but I am afraid you are wrong.

Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3 is the priestly creation week myth.
Genesis 2:4 onwards is the jahwist Garden of Eden story.

Its very easy to spot if you just look at God's name in the text. Its God, God, God and then abruptly LORD, LORD ,LORD which tells you that in the original hebrew it was elohim, elohim, elohim and then Jahwe, Jahwe, Jahwe.

There are also other clues. The priestly God is transcendent, he speaks things into existance. Also there is a focus on numbers, it happens in 7 days, because as we all know 7 is a magic number. Mankind and animals are created on earth, no garden of eden here. Man and woman are created at the same time, which makes sense, because (as you pointed out) in this version sexual reproduction was always part of Gods plan. No tree of knowledge, no snake, no fall in this creation myth. And my favorite: Gen 1:29 God tells them that they can eat the fruits of every tree.

The Jahwist God is more like an ancient greek God. He walks around, forms things with his hands. He creates just Adam and only after finding out that there is no appropriate "companion" among the animals he creates the woman. He lies about the fruit of knowledge being lethal. He leaves Adam and the Woman alone, when he comes back he is like "Where is everybody? Ey...why are you wearing fig leaves? What's going on here?"

In short: Two myths, written centuries apart, starring completely different god concepts. It is not the same story.
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several points

Postby dobbie » Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:00 am

ByEimerian
Nice catch but I am afraid you are wrong.


Let me try a little retort, and see what anybody thinks.

1) The forbidden fruit story gives no assurance that the knowledge of good and evil is supposed to be the knowledge of carnality or procreation.

2) For the sake of discussion, however, given that it’s about carnality: On one level the two accounts (Genesis 1 and 3) can be combined as one, but there’s something wrong somewhere, as we've already noted.

3) If the author wrote a knowingly contradictory account, wanting it to be read as contradictory, there’s something wrong somewhere.

4) If the author wrote a contradictory account unintentionally, well, there’s still something wrong somewhere (but what else is new about the Bible?).

5) If “good and evilâ€
Last edited by dobbie on Fri Dec 02, 2011 4:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: several points

Postby BahRayMew » Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:06 am

dobbie wrote:ByEimerian
Nice catch but I am afraid you are wrong.


Let me try a little retort, and see what anybody thinks.

1) The forbidden fruit story gives no assurance that the knowledge of good and evil is supposed to be the knowledge of carnality or procreation.

2) For the sake of discussion, however, given that it’s about carnality: On one level the two accounts (Genesis 1 and 3) can be combined as one, but there’s something wrong somewhere, as we've already noted.

3) If the author wrote a knowingly contradictory account, wanting it to be read as contradictory, there’s something wrong somewhere.

4) If the author wrote a contradictory account unintentionally, well, there’s still something wrong somewhere (but what else is new about the Bible?).

5) If “good and evilâ€
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Postby Skept » Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:40 pm

There is nothing in the story as such that has anything to do with sex. It was two people, a tree, a fruit and a snake. When they ate from the tree their eyes opened; they got the supernatural knowledge of "good and evil" that was forbidden for humans to have.

When they looked at eachother with new eyes they felt naked and ashamed so they covered themselves up. Then God came and kicked them out of Eden. Then Adam sleeps with Eve and they have a son.

So where does sex enter the equation? Because in the Bible the word "to know" is also used to signify a sexual act. Adam "knew" is wife and they bore a son.

But just because the word "to know" happends to be used in the context of sexual union, doesnt mean that it is always a sexual union. As it seems to me, in hewbrew, when you know something you are united with it. You and your knowledge for doing something acts as one, youre the knower of what you do.

So what was the knowledge of good and evil? This theory comes from Daniel Quinn in his book "Ishmael"; that the story was not our own story but came from a different people that tried to explain what was going on in the fertile crescent.

Those people understood that whatever the gods do in their government of the world, it will be good for some and evil for others. When the gods let the hare escape from the hunter it is good for the hare, but evil for the hunter. When the lion kills and eats the gazelle, it is evil for the gazelle but good for the lion.

The gods (later God) administration of the world therefore is based on knowing who is to live and who is to die; wich is the knowledge of good and evil. This knowledge in the hands of the gods made the world a good place, but in the hands of humans it acts as a corruptive influence. When humans think they know who is to live and who is to die they create fascistic dictatorships under a supreme lord that is acting as God or the gods. Consider Hitler or Stalin or any other monstrous dictator the world has seen, they all thought they knew who had to die and who were to live.

In the Jewish legends you can read that the knowledge of good and evil was reserved only for God. It was his personal tree that he ate from to get knowledge on how to create worlds. And as we have seen, it is a fundamental knowledge for any supernatural government to have.

So when the authors of this story saw what was going on in the beginning of civilization (wich was the emergence of an expanding warrior state), they figured that the people of the civilization had eaten from the gods own tree of knowledge and could tell others "we know what is right from wrong, we know whats good and evil, we are good and you are evil therefore we will kill you and expand our territory".
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