posted on Jan, 23 2012 @ 01:51 PM
My question is; Did the writer of the Garden story in Genesis intend us to understand that Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the Tree of Life?
(Hopefully, putting it that way will pre-empt any debate about whether we take the narrative literally or metaphorically or don’t believe it at all.
The question of belief or unbelief ought to be irrelevant.)
The Tree of Life is “the other tree” in the Garden, the tree which Adam and Eve were not forbidden to eat.
Nevertheless, once they had offended God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, they were expelled from the Garden lest they eat from the Tree of Life
“and live for ever”.
Discussions about this story often take it for granted that “living for ever” would have been the effect of a single act of eating from this Tree,
in the same way that “knowledge of good and evil” was apparently the effect of a single act of eating from the Tree of Knowledge.
On that assumption, of course, we’re obliged to conclude that Adam and Eve did NOT eat from the Tree of Life (since otherwise it would have been too
late to prevent them)
The problem with this assumption is that it leads to all sorts of logical tangles. The apparent implication is that Adam and Eve could have given
themselves immortality, if they were quick enough, by rushing to the Tree of Life and taking the fruit before God had the chance to expel them. Thus
they would have been able to frustrate God’s intended penalty, which seems absurd.
In Milton’s version of the story, this leads to what one commentator has called “an embarrassed qualification”;
“… Lest, therefore, his now bolder hand
Reach also of the Tree of Life, and eat,
And live forever, dream at least to live
Forever…” Paradise Lost, Book XI, ll 93-96
It gets worse. The Tree of Life was in the centre of the Garden, where they might have passed every day. As already mentioned, they had not been
forbidden to eat it. Are we supposed to think that nothing but the vagaries of chance prevented them from picking this fruit, even before they were
tempted by the other Tree, and gaining an irrevocable Immortality? And if this was possible, why had the Tree been placed there at all?
There is a way to cut through these logical tangles. We do it by abandoning the idea that Immortality comes from a single act of eating from the Tree.
Rather, Life comes from the regular eating of this fruit, and lasts as long as the regular eating continues.
This new assumption opens up the possibility that Adam and Eve were eating from the Tree of Life before they were expelled. In fact I will go further
and suggest that the whole point of placing Adam and Eve in the Garden was that they should be eating from the Tree of Life as long as they were
living there. “Living in the Garden” goes together with “eating from the Tree of Life”; they are one and the same thing.
This theory makes more sense of the act of setting up the Tree in the centre of the Garden. Instead of being placed in the centre to be ignored and
forgotten, as the other interpretation would have us believe, it is placed at the centre in order to be the daily staple of their lives.
It also makes more sense of the expulsion decree. “Lest they eat” would need to be taken as “Lest they continue to eat”. God knows that they
will live indefinitely if they are allowed to eat indefinitely, so he expels them from the Garden in order to cut off their access to the Tree. And
that is how the sentence of death is carried out. They no longer have “Life” in the same sense as before; they have become subject to death. To
use a metaphor which has only become possible in the modern world, the human race has been unplugged from the mains, and is now running on batteries.
I find support for this approach in the last chapter of Revelation, for it seems to me that the author of that book (who is closer than we are to the
writer of Genesis) understands eating from the Tree of Life in exactly the same way that I do. The Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem gives fruit all
year round, indefinitely, so that it can be eaten indefinitely. If a single act of eating was enough, we would only need one fruit for each
We are told in the Genesis narrative that the Tree of Life was at the centre of the garden where Adam and Eve had been established. I believe that we
are meant to understand that this Tree was central to their lives, and that they were eating from its fruit as long as they were allowed to do so.