I have a question, the answer to which, is not 42. The answer, “42”, is an esoteric reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a science fiction work by Douglas Adams. In Douglas Adams’ fantasy realm, the Earth is actually a Super Computer, named Deep Thought, running a 10 million year-long program to calculate the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything“. A rather fanciful way of asking “What is the meaning of it all?” And the answer, “42”, has become a euphemism to state “The answer is too complicated for you to understand”.
In reality, the question asked in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is not too complicated to be understood, as long as one goes to the correct source to research the answers. And that source is the Book Of Life, the Bible, which is the real guide to the universe that God himself provided to mankind.
Of all the other sources available to us, none provides an exact answer to the questions surrounding good and evil with the clarity and finality that the Bible does. Not Science, nor Religion, nor Philosophy, nor Politics, nor any other source you may care to name. The answer to the meaning of it all is found in the Bible. And at the root of that study is the answer to good and evil.
In Genesis chapters 1 & 2, we have the great creation story. And within that story we have the Garden of Eden with two main inhabitants, Adam and Eve. And very early on we are introduced to the concept of good and evil. In Genesis 2:9 God made the plants to grow in the Garden of Eden, two of which, had a name, One is the Tree of Life and the other is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And my question today is: “Why were those trees, specifically, named?” Of all the plants that must have grown within the garden, two were specifically, and deliberately named. Why did the tree have a name?
The first tree, the Tree of Life, is interesting in and of itself. It’s purpose is found in Genesis 3:22. Eat of the Tree of Life, and you live forever. Pretty straight forward. Perhaps I’ll come back and revisit the Tree of Life someday, but for now, the tree I’d like to contemplate is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This tree brought death. At least the taking of the fruit did (Genesis 2:17). God specifically said that the day Adam ate of this tree, he would surely die. This is an interesting statement to me because at that time the world did not know death. Neither Adam nor Eve had any basis for understanding death. And yet they clearly understood that there were consequences associated with eating of the fruit of this tree.
However, eating of the tree also brought something else. It brought with it knowledge. Specifically knowledge of what was good and what was evil. This is interesting to me because the tree brought knowledge of, not the substance of. And knowledge is gained by learning, by being taught of something, or by discovery. Clearly the concept of, and the very existence of, both good and evil existed before the Garden of Eden. Otherwise there would not have been a tree that provided knowledge of them.
It is also clear who the teacher of the knowledge was (and who held the knowledge prior to the planting of the tree). In Genesis 3:4-5 the Serpent told Eve that God knew her eyes would be opened, as gods, knowing good and evil. Obviously for God to know this, he had to have prior knowledge of good and evil. And this is not a situation of God possessing all knowledge (epignosis) as the Serpent was aware as well, prior to either Adam or Eve eating of the fruit.
No, God did not simply know the future, that Eve, and then Adam would eat of the fruit of the tree and that evil would suddenly enter into the world. Evil was a concept that already existed and could be taught.
I also note that the Serpent was partially accurate in what he relayed to Eve. The tree really did bring knowledge of good and evil. And more to the point, that knowledge made Adam and Eve (and by extension all of human kind) as gods (Genesis 3:22). God acknowledges that Adam and Eve had become like Him (the phrase “as one of us” is in reference to the triune God in the form of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) to know good and evil. That is, by eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had learned of good and evil. And human kind has known of good and evil ever since.
The sin, for Adam and Eve, was disobeying God and eating of the fruit. The consequences that it brought into the world is knowledge. Knowledge that humans did not know how to deal with then, and still don’t know how to deal with today. Dangerous knowledge that God had intentionally protected with a commandment that Adam and Eve not eat of the fruit of the tree. God did not warn Adam and Eve of the knowledge they would gain or the consequences thereof. The Serpent did that. And he did it rather convincingly since Eve understood that the fruit of the tree would make one wise (Genesis 3:6).
It is interesting to me that the definition for the word wise contains the words power, discernment, and judgement. Because that is exactly what most of us think of ourselves as. Powerful, discerning, and judges of right and wrong. We have become as gods, all because of knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge that is dangerous in our hands. Is it any wonder that Christ warned us not to judge (Matthew 7:1-5)? Because though we may be as gods, we are not The God, who judges rightly and perfectly in every case.
Another thing that knowledge of good and evil does to us is to make us believe we are self-sufficient. We have power (knowledge), and discernment (to chart our own course), and judgment (to rightly align those around us). Nothing is further from the truth. It is the greatest deception of all time. Those are exactly the things we should be crying out to God for and relying solely on Him to provide in our lives. But because we have not, we stand in our own understanding and then wonder why we have conflict and struggle in the world.
So you see, there is a reason as to why the tree had a name. The question is, are we going to understand the reason and apply it to our lives?