I’ve been re-reading the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible and I believe that Eve has been given a raw deal! Nowhere in the Bible does God forbid Eve from eating fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve had not been created when Adam was given the prohibition!
Secondly, before Eve ate from the tree, she would not have known that it was wrong, as she would as yet have no idea of right or wrong. She would not have known that what she was doing was evil.
Thirdly, why did God put the tree there at all? He had no need of it? The Garden of Eden was put there for Adam’s use, with two trees in the centre which Adam was told not to touch. What did God think was going to happen, given that both Adam and Eve were innocents and didn’t know Good and Evil?
And the serpent, described as “crafty” in the New International Version of the Bible. Its intent was obviously not good. Had it already tasted the fruit from the tree? Poor is loaded with the burden of the Original Sin and it should probably have been just the serpent that got the boot from the Garden of Eden with all his offspring.
While the Bible cannot literally be true, given that we appear to live in a deterministic scientifically describable Universe, and the events in the Bible, the miracles, seem to be both non-deterministic and scientifically highly improbable, we can use examples from the Bible to investigate moral and ethical matters.
The Bible story is an early attempt to investigate moral concepts. A mountain exploding is neither good nor evil, but if we tell a little story about the original people and how they came to know good and evil we can begin to get some idea of the concepts.
According to the story God is responsible for the whole shebang. Why on earth did he introduce good and evil into the world? For that matter, what are good and evil?
In the story the Original Sin was Eve doing something that a higher authority (the Highest Authority!) told Adam, and by extension Eve, not to do. This then opened a Pandora’s Box of things good and evil, like not romping around with no clothes on.
Philosophers note that this does not actually answer the question of where good and evil, bad and good, arise from. It doesn’t answer the questions of what exactly good and evil are and why they exist in the first place. The Universe would no doubt be a less interesting place without the concepts.
While good and bad are similar to good and evil, there are differences and the word “good” is used in a different sense in the two pairs of concepts. A good harvest means a plentiful one and there is no moral aspect to it (except possibly if it is a reward for serious toil), whereas giving part of the harvest to someone in need is a good deed and is good in a moral sense.
Similarly a bad harvest is a light one, and again has no moral aspect to it, but refusing to spare a part of the harvest with those in need or stealing the harvest of someone else is morally bad thing to do. It is an evil act.
So, Eve was set up. She had no concept of good and evil, she was persuaded by the serpent who it appears might have already sampled the fruit, and God had placed the trees in the Garden of Eden to tempt her, and for her to be the channel by which good and evil entered the world.
The end result, apart from the expulsion, was the question of what was allowed and what was not. Obviously, doing what you are told by authority is high on the list, as is walking around with no clothes on.
Theologians of all religions have spent a great deal of time and effort deciding what is good and what is bad. Much of the thinking is encapsulated in the “Ten Commandments” (in Judaism, Christianity and Islam at least), and Jesus’ First Amendment to love others as one loves oneself.
Other attempts to codify the concept of good and evil have been attempted over time. One such is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as advocated by Eleanor Roosevelt. This document is good in its intent, but lacking in its understanding of the realities of life. For example, during a war many of the so-called “Human Rights” may need to be abrogated.
For instance, an individual should never undergo torture. However, what if torturing one individual one can save millions of others? I don’t answer this question – I merely pose it. Indeed did God breach the Human Rights of Adam and Eve by evicting them from their home in the Garden of Eden, perhaps?
Arguments like this abound – is it acceptable to transport a man to “the colonies” for stealing a loaf of bread? What if he did it, not for himself, but for his family? The law, which is at its base a codification of good and evil, said at the time that this was acceptable, and indeed necessary, but today it seems barbaric. Morals seem to be mutable.
Poor old Eve gets the blame for everything. Literally everything. For pain, childbirth, and the whole Human Being thing, not to mention venomous snakes. Snakes may, if they were conscious beings might consider themselves hard done by, because after all, if God had not put the tempting tree there would have been no problem.
What about all those fleas and mosquitoes too? They have probably killed more people than snakes ever have. Maybe it wasn’t the serpent’s argument that persuaded Eve. Maybe it was a mosquito whispering in her ear that tipped the tables.
It’s a great story, a story of innocence lost. It conveniently encapsulates a reason for good and evil, and accounts for the fact that humans have to toil for a living, either by tilling a field and fighting weeds and thorns, pest and crop diseases, or by piloting a desk in a modern city.
But it is unfair that Eve gets all the blame. If Eve were being tried in a court of law, I’d believe that she would have a good case, being set up by God and beguiled by His servant the serpent, all when Eve was in a state of innocence, not knowing at the time that what she was doing was wrong. Yes, I reckon she’d be let off with a caution.