Category: Old Testament (page 1 of 1)

Why the tree?


17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Gen 2:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

All of chapter 2 speaks of what God did to make his children happy, and this special tree was no exception.

God never designed humans to be puppets or robots whom he regulates by pulling strings or pressing buttons. By placing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden, God was giving Adam the opportunity to obey God of his own free will. In so doing, God realized the risk involved, that Adam might choose to disobey him. When Adam came from the hand of his Creator, he was in a state of created innocence. By giving Adam the command not to eat, God was offering him the opportunity to progress from created innocence to conscious holiness. God wanted his highest creature to be holy by choice, not just by accident.

Martin Luther used an illustration that makes God’s intent clear. “This tree of the knowledge of good and evil was Adam’s church, his altar, his pulpit. Here he was to yield to God the obedience he owed, to give recognition to the word and will of God, to give thanks to God, and to call upon God for aid against temptation.” That tree in the middle of the garden was Adam’s place to worship God. There he was reminded of God’s goodness to him; there he could thank God for his mercy; there he could respond by giving God glad obedience.

The Creator had endowed Adam with a free will, an inborn freedom to do what pleased God. God wanted him now to exercise that free will. If Adam had, the experience would have produced a knowledge of good and evil similar to that which God himself has. Adam’s intellect would have become more keenly aware of what God wanted and what he didn’t want. His emotions would have found joy in the Creator’s will and would have convinced him of what a dreadful thing it would be to rebel against God. And Adam’s will would have consciously chosen to follow God’s command to have nothing to do with the forbidden fruit.1

1 Jeske, J. C. (2001). Genesis (2nd ed., pp. 38–39). Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House.

Original Righteousness to Original Sin


17For on whatever day you will eat from it you will die.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]Gen 2:17[/reftagger]). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


What is original righteousness? Some make it a quality; others make it something else. If we follow Moses, we should take original righteousness to mean that man was righteous, truthful, and upright not only in body but especially in soul, that he knew God, that he obeyed God with the utmost joy, and that he understood the works of God even without prompting. A clear example of this state of affairs is this: When Adam was sleeping very soundly and God formed Eve out of his rib, Adam recognized the work of God immediately upon awaking, and said ([reftagger title=””]Gen. 2:23[/reftagger]): “This is bone of my bone.” Is this not a superb intellect which at the first glance understands and recognizes the work of God?

It is part of this original righteousness that Adam loved God and His works with an outstanding and very pure attachment; that he lived among the creatures of God in peace, without fear of death, and without any fear of sickness; and that he had a very obedient body, without evil inclinations and the hideous lust which we now experience. In this way a very beautiful and very accurate picture of original righteousness can be inferred from the deprivation which we now feel in our own nature.

When the sophists speak of original sin, they are speaking only of wretched and hideous lust or concupiscence. But original sin really means that human nature has completely fallen; that the intellect has become darkened, so that we no longer know God and His will and no longer perceive the works of God; furthermore, that the will is extraordinarily depraved, so that we do not trust the mercy of God and do not fear God but are unconcerned, disregard the Word and will of God, and follow the desire and the impulses of the flesh; likewise, that our conscience is no longer quiet but, when it thinks of God’s judgment, despairs and adopts illicit defenses and remedies. These sins have taken such deep root in our being that in this life they cannot be entirely eradicated, and yet the wretched sophists do not mention them even with a word. Thus, as it always is with correlatives, original sin shows what original righteousness is, and vice versa: original sin is the loss of original righteousness, or the deprivation of it, just as blindness is the deprivation of sight.

This involves much more than the monks think when they restrict original righteousness almost exclusively to chastity. But the soul ought to be given consideration first; thereafter also the body, which has been made so hideous by lust. But in the case of the soul the outstanding fact is this: that the knowledge of God has been lost; that we do not everywhere and always give thanks to Him; that we do not delight in His works and deeds; that we do not trust Him; that when He inflicts deserved punishments, we begin to hate God and to blaspheme Him; that when we must deal with our neighbor, we yield to our desires and are robbers, thieves, adulterers, murderers, cruel, inhuman, merciless, etc. The passion of lust is indeed some part of original sin. But greater are the defects of the soul: unbelief, ignorance of God, despair, hate, blasphemy. Of these spiritual disasters Adam, in the state of innocence, had no knowledge.

Moreover there must be added here the punishments for original sin. For the name “original sin” is correctly given to whatever was lost of those conditions which Adam enjoyed while his nature was still unimpaired: that he had a very keen intellect, so that he immediately realized that Eve was his own flesh; that he had an accurate knowledge of all the creatures; that he was righteous and upright; that he was endowed with extraordinary perception and an upright yet imperfect will. (For perfection was postponed until the spiritual life after the physical one.)

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 1: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 1, pp. 113–115). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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