Tree of Knowledge

From Academic Kids

In the Hebrew Bible's Book of Genesis, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden from which God forbade Adam and Eve to eat. The other tree in the middle of the garden was the Tree of Life. Nothing is said in Genesis about whether or not they were permitted to eat from the tree of life, but since the Bible says "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.", we know they were allowed. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the tree, after being tempted by a serpent, they became knowledgeable of their sin, and were punished by God by being banished from the garden and forced to survive through agriculture "by the sweat of [their] brow". Being banished from Eden meant they would lose access to the tree of life and therefore were condemned to die. "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." (NIV)


Freudian (psychological) interpretation of story related in Genesis

A rather Freudian interpretation is that knowledge of good and evil or simply good and bad refers to the recollection of a memory with an implied judgment. This is a natural process for neurological systems (humans and animals) to make to avoid pain or gain pleasure. However the extensive recollection and teaching such as by the use of a book, which could be called a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, clearly distinguishes this form of consciousness from the simple awareness of the animal kingdom. The human being begins to make choices that even if they include pain are chosen and considered beneficial.

The process of maturation occurring in the incidents around the tree describes, in an abstract way, the splitting of the human consciousness into the limited context of conscious thought and the underlying all aware subconscious. It also implies the existence of an entheogen that lets humans experience a God-like state of oneness.

Depictions of story

The Tree of Knowledge is commonly portrayed in art and literature as an apple tree, or fig tree for lack of a more specific description. Some trace this to a Latin pun between malus (apple) and malum (evil). Therefore, "Apple of Evil".

The type of tree

Rabbi Meir says: "The fruit of (the Tree of Knowledge of Good-and-Evil) was a grape..."; Rabbi Nechemia says: "It was a fig..."; Rabbi Yehuda says: "It was wheat..." Talmud, Brachot 40a

There are other opinions besides those, but it was certainly not an apple.

The reason it may have been a fig is that they use fig leaves to cover themself after eating it, either because the leaves were nearby, or because God creates the cure before the illness, and the same tree that caused the problem is also used to remedy it. Some commentators hold that it might have been a grape, and that Eve actually made, and drank, wine.

However this cannot be because it says in the Bible that Noah was the first to make and drink wine.

Ethno-botanists have proposed the iboga plant (Tabernanthe iboga) as the Tree of Knowledge. The ground up bark contains a dissociative substance, ibogaine, which has been traditionally used in Bwiti religious ceremony in Central Africa.

Related information

According to a Christian legend, the Tree of Knowledge was the source of wood for the True Cross.

Other interpretations

Vedic (Hindu) tradition (Rig Veda samhita 1.164.20-22, Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1 and Svetasvatara Upanisad 3.20, 4.6-7) speaks of two birds perched on the branch of a tree. One bird eats the fruit of tree while the other merely watches its companion.

The tree stands for the body.

The first bird represents a Jiva, or individual self, or Soul. She has a female nature, being a sakti, energy of God.

The fruit signifies sensual pleasure (kama).

When the jiva becomes distracted by the fruits, she momentarily forgets her Lord and Lover and tries to enjoy the fruit independently of Him. This separating forgetfulness is her maha-maya, or enthrallment, spiritual death, and constitutes the Fall_(religion) of the jiva into the saha world of material birth, death, disease and Old_age.

The second bird is Atman, or Paramatman, an aspect of God who accompanies every living being in the heart while she remains in the material world. He is the support of all beings and is beyond sensual pleasure.

Jiva has come to be called Eve (from Chava, "life") and Atman is Adam in the Hebrew tradition.

Differences from the Biblical story:

Atman (Adam) who can never be subject to sensual pleasure also eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

In Buddhism bodhi-vrksa is called the tree of knowledge. Buddha attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree. But the pipal (pippala), also called asvattha tree or Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa), was known as the bodhi tree even before. While bodhi tree stands for enlightenment that supersedes all sensual pleasure, the Biblical tree (body) affords worldly pleasure.

See also

he:עץ הדעת טוב ורעja:知恵の樹 nl:Boom van de kennis van goed en kwaad pl:Drzewo poznania dobra i zła


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