"The Knowledge of Good and Evil" = Discernment of Right and Wrong

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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I had to repump this topic, because my previous thread ("Are 'right' and 'wrong' equal with 'good' and 'evil'?") had been closed. My concern has still to do with whether Adam had discernment of good and evil before the Fall. But before I go on to ponder upon it, I want to show from Scripture that "the knowledge of good and evil" descriped in the Bible has nothing to do with personal experience of good and evil, but simply discernment of good and evil.

"The knowledge of good and evil," has a distinct meaning in the Old Testament. It refers to the ability to determine for one's self what is good and evil, what is helpful and harmful. In Genesis 3:5, 22 God has this ability and right. In 1 Kings 3:9 Solomon prays for it so he can rule well. In Deuteronomy 1:39 little children don't have it yet. In 2 Samuel 19:35 senile people have lost it (Note: it is translated "discern between good and evil," but when we look at the Hebrew word behind "discern", it is the very same word as used in Gen 3:5 to mean "knowing" [good and evil]. So, there is no difference between the two.)

Two vitally important points to make here:

1) If God had "the knowledge of good and evil," we cannot take "the knowledge of good and evil" to mean personal experience of good and evil, since God has none! God has never sinned!

2) If senile people can lose "the knowledge of good and evil", then they can lose their privilege of knowing God for who He is; losing the knowledge of God's love for them through losing their knowledge of their own sinfulness.

I have already pondered whether Adam and Eve were so child-minded they actually couldn't understand what God commanded them not to do (just as human parents tell their little children not to do something, yet their children, being still unable to discern between good and evil, won't do what they are told), but I think neither this view is consistent with the words of Adam and Eve, by which it is clearly demonstrated they knew what God had forbid.

So, the problem remains whether Adam did have knowledge/discernment of good and evil or not before the Fall. I'm also quite unsure what the Reformed position of this is; Was Adam able to discern between good and evil before the Fall? Had Adam "the knowledge of good and evil" before the Fall?

I'd like to hear your opinions on all of what's been said. Thanks in advance!
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
If senile people can lose "the knowledge of good and evil", then they can lose their privilege of knowing God for who He is; losing the knowledge of God's love for them through losing their knowledge of their own sinfulness.

They can't lose that. Look at the context: it's clearly rhetorical and besides, are we seriously going to say that people whose higher brain capacity is slowing due to age are cut off from the love of God? Seriously? I have known very godly people who developed Alzheimer's and I expect to see them in heaven where there is no shutdown of cognitive function.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
One questionable solution I've invented so far:

Since one can be selfish (evil) without discerning good and evil, it could be that one can become guilty of the evil committed, even if the knowledge of good and evil is achieved after the crime. That is, if a male baby intentionally somehow killed his mother, but discovered the sinfulness of the evil committed five years later, he should be held accountable for that crime. (Of course we have to assume this baby had no previous sin [in Adam], otherwise, his evil deeds, though committed in ignorance of the law of God, would rightly be condemned, because they are consequences of our sin. This logic, I think, we all must agree with.) But in the case of Adam, there was no previous sin committed by him, which would have made him accountable for ignorant evil deeds. There is now a question I'd like to ask,

Is it not plausible evil existed in the heart of Adam before sin being committed? (Now, I'm not suggesting God did not create Adam perfect and holy. But couldn't there have been a moment between Adam's creation and fall, where evil was born in Adam's heart?)

---------- Post added at 09:42 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:35 AM ----------

If senile people can lose "the knowledge of good and evil", then they can lose their privilege of knowing God for who He is; losing the knowledge of God's love for them through losing their knowledge of their own sinfulness.

They can't lose that. Look at the context: it's clearly rhetorical and besides, are we seriously going to say that people whose higher brain capacity is slowing due to age are cut off from the love of God? Seriously? I have known very godly people who developed Alzheimer's and I expect to see them in heaven where there is no shutdown of cognitive function.

Yes, I know. I wasn't even suggesting that would be the case with senile people. Just showed the error of taking "the knowledge of good and evil" to mean personal experience of good and evil.

---------- Post added at 10:01 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:42 AM ----------

Just to reform my suggestion above:

Is not God justified to condemn our evil deeds, whether we have committed them in knowledge of God's law or not,
by showing us His law and thereby making our evil deeds violations of His law?


Edit: I just realized a SURE way how God could rightly do the above to our evil deeds: If God showed us every evil deed we had done in ignorance of His law in our lives, and thereby would make us react to the evils committed, would not our reaction to these evil deeds determine their sinfulness before God? Let me give you a practical example: If God showed me that in my childhood I had stolen a lego from my big brother, yet in ignorance of God's law, would not the stealing be judged as sin, if my reaction to the stealing was indifferent? SURELY IT WOULD!
 
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Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Maybe you can tell me if I answered your previous post, Samuel.

If I did I would have taken the position that the knowledge of good and evil was personal experience of good and evil. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve only had experience of good, doing good, and not evil or the contrast between good and evil. After the Fall they had knowledge of all four and also personal experience of committing evil.

Before Adam sinned, God already had as much knowledge of good and evil as was possible - being omniscient - for a Being without sin.

"The knowledge of good and evil," has a distinct meaning in the Old Testament. It refers to the ability to determine for one's self what is good and evil, what is helpful and harmful. In Genesis 3:5, 22 God has this ability and right. In 1 Kings 3:9 Solomon prays for it so he can rule well. In Deuteronomy 1:39 little children don't have it yet. In 2 Samuel 19:35 senile people have lost it (Note: it is translated "discern between good and evil," but when we look at the Hebrew word behind "discern", it is the very same word as used in Gen 3:5 to mean "knowing" [good and evil]. So, there is no difference between the two.)

This is all very ingenius. I wouldn't know what to make of it without further study.

Matthew Henry on the Two Trees
But, (2.) It had two extraordinary trees peculiar to itself; on earth there were not their like. [1.] There was the tree of life in the midst of the garden, which was not so much a memorandum to him of the fountain and author of his life, nor perhaps any natural means to preserve or prolong life; but it was chiefly intended to be a sign and seal to Adam, assuring him of the continuance of life and happiness, even to immortality and everlasting bliss, through the grace and favour of his Maker, upon condition of his perseverance in this state of innocency and obedience. Of this he might eat and live. Christ is now to us the tree of life (Rev. 2:7; 22:2), and the bread of life, Jn. 6:48, 53. [2.] There was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so called, not because it had any virtue in it to beget or increase useful knowledge (surely then it would not have been forbidden), but, First, Because there was an express positive revelation of the will of God concerning this tree, so that by it he might know moral good and evil. What is good? It is good not to eat of this tree. What is evil? It is evil to eat of this tree. The distinction between all other moral good and evil was written in the heart of man by nature; but this, which resulted from a positive law, was written upon this tree. Secondly, Because, in the event, it proved to give Adam an experimental knowledge of good by the loss of it and of evil by the sense of it. As the covenant of grace has in it, not only Believe and be saved, but also, Believe not and be damned (Mk. 16:16), so the covenant of innocency had in it, not only "Do this and live,’’ which was sealed and confirmed by the tree of life, but, "Fail and die,’’ which Adam was assured of by this other tree: "Touch it at your peril;’’ so that, in these two trees, God set before him good and evil, the blessing and the curse, Deu. 30:19. These two trees were as two sacraments.

Faith in the Tree to which I believe these Two Trees point, the Cross of Christ i.e. Christ and Him crucified, not only imparts life (Tree of Life) but also gives us a new understanding of good and evil, and a new ability with respect to good and evil.
 
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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Maybe you can tell me if I answered your previous post, Samuel.

If I did I would have taken the position that the knowledge of good and evil was personal experience of good and evil. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve only had experience of good, doing good, and not evil or the contrast between good and evil. After the Fall they had knowledge of all four and also personal experience of committing evil.

Before Adam sinned, God already had as much knowledge of good and evil as was possible - being omniscient - for a Being without sin.

"The knowledge of good and evil," has a distinct meaning in the Old Testament. It refers to the ability to determine for one's self what is good and evil, what is helpful and harmful. In Genesis 3:5, 22 God has this ability and right. In 1 Kings 3:9 Solomon prays for it so he can rule well. In Deuteronomy 1:39 little children don't have it yet. In 2 Samuel 19:35 senile people have lost it (Note: it is translated "discern between good and evil," but when we look at the Hebrew word behind "discern", it is the very same word as used in Gen 3:5 to mean "knowing" [good and evil]. So, there is no difference between the two.)

This is all very ingenius. I wouldn't know what to make of it without further study.

Richard,

I may have been wrong in presupposing that God cannot have knowledge of good and evil like we do just because OF US it requires personal experience of good and evil. One thing is for sure, God knows ALL THINGS, including our knowledge. We surely cannot say God would have personal experience of evil, that is, of being evil, or of committing evil. But none of that is necessary for God to have knowledge of good and evil. I think I have misjudged God there.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
I think you might find a degree of variety in Reformed authors on this subject, all within the bounds of orthodoxy. There may be a variety of legitimate insights on the subject of "knowledge of good and evil" and the Tree.

Sometimes we are being taught more than one thing by a passage, and Adam was to be taught more than one thing by the Tree.

The texts which you cite should be taken into account.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Only God knows the depth of our sin and the height of His own love. We, in our limited understanding, only know both are infinitely great and indirectly proportional; the deeper our sin is, the higher God's love is. Now, this kind of knowledge is what the Bible calls "knowledge of sin", and it is attained "by the law" (Rom 3:20). An interesting question occurs, What's the difference between "the knowledge of good and evil" and the "knowledge of sin"? Let us ponder on this.
 
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