The Ten Commandments — #6

TenCommandmentsA StubbornThings Symposium   10/15/14
Introduction  •  The first recorded murder in the Book of Genesis took place in the primordial family of Adam and Eve, when one brother slew another in a silent field through the blinding passion of envy.  Since then, killing seems to be in our DNA.  The earth has been effectively turned into one indifferent slaughterhouse — where man’s inhumanity to his neighbor runs the continuum between uncontrolled personal malice and the masterful butcheries of World War. Indeed, the blood of beasts and Kings has saturated the very dust that mankind was molded from, and even God in the Garden slew an innocent creature to provide for the nakedness of our ancient Mother and Father when they tragically broke faith.

How do we glibly condemn those devotees of a vain and distant Allah — who slay in the name of wicked rapture – and magnify Yahweh, who commanded that Joshua exterminate those tribes who abided in the land of Canaan?  Is God, as some have said: “A moral Monster?”  Does He have one scale of justice for His Own and another for his feeble creatures who tremble beneath the fiery skies of Sinai?  Is He, as Richard Dawkins says, “guilty of cosmic child abuse” for demanding such an incomprehensible horror of redemption — one that wouldn’t spare even Himself or His Only Begotten?  Are Yahweh and Allah merely the flip sides of an arcane coin — or are the distinctions fixed deeper than the pillars upholding the Universe?

Can killing paradoxically bring forth the fruits of justice, or does a thing conceived in injustice remain so?  Throughout time immemorial, armies have marched off to war with the banners of God at their fore: granting absolution for the horrible acts they would do that day.  Whether charging a machine gun nest or delivering one’s only son on a makeshift altar to satisfy a dubious test, killing has either imparted heroism, imputed righteousness, or flattered our termite hearts into imagining that we are more than just blood-stained jackals. Knowing the ocean of tears that killing has bequeathed to this sad creature Man, how are we to make sense of the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill?”

Glenn Fairman


Number 6: “Thou shalt not kill.”


 

PATRICIA L. DICKSON

When discussing the commandment, “thou shall not kill,” we must first understand that there are two different Hebrew words (ratsakh, mut) and two Greek words (phoneuo, apokteino) for “murder” and “killing.” One means “to put to death,” and the other means “to murder.”  The Sixth Commandment is referring to murder. Murder involves the unjustified taking of another’s life.

I can imagine the guilt that Moses felt as God was giving him this commandment. Moses himself had murdered an Egyptian in defense of a Hebrew (his people). After committing the murder, he fled to the desert for forty years until God called on him to free the children of Israel from slavery under Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Today, it is impossible to turn on the local or national news without hearing about a murder. Murder is so common today that society has become immune to it. Many murders are committed by family members or close associates. Why would God include this commandment in the Ten Commandments?  God places high value on life and He expects humankind to as well. Life is a precious gift. Only God is the creator and giver of life. Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed man from the [a]dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being. What makes human life precious? God created man in His image. Man has only been given one life to live. Who has the authority to take human life? Since God is the giver of life, He commands that no one has the right to take a life.

The first recording of someone taking the life of another is in the book of Genesis, the story of Cain and Abel.  Genesis 4:8 And Cain said to his brother, [b]Let us go out to the field. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. What drives man to murder? It was God’s plan that humankind would live together in harmony; however, sin entered man’s heart through the fall. Sin is the cause of murder. The sin of greed, jealously, envy, anger, pride and hatred are powerful motivators to kill another. Cain killed Abel because of jealousy. Because anger usually precedes the act of murder, Jesus Christ taught us not to become angry without a cause.  God defines murder as any thought or feeling of deep-seated hatred or malice against another person. Man cannot hide his disdain towards another person from God because God looks upon the heart for the truth. Hate is the root cause of murder. John wrote in I John 3:15 Anyone who hates (abominates, detests) his brother [in Christ] is [at heart] a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding ([k]persevering) within him. Hate is such a strong emotion that God has commanded us to not even hate our enemy.

Is there a difference between murder and killing?  Killing during times of war (also called defending) is not the same as murder. American Soldiers kill in order to defend country, the constitution and fellow soldiers. Murder involves premeditation (pre-planning). Cain pre-planned to kill Abel. He hated Abel because God accepted his (Abel’s) gift. Manslaughter is an unintentional form of killing. Is abortion murder? If murder is the intentional taking of the life of another, than how can abortion not be? Is abortion pre-meditated? Of course it is. Abortions are not accidental killing.  However, as with all sin, God is able and willing to forgive anyone who asked. The Bible states,   “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” I John 1:9-10

— Patricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner. She can be reached at dicksonpat@sky.com.

 

DEANA CHADWELL

Really? No squashing bugs? No eating meat? What about lettuce? Doesn’t that stuff die when you yank it out of the ground? Should we not fight wars? Should we not defend our selves? Should we not defend others? The left hind leg of the Democrat party thinks this way — odd that a party that booed God at its convention would lean so heavily on a misunderstood commandment that Moses claimed was given to him by that same God.

Let’s look at the original wording. The Hebrew word used here is rotseach. It does not mean generic killing. Literally it means “to dash into pieces,” or “to slay a man” i.e. to commit murder – cold-blooded, premeditated, purposeful killing. Later on in the Law, Moses lays out the particulars – what, if any punishment is due a person for self-defense, accident, negligence, vengeance; he covered the bases, even for today.

Then later on Jesus expanded on the idea – “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22) Yikes. So this is not just a prohibition for the bloody deed but also for wanting, at the slightest level, to commit the bloody deed. That is, of course, not punishable by law, but it doesn’t take much to see the train of thought here.  A murderer has either fantasized about committing the act, a fantasy that eventually will demand an actual manifestation, and/or has allowed so much seething hatred to slither into his soul that it takes a very small spark to set off a deadly explosion. One way or the other murder starts in the soul.

Actually, the willingness to bring about death starts with one’s attitude about life. If a person sees her fellow humans as mere organisms, of no more cosmic importance than an annoying November fly, then murder would come easily, abortion wouldn’t ripple her moral waters, nor would euthanizing a sick and inconvenient parent. Self-interest will be her only interest. If, however, a person sees other humans as individual, creative acts of God, then you don’t go there, you don’t mess with what God has decreed. Those of us who have that kind of respect for our fellow man, don’t see “whacking” someone as an option.

Of course, it is an outrageous over-simplification to say that atheists are comfortable with murder, but that’s true only because the thou-shalt-not-kill idea has saturated human thought for at least 3,500 years – Darwin hasn’t completely eradicated that basal revulsion; most people feel that murder is wrong whether they are atheists or Christians. (I’m not sure about Muslims who’ve had 1,400 years to work that natural horror out of their systems.)

Let’s look further at Christ’s expansion of this commandment – if a murderous attitude, a murderous intent, is as bad as murderous action, then a truly good society will become hypersensitive about it. Our society used to find murder horrific, but a quick perusal of the television offerings on any evening of the week shows a real fascination with murder. Time was when a murder mystery was like a chess game – a body in the first few minutes (we never saw the actual murder and just the fact that the victim was dead provided horror enough). Now we watch the murders happen and the methodology of the perpetrator is as gruesome and torturous as possible. In 1967 Tom Wolfe wrote an essay entitled Pornoviolence in which he presented his concern that America was as addicted to violence as entertainment as some people get addicted to porn. His example program? Gunsmoke!  I wish he’d rewrite that piece for today. I’ll admit that I’m as guilty as the next person about consuming the murder mystery du jour, but even as an avid fan of the genre, I’ve become sickened by the graphic and torturous fare that’s being offered. Murder is now our vernacular.

I also can’t help but feeling that when we attack a decent person’s character, spread rumors, or issue false accusations we are exercising a murderous propensity. We call it character assassination for a reason. We see this in politics and on social media, but it isn’t a modern phenomenon – technology has just made it more effective. Casio – one of the only virtuous people in Shakespeare’s Othello – reacts with great emotion when his character is ruined by Iago’s machinations, “Reputation, reputation, reputation! I have lost my reputation, I have lost the immortal part of myself,” (Act II, Scene 3). To ruin a man’s name, either out of negligence or vitriol is a form of murder.

And no discussion of “Thou shalt not kill,” is complete without noting what we are now willing to do to unborn babies. The stats about the tens of millions of babies who have been aborted since 1970 is an indictment against our entire society. Is abortion technically murder? We don’t really know when that the fertilized egg is connected with a human soul. In Exodus 21:22 Moses says,  “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. There are biblical bits and pieces like that, but not enough clarity to leave us nonchalant about killing that fetus. A society that honors the will of God in the conception of a child would not slaughter that child.

And that’s what the 6th Commandment is all about: respecting God’s creation, and therefore respecting another person’s right to be part of that creation. A willful denial of those principles is as bad as we can get.

— Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com.

See Also:
The Tenth Commandment Symposium
The Ninth Commandment Symposium
The Eighth Commandment Symposium
The Seventh Commandment Symposium
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99 Responses to The Ten Commandments — #6

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    An important difference between Yahweh and Allah is that while Yahweh commanded savage killings on many occasions, he never gave a generalized command that the Hebrews slaughter everyone who didn’t worship Allah. The Pentateuch is a guide for a theocracy, but only over a very limited area. It isn’t even clear that the worship of pagan gods by non-Hebrews was banned, though human sacrifice certainly was (or was supposed to be; there was a lot of back-sliding).

    Violence is indeed part of the human condition, and this includes a fascination with it even among those who have no intention of behaving violently themselves. As the early true crime writer Edmund Pearson once observed, “Eight of every ten people are interested in murder, and of the two who aren’t, one is only pretending.” This clearly includes women as well as men (as Molly Lefebure, secretary to British forensic pathologist Sir Keith Simpson, pointed out in Witness for the Crown). Does that mean we are all marked for Hell? As a dedicated reader of both mysteries and true crime, I certainly hope not.

    • Jerry Richardson says:

      Timothy,

      Violence is indeed part of the human condition, and this includes a fascination with it even among those who have no intention of behaving violently themselves…“Eight of every ten people are interested in murder, and of the two who aren’t, one is only pretending.”—-Does that mean we are all marked for Hell? As a dedicated reader of both mysteries and true crime, I certainly hope not.

      I think that people are interested in forbidden things that they know they don’t really want to do, but yet they can fantasy-scenario themselves into it; and then think about how it might feel to be in that situation.

      Contrast this with actions that are virtually incomprehensible.

      For example: I have never been able to understand what kicks anyone would get out of acts of vandalism. I don’t get it. I finally concluded, several years ago that it is because I believe-in and focus on creating, building, and constructing. I get my joy there; destruction holds no fascination for me. In fact vandalism disgusts me. And I am not at all fascinated with the exact twisted-mentality that motivates it. What gives people pleasure of out destroying, simple for the sake of destroying?

      But, murder is a bit different.

      I do not harbor any secret wish, I don’t think—scratch that, I know I don’t— to murder anyone. But I can fantasy-scenario myself into situations where I am that person; and then watch myself grapple with all the fearful entanglements that would result. But it is still only like watching a movie in my imagination; it’s just that I’m playing one of the characters.

      For me, yes it’s fascinating, and I think it is because, in essence, it’s a type of grown-up childhood game: High stakes hide-and-seek.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Vandalism is indeed one of the more disgusting aspects of human moral failings, especially the sort of generalized vandalism (e.g., the Ferguson lynch mobs) that has no real target. (Vandalizing someone you don’t like is simply a milder form of violence.) It’s akin to random violence (the knockout game, serial murder, etc.). This is why normal people find it hard to conceive of behaving that way. We might imagine having a reason to attack someone, but a generalized hate of society? We leave that to the Left.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Actually, the willingness to bring about death starts with one’s attitude about life. If a person sees her fellow humans as mere organisms, of no more cosmic importance than an annoying November fly, then murder would come easily, abortion wouldn’t ripple her moral waters, nor would euthanizing a sick and inconvenient parent. Self-interest will be her only interest. If, however, a person sees other humans as individual, creative acts of God, then you don’t go there, you don’t mess with what God has decreed. Those of us who have that kind of respect for our fellow man, don’t see “whacking” someone as an option.

    Very well said, Deana.

    In 1967 Tom Wolfe wrote an essay entitled Pornoviolence in which he presented his concern that America was as addicted to violence as entertainment as some people get addicted to porn.

    I completely agree with that assessment. I had not heard of that essay, but that essay can be found in his collections of essays titled Mauve Gloves and Madmen, Clutter and Vine.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I know that there are principled pacifists on the left who oppose taking any human life, but more often I find Leftists whose views are simply perversions of traditional ethics.

    They oppose executing the most obviously guilty murderer, and they oppose using even costly precision weaponry that minimizes civilian casualties, but they are uncompromising in their defense of euthanasia and especially abortion.

    I loved your essay, John. You’ve got a lot of Dennis Prager in you. And regarding “pacifists,” there are no such things in my experience. They are merely narcissists. They are people who are moral exhibitionists. They care only that they be seen to be above it all. Their actual policies facilitate death and destruction of the innocent.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I think it may have been P. J. O’Rourke who once pointed out that one could find a way to justify supporting both execution and abortion, or for opposing both of them, or even to support execution and oppose abortion. But there is no reasonable way to support abortion and oppose execution.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think it may have been P. J. O’Rourke who once pointed out that one could find a way to justify supporting both execution and abortion

        Ol’ P.J. was having a bad day if he said that. I would not offhand equate the executing of a murderer with the killing of the unborn innocent.

        I think something John Kirke said (which I found very Prageresque) is right on:

        Yahweh forbade murder and immediately made it a capital offense, proof positive that taking human life is not always impermissible and may sometimes be a moral imperative.

        Indeed, putting monsters to death can be a moral imperative. A society that does not is not “nice.” It’s simply lost its way. And we see how this kind of “niceness” has led to moral confusion whereby millions of babies are killed in the womb, not to mention the kind of moral confusion of the types who find victims in the bloodthirsty members of Hamas but only oppressors among the Israelis who are trying to protect themselves from this vermin.

        And we were so “nice” and “tolerant” as a culture to have elected an America-hating Marxist as our president…and re-elected him. Moral confusion abounds, and it starts when we put “nice” over common-sense justice. Those who murder the innocent have abrogated their right to live among civilized people.

        And yes, oddly, for a civilized people to remain civilized there must be justice regarding the most heinous of acts.

        • eMatters says:

          Re. capital punishment and abortion — when people conflate those two, I ask the following: If you think some pro-lifers are inconsistent for being pro-capital punishment, can you see the difference between A and B?

          A. Innocent human being crushed and dismembered without anesthetic because she is unwanted.

          B. Convicted rapist & murderer who survived 10+ years of appeals put to death in the most painless way possible.

          Also note that there are over 20,000+ abortions in the U.S. per week that kill completely innocent human beings, compared to 1 (one!) capital punishment of a murderer who lost 10+ years of appeals. How about 10 years of appeals for the unborn?

        • Timothy Lane says:

          One can come up with a pragmatic justification for abortion. His point was that liberals support abortion (the killing of the inconvenient innocent) but oppose capital punishment (the killing of those convicted of heinous crimes).

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    It is here that I will take polite issue with Glenn Fairman’s labeling of the first biblical killing as “murder.”  I think this is important.  “Murder” is a legal term, and God, at the time of Cain’s slaying of Able, had not yet given humanity his proscription (which includes appropriate punishment) against an unjust-killing of an innocent human being.  That proscription was not given until later.

    Jerry, that reminds me of something I read lately. Is God bound by his own laws? Is Goodness and Justice something that God himself must adhere to because they are self-evident (or self-existent) concepts? And, as was pointed out, if not, if God decides what is Goodness and what is Justice, then whence objective morality?

    I think the answer to that is above my pay grade. But at the very least, I would think that murder is something that exists by the very nature of the act. It is the law that then follows the act, not the other way around. The laws may be one thing in one place and one thing in another. But they all exist in response to the reality of the act.

    And if God is indeed the ultimately law-giver, he can thus obviously proscribe any punishment he wants. And I would think ex post facto laws would be a function of limited human wisdom. Because humans create bad and corrupt laws all the time (for purposes other than justice), there needs to be constraints on man’s laws. But would this be true of God?

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Great essay, Neil. I particularly liked this part:

    Part of the problem is worshiping government over God.  Even the writers of the The Simpsons understood this to a degree when they had Reverend Lovejoy say, “Once something has been approved by the government, it’s no longer immoral.”  They rationalize murder as being best for the rest of society (see abortion, or the Holocaust or the tens of millions killed by their Communist governments in the 20th century).  If you think the Leftists aren’t capable of trying to wipe out believers then you haven’t read The Gulag Archipelago.

    And this…

    The best solution is the authentic Gospel and making disciples.  That will transform hearts, minds and societies more than anything else.  It will drive out bad thinking and false religions.  But it starts with discipline – church discipline – which means getting rid of the wolves in sheep’s clothing running most major denominations.  The fault is actually with the Bible-believing Christians who let the wolves come in and take over.  They acted like they were being nice…

    Oh, God. Save us all from “nice.”

    Your above thoughts interesect with something I’ve been thinking about. While looking at other books on my Kindle (and they’re always suggesting new stuff for you to buy), I ran into this one: Distortion by Chelsen Vicari. It’s supposedly written by some 24-year-old millennial chick. She’s just ripping the Christian Left a new one. And gathering from the free sample portion of this book which I’ve read, she’s the real deal. Wise beyond her years. I was just wondering if anyone else had read it before I commit ten bucks to it. Its a fairly new book (published September 2014), so there aren’t that many reviews of it.

    Speaking of “nice,” is there any hope left for Catholicism unless “Left” is the desired end? George Neumayr has some thoughts on that in The Synod of Confusion.

    • eMatters says:

      Thanks, Brad. I heard about Distortion by Chelsen Vicari but haven’t read it. The fact that it exists is very encouraging. Hopefully there will be a wave of sanity flowing back through younger people and they’ll see how morally and intellectually bankrupt Leftist “evangelicals.” are.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Thanks, Neil. I may check that book out, although I have a couple ID/Darwinism books coming in that may grab my attention first. But, goodness, I hope someone else will at least check out the free sample of her book on the Kindle. A very Palin-like straight-talker. Absolutely no useful idiot in that gal…at least judging by the sample I read.

    • Jerry Richardson says:

      Brad,

      I have the book, Distortion, on my Kindle, and have read most of it. My wife is also reading the book and thinks it worthy. I quoted the book in my article The Scam that is Obama:

      “Eight days after Americans elected their president in 2012, it was reported that nearly 6.4 million evangelicals cast their vote for Barack Hussein Obama II—a proven supporter of taxpayer-funded abortions who voted three times to continue the horrific practice of partial-birth abortions, an advocate for same-sex marriage, an expander of the national debt, a national security risk-taker, and a religious liberty compromiser.

      “America’s future looks pretty dim when evangelicals elect to the United States’ highest seat of power a leader whose policies blatantly conflict with God’s Word, the blueprint that determines how we live. Yet I hear my fellow churchgoers wonder aloud, “What’s going wrong with our country?”
      —Vicari, Chelsen (2014-09-02). Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith (p. 19).

    • Rosalys says:

      Part of the problem is worshiping government over God.

      I know we haven’t got there yet but this breaks the First Commandment. I see some Christians guilty of this one because (a) the Lord told us to “render under Caesar,” and (b) the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:1 tells us “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.” Reading a little further in Romans 13:3-4 gives us context; “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good.” I heard a woman caller on a Christian radio talk show go so far as to say that if the government ordered her to deliver her children for extermination she would have to do so because the Bible says we must obey they government!

      Thankfully, this does not describe most of Christians I know! If the Bible is true than it won’t contradict itself (the way the Koran does). If it won’t contradict itself, and it seems to, then we must pray for discernment and seek proper understanding of the passages.

    • Rosalys says:

      Oh, God. Save us all from “nice.”

      I found this at the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary online:

      nice adjective ˈnīs
      : giving pleasure or joy : good and enjoyable
      : attractive or of good quality
      : kind, polite, and friendly
      Full Definition of NICE
      1 obsolete
      a : wanton, dissolute

      The full definition includes 7 meanings. This first one is labeled obsolete but I’m thinking it may be time to revive this meaning as it is far more accurate of much of the niceness we see today.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        One of the things that Dennis Prager often says is that many people these days are “nice” but not good. And I see what you mean about reviving that first definition.

        So much in our society is judged “good” if it has a flattering, therapeutic effect. Anyone who has tried to raise good children with a sense of right and wrong realizes what a poor standard that is for raising a human being. Little Johnny often needs not to be flattered for setting fire to the cat but to be scolded. And that scolding will hurt his feelings but it will help him from becoming a monster. And that is the best kind of “nice,” both for Little Johnny and the rest of us.

  6. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Cain’s slaying of Able occurred before there was any proscription from God of premeditated murder that we know of. God had not yet handed down the Decalogue (the 10 Commandments) which contained his proscription against unjust killing, the 6th Commandment. So in a legal sense (God’s legal sense), Cain’s slaying of Abel was not “murder.”

    What is the point of “free will”, if a person does not have the inherent knowledge of right and wrong?

    How does your piece jibe with the oft repeated trope of “moral” or “natural” law so often used by Christian apologists? Does the moral law need to be written down before it is applicable? Is a law not a law until there is a written script with which to pass it on to humanity? If man is made in God’s image, does man not know the difference between right and wrong even without a written statute?

    It appears to me that your piece is overly rabbinical in its view regarding the law. This splitting of hairs and avoidance of justice because there is not a specific statute to deal with every imaginable crime committed by every imaginable criminal is one of the main failings of US law.

    Instead of dealing with the spirit of the law, which requires honesty and common sense, it deals with the letter of the law, which too often leads to pedantry and beating the system. This in turn leads to the insane attempt to write a statute for every possible scenario, which in turn leads to the law becoming so complicated and confusing that a normal man cannot understand it. This in turn leads to a class of people who become the secular priests through which all law must be interpreted and who, out of self interest, continue to increase the number of laws so as to increase their control.

    Thus is justice lost. Thus is lost the over-arching concept of “right and wrong”. The only thing which matters is “what’s legal” which has become something quite different from the original concept.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Note that the forbidden fruit in Eden (usually portrayed as an apple) was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Exactly. And the fact that temptation was placed before Adam and Eve begs the question of whether they knew of right and wrong before they partook in the fruit as they had been instructed not to.

        If the answer to this is they did not, and they had not eaten the apple, then Jerry’s thesis might be more compelling. But as they did eat it, they, and by implication, their offspring had such knowledge. Thus it makes little sense to require a prohibition against murder to be written down as Cain and all of later humanity carries a sense of the moral law.

        Maybe God did not destroy Cain so as to allow Cain to propagate. Clearly the number of human beings was small. the Bible only mentions four at this time and one of the four murdered one quarter of humanity. Perhaps God didn’t want the experiment to fail so early.

        Of course, at this point, the question arises as to with whom did Cain mate?

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Of course, there’s the question of where Cain got his wife (a question Clarence Darrow asked William Jennings Bryan at the Scopes trial). Tom Weller, in his award-winning Science Made Stupid, posited that Adam and Eve were created by Yahweh, whereas Cain’s wife (and probably the spouses of their other progeny) evolved (Australopithecus, Homo erectus, etc.).

        • Rosalys says:

          Cain knew he did wrong. We know this because he lied to God when he answered His question, “Where is Abel your brother?” with, “I do not know.” Not only that but he got snarky with God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

          Why God didn’t squash him like the gnat he was right then and there we will never know this side of eternity. But He has His reasons. Perhaps this speaks of His mercy. In the face of such arrogance God was exceedingly merciful to Cain!

      • I used to have a pastor who contended that the “knowledge of good and evil” should be rendered “the knowledge of the difference between good and evil.” That’s always struck me as interesting — their moral sense was non-existent, because moral issues didn’t happen. As soon as they knew the difference they grabbed the fig leaves. Cain inherited his parents’ understanding of this basal dichotomy and when he murdered his brother he did the Who me? shuffle. He knew the difference.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I would think it was axiomatic that “knowledge of good and evil” meant that some things are good and (most importantly) some are evil. Still, it’s always useful to point out unstated assumptions.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Still, it’s always useful to point out unstated assumptions.

            It has been pointed out to me that I am, often, guilty of assuming others already see the logic which I am following, thus I skip over large parts of a discussion. I will try not to do this so often, but will no doubt continue to sin in future.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              I suspect that’s human nature; we all know what we meant, and can easily forget that others don’t. Of course, my comment was simply an observation about Deana’s former pastor.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Of course, my comment was simply an observation about Deana’s former pastor.

                Didn’t take it otherwise.

  7. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    Pete Chadwell has stated what I have long considered the logical and theologically correct answer:

    The idea here is to show that either God is under the authority of something independent of Him after all (moral laws) or that God has arbitrarily chosen what actions are moral or immoral and He could have chosen differently.

    As with any good false dilemma, a third option is conveniently overlooked: God’s moral laws are neither independent of Himself nor arbitrary. Rather, they are a reflection of His attributes. That is, in His moral laws He reveals to us His character. —Pete Chadwell

    Obviously ex post facto is not a Biblical or even a theological term. However, it was my quick shorthand way of expressing the fact that, in the Bible, God always (to my knowledge) gave warning to people before visiting extreme (especially death) punishments upon them. My argument is simply that God acted with Godly justice, in not imposing the death penalty on Cain, for what was later defined, by Him, as “murder” in the 10 Commandments and it’s detailed expositions.

    I certainly expect the “tires to be kicked” so to speak on my thesis, due in part to the fact that I have never previously read or hear anyone use it before. I can’t “blame” my thesis on anyone else. It seems to me to fit the biblically recorded happenings, and it seems to fit the biblical account of God providing the Hebrews with more than just the 10 Commandments—in my view, He provide them with a just-system of legality.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      As with any good false dilemma, a third option is conveniently overlooked: God’s moral laws are neither independent of Himself nor arbitrary. Rather, they are a reflection of His attributes. That is, in His moral laws He reveals to us His character. —Pete Chadwell

      That could indeed be the way things are, Jerry. We certainly see Obama’s laws being a reflection of his attributes.

  8. Timothy Lane says:

    I read these symposia one page at a time, so here are some comments on page 3. To John Kirke, I would point out that liberals seem to have a hatred of Innocence, as can be seen in their desire to sexualize small children. It thus is no surprise that people with their inverted morality would see nothing wrong with killing the innocent even as they obamanate killing (or even punishing) the guilty (except those guilty of political correctness, of course).

    And to Brad, I would point out that the notion that their total materialism makes it hard to explain why various crimes are actually wrong is actually quite compatible with liberal moral inversion. Deep down, they really don’t think such crimes are wrong. Only political opposition to them is truly wrong.

  9. Timothy Lane says:

    Regarding the “Nuremberg defense”, the Allies rejected this out of hand, but there is also a good case to be made against it. Jonah Goldhagen argued in Hitler’s Willing Executioners that no one really was forced to violate his own moral convictions. Failure to murder on command might be harmful to one’s ambition, but generally did not put one at risk of punishment. One might note The Enigma of General Blaskowitz, which points out that a general who repeatedly objected to SS atrocities in Poland (where Blaskowitz was the Army’s occupation commander) wasn’t punished for his deed, and in fact continued to be employed (intermittently) to the end of the war (surrendered Army Group H on May 5, 1945).

  10. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    At least a couple of the pieces in this seminar mention that premeditation is one of the characteristics which makes for murder. It seems to me that one can murder another on the spur of the moment if one is angry enough or one sees another person as an impediment to one’s immediate goals. So as far as I can see, premeditation need not come into it.

    I would appreciate an explanation of how the authors came to their conclusions.

    I am, of course, talking about the Biblical definition, not that of today’s criminal system.

    • GHG says:

      Premeditation connotes a longer time than spur of the moment so maybe a better word would be willful – as opposed to accidental. I realize our laws draw a distinction between a planned murder and one that is committed in the heat of a moment, but I’m not sure God holds with that thinking because whether it’s planned or spontaneous – it’s willful.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Thanks, I like your choice of words. I think it is more appropriate and your reasoning is clear.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        A book on forensic psychology once explained the basic legal categories of murder. Premeditated murder is first degree murder, deliberate but unpremeditated murder is second degree murder (Dan White — one of the cases he discussed — was an example of this), accidental death resulting from a deliberate violent act is third degree murder aka first degree (voluntary) manslaughter, and accidental death resulting from no violent act is fourth degree murder or second degree (involuntary) manslaughter.

    • Kung fu — The issue of premeditation is interesting in that I see two kinds of malice aforethought. I speak here morally, not legally. If I skulk around and figure out how to poison Great Aunt Martha so I can inherit her money I’m guilty of murder by the normal definition, but it is also “premeditated” if Martha had always treated me badly so I grew up hating her. and that hate built up until one day she said one last cruel thing and I just snapped and hit her over the head with a frying pan. If we follow Christ’s internal definition of murder, that too was “premeditated.”

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        This sounds reasonable to me. Especially in light of the verses mentioning the fact that one sins in one’s heart, not just by one’s actions.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Deana,

        The issue of premeditation is interesting in that I see two kinds of malice aforethought

        I really like your take on “premeditation.” It is not just a matter of short-term planning, it can just as logically and biblically be a matter of long-term brooding.

        In fact, long-term build-up of resentment may account for more premeditated murders than short-term stuff.

    • Jerry Richardson says:

      Kung Fu Zu,

      At least a couple of the pieces in this seminar mention that premeditation is one of the characteristics which makes for murder.
      —-
      I would appreciate an explanation of how the authors came to their conclusions.

      I can only speak for myself, but I formed my conclusion from the following verse which is a follow-up explication on the 10 commandments. While there are certainly other categories of murder today, as Timothy pointed out, I think premeditated murder was the one that was being highlighted with the 6th Commandment. At any rate it certainly seems premeditated when any “man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities” Sounds all very planned-out to me.

      That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee. But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities: Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee. —Deuteronomy 19:10-13 KJV

  11. GHG says:

    Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” declares the Lord.

    We are given commandments and we are given that which we need to know. Murder is not allowed. Killing in certain situations is allowed. If that seems inconsistent then we simply do not understand His ways.

    It should also be pointed out that Jesus changed the paradigm. Jesus came to love his enemies, not kill them.

  12. Pst4usa says:

    OK Pete, I’ll bite, what does “panspiculous” mean? And as before, it is an honor to splash my crayons next to the fine quills used by the other authors.

  13. Jerry Richardson says:

    Kung Fu Zu,

    What is the point of “free will”, if a person does not have the inherent knowledge of right and wrong?

    Exactly. And the fact that temptation was placed before Adam and Eve begs the question of whether they knew of right and wrong before they partook in the fruit as they had been instructed not to.

    If the answer to this is they did not, and they had not eaten the apple, then Jerry’s thesis might be more compelling. But as they did eat it, they, and by implication, their offspring had such knowledge. Thus it makes little sense to require a prohibition against murder to be written down as Cain and all of later humanity carries a sense of the moral law.
    —Kung Fu Zu

    Your assumption is that Adam and Eve knew “right and wrong” before they partook of the fruit.

    We do know from the scriptural account that Adam and Eve did not possess the “knowledge of good and evil.” And we know that their psychological outlook was changed once they disobeyed God and acquired that knowledge:

    Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
    —Genesis 3:7 NASB

    We also know that there was only one proscription from God, one “law” in the Garden of Eden. There was one thing that God proscribed for Adam and Eve. This is the first illustration of God’s being very specific about a “law” that was not to be violated; and it is the first illustration of His being very specific concerning what the penalty for the violation of that “law” would be: Death (spiritually and eventually physically).

    The fact that Adam and Eve knew that one specific action was forbidden, therefore wrong, certainly does not mean that they had knowledge of “good and evil.” They apparently did not, for they had to eat of the forbidden fruit to acquire that knowledge according to the biblical account.

    Nowhere in scripture are we told exactly what is meant by the phrase knowledge of good and evil. Here is my assumption as to what it means:

    I believe that the concept of the knowledge of good and evil refers to the concept of our understanding ourselves as separate personalities from God (“their eyes were opened”).

    Prior to their disobedience to God, scripture portrays a close identity-association that Adam and Eve had with God. They walked and talked together. Their disobedience severed that identity-association and they realized the standalone isolation of their selves from God.

    But why would this loss of identity-association be described as good and evil? The Bible clearly teaches that the highest good a human being can achieve is to be in loving-togetherness with God (heaven), and that the worst evil is separation from God (hell).

    Hence, I do not believe that the biblical concept of “good and evil” is the same or even similar to the classical concept of “right and wrong.”

    So what is the concept of “right and wrong”?

    Most human beings (excepting severe psychopaths or sociopaths) have a conscience (Def: Motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person’s thoughts and actions). Conscience is classically considered to be the human “faculty” that provides us with an innate knowledge of “right and wrong.”

    But what instills that knowledge? This is a question that Sigmund Freud tried to address with his notion of Superego (from his hypothesized triad of Id, Ego, and Superego). Freud’s superego is (Def: (psychoanalysis) that part of the unconscious mind that acts as a conscience).

    But what instills the knowledge, where does it come from?

    According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the superego is the component of personality composed of our internalized ideals that we have acquired from our parents and from society. The superego works to suppress the urges of the id and tries to make the ego behave morally, rather than realistically.

    Superego

    Conclusion: Adam and Eve had no parents, and presumably they also had no society to instill the principles of “right and wrong” that we call conscience. God was the instiller of any principals of “right and wrong”; and in the Garden of Eden He, according to scripture, instilled only one concept of “right and wrong”:

    The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” —Genesis 2:16-17 NASB

    I believe that the further development of a proper sense of “right and wrong” in human beings was a maturation process for the newly isolated-from-God human beings. And from the incident a few years later, we have no biblical evidence that Cain had a well-developed sense of “right and wrong.”

    So, I reject your assumption that “Cain and all of later humanity carries a sense of the moral law”; if “moral law” for Cain means a well-developed sense of “right and wrong.”

    I believe that a proper sense of “right and wrong” is still a maturation process that requires the instillation of knowledge of “right and wrong” via correct and loving parenting.

    Certainly today, I think that even a cursory examination of what goes on in modern society would justifiably lead a person to conclude that we have many people who do not possess a well-developed sense of “right and wrong.” Do not, in your words, “carry a sense of the moral law.”

    Look at the behavior of the young blacks in Ferguson, Missouri. What do we conclude is missing? I conclude that a well-developed sense of “right and wrong” is missing. And why do I think that well-developed sense of “right and wrong” is missing? Many young blacks have not been taught a proper sense of “right and wrong” due in no-small-part to the absence of fathers in so many black homes.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Jerry, I appreciate your further explanation and your reasoning now does make better sense.

      It’s a funny image one gets of Adam and Eve before The Fall. They seem to be not just innocent but dumb…sort of like Obama voters. They are clueless, utterly dependent upon someone else, and in a state of ignorant bliss. It would seem that God put that apple purposefully well within reach on The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Some separation was required apparently if we were to become beings in our own right. (And how many people would instantly feel compelled to cover their multitudinous tattoos with a fig leaf if they took even a small bite of that apple?)

      Still, regarding the need to reason out why Cain got only banishment and his curse (and not a sentence of death) would seem to be unnecessary. And here I depend for my reasoning not on that ubiquitous source of wisdom, Star Trek, but another worthy source: Sherlock Holmes.

      In many of the Holmes stories, the great detective is several steps in front of Scotland Yard. He’s got the crime solved, and the particulars learned, long before Inspector Lestrade can figure things out. And more than once this has been a cause for Holmes to play judge, jury, and executioner (or pardoner). He has (in a particularly good story such as The Blue Carbuncle which can be watched online) let the perpetrator off, realizing (at least according to his own judgment) that it would serve no good purpose to put a particular man in jail.

      That is to say, in popular parlance, that Holmes has more than once “played God.” And it’s an apt turn of phrase, for if anyone should be allowed to play God it is God. And that would mean applying whatever penalty for Cain’s transgressions that the Chief Lawgiver decided to give. After all, if the standard is not having the laws drawn up beforehand then Cain should have gotten off completely scot-free on a legal technicality, receiving no curse at all.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Brad,

        And it’s an apt turn of phrase, for if anyone should be allowed to play God it is God. And that would mean applying whatever penalty for Cain’s transgressions that the Chief Lawgiver decided to give. After all, if the standard is not having the laws drawn up beforehand then Cain should have gotten off completely scot-free on a legal technicality, receiving no curse at all.

        I think this is actually the best and simplest argument to make against my thesis. However I will offer, as you would expect, a little push-back.

        I think that using the justification that “if anyone should be allowed to play God it is God. And that would mean applying whatever penalty…the Chief Lawgive decided to give”;
        Is logically equivalent to the second horn of Pete’s false dilemma: “that God has arbitrarily chosen what actions are moral or immoral and He could have chosen differently.”

        It is basically impossible biblically, I think, to totally rule this out as a possibility but I reject it on three philosophical grounds: 1) God does not act abritrarily, 2) God’s actions are just, and 3) God actions are reasonable (though we might not know the reason). Of all the actions that smack of injustice in most people’s minds it is arbitrariness—just doing something, but having no real reason.

        Of course, what I’m attempting to do is to establish a possible reason or reason(s) for why God acted in the way that He did.

        I certainly cannot say that biblically the penalty that Cain received was “drawn up” or written. But there was precedence in the bible for the punishment Cain received.

        ADAM’S PUNISHMENT (A curse relative to the ground, and exile)

        And to Adam He said…the ground is under a curse because of you; in sorrow and toil shall you eat [of the fruits] of it all the days of your life. —Genesis 3:17 AMP

        So [God] drove out the man;… —Genesis 3:24 AMP

        CAIN’S PUNISHMENT (A curse relative to the ground, and exile)

        And now you [Cain] are cursed by reason of the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s [shed] blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth [in perpetual exile, a degraded outcast]. —Genesis 4:11-12 AMP

        CAIN’S PROTECTION

        And the Lord said to him, Therefore, if anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark or sign upon Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. —Genesis 4:15 AMP

        So to make the plot even more interesting, God not only did not dish out a death penalty to Cain, he insured that no one else would kill him. So for whatever reason one might wish to posit, God did not intend for Cain to be killed.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Is logically equivalent to the second horn of Pete’s false dilemma: “that God has arbitrarily chosen what actions are moral or immoral and He could have chosen differently.”

          It is basically impossible biblically, I think, to totally rule this out as a possibility but I reject it on three philosophical grounds: 1) God does not act abritrarily, 2) God’s actions are just, and 3) God actions are reasonable (though we might not know the reason).

          You’ve just contracted God to an algorithm, not an intentional agency.

          God did not intend for Cain to be killed.

          From the written record given, that is obviously so. But he could have intended otherwise. If he had no choice in the matter, then god, again, becomes little more than an idealization or algorithm. That’s not a God that anyone can have a relationship with. That’s not a person.

          • Jerry Richardson says:

            Brad,

            From the written record given, that is obviously so. But he could have intended otherwise. If he had no choice in the matter, then god, again, becomes little more than an idealization or algorithm. That’s not a God that anyone can have a relationship with. That’s not a person.

            Of course God could have intended otherwise. That’s the nature of free will. But he didn’t intend otherwise. Of course God had a choice. But the choice He made, I argue, was not arbitrary. The choice was based upon something other than whim or chance. Pete and I both argue that the principles that God uses are not some standards that exists separate from the character of God.

            Our argument is that god makes His completely free-will choices based upon his own nature. There is nothing external to God driving his choices. And His choices are not arbitrary. God doesn’t just flip a coin or go eney-meny-miny-mo. His choices are based upon his own innate character and judgment.

            The fact that God chooses something does not make it good. And God does not make his choices based upon some external standard of goodness. God is goodness; He is the standard.

            Here’s an analogy:

            Let us imagine that I’m a lost-treasure genie. “I know the exact location of every treasure that has ever been lost anywhere in the world throughout history. Nobody told me; I know because I am a lost-treasure genie.”

            One day, a treasure-hunting supplicant visits me in my isolated mountain hut and says, “I am looking for a fabulously large, lost treasure that is somewhere in the Panamanian jungle; the treasure consist of 7 large barrels of uncut diamonds; my problem is, I don’t know exactly where, can you help me”? “If you help me, I promise, I will be forever grateful and I vow that I will never, ever laugh and make fun of the story of Aladdin again.

            I ask for a map of the Panamanian jungle and after it is spread-out on a table, I immediately put my finger on a specific location, and say, “There is your treasure.”

            My supplicant, with a rather skeptical look on his face says, “Do you expect me to believe that the treasure is there just because you say that it is”?

            “No,” I say, “My “saying” the treasure is there does not make it so; the treasure is there, because that is where it is; the knowledge of its whereabouts, of reality, is part of my genie memory; so when I tell you that the treasure is there, I am simply sharing a part of myself.”

            “The supplicant thanked me and flew to Panama, hired a guide, rented some pack-mules, trekked into the jungle and recovered the diamonds; it has been reported that he has never again ridiculed the story of Aladdin.”

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              But the choice He made, I argue, was not arbitrary. The choice was based upon something other than whim or chance.

              I don’t believe I ever said that God’s choice of punishment for Cain was arbitrary. I think my disagreement was more with your characterization of it.

              The fact that God chooses something does not make it good. And God does not make his choices based upon some external standard of goodness. God is goodness; He is the standard.

              This is interesting, Jerry, but it’s pure speculation. It might even be justified speculation. But I have little to offer other than to say, Who knows? Who knows what it is like to have the nature of a self-existing being? Most of us can’t figure out what is going on in the minds of our wives or girlfriends, let alone God Almighty.

              How would I, or anyone, know the parameters of God’s choices?

              • Jerry Richardson says:

                Brad,

                This is interesting, Jerry, but it’s pure speculation. It might even be justified speculation. But I have little to offer other than to say, Who knows? Who knows what it is like to have the nature of a self-existing being? Most of us can’t figure out what is going on in the minds of our wives or girlfriends, let alone God Almighty.

                How would I, or anyone, know the parameters of God’s choices?

                Brad, I certainly don’t want you are anyone to think that I believe that I am certain about a lot of what goes on in God’s mind. In these discussions, I am speculating, based upon scripture and reason. And I am humble enough to be corrected.

                But fortunately, we do know some things, because God has chosen to reveal them to us in the Bible. That is an important difference in our understand of what God thinks, and our understanding of what our wives or girlfriends think—we don’t have a written book of their revealed thought.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Note David Rohl’s view that Adam and Eve were the first people to develop a vision of God (presumably as distinct from the sort of shamanistic nature-worship common in primitive societies). This would be compatible with the nature of the Fall. But on that basis, some sort of “right and wrong” probably already existed. Looking at the RSV account (that being the Bible I have handy to my laptop), I see that God told Cain that his sacrifice hadn’t been accepted because of his own failings, and warned him against sin.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        One of the odd things about the entire story of Cain and Abel is that God seemed to provoke Cain:

        Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

        Even we mere humans know enough to tell Little Johnny that his crappy Crayon drawing of a whale is one of the nicest things we’ve ever seen, and then promptly attach it with magnets to a featured position on the refrigerator.

        Perhaps this story is a good lesson in the dangers of trying to strive for absolute “fairness.” In that sense, it does make sense. But I wonder if there are important attributes of that story that time did not preserve.

        Additional. That story of God rejecting Cain’s offering could be seen as a very powerful morality tale regarding today’s preeminence of “hurt feelings.” Having “hurt feelings” no more justifies murder than it justifies firing somebody because some hair-trigger feminazi doesn’t like that you said the word “chairman” instead of “chairperson” — or perhaps driving a bakery out of business because it prefers not to acknowledge the clear absurdity of “gay marriage.”

        On second thought, maybe God isn’t so stupid. 😉

        • Brad — it has long been my understanding that Cain’s failure to present to God the correct sacrifice is evidence that Cain had rejected God’s plan for salvation. When A & E ate the fruit God made them clothes from animal skins — no doubt still bloody — to symbolize the eventual death of Christ on the cross as atonement for their sin. Keep in mind here that these animals had been friends of A & E, had been pets. When Cain presents, instead of animal sacrifices, the fruits of his own labor he was saying to God, “Never mind this little salvation thing you’ve got going here. I’ll handle this myself.” God had to reject this offering because the offering was a rejection of God’s plan. We see this same theme in the testing of Abraham, in the Mosaic Law with all the animal sacrifices in the Tabernacle, in the crucifixion. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.”(Hebrews 9:22)

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Maybe so, Deana. But it doesn’t seem to be spelled out very unambiguously. Going strictly by the text, God seemed to be provoking Cain.

            But perhaps it is all caught up in the Jewish ritualistic fixation on blood sacrifices. Perhaps it needs to be read in that context. Maybe this aspect would have been perfectly plain to a Jew (or is the better word “Hebrew”?): “What, he brought just nuts and berries instead of a lamb chop? The ingrate.”

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              There is certainly nothing in the verses immediately before or after which would give an explanation why Abel’s and not Cain’s sacrifice was pleasing to God.

              As with so much of the Bible, it appears the reason is, “because that’s the way God wanted it.” And we are then told that the ways of God can be inscrutable. Fair enough, but not very enlightening, thus leaving a lot of room for error.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Cain brought “fruits of the soil.” Maybe God doesn’t like Vegans. Okay…I can relate 😀

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I notice the only explanation (such as it was) is from Genesis 4:7, in which God tells Cain, “If you do well. will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Quotes from the RSV.)

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Your assumption is that Adam and Eve knew “right and wrong” before they partook of the fruit.

      I am not assuming anything. I am trying to logically figure out what was happening.

      I wonder how their disobedience to God can be characterized?

      From Genesis 2 vers. 2 and 3, Eve makes clear God has forbidden her and Adam from eating or even touching the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden.

      Since she had this knowledge, i.e. the knowledge that it is forbidden, it would appear to me that there was some level of cognizance of right and wrong. Eve knew she was disobeying God, yet she went ahead and ate the fruit.

      Verse 4 “Of course you will not die,” said the serpent; 5 “for God knows that , as soon as you eat it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God himself, knowing both good and evil.” 6 “The woman looked at the tree: the fruit would be good to eat; it was pleasing to the eye and desirable for the knowledge it could give.”

      This shows she was vain or foolish enough to believe the serpent who told her eating the fruit would make her like God. This alone indicates her knowledge that God was greater than she and that she was not satisfied with this. Is the rot not already there?

      (As an aside, this scene foreshadows modern marketing techniques.)

      Eve then gave the fruit to Adam who also ate it and,

      Verse 7 ” Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they stitched fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

      I believe this first verse after their eating the fruit indicates what was meant by the knowledge of good and evil. It deals with the sexuality of Adam and Eve. Before they ate the fruit they would not die. Afterwards they would. Could it be that before they partook of the fruit that sexuality and reproduction were not necessary as they were essentially immortal. But after willful disobedience to God, they forfeited this gift and in order to maintain the human race they were forced to mate. They also damned countless others to suffer (through existence and then death) due to their sin.

      Perhaps this is one of the reasons sexual immorality is given such emphasis in all religions, but particularly in the Judeo-Christian ethic..

      So could it be that the knowledge of good and evil is the specific knowledge life and death?

      I used the “Revised English Bible” 1989 version published by the Oxford University Press, for my quotes.

      I will try to get to other points in your blog later.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Since she had this knowledge, i.e. the knowledge that it is forbidden, it would appear to me that there was some level of cognizance of right and wrong. Eve knew she was disobeying God, yet she went ahead and ate the fruit.

        Good point…as well as your other point, Mr. Kung, about Eve’s apparent desire to be as a God. And, yeah, now that I think of it, much of marketing is based upon transcending our mere selves and being a sex god, a beauty god, or whatever.

        Could it be that before they partook of the fruit that sexuality and reproduction were not necessary as they were essentially immortal.

        That aspect of the story suggests we’re dealing with metaphor, not fact. In fact, it’s another aspect that points out once again that there’s not a heck of a lot of detail in this story…so we’re sort of compelled to read into it. And we do so at our peril.

        Clearly they must have had sexual organs if they stitched fig leaves for them and apparently covered them. I guess you can understand the mindset of nudists whose romantic notion is that it is good, healthy, and normal not to be ashamed at all of our bodies. But couldn’t there be a distinction between “not being ashamed of urinating” and the common-sense desire (all things being equal) to do so in private? It would seem the same would apply to nudity as well. Nudists always impressed me as being a little sicko, or at least stuck in infancy.

        As for Adam and Even and what the sudden onset of shame would mean literally, who the heck knows? We’re talking more about magical properties that somehow descended upon them rather than an affected psychology. Again, the story seems metaphorical. (And maybe a sign that nudists are perhaps onto something.)

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          That aspect of the story suggests we’re dealing with metaphor

          I take the whole story to be a metaphor and a mixed one at that. Clearly, many different interpretations of the story have been read into it, but I tried to stay with the actual words and theme. Therefore, I find my “interpretation” a plausible metaphor.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Last night I read the free Kindle sample of the John Lennox book, Seven Days that Divide the World. In it he mentions the common observation of why the Bible doesn’t give more detailed info (such as mentioning dinosaurs). Yes, I have a Lennox fixation. I gladly admit it.

            Lennox’s answer, in short, is that the Bible is a text meant to be read many ways. It’s to be read as history, as poetry, as metaphor, etc. One needs to (somehow) read it in the context that various parts were meant.

            Also, he mentions that sections such as Genesis are meant to explain things to a people of 2000 years ago who, by and large, couldn’t have understood more difficult concepts. And yet he says those more difficult concepts are woven in there for those who can.

            If this is true then clearly even the sections that are meant to be taken as literal are open to interpretation, by design.

            I found your interpretation to be reasonable. But none of those details are spelled out. I think at best we can say that it is supposed that mankind could have stayed in a state of peaceful union with God if not for sin.

            But surely by the law of proportionality, if nothing else, the sin of stealing an apple should not condemn the rest of mankind, so I certainly take it as a metaphor: Human nature is prone to messing up anything that is decent, holy, peaceful, loving, etc. As someone (you?) mentioned in another thread, some humans just seem to have a need to crap on goodness.

            So heaven on earth is not an option. And personally I think this is by design, not because of an Original Sin. If Jerry is right that God did not punish Cain more harshly for murder because Cain was either not aware of any law against murder or not capable of making right-and-wrong decisions, then surely God would not punish billions of people with death, pain, and suffering because of one apple.

            So, yeah, I think we’re talking metaphor. But how to interpret? I do not believe that man is capable of being perfect on this earth. The apple is a stand-in for our inevitable eff-ups. We’re just not wired for utopia. Suffering and all sorts of horrible stuff just come with being in the world. That is man’s situation.

            Now, how he deals with it can then be holy or evil (and, quite often, just mediocre or apathetic, as are the vast majority). Faith says that I will hope for better things to come, and participate in what Good I can in the here-and-now, not because things are always so peachy-keen, but despite this fact. And I will do so not simply to get my ticket punched to heaven but because how one exists matters. There is an aesthetic quality to it. Would one rather be living truth, beauty, and goodness or be a Democrat?

        • Jerry Richardson says:

          Brad,

          As for Adam and Even [Eve] and what the sudden onset of shame would mean literally, who the heck knows? We’re talking more about magical properties that somehow descended upon them rather than an affected psychology. Again, the story seems metaphorical. (And maybe a sign that nudists are perhaps onto something.)

          The “sudden onset of shame” is, I would claim, a biblical reality and a psychological reality, and not “magical properties that somehow descended upon them.” To throw some light on this thought, the following is an annotated (by me) quote of excepts from comments out of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Genesis 3:1-24).

          The first result of sin is shame. The form in which the knowledge of good and evil comes to us is the knowing we are naked, the consciousness that we are stripped of all that made us walk unabashed before God and men.

          I disagree with the initial sentence in the above quote. I personally believe that the first result of sin is guilt, and that a sense of shame follows a sense of guilt. Here’s a quote that captures what I believe:

          Guilt: A painful feeling “accompanying self-judgment or knowledge that one has transgressed values in some way important to the self.” (Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, p.488)

          Shame: “A painful feeling of being exposed, uncovered, unprotected, vulnerable,” which derives etymologically from words which mean “to cover.” (Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, p.1160.)

          More simply still: Guilt is what we feel when we believe we have done something wrong. Shame is what we feel when we believe we are something wrong. When a person feels guilty, he thinks of himself as having been bad.

          Understandably, these two emotions are closely linked and confused since they often appear in tandem. Adam and Eve felt guilt at having transgressed God’s command. Their guilt feelings led to feelings of shame and the behavior of hiding because they felt unworthy of relationship with God.

          Guilt and Shame

          As to your comment about metaphorical use, I believe that the word “naked” is used in two different senses in the following verses:

          Then the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves apronlike girdles. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you? He said, I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself. —Genesis 3:7-10 AMP

          In Genesis 3:7 after “eyes…were opened…they were naked” the word “naked” seems obviously to refer to physical nakedness. But in Genesis 3:10 after “I was afraid because I was naked” does not seems logically to refer to physical nakedness because Adam and Eve had already covered their physical nakedness with fig-leaves.

          I think that metaphorical nakedness is well described by the quote above as a result of shame: “A painful feeling of being exposed, uncovered, unprotected, vulnerable,” which derives etymologically from words which mean “to cover.”

          …the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened and they knew that they were naked. Self-reflection begins, and the first movement of conscience produces shame.

          Again, I think that the reason shame appeared was because there was first a deep feeling of guilt.

          Had they resisted temptation, conscience would have been born, but not in self-condemnation.

          This quote presents a very intriguing thought. There has been much speculation in various writing about what Adam and Eve would have become if they had resisted temptation. This is a very short assertion of what might have been. In other words the idea is that the acceptance or the resistance of the temptation would have resulted in the origination of human conscience (sense of right and wrong); But without the debilitation sense of guilt and shame. Heavy thought.

          Like children they had hitherto been conscious only of what was external to themselves, but now their consciousness of a power to choose good and evil is awakened and its first exercise is accompanied with shame…Adam’s clothing himself and hiding himself were the helpless attempts of a guilty conscience to evade the judgment of truth.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Jerry, it just seems to me that the onset of shame needn’t go straight to the reproductive organs. It wasn’t the reproductive organs, after all, that picked the apple off the tree or disobeyed god. This wasn’t a sexual issue. Bringing those organs into the picture as the primary expression of shame seemed strange. It seemed like it was a metaphor cherry-picked (apple-picked) to fit someone else’s preexisting mindset.

            • Jerry Richardson says:

              Brad,

              Jerry, it just seems to me that the onset of shame needn’t go straight to the reproductive organs.

              I need a bit of help understanding your comment here. I have not mentioned anywhere that I consider the shame of Adam and Eve having anything to do with sex. Are you responding to my comments or to someone elses?

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Kung Fu Zu,

        I wonder how their disobedience to God can be characterized?

        From Genesis 2 vers. 2 and 3, Eve makes clear God has forbidden her and Adam from eating or even touching the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden.

        God’s earlier instructions concerning the tree do not make any mention of not touching the tree, only of not eating from it:

        And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, 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. —Genesis 2:15-17 KJV

        I argue that Eve added to God’s word. I do not believe God told them not to “touch.” God said “thou shalt not eat”; but He had put them into the garden to “dress it and keep it” which of course means they had to “touch.” God’s simple command was “don’t eat.”

        Why is this perhaps an important point?

        I think it indicates the likelihood of resentment in Eve’s mind. How often do people add-to the statements of others when they resent what they have said? Very often.

        I think it was this resentment that Satan quickly picked-up on. Satan’s temptation did not feed upon a vacuum; there was a target; and I think the target was a notion in Eve’s mind that God was being too controlling: “We can’t even touch the damn tree.” [Jerry’s Translation]

        As to the question then of “how their disobedience to God can be characterized”?

        I think that their disobedience was:

        1) Willful. Eve wanted to disobey. Can you really be gullible without your cooperation?

        2) Weak. Adam said nothing, consented then scapegoated his wife—Wussy-man.

        3) Facilitated through deceit. Satan’s deceit is highlighted, but I believed it started with Eve’s self-deceit: God did not say “don’t touch.”

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I argue that Eve added to God’s word.

          Jerry, all I can say regarding your posting is as follows.

          In Genesis 3:3 Eve states God told them not to touch the tree. She didn’t say, “I think God doesn’t want us to touch it” or “I think we will die if we touch it”. She said “God has forbidden…”

          My first thought is “who was there, Eve or Jerry?”

          My next thought is that “there is no indication that Eve lied. The text does not say, ‘Eve lied by saying…'”

          My next thought is while your points may be interesting or not, in truth, you are shaping the Bible to fit your points, not your points to fit the Bible.

          My final thought is that there are verses in the Bible which instruct people neither to add nor subtract from it.

          One often encounters differences in the interpretation of words and the meanings of various passages in the Bible.

          But I believe you are the first person I have ever come across who has had the bravery to contend he knew what really happened at any given point in the Bible despite the actual text.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Mr. Kung, thanks for that clarification. I think we have officially descended into the territory of “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” Like you (I assume), it is normal and healthy to engage in interpretations of text, Biblical or otherwise. But making up the text ranges well beyond that.

            I think a discussion of the nature of good and evil, of just punishments, and of the development of moral intelligence, etc., are interesting and worthy subjects. But I fear we’ve already laid more fruitological (a technical word) baggage upon the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil than its branches can bear.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              If we add your fruitological baggage to my mixological magic and we may end up with a refreshing drink over which we can ponder the wonders of the universe. Or as the Germans say, “Gott und die Welt.”

          • Jerry Richardson says:

            Kung Fu Zu,

            One often encounters differences in the interpretation of words and the meanings of various passages in the Bible.

            But I believe you are the first person I have ever come across who has had the bravery to contend he knew what really happened at any given point in the Bible despite the actual text.

            In the book of Genesis we have a Narrator who speaks and we have characters who speak. For example, in the scripture in which we are discussing the interpretation, Genesis 3:1-24, the Narrator states in verse 3:1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.”

            That is not God speaking, that is not Eve or Adam speaking, that is the Narrator speaking.

            One of my takes on interpretation of scripture is that you have to carefully read what is said, and what is not said.

            As to your charge that I contend that I know what really happened at any given point
            “despite the actual text”; I believe that I am arguing an interpretation that is based upon the “actual text” that exists on both sides of a Narrator’s report of conversations: God’s statements and Eve’s statements.

            The narrator gave no report of God mentioning not to “touch” the tree in question.

            Now I ask, did the Narrator, who presumably had all the facts, simply leave that out; or was he accurately reporting what God said? If he was accurately reporting what God said; which is my interpretation, then his reporting of what Eve said demonstrates that she added something.

            I am working with the same literal, textual facts that you have: God, according to the Narrator, didn’t say something, and Eve, according to the Narrator, said that He did.

            Your interpretation is that God did say “don’t touch” because Eve said that he did. My interpretation is that God didn’t say “don’t touch” because the narrator didn’t say that he said it. Please remember, the Narrator has complete control of the text.

            Could my interpretation be wrong? Of course. Despite what you seem to be suggesting, I have no haughty notions of “knowing what happened.”

            Could your interpretation be wrong? I think so. But there is a difference here: I have not accused you of contending that you know exactly what happened. Could you please grant me the same grace?

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Could your interpretation be wrong? I think so. But there is a difference here: I have not accused you of contending that you know exactly what happened. Could you please grant me the same grace?

              I am happy to admit that my interpretation could be wrong. Clearly there are other possible interpretations as there have been many down the years.

              But that does not mean that I should not call you out on what, appears to me, to be a very far-fetched and poorly supported thesis. This is especially the case, when using your standards regarding the veracity of the Bible.

              From your writings it would appear you take the Bible to be the inspired word of God. You write such things as,

              We also know that there was only one proscription from God, one “law” in the Garden of Eden. There was one thing that God proscribed for Adam and Eve.

              and

              But fortunately, we do know some things, because God has chosen to reveal them to us in the Bible. That is an important difference in our understand of what God thinks, and our understanding of what our wives or girlfriends think—we don’t have a written book of their revealed thought.

              Now if the Bible is the inspired word of God, it is meant as a guide of sorts for mankind. It is, among other things, a record and rule book which gives us examples of how to live in harmony with God. Therefore, is it likely that when dealing with the first woman and first sin committed in history that it would get the actual dialogue or context wrong? If Eve were lying about God telling Adam and herself not to touch the tree, would the narrator simply let this first falsehood slip by without remarking on it? I think not. It would be somewhat misleading.

              I believe it is more likely that the narrator quotes Eve saying, “God has forbidden us to eat the fruit of that tree or even to touch it; if we do, we shall die” in order to show the magnitude of the sin she was about to commit. Even though she thought she would die by merely touching the tree, she went ahead and grabbed the fruit with both hands, so to speak. That says a lot about Eve and it is staying true to the Biblical text, which you do not.

              Additionally, I do not find your reasoning convincing as to Adam’s and Eve’s stewardship of the garden. If one has had much to do with trees, one knows that trees pretty much take care of themselves, especially trees in healthy well watered soil. This is even more the case when one does not have to harvest the trees’ fruit.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                This was also a special tree, in effect a supernatural one. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was the only one of its kind, and its fruit provided not so much physical nourishment but mental enrichment (at a heavy price).

              • GHG says:

                I agree with Jerry’s interpretation that Eve added the part about not touching the tree. Most commentaries I’ve read make the point that by adding to God’s command, it actually weakens the person’s ability to follow the command. God’s command was simple and direct – don’t eat from the tree, it didn’t need anything added or He would have added it.

                Some commentary suggests that Eve may have received the command from Adam rather than directly from God because the command was given before Eve was made. Additionally, she calls the tree “the tree in the midst of the garden”, rather than what God called it – “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, so possibly Adam added the “don’t touch” when he told Eve of God’s command.

                Additionally, some Jewish scholars believe the serpent pushed Eve into the tree to prove to her she wouldn’t die from touching it.

                While those commentaries may stretch a little bit, the point is that Biblical scholars believe the text as written – that God simply forbade them to eat of the tree and the part about not touching it was added either by Eve or by Adam when he passed it on to Eve.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                GHG,

                Following the conversation above, you write,

                Some commentary suggests that Eve may have received the command from Adam rather than directly from God because the command was given before Eve was made. Additionally, she calls the tree “the tree in the midst of the garden”, rather than what God called it – “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, so possibly Adam added the “don’t touch” when he told Eve of God’s command.

                I had considered your point, and it is another possibility which I believe could fall within the realm of the plausible, at least in Bible study. And you will note my previous posts say nothing which would discount this interpretation. But that is not the point Jerry was making. He wrote,

                I argue that Eve added to God’s word. I do not believe God told them not to “touch.” God said “thou shalt not eat”; but He had put them into the garden to “dress it and keep it” which of course means they had to “touch.” God’s simple command was “don’t eat.”

                and

                I think it was this resentment that Satan quickly picked-up on. Satan’s temptation did not feed upon a vacuum; there was a target; and I think the target was a notion in Eve’s mind that God was being too controlling: “We can’t even touch the damn tree.” [Jerry’s Translation]

                That is very different from what you suggest, which is why I wished to be perfectly clear how far from any type of orthodox interpretation Jerry’s idea is.

              • GHG says:

                KFZ – I agree with you regarding Jerry’s conjecture that Eve had an attitude or felt God was too controlling. There is nothing in the text to suggest that. It is more likely Eve was tricked, and the text calling the serpent crafty would support that.

                My point was that it was not insignificant that Eve added the “don’t touch” – it wasn’t a throw away line or that the “narrator” didn’t quote the entirety of God’s command by leaving out the “don’t touch”. The significance is that by adding to God’s command/word – people become weaker and are more susceptible to the lies and tricks of Satan.

              • Jerry Richardson says:

                Kung Fu Ku,

                But I believe you are the first person I have ever come across who has had the bravery to contend he knew what really happened at any given point in the Bible despite the actual text. —Kung Fu Ku

                I have no problem with you or anyone disagreeing with any of my interpretations, but It is a false characterization of my written comments that I “contend” that I “knew what really happened at any given point in the Bible despite the actual text. I plainly did not “contend” any such thing.

                Your accusation is false.

                I have never and would never “contend” that I know what “really happened in the Bible despite the actual text.” I am completely dependent upon the text which I accept as the revealed Word of God.

                My interpretation that obviously disagrees with your interpretation begins with the fact—the undeniable fact—that “the actual text” records that God, speaking about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, did not say “do not touch”; and Eve was recorded as saying that God did say “do not touch.”

                My understanding of the meaning of this is the most parsimonious conclusion I think, if I accept the veracity of the text, which I do: Eve added something to what God said.

                As to why she did this, as GHG points out, various commentators have proposed different reasons.

                My suggestion for Eve’s reason, resentment, was clearly a speculation; and in no way do I suggest that it is part of the biblical record. In fact I clearly labeled a tongue-in-cheek part of that speculation as Jerry’s Translation.

              • GHG says:

                Jerry, I’m new to this blog so I don’t know how thick your skin is. I hope the criticism will not dissuade you from submitting future articles but only serve to sharpen your focus and fully engage your obvious passion for these most interesting topics. Keep up the good work. 🙂

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I think that their disobedience was:

          1) Willful. Eve wanted to disobey. Can you really be gullible without your cooperation?

          2) Weak. Adam said nothing, consented then scapegoated his wife—Wussy-man.

          3) Facilitated through deceit. Satan’s deceit is highlighted, but I believed it started with Eve’s self-deceit: God did not say “don’t touch.”

          But was it “wrong” as in “right and wrong”?

          • Jerry Richardson says:

            Kung Fu Zu,

            Yes, of course, I thing the actions of Adam and Eve were wrong. They willfully disobeyed the one command that God gave them. Did Adam and Eve know “right” from “wrong” in this case. Of course. God had told them what was “right” and what was “wrong” and what the penalty would be if they disobeyed.

  14. Pst4usa, “panspiculous” is a totally made up word. And that’s the point… if we can’t know what “justice” is, then when God tells us He is “just,” it’s just like me telling you I’m panspiculous. It doesn’t help you at all.

    It’s true that murder is not allowed, but why isn’t it allowed? It’s not allowed because it dishes out a punishment that someone does not deserve: That is to say, “it’s unjust.”

    God is rational; logic is God’s system of thinking. He’s created a universe that is intelligible. Is He capable of doing things which we cannot fathom? Of course! Ever try speaking a universe into existence from nothing physical?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      It’s not allowed because it dishes out a punishment that someone does not deserve: That is to say, “it’s unjust.”

      But throw “social” in front of the word “justice,” and anything is possible. That’s exactly why Dennis Prager (among others) says that when you put a modifier in front of justice then we are no longer talking about justice.

    • Pst4usa says:

      Well Pete, that was my guess, but my vocabulary is lacking, so, I had to ask. Being afraid to show ignorance is the best road to ignorance itself. We see that all the time in the leftist indoctrinated yutes as Brad would call them. Very well written post by the way.

  15. GHG says:

    Free will – isn’t that what is represented by the command to not eat of the tree of good and evil. It seems up until that time, A&E had not disobeyed or even knew what disobeying was. It seems logical they would not have had a sense of right and wrong because the construct had not yet been elucidated. But once God drew the line in the sand, He effectively gave them free will to obey or disobey and with that must have been an understanding of right (obey) and wrong (disobey).

    Regarding Cain – he knew right from wrong. The Genesis verses state Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil, but that Abel brought fat portions from some of the first born of his flocks. Note “first born”. That signifies that Abel brought his best for God and Cain something less. It is a matter of the heart, not the offering. Abel put God first and Cain did not. When God asked Cain “if you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” that implies (1) that Cain knew what was right/wrong, and (2) Cain did not do what was right. Further evidence that Cain knew killing Abel was wrong was when God asked Cain where his brother was and Cain lied by saying he didn’t know and was he his brother’s keeper.

    Regarding Cain’s punishment being something other then death may represent an archetype in that Cain is representative of a fallen man and that anyone who kills him will be punished 7 times over, with “7” being the Biblical number for completeness. In other words whoever would murder the fallen man would be punished completely – i.e. put to death.

    Just my 2 cents.

  16. Jerry Richardson says:

    I have stated that I know for sure that Adam and Eve had at least the singular knowledge of “right and wrong”; given to them by God, that they were not to partake of the fruit of one specific tree; and if they did the penalty would be death. Other than that, I think any characterization of Adam and Eve’s knowledge of “right and wrong” at that stage of their life is biblically unwarranted. We know from scripture about Adam and Eve’s “knowledge of good and evil,” but we don’t know about their “knowledge of right and wrong”; and I have argued elsewhere that these two types of “knowledge” are not equivalent.

    Adam and Eve’s “sense of right and wrong” may have required a developmental process, much like a child’s, after they were forced out of the Garden of Eden. Cain’s development of a “sense of right and wrong” may have been drastically neglected. After all remember the parents who raised him. Was Cain’s rebelliousness simply a reflection of his own parent’s disobedience toward God? Scripture is silent on this.

    When I use the term “sense of right and wrong” I don’t just mean that a person knows right from wrong and pays no attention to which is which—does what he damn well pleases—I mean that a person actually is inclined to do what is right as opposed to what is wrong. I don’t think this description would fit Cain.

    Nevertheless, my argument concerning the non-death penalty for Cain never hinged upon what knowledge of “right and wrong” Cain had when he killed Able. My argument concerning the non-death penalty for Cain depended upon the biblical fact that God never gave Cain—at least not recorded in the Bible—the law, the Commandant, the warning of a penalty for homicide.

    Did Cain know that what he was doing was wrong? Excellent arguments have been made in the comments that he did. I don’t dispute those arguments. But that is not part of my reasoning for why God did not impose or allow the death penalty for Cain. I have not argued that God, in his decision-making process, used a mentally-incompetent defense for Cain.

    I have argued the case for God being a God of Justice, and whether Cain was mentally competent in our modern sense (capable of knowing right from wrong) or whether he was mentally incompetent in our modern sense; I argue that God’s decision in the matter of a non-death penalty for Cain would have been the same for the very proper reason that no penalty for homicide had been pre-specified by God.

    Read carefully through the Bible and see for yourself that God’s policy is to give warning to people before he takes their life.

    Think about it.

    For humans to impose a death penalty upon a wicked person—and God has laid-out the conditions for this—is to ensure the end of their physical life, but it does not make certain the disposition of their eternal life; only God will decide that. But for God to impose the death penalty upon a wicked person, certainly if he knows they are unsaved and only He really knows, is for God to commit that person to eternal separation from Him—that is the definition of Hell—and I believe that causes God great grief; hence the careful justice of God’s Grace.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      An interesting thought occurs to me from this. Cain may well have seen nothing wrong with killing Abel out of jealousy; but his behavior clearly shows that he knew God considered it wrong. This in fact reflects the famous formula for determining legal sanity (the McNaghten formulation, which I actually saw mentioned once on an old Perry Mason show): Did the perpetrator know what he was doing, and did he know that it was wrong? (Note that this makes hash of the concept of “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”)

    • GHG says:

      I understand the distinction you’re making between good/evil and right/wrong but I think it depends on the definition of evil – what is evil? I think the tendency is to think of evil in terms of the big stuff or people who consistently do evil acts, but I think an argument can be made that any willful act against God’s will is evil and in that case the distinction between good/evil and right/wrong disappears.

      I think your reasoning that a death sentence was not imposed due to the law had not been given yet makes sense.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        GHG

        I understand the distinction you’re making between good/evil and right/wrong but I think it depends on the definition of evil – what is evil? I think the tendency is to think of evil in terms of the big stuff or people who consistently do evil acts, but I think an argument can be made that any willful act against God’s will is evil and in that case the distinction between good/evil and right/wrong disappears.

        I don’t think I disagree with you when considering the individual terms “good”, “evil”, “right”, “wrong” and analyzing/comparing them.

        But my thoughts began with trying to understand a biblical phrase: “knowledge of good and evil” and the representative extract “good and evil.” It was the meaning of a phrase in context as opposed to the meaning of individual terms that I was after.

        Accordingly:

        I consider the biblical phrase “good and evil” to refer to the concept of fellowship (good) or separation (evil) of humanity from God. I consider the concepts of “right” and “wrong” to be judgmental evaluations we place on human moral actions.

        To me the biblical concept of “good and evil” refers to a relationship between a person and God. Whereas to me the terms “right and wrong” refer to the evaluation criteria of an enumerable number of separate moral acts.

        Here is the way I stated this in an earlier comment:
        ==============================================
        Nowhere in scripture are we told exactly what is meant by the phrase knowledge of good and evil. Here is my assumption as to what it means:

        I believe that the concept of the knowledge of good and evil refers to the concept of our understanding ourselves as separate personalities from God (“their eyes were opened”).

        Prior to their disobedience to God, scripture portrays a close identity-association that Adam and Eve had with God. They walked and talked together. Their disobedience severed that identity-association and they realized the standalone isolation of their selves from God.

        But why would this loss of identity-association be described as good and evil? The Bible clearly teaches that the highest good a human being can achieve is to be in loving-togetherness with God (heaven), and that the worst evil is separation from God (hell).

        Hence, I do not believe that the biblical concept of “good and evil” is the same or even similar to the classical concept of “right and wrong.”
        ==============================================

        • GHG says:

          When I posted “I understand the distinction you’re making …”, I now must say that I hadn’t grasped the gist of it. So with caution I say, I think I understand now. 🙂

          BTW – I share your description of heaven and hell, heaven being with God and hell being apart from God, or a more visceral description being that heaven is spending eternity in the loving embrace of God and community or spending eternity in total isolation with nothing but your memories of how you sentenced yourself to that hell. The pain of that isolation making burning a euphemism.

          • Jerry Richardson says:

            GHG,

            Jerry, I’m new to this blog so I don’t know how thick your skin is. I hope the criticism will not dissuade you from submitting future articles but only serve to sharpen your focus and fully engage your obvious passion for these most interesting topics. Keep up the good work. —GHG

            Thanks for your good thoughts. And thanks for all of your very well-written; and well- reasoned comments. And right-back-at you; I hope you will continue to make Stubborn Things your writing-and-reading home.

            Rest assured; I am not thin-skinned. When I publish an article that contains opinions related to controversial topics (such as much of scripture) I am not only not upset; I am pleased to read vigorous debate on the issue or issues. I am writing on Stubborn Things for that very purpose. How else to we successfully clarify our own notions? I am not really after agreement, or disagreement; I am after thought-provoking interaction; especially new ideas that I have not thought about.

            All that being said; I will, without apology, take exception to being charged with arguing something that I clearly have not argued.

            Regarding Stubborn Things, I stick by the comments I have made in another blog:

            The thing I like most about Stubborn Things is that the people who blog and comment seem to sort-of implicitly agree that there will be no ad hominem or hateful attacks against article writers.

            Don’t get me wrong. The comments made on StubbornThings are very intellectually in-your-face, even though completely in a courteous manner; the comments are insightful, penetrating, thoughtfully articulated to send-you-back-to-your-assumptions, and they are very obviously based upon life, living, and practiced logical thinking. You can sense that the comments come from an experience-bag that has been exposed to time, hardnosed-reality, and disciplined academia.

            My role model in this action is Brad Nelson. I admire the way he attacks ideas. He obviously disagrees with me at times, and of course he will and should as often as he pleases; but when he does disagrees, he always clearly states his reasons, and he is always polite (no I don’t mean “nice”; “nice” is too sirupy) and I have never seen him be discourteous in his written responses.

            So GHG, “criticism will not dissuade” me from writing with whatever passion and intellectual honest I can muster. Criticism? In one of my many past lives, I was a high-school coach. If you somehow imagine that the criticism that gets tossed about on this blog is major, you should try losing, as a coach, a few too many football games; or, God forbid, not starting at some position, the son of a very influential booster.

            Never fear, I can dish it out; and I can take it. And if I violate what I perceive to be the “implicit” rules of Stubborn Things, I feel secure in the knowledge that Brad will correct me.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              My role model in this action is Brad Nelson.

              Oh, goodness. My mother always said I’d be a bad influence on people. Now look what I’ve gone and done. 😀

              Jerry, you’re too kind. I will not always attack in a fair way. I’ve been known to use the dread “ad hominems.” But I figure if Obama is a liar and a Marxist, what does it serve to “play nice” and pretend otherwise? And people are free to call me any name in the book. Just don’t question my taste in movies. That’s where I draw the line.

              And note that this site isn’t particularly anal-retentive. You’ll receive no warnings from me about “off-topic” comments. Some of the most interesting discussions arise all by themselves in unstructured cyberspace. About the only bullshit I don’t allow is when someone’s arguments are of the “blame Bush” variety. There are plenty of other places to regurgitate that nonsense. We’re not here to be the propaganda vehicle for Marxists.

              Other than that, parse the Bible any way you want. As I’ve said, I take much of it to be analogical, pointing to a truth beyond the means used — which is exactly what Jesus did when he used parables. We’re not supposed to literally have faith the size of a mustard seed. Faith, like mind, is obviously an immaterial substance.

              And so I don’t take as literal an actual God talking to a buck-naked Adam and Eve who suddenly cover up when caught in a lie. Given that Adam is a guy (I can’t speak for the mindset of Eve), I’m pretty sure he was sneaking a peek at Eve every so often even before they ate from the apple.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Ad hominem attacks are considered invalid in terms of logical argument (with the exception of attacks on credibility, as long as one realizes they provide reason for doubt, not proof that an argument is wrong). However, pointing out that Barry Zero is a piece of excrement (with my apologies to excrement, of course) is a perfectly valid criticism of his qualities as an office-holder. A lot of people fail to see this difference.

              • Jerry Richardson says:

                Brad,

                Given that Adam is a guy (I can’t speak for the mindset of Eve), I’m pretty sure he was sneaking a peek at Eve every so often even before they ate from the apple.

                I got a huge belly laugh out of this comment! The fact is if he hadn’t been sneaking those peeks; if it had been Adam and Steve we wouldn’t be here talking about it.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                On the other hand, if it were Adam and Bruce . . .

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Stephen King (I believe in Danse Macabre) discussed the Grimm tale “Hansel and Gretel” in this light. He concluded that the mother is amoral, but the father (who knew it was wrong to abandon the children, but went along with his wife anyway) was evil in the Biblical sense. Thus, good/evil is based on personal moral/ethical standards (on which basis Hitler wasn’t evil, since he believed what he did was right). By contrast, I would think that the mother was evil, whereas the father had a severe lack of moral courage — or in other words, there are abstract standards of good and evil.

        Perhaps the argument here would be that King was right as far as good and evil go, but the mother had a preference for doing the wrong thing and the father was simply easily influenced.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          And I’m pretty damn sure the Big Bad Wolf was evil and Little Red Riding Hood was innocent. But given that wolves have been historically hunted, and Little Red Riding Hood is white (and thus among the oppressor class), I’m not so sure anymore.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Ah, but she was dressed in red, so she must have been a communist. That gives her immunity for her other sins. And remember, the wolf was obviously a male chauvinist, since he targeted 2 women.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              True. The wolf was a beast and targeted women. But does not the oppressor status of his race (species) trump the oppressor status of Red Riding Hood’s sex?

  17. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’ve been following part of this discussion of Adam and Eve. First off, in order to really do a pedantic interpretation of the texts, one should probably be reading the Old Testament in Hebrew.

    But I find the whole thing a non-issue about Eve and not touching the tree. Surely if one believes that there was a garden in which Adam and Even spent time with God, Genesis does not record the entirety of their conversations.

    If one doesn’t take the most reasonable and obvious context for the remarks contained therein when reading these old texts then they are worthless as a way to pass down history or moral lessons. Finding nuance inside ambiguous phrasing is one thing, or eking out the meaning of these stories. But there is no reason to believe Eve is not giving a direct paraphrasing of what God told her when it is written:

    And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

    The story in no way suggests that God was trying to trick Adam and Eve, using language as a trap. He was certainly hanging temptation right before their eyes. But the story doesn’t seem to be one based upon entrapment or trickery. Eve seemed to know exactly what she was not supposed to do, which seems the obvious and reasonable point of those quoted lines.

    • GHG says:

      The story in no way suggests that God was trying to trick Adam and Eve, using language as a trap.

      I used the word “trick” in a previous post, so I’m not sure if your post was in response to my post, but I certainly didn’t mean that God was trying to trick Eve. Rather, the text is clear that the serpent was trying to trick Eve. God’s command was meant to be obeyed. It was clear – there was no ambiguity. Certainly the temptation was put in front of them – how else would A&E be faced with the decision to obey or disobey – i.e. execute their God given free will.

      The Bible studies I’ve taken over many many years admittedly tend to focus on implications – things that are peripheral or adiaphora are probably given more focus than warranted. But that’s kind of what Bible studies do – learn the primary lessons and glean the nuances. It is just such a thing with the “don’t touch” aspect of the story. The primary lesson is that man disobeyed God and the wages of sin is death. Anything else is secondary at best and perhaps speculative. However, with Bible study, one learns to pick up on certain things that a casual reading may not reveal. It’s certainly debatable that these peripheral revelations are in fact lessons at all, but there’s ample evidence that many of the stories are multi-layered and repeated in other stories. Adding to God’s word is one of those.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I used the word “trick” in a previous post, so I’m not sure if your post was in response to my post, but I certainly didn’t mean that God was trying to trick Eve.

        My post is my take on the general discussion, including all participants. Add it all up, it amounts to 8 cents because these are my two.

        Yes, I agree. The serpent was trying to trick Eve. And how interesting the approach for this trick was: “Ye shall be as gods.” The serpent said this in the context of the eater of the fruit then knowing good and evil. But one wonders if anyone being offered “Ye shall be as gods” would take much notice of what came afterward. What if, as in the movie, “Bruce Almighty,” what came after was “And then you will have to spend every hour of very day listening to people’s complaints, wishes, and prayers until you begin to go a little loopy”?

        The primary lesson is that man disobeyed God and the wages of sin is death.

        I would say that is exactly the point of the story. We can ask about things such as the likelihood of talking serpents, about what Satan is doing in God’s special garden in the first place, about why God didn’t put an electric fence around The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, of why God (and his buddies, whoever the “us” was) were threatened by the idea of Man eating from the Tree of Life, and why eating also of the Tree of Life could make one a God (and thus what actual status is a God in this story if it is a function of magical fruit eating), but that is the essential message.

  18. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Jerry,

    This is in reply to your most recent post addressing me. You write,

    I have no problem with you or anyone disagreeing with any of my interpretations, but It is a false characterization of my written comments that I “contend” that I “knew what really happened at any given point in the Bible despite the actual text. I plainly did not “contend” any such thing.

    Your accusation is false.

    Believe me, at no time did I think you knew or did I even think you thought you knew what really happened at any given point in the Bible. I was being somewhat sarcastic given the audacious and cock-sure manner in which you presented your idea which I thought and still believe to be poorly reasoned and an incredible stretch. I certainly didn’t dispute your personal veracity. Sorry I was not clearer.

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