Tag Archives: Evelyn Underhill

The Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil

The phrase ‘good and evil’ is a figure of speech whereby a pair of opposites actually refer to something that is greater than the parts – as in the phrase ‘they searched high and low’, meaning that they searched everywhere. These figures of speech are called ‘merisms’ and they are a common feature of biblical language. In Genesis 1 the phrase ‘the heavens and the earth’ refers to God’s creation of the whole universe. Similarly, ‘male and female’ constitutes the whole of humanity. ‘Good and evil’ is also a merism. It means ‘any kind of moral quality’ or ‘every moral quality’. The knowledge of good and evil is a Hebrew way of saying ‘the whole scope of moral knowledge; knowledge of all dimensions of morality’. In other words, this is not just ‘head knowledge’ – it is not merely an academic, theoretical, philosophical or doctrinal knowledge of moral categories and distinctions. This knowledge is experiential. It is knowledge of all moral dimensions gained through experience. And this is what God does not want Adam and Eve to know. Continue reading

Posted in Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment