Unification News for

February 1998


The Origin of Human Conflict and Suffering

Volume Two, Part Three

Genesis tells us that in the Garden of Eden, God created Adam and then created Eve to be his spouse. If the Tree of Life standing the Garden symbolizes Adam, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which stood next to the Tree of Life (Gen. 2:9), must symbolize Eve.

It is not unusual for the Bible to use the symbol of a tree to represent a human being. Jesus at times spoke of himself in such terms:

"I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

In Romans 11:7, Paul refers to Jesus as an olive tree:

"....and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree...

In a similar fashion, Adam and Eve are represented by two trees.

To assert that there was a Tree of Life and a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the midst of the Garden does not mean that there are two literal trees in the geographical center of a literal garden. Rather, the symbols mean that the two people, Adam and Eve, were to be the center and nucleus of God’s ideal of creation. God’s entire ideal of creation is to be fulfilled through man and woman.

When we see that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the woman, Eve, we can also imagine that the fruit of this tree is somehow related to Eve. A real tree would multiply by its fruit, which contains the seed necessary for producing the next generation. Comparably, mankind multiplies through the fruit of love-specifically Eve’s love. Thus Eve was represented by the Tree of Knowledge; and eating the fruit represents experiencing Eve’s love.

The Serpent as Adversary

In addition to the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, Genesis tells us of a serpent that came to Eve in the garden and tempted her. According to the scripture, he was a talking animal, more clever than any other beast of the field, who subsequently became a crawling creature as a consequence of his temptation of Eve. Again there is the question of how this serpent is to be understood. Is it literal or symbolic?

Obviously, this was no ordinary serpent. First of all it was capable of tempting and lying to a human being. In addition, it was aware of the existence of God and of the commandment He gave Adam and Eve. Genesis reports him as saying:

"Did God say, "You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?" (Gen. 3:1)

In other words, this serpent had the ability to comprehend God and His will.

As we know, snakes are not recognized for their spiritual capacities. An actual snake, which has no spiritual comprehension, could not be capable of such spiritual knowledge as was displayed by this particular "serpent". We must then conclude that the serpent is a symbol of a spiritual being who successfully tempted Eve to sin.

The Serpent and Satan

The Book of Revelation reveals who the "serpent" symbolizes: "And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world-he was thrown down to

the earth and his angels were thrown down with him." (Rev. 12: 9)

This passage brings together the last book of the Bible and the first. According to it, the ancient serpent, the tempter of Eve, was "Satan," and this has been the commonly accepted view within the Judeo-Christian tradition.

But the question is, "Who is Satan?" The word itself comes from the ancient Hebrew, where it meant "the adversary." It signifies the Biblical affirmation that there is a force in the universe which is in active opposition to God.

Since we know that in Genesis the "serpent" represents Satan we can discover who the "serpent" was by discovering who Satan is.

According to the passage just quoted, Satan was once "thrown down to the earth." If we contrast earth and heaven, Satan must have been originally in heaven before being thrown down to earth. Thus, the "serpent" must at one time have qualified for heaven. We may also surmise, in light of the principle of growth, that although this being was created good, later he fell and became Satan.

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