By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, October 4, 2010

To Be or To Know

Genesis : God the Father forbids Eve to pick t...Image via Wikipedia
I have Genesis on my mind, probably because I was recently invited to attend a group translating Genesis from the Hebrew (an invitation I reluctantly declined due to other commitments). Most know the story of the Fall so well that it is really unnecessary to repeat it. Anyone who doesn't know the story should just google "Genesis" and read the first three chapters of that book.

The serpent tells Eve that to eat of the forbidden fruit will make her like a god. She will have the knowledge of good and evil. I have even seen some revisionistic biblical commentary present this temptation as something desirable: knowledge of good and evil is a great gift from the revisionistic point of view. I recall even one commentary claiming, with no evidence whatsoever, that sex arose from Eve's violating God's command--hence, the implication being that the disobedience was worthwhile.

The assumption in such revisionism is that somehow to know is better than to be. Hard human experience undermines that blithe assumption. To be good is well beyond merely knowing good. To be left with knowledge of good and evil is a crumb left over after the feast of being good has ended. To be good is to flourish and thrive in accordance with our human nature. Mere knowledge of good and evil is the proverbial morning after.

There are certainly many of us humans who wish we had never known evil or gotten to know about the evil that occurs on this planet and that lurks in too many disordered minds and hearts. Simply being good is far superior to that sort of knowledge. The wisdom of Genesis underlines that the serpent's lie is still a lie: the truth is that it is indeed better to be good than to settle for the mere knowledge of good and evil.  The fallen condition means having to settle for that very unsatisfactory sort of knowledge.

Even in our fallen condition, we sense the great qualitative difference between the state of being good and the state of knowing good and evil. Many can remember a time when they existed in a happy innocence before coming in contact with real evil. After that point, we are stuck with the knowledge of good and evil for the remainder of our days and long for a simpler time when we were happy being good without being conscious of serious evil at all. In this way, our lives even after the Fall reenact this lesson from Genesis: better to exist as being good than to settle for the very second rate state of merely knowing about good and evil.