Did God Lie?


When God was giving instructions to Adam in the garden, he said

You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.

Later, the serpent says

You will not certainly die. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

We know the rest of the story, of course. Eve and Adam eat from the tree, and their eyes are opened. So, at least on the surface, it looks like the serpent is telling the truth, and that God is lying! How are we to make sense of this?

The “standard” explanation that I’ve heard uses the model of a parent and children.  We as parents know that some things are dangerous, but it’s beyond the comprehension of young children to process the nature of the danger, so we simplify. We make what seem to be arbitrary rules, because we have superior knowledge and wisdom that is simply not possible for children. In the same way, God knows the consequence of the knowledge of good and evil, and wishes to protect his children from that. So God didn’t lie, according to this explanation. He just simplified things in terms Adam and Eve could understand.

While I think that there is value in that metaphor, I think the reality of the story goes beyond it. I think that, in a very real sense, Adam and Eve DID die when they ate that fruit. Not a physical death, but a death of the spirit of innocence and unity with God. After all, one of the first things that happened after they ate was that they hid themselves from God. There is now separation (death) where once there was unity (life).

On the surface, it appears that God lied and the serpent told the truth. But on a deeper, more meaningful level, it was God who was truthful and loving, while the serpent was the one who deceived, by telling a seeming truth.

I’m curious what other people think about this.

One thought on “Did God Lie?

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