Was Evil Possible Before Adam and Eve?

 

It sure seems that way to me.

The text says that G-d created the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:9). Which means the possibility of evil existed before Adam and Eve ate the fruit. 

I was thinking about this after a recent kerfuffle on Ricochet  about whether G-d is capable of doing or being evil, and it occurred to me that the common religious belief that G-d can ONLY be good seems to be clearly contradicted by the text itself. He made the world. Some He calls “Good.” Some, He does not. 

I might qualify the above by pointing out that in the Torah both “Good” and “Evil” are not really things in themselves: they are  judgements, created by and subject to the perceptions of the viewer. And if this is the case, then the assessment of both good and evil come down to our own mental breadth and faculties. An animal knows nothing of either. But thanks to eating the fruit, both G-d and Man are able to make judgements accordingly.

In sum: the concept of evil did not rely on sin.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    It is a matter of judgment, but there is frail, human judgment and there is divine judgment.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Doesn’t the concept of evil need to be acted upon for evil to be committed?

    • #2
  3. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin?  I don’t know what that means.

    There appears to be a fallacy here:

    iWe:

    . . . the common religious belief that G-d can ONLY be good seems to be clearly contradicted by the text itself. He made the world. Some He calls “Good.” Some, He does not.

    From the premise that G-d does not call some things good it does not follow that they are evil.

    • #3
  4. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe: Which means the possibility of evil existed before Adam and Eve ate the fruit. 

    Incidentally, orthodox Christians agree.

    • #4
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin? I don’t know what that means.

    Oh, I think I get it. You mean that evil is not by definition a thing that can only exist if there is sin. Is that it?

    • #5
  6. Roderic Reagan
    Roderic
    @rhfabian

    iWe: The text says that G-d created the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:9). Which means the possibility of evil existed before Adam and Eve ate the fruit. 

    Satan turned against God who threw him out of Heaven (“outward and downward”) before the events of the Garden of Eden, else he would not have been there in the form of a snake to tempt Eve.  So evil was already fully operational at that point.  

    • #6
  7. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin? I don’t know what that means.

    Oh, I think I get it. You mean that evil is not by definition a thing that can only exist if there is sin. Is that it?

    Satan fell, and was evil, and did evil, before he tempted Eve.

    • #7
  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin? I don’t know what that means.

    Oh, I think I get it. You mean that evil is not by definition a thing that can only exist if there is sin. Is that it?

    Satan fell, and was evil, and did evil, before he tempted Eve.

    But not before he sinned, which I think is the topic iWe is interested in.

    • #8
  9. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    And remember, Adam and Eve, had they not eaten the fruit, would have learned of good and evil anyway, by choosing good.  And they would not have sinned to learn the difference.

    • #9
  10. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin? I don’t know what that means.

    Oh, I think I get it. You mean that evil is not by definition a thing that can only exist if there is sin. Is that it?

    Satan fell, and was evil, and did evil, before he tempted Eve.

    But not before he sinned, which I think is the topic iWe is interested in.

    I’m sorry, what?  Satan’s sin was an internal sin, of pride, saying I will be like God.  So Adam and Eve sinned in a creation in which sin and sinfulness already existed.

    • #10
  11. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin? I don’t know what that means.

    Oh, I think I get it. You mean that evil is not by definition a thing that can only exist if there is sin. Is that it?

    Satan fell, and was evil, and did evil, before he tempted Eve.

    But not before he sinned, which I think is the topic iWe is interested in.

    I’m sorry, what? Satan’s sin was an internal sin, of pride, saying I will be like God. So Adam and Eve sinned in a creation in which sin and sinfulness already existed.

    Yes, indeed. But on this theology his sin is an evil, and so it is not a case of evil preexisting sin.

    In other words, despite all the missing clarity, I think iWe is still disagreeing with us.

    • #11
  12. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin? I don’t know what that means.

    Oh, I think I get it. You mean that evil is not by definition a thing that can only exist if there is sin. Is that it?

    Satan fell, and was evil, and did evil, before he tempted Eve.

    But not before he sinned, which I think is the topic iWe is interested in.

    I’m sorry, what? Satan’s sin was an internal sin, of pride, saying I will be like God. So Adam and Eve sinned in a creation in which sin and sinfulness already existed.

    Yes, indeed. But on this theology his sin is an evil, and so it is not a case of evil preexisting sin.

    In other words, despite all the missing clarity, I think iWe is still disagreeing with us.

    Well, iWe didn’t mention the serpent, he only mentions eating the fruit.  I don’t know exactly what all the nature of what he is saying.  I look forward to reading his thoughts and understanding his determinations.

    • #12
  13. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Flicker (View Comment):

    And remember, Adam and Eve, had they not eaten the fruit, would have learned of good and evil anyway, by choosing good. And they would not have sinned to learn the difference.

    And remained forever the well-kept pets of a tyrannical egoist. 

    • #13
  14. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Arahant (View Comment):

    It is a matter of judgment, but there is frail, human judgment and there is divine judgment.

    Not so clear cut. After all, G-d judges that mankind is good – and then He changes his mind based on new data.

    • #14
  15. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin? I don’t know what that means.

    There appears to be a fallacy here:

    iWe:

    . . . the common religious belief that G-d can ONLY be good seems to be clearly contradicted by the text itself. He made the world. Some He calls “Good.” Some, He does not.

    From the premise that G-d does not call some things good it does not follow that they are evil.

    It means they are not good. Whether that is evil or just neutral is not clear.

    • #15
  16. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin? I don’t know what that means.

    Oh, I think I get it. You mean that evil is not by definition a thing that can only exist if there is sin. Is that it?

    Evil is not defined necessarily by sin. After all, “sin” implies a defied commandment (Cain commits the first named sin). But violence and destruction are called Evil in the Torah before there are any laws given. 

    • #16
  17. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Roderic (View Comment):

    iWe: The text says that G-d created the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:9). Which means the possibility of evil existed before Adam and Eve ate the fruit.

    Satan turned against God who threw him out of Heaven (“outward and downward”) before the events of the Garden of Eden, else he would not have been there in the form of a snake to tempt Eve. So evil was already fully operational at that point.

    For the record, this is not in the Torah. Torah angels have no free will and so cannot “fall.”

    • #17
  18. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Flicker (View Comment):

    And remember, Adam and Eve, had they not eaten the fruit, would have learned of good and evil anyway, by choosing good.

    This is not clearly the case. They were unaware of the dichotomies in the world – including the gap between body and soul (which is why eating the fruit made them embarassed to be naked).  If they had not eaten the fruit they would have remained clueless.

    And they would not have sinned to learn the difference.

    Remember that the Torah does not call eating the fruit a sin. The first time sin is mentioned is when G-d tells Cain to resist it.

    • #18
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    There appears to be a fallacy here:

    iWe:

    . . . the common religious belief that G-d can ONLY be good seems to be clearly contradicted by the text itself. He made the world. Some He calls “Good.” Some, He does not.

    From the premise that G-d does not call some things good it does not follow that they are evil.

    It means they are not good. Whether that is evil or just neutral is not clear.

    Oh. You mean G-d can be something not good (maybe just neutral, not evil) because there are some things He made but does not call good?

    • #19
  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Whoever said the concept of evil relies on sin? I don’t know what that means.

    Oh, I think I get it. You mean that evil is not by definition a thing that can only exist if there is sin. Is that it?

    Evil is not defined necessarily by sin. After all, “sin” implies a defied commandment (Cain commits the first named sin). But violence and destruction are called Evil in the Torah before there are any laws given.

    But the same evil takes place after the first defying of a commandment by humans.

    • #20
  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe (View Comment):
    After all, “sin” implies a defied commandment (Cain commits the first named sin).

    iWe (View Comment):

    Remember that the Torah does not call eating the fruit a sin. The first time sin is mentioned is when G-d tells Cain to resist it.

    So sin implies a defied commandment, but not vice versa?

    • #21
  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    iWe (View Comment):

    After all, “sin” implies a defied commandment (Cain commits the first named sin). But violence and destruction are called Evil in the Torah before there are any laws given.

    You know who said that before you did?

    It was the apostle Paul.

    • #22
  23. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    That’s one of those, “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” questions. Trying to use logic to explain fanciful stories is like arguing whether Superman is more effective than  Batman. 

    • #23
  24. KevinKrisher Coolidge
    KevinKrisher
    @KevinKrisher

    Only moral evil is a cause and result of sin. There is also natural evil – evil created by non-human actions such as earthquakes and hurricanes – that has nothing to do with sin.

    There are several ideas about why God permits moral evil, but it’s even more challenging to think about why he permits natural evil. One theory that covers both bases comes from St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church. She said that “In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”

    This is a little shocking, but maybe it’s true: We may eventually acquire a perspective from which even the most tragic evil appears trivial.

    • #24
  25. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Are there sins not enumerated in the commandments? Are there only 10 sins? Or are they just the most popular of the day… After all Mosses only had so many tablets to engrave – and that he could carry down the mountain.

    I agree that evil exists independent of sin.

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Are there sins not enumerated in the commandments? Are there only 10 sins? Or are they just the most popular of the day… After all Mosses only had so many tablets to engrave – and that he could carry down the mountain.

    I agree that evil exists independent of sin.

    There are 613 commandments (although some argue whether that’s the precise number). Orthodox Jews consider them all to be important.

    • #26
  27. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    iWe (View Comment):

    Roderic (View Comment):

    iWe: The text says that G-d created the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:9). Which means the possibility of evil existed before Adam and Eve ate the fruit.

    Satan turned against God who threw him out of Heaven (“outward and downward”) before the events of the Garden of Eden, else he would not have been there in the form of a snake to tempt Eve. So evil was already fully operational at that point.

    For the record, this is not in the Torah. Torah angels have no free will and so cannot “fall.”

    When free will (or a convincing facsimile thereof) is possible, evil must be possible. So one a universe which permits free will etc. exists, so does the possibility of evil. But if the true nature and consequences of doing evil were as evident and attractive as the apparent rewards are, if the true reward of choosing to do what G-d wants us to do was unquestionably obvious, few of us would choose to do wrong any more than a five year old would choose to eat a nice bowl full of wormwood and ghost peppers instead of that icky ice cream. 

    Yet some read 

    It has been clearly demonstrated to you that the LORD alone is G-d; there is none beside Him (Deut 4:35)

    as stating that in truth, nothing at all exists beside Him. Not even the appearance of existence is possible when G-d’s presence is fully manifest, is not attenuated in some manner.  The Jewish mystical tradition describes this in various ways, such as what looks like, as it were “concealment” or “withdrawal.” So from this perspective, our existence is only apparent, though we must take it seriously indeed since whatever actually is, it is by His will, and for our ultimate good, that we perceive our separate existence. 

    • #27
  28. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    There appears to be a fallacy here:

    iWe:

    . . . the common religious belief that G-d can ONLY be good seems to be clearly contradicted by the text itself. He made the world. Some He calls “Good.” Some, He does not.

    From the premise that G-d does not call some things good it does not follow that they are evil.

    It means they are not good. Whether that is evil or just neutral is not clear.

    Oh. You mean G-d can be something not good (maybe just neutral, not evil) because there are some things He made but does not call good?

    Well, He does say “Not-good” for a man to be alone. . .  The Talmud tells us (Sanhedrin 64)

    We find that Sefer Neḥemiah describes a great prayer and cry to God (see Neḥemiah 9:4) which, according to the Gemara, refers to a cry of concern lest the same situation that led to the destruction of the first Temple, the burning of the Sanctuary, the murder of the righteous and the exile of the Jewish People would recur in the time of the second Temple. That is to say, the yetzer ha-ra of avoda zara – the lust and desire for idol worship – still remained. The leaders reasoned that the point of the existence of the yetzer ha-ra for avoda zara was to give the Jewish People credit for resisting it; they argued that it would be better to destroy this desire, even if it meant losing the credit for resisting it. After three days of prayer and fasting a note fell from heaven with the word emet – “truth” written on it, which was understood to be the word of God agreeing to their request.

    Seeing that their request was accepted, the leadership decided to continue and ask that the yetzer ha-ra for other sins – notably sexual drives and desires – be destroyed, as well. The Gemara relates that this, too was given to them, and that it was imprisoned. After three days they discovered that chickens had stopped laying eggs, and realized that the positive elements of these drives should not be destroyed. The decision made was to blind the yetzer ha-ra, which limited sexual desires somewhat so that lust after incestuous relationships was removed, although other desires remained.

    • #28
  29. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    KevinKrisher (View Comment):

    Only moral evil is a cause and result of sin. There is also natural evil – evil created by non-human actions such as earthquakes and hurricanes – that has nothing to do with sin.

    There are several ideas about why God permits moral evil, but it’s even more challenging to think about why he permits natural evil. One theory that covers both bases comes from St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church. She said that “In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”

    This is a little shocking, but maybe it’s true: We may eventually acquire a perspective from which even the most tragic evil appears trivial.

    I think that in the Biblical view, natural evil is also the result of sin.  I don’t think that there was any natural evil described in the Genesis account before the Fall.  The Fall results in the curse, and natural evils are part of the curse.

    • #29
  30. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    But if the true nature and consequences of doing evil were as evident and attractive as the apparent rewards are, if the true reward of choosing to do what G-d wants us to do was unquestionably obvious, few of us would choose to do wrong

    I have had it from a Jewish source that when Adam was “with” Eve being tempted and eating the fruit, he was immediately in their presence, presumably watching.  And the New Testament says that while Eve was deceived, Adam was not deceived into eating the fruit, but did it anyway.

    The Bible also says that God delivers a man’s sins to his children, grand children and great-grandchildren.  (This has import for both genetic and social sciences.)  And some Christian sects, but I understand not all, believe in “original sin”; that is the innate propensity for all children of Adam to sin.  Either way, the Bible says that, in fact, all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God.  But, for example, if Able had been born before Adam’s fall, it is possible that he may have never sinned; but we can believe that he did sin because he made sacrifices to God, presumably for his own sin.  Either way, we all have sinned.

    Once here on Ricochet, the question was once asked (iirc), If you could ask a question of anyone at all in history, who would you want to ask, and what?  (Something like that.)  And I answered this or that, but I think I wasn’t honest.  I’ve always wanted to ask, the first thing out of my mouth (except for courteous introductions), in heaven, would be to ask Adam, Why did you do it?!

    I suspect that he would just shrug his shoulders and say, “You’d have had to be there.”

    • #30