Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The bible quotes God saying

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." Genesis 2:15-17

The bible goes on to quote Eve and the serpent talking:

3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. 3:3-7

Now the devil tells Eve that she will not die and that she will gain the knowledge of good and evil. Which happens from what the Bible describes. God also specified that they will die on the day that they touch the tree, which does not happen, so it wasn't truth that God told Eve. Even if God said it as a metaphor, it was a metaphor that neither Adam nor Eve understood, because Eve told the serpent they they will surely die. And God is all-knowing, so he had to know that they will misunderstand him. So, he deliberately told a metaphor, which he knew was going to be understood literally, and he knew it would be taken as literal interpretation.

In either way God provided Eve with misleading information. (It could be a possibility that something is lost in translation, but if not, it would take interpreting the text completely opposite to what is written in order to come to a different conclusion - and if we do, then why bother taking the rest of the Scripture as it is written?)

Does this mean that we must redefine our definition of lying? Maybe lying excludes lying to children for example to save them from a greater harm (like taking drugs for example) If something is too complicated to explain to a child, maybe the Bible suggests that it's ok to lie to them. I feel like a lot of parents already do that making up stories to keep their children from making noise in church (for example). Telling them that if they misbehave the ghost will get them etc. Or maybe lying overall means something else in the 10 commandments. I really wonder about that, because I see situations when it might be good to tell a lie. I'm Polish, so I always think of the story If I was holding a Jew in my house and Nazis would come in asking if I had any Jews in the house. I know that I couldn't tell the truth.

So I just wonder If God lied? If so, is lying sometimes ok according to this passage? If God doesn't lie, then what is the definition of lying? If God told the truth that they would die, then is devil lying that they will not die?

I'm only interested in the Catholic perspective of this scripture as I was raised Catholic and this question bothered me for most of my life.

share|improve this question
1  
Despite my answer in which I pick out three "faulty premises," I still +1d this as a good question. Theology often involves uncovering hidden premises and exposing them. Please don't be offended. Welcome to C.SE! –  Affable Geek Oct 24 '12 at 6:47
    
Also, I hope you are not offended that I chose to answer even though techincally I come from a slightly different tradition. I would argue, however, that my perspective will match up with what you are expecting. Again, as stated in the answer, feel free to ignore it if you would prefer a properly dogmatic response. There are several Catholics on the site, and I think they'll vouch for where I'm coming from. –  Affable Geek Oct 24 '12 at 6:49
3  
Part of the problem here is that you seem to be trying to treat Christianity as a set of rules, where if you define the rules well enough and follow them to the letter, you will be OK. Christianity isn't like that. –  DJClayworth Oct 24 '12 at 15:15
    
@DJClayworth Christianity is much more then just a set of rules. And possibly not all Christianities have rules that they follow to the letter. Some however teach what rules a good Christians follows and if those rules are not really defined then its impossible to follow those rules. –  Xitcod13 Oct 25 '12 at 9:57
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

This is not necessarily a Catholic perspective, but I suspect the exegesis would pass muster. (Feel free to ignore if you wish)

Faulty Premise #1: God is lying

God did not lie. In the day she ate of it, she became subject to death. Her body (and Adams) began to decay, and went from immortality to mortality.

Additionally, she and Adam were, in fact, separated from God, a type of death.

This question has specifically been asked, here and there is more to the explanation.

In short, most priests would disagree with the premise that God is lying.

Faulty Premise #2: The Devil is incapable of telling the truth

Although the Devil is "the Father of Lies," it does not follow that the Devil is incapable of telling truth (or at least using Truth) when it suits his purposes. The Devil's aim is to deceive, not to lie. He deceived Eve by suggesting that God was lying (see above) and that God was withholding something "good" from her. Neither was the case.

In general, it is often said that every lie contains a truth, if only so that someone will believe it. If I knew that everything the Devil said was false, for example, I could always discern the truth by negating what he said. Simple Logic - Everything A becomes !A. Ergo truth. Again, not the devil's problem. The Devil merely deceives and destroys. If he can use accuracy to get there, he will use it.

And again, I have little doubt that a Priest would agree with me on this.

Faulty Premise #3: Honesty is the supreme value

(Here is where I become a Protestant again), the highest duty of man is to love. As this question shows, our duty is to love.

When the Nazis were clearing the Ghetto, they might have asked, "Are there any Jews here?" A Christian could rightly "lie" and say "No," simply by reframing the question in higher terms - "Are there any Jews here whom we may kill." No, you may not kill them, since love bids me to protect them. If i must lie, then that too is a sin - but being unloving is worse.

Again, here, I suspect that most RC Priests would accept this premise, but I defer to Roman Catholics to weigh in on that.

In summary, God isn't lying, The Devil is still deceiving even he appears to be telling the truth, and we are under no obligation to answer deception in the terms handed to us.

share|improve this answer
1  
Although I have a rather checkered history prior to being received into the Catholic Church, I can't see anything wrong here. One might perhaps recommend C S Lewis's Screwtape Letters in support of Point 2. –  Andrew Leach Oct 24 '12 at 7:14
    
Funny thing is, I was exactly thinking of Screwtape when I wrote that :) –  Affable Geek Oct 24 '12 at 7:16
    
for a direct answer in scripture, Hebrews 6:18 comes to mind, but I'm not sure if that applies to all of God's actions and statements, or just those two specific oaths he made to Abraham. the context is somewhat difficult for me to parse –  Keith Oct 24 '12 at 7:59
1  
Regarding your last point, which @Trig lambasted in chat some folks are OK with lying for the greater good, some are against it. There was a good debate on the Chesterton Blog about this concerning LiveAction's covert ops into planned parenthood. –  Peter Turner Oct 24 '12 at 13:59
    
@AffableGeek Nice answer. Also God is not a baby-sitter, just do as he commands, whether you understand it or not –  tunmise fashipe Oct 25 '12 at 7:37
show 6 more comments

The first scripture that comes to mind is that God cannot lie nor can he repent (i.e. change) (Num 23:19). The next one that comes to mind is that Satan has no truth in him (Jn 8:44).

Finally, though it is less accepted, they did in fact die in the day they sinned because God's time is much different than ours (2Pe 3:8). One thing to note to support the aforementioned notion is that no man has lived to see 1,000 years. The oldest man in The Bible, Methuselah, lived to be 969 years old. (Gen 5:27)

share|improve this answer
    
Definitely a possibility. The bible doesn't record Eve's age when she died, but Adam lived 930 years (not quite 1000!) –  Shredder Nov 1 '12 at 17:10
add comment

God cannot lie: Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, Heb 6:18

The first link is the word of God directly given to Balaam who was summoned by the king of Moab out of fear regarding the encampment of Jews near them and the possibility of war with them.

The second is written by the apostle Paul in the preamble to his epistle to Titus.

The third is from body of Paul's epistle to the Hebrews.

All are direct and unequivocal in their statements that plainly God does not lie.

The fact that God knows all truth and does not lie is a bedrock foundation for Christians. Our own faulty processes of reason and emotion which help us understand the world around us but through which we can make mistakes in our understanding because of our own limitations even though we are led by the Holy Spirit in our lifelong search to understand and follow the truth of God's word is a human quality. The fact that we lie is a human quality. God should not be seen through the lense of these two fallibilities of humans.

God knows all truth and knows all the world and the universe he created from their beginning to their end. And, unlike our own fallibility, God is infallible and not only has the capability to never lie to us but according to these clear declarations simply does not.

If God were to lie to us it would water down his message and make the truth as revealed to us by him confusing to grasp and we would always be wondering - did God lie about that? What was the truth from God, and what was a lie?

We can know with comfort and peace that God has and will always speak the truth to us. It is from this bedrock foundation of knowledge of the absolute truth of the revelation of God that we can indeed have infant-like faith in his Word. That faith is indeed the ultimate foundation not only of our relationship with God but of our very salvation through Christ.

We can also take comfort in his promises, or covenants, with us. We can know that the promise to Noah as symbolized by the rainbow to never again send a flood to destroy most of the world would be honored as long as this temporal universe exists. We can know that the covenant with Abraham that his people would become numerous as the sands and be a blessing to all nations will never be broken by God.

Most importantly we can know that his free gift to us of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, taken as our Lord and Savior which leads to eternal life in Heaven, is a pure and absolute gift with no possibility of withdrawal by God for anything we might do, however bad (except the one exceptional sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit).

share|improve this answer
4  
is it because he doesnt have a facebook account? –  Xitcod13 Nov 1 '12 at 6:01
1  
I agree the verses you point out are relevant, but we're looking for for a little more than this from answers around here. Can you edit and add some explanation here? If you don't, this will likely be removed as it doesn't meet any of our guidelines for good answers. –  Caleb Nov 1 '12 at 10:02
    
@Caleb I have fixed this post according to what you have said. This is my first post. I apologize for my initial brevity. –  aeoril Nov 2 '12 at 9:45
    
@aeoril That's more like it! That edit just made a non-answer into an excelent answer. Welcome to the site by the way. Have you had a chance to check out the faq or peruse the important stuff on meta? Those might help you get an idea about what's going on around here. I realize it's more than a little different from your usual online forum. –  Caleb Nov 2 '12 at 10:11
    
@Caleb Thank you very much for your very kind words. I will do so. –  aeoril Nov 2 '12 at 10:34
add comment

I don't know denominational or traditional perspectives, but God didn't deceive or mislead Eve. Eve lacked faith in God. She did in fact die on that day; whether it was a spiritual death (probably more likely how God meant it), or her body started the decaying process and died in a day in the eyes of God (as mentioned by BigM).

We (or at least I) am not at liberty to say when lying is okay, even if you think it will save someone's life (not necessarily saying I wouldn't do so..), because, in a sense, it might also lack faith.

The bible does not teach us to lie and scare our children into obeying and behaving. They should just obey and, if appropriate, tell them the truth of why in a way that they can understand. The bible teaches us to discipline our children (moderately) to obey and behave.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Prov. 22:15

Withhold not discipline from the child; for if you strike and punish him with the [reedlike] rod, he will not die.
Prov. 23:13

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left undisciplined brings his mother to shame.
Prov. 29:15

In those verses the devil told them they would have the knowledge of good and evil, which was true. Also a demon tells the truth of Jesus' identity in Mark 1:24

What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.