When God made Adam and Eve he said they could eat anything except from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It sounds like that tree grants the knowledge, so before they ate they didn't know good from bad.

But I was taught by Roman Catholics that they sinned. Doesn't sin require intention? If a young child takes something that is not his, we don't say he sinned, right? Because he didn't know better. Or is that wrong and we do say he sinned?

Yes they disobeyed God but why should they know that's bad? I want to understand why they (and everybody after them) were punished for this. According to Roman Catholicism: if they did know that what they were doing was bad, how did they know, or if they didn't know, then what makes it a sin?

  • 5
    Because God told them not to?
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 19, 2014 at 1:40
  • 2
    God told them something, the snake told them something. Without knowing good and evil how do they know listening to God is good? We know of course, but back then how did they? I do not mean disrespect with the question.
    – user13720
    Jun 19, 2014 at 1:58
  • 1
    @user4275 "Yes they disobeyed God but why should they know that's bad?" Because they were told that they would die. When you are told of a severe consequence for an action, you get the picture.
    – Steve
    Jun 19, 2014 at 4:40
  • 4
    They disobeyed. But does the account in Genesis actually use the word sin? That term is superimposed on the story later, as is the notion that their fall results in all their progeny being born damned to hell. Hells isn't mentioned in Genesis 3. So the answer (if there's a real question here) is that the answer depends on whether you want exegesis of Genesis 3, or a justification for traditional Christian interpretation. Jun 19, 2014 at 5:55
  • 1
    This is really a philosophical question. As it reads, it's a good question, but one that could have may possible, equally good answers. I started to come up with one on my own and then came up with different competing answers in my own head, all equally valid based on reason. It really needs to be scoped to make it answerable. See Tips for editing a question to make it suitable for re-opening Jun 19, 2014 at 11:49

4 Answers 4


Your question appears to ignore some important facts that need to be taken into account.

  • Evil existed before Adam and Eve ate from the Tree.

Rev 12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

The act of eating the fruit was not the beginning of evil that it seems that would 
appear to be the rebellion of Lucifer in Heaven and the war that resulted from it.
  • Sin in all of it's forms actually boils down to disobedience of God.
Therefore we can accurately say that Adam and Eve sinned in the sight of God.
  • I must disagree with your concept that they and their posterity are being punished for having the knowledge of good and evil.
They and we are held guilty of choosing evil over good and thus disobeying God, 
Without the knowledge of good and Evil such a choice would not be available.

Your example of the child taking something that is not his is a prime example of my point. Both fault and punishment would be contingent on whether or not the child knew that taking the object was wrong. Most assuredly we would not punish a baby for taking a rattle from another baby, but we would not hesitate to punish a teenager who stole a CD from a store.

This Godly precept is the basis for all of our laws in the United States, that being that at a particular point in one's life they are aware that their actions are wrong.

We might rightly say that the command not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was the first law given to man by God.

Genesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

This command also includes the punishment for disobedience.

You may say that the Serpent beguiled Eve and that should somehow mitigate the severity of he disobedience, but we need also remember that Adam was not, and willfully disobeyed God.

That fact is also our downfall in that we willfully choose evil whether it be embracing the wiles of the world, or rejection of salvation. We each have the ability to either choose an eternity with God, or an eternity in the lake of fire.

  • Thank you. So do you think Adam was like the teenager stealing the CD, not like the baby taking the rattle?
    – user13720
    Jun 20, 2014 at 2:01
  • @user4275 Actually Adam at the time was really a combination of the two. We have no reason to believe that both Adam and Eve did not understand what God meant by man would surely die, and yet we have no reason to believe that they also were aware of the depth of depravity disobedience would initiate in the world.
    – BYE
    Jun 20, 2014 at 11:35
  • 2
    I agree with this. "Sin" means to miss the mark in the Greek, and disobedience to God's express commandment qualifies as sin. Adam knew wrongdoing when he directly disobeyed God's command, even though the word sin was not used. Because God gave the commandment to Adam, He obviously thought Adam was of enough maturity to understand the implications. Adam was not a baby.
    – Steve
    Jun 21, 2014 at 13:58
  • @Bye: Good point. A & E were not aware of "the depth of the depravity disobedience would initiate in the world." But God was aware! His use of the merism ("synecdoche in which totality is expressed by contrasting parts") in His words "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL . . ." indicates His prescience. God was saying in effect, "This is but the beginning of sorrows." And sure enough, a couple chapters later we read that "the wickedness of man was great . . . and . . . every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Then came the flood! Don Jun 24, 2014 at 13:16
  • I, too, have had trouble with the numbering of points! Sometimes we're better off using bullets, which is how I modified your format. I didn't touch your content. Don Jun 24, 2014 at 13:24

It is a Biblical fact that Adam and Eve did not know “good and evil” prior to eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While this normally would excuse their actions it does not in this case because God placed a prohibition upon the tree of knowledge. Adam and Eve were to place their faith in God's knowledge of good and evil.

Eve proves she had knowledge of God’s prohibition:

Genesis 3:2,3 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

This reveals an interesting point; Eve placed her “faith” in the words of the serpent rather than in the “Word of God”. Mankind must reenter a relationship with God through the same door mankind exited a relationship with God, which is faith in God’s grace.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God

Romans 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

Romans 5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice…By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death…But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him…

So while they did not personally know good from evil, they did have faith and they did have God’s prohibition and they should have trusted (placed their faith) in the words of God.

  • 2
    There is nothing in this answer showing that it is according to Roman Catholicism.
    – Aerarius
    Feb 23, 2015 at 17:10

Adam amd Eve "fell ". That is, they fell into mortality, but in the process gained "agency" (free will). This was necessary. If they had not fallen to mortality, they would not have procreated and thus "replenish[ed] the Earth". So the Fall was inevitable and a necessary part of the plan, as was the Redeemer Jesus Christ. Lucifer's plan would have removed Man's agency, forcing everyone to be "good". This would have prevented any learning or progress on our part. Only in a world with good and evil to choose between can we grow to become more like God, and to return to His presence. We have Adam and Eve to thank for that. In their sin we inherit mortality. But because of their choice, and the free will that that brought to us, we have the opportunity to choose the good, to be saved from sin, and to inherit eternal life with God our Father. We are not born with original sin; we are not responsible for Adam and Eve's sin; only our own, after we are of an age to distinguish good amd evil.

  • This doesn't seem to be a Catholic perspective.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 16, 2015 at 8:19
  • Sorry. My bad. I should Jan 16, 2015 at 8:23

If you have knowledge of nothing you cannot know evil. You can not know right from wrong. You can only have faith that God is right and satan is wrong. If you have the ability to learn. You can learn to deceive. You can learn to play off the good faith of others and trick them into getting what you want. It was not the tree of knowing right from wrong. It was the tree of knowledge. I believe the tree of knowledge is a metaphore for humans taking "satans" advice and receiving knowledge whether it was direct help from an unknown source or what. This is why God didn't want us to have knowledge. We were not ready for it. Therefor knowledge Is a sin. I believe in time knowledge will not be a sin, when Christ returns and good faith is restored among us. There will be knowledge of good and evil but no one will feel the need for evil when good is all around. There will be peace on Earth. We have to learn again to raise up to the next level and be with God. It is your choice.

  • 1
    Is this a Catholic perspective? Feb 23, 2015 at 17:19

You must log in to answer this question.