And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:22)

In what way did Adam and Eve become like God, in knowing good from evil? Most answers to related questions on this site suggest that Adam and Eve already knew it was wrong to disobey God and to eat against His wishes.

In the past, I have taught others that they did not know evil 'experientially.' It had only been theoretical before. But that understanding implies that God knew sin experientially also !!

So, in some way they knew they should not eat, and after eating their knowledge changed or increased. But that new knowledge does not depend on having to sin in order to learn it.

So the only increase in knowledge that I can think of is

understanding (some of) the results of sin and how it affects others and God.

But I am looking for other ideas or better expressions of this idea. What is an overview of the main theological explanations of what this means?

3 Answers 3


Notice that in Genesis 3:22, God says "now the man is become like one of us," after Adam had eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God was not equating the angels with himself, so in using the plural he could only have been referring to other gods. Indeed, Keel and Uehlinger say in Gods, Goddesses and Images of God in Ancient Israel, page 2 (translated from German by Thomas H. Trapp), that recent Old Testament research, at least so far as this is carried out by German-speaking scholars interested in religio-historical questions, generally assumes that the religion of pre-Exilic Israel and Judah is to be characterised as thoroughly polytheistic.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was more than just, say, an apple tree placed there to see if Adam and Eve would disobey God and thereby experience sin. The ancients divided the entire world into that which was good and that which was evil, so to have knowledge of good and evil was to know everything, just as the gods did. Adam had become like the gods, except that he was still mortal.

So that Adam would not now eat of the Tree of Life which God had also planted in the Garden of Eden, and thus become immortal like the gods, God sent Adam and Eve from the Garden and placed cherubim and a flaming sword to keep (block) the path to the Tree of Life (3:24).

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    So you are saying that it meant that Adam now knew all evil and all good things that existed. Sort of like a hyperbole, that having done one evil thing, he knew all about all evil things? Mar 24, 2015 at 1:49
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    @FredOakman No, in reading that part of my answer, you have to think the way the ancients did. They said everything that existed was either good or bad, nothing else. So to have the (full) knowledge of good and bad, you knew everything. 'Good' is not just 'perfect', and 'bad' is not just evil, because in this dualism some things are only just good (like my favourite apple pie) and other things are only just bad (like a pie I didn't like very much). Incidentally, this is not my opinion, what I am saying, but what scholars have learnt about ancient cultures. Mar 24, 2015 at 2:31

I can offer up the Mormon perspective on these verses. The Book of Mormon has a wonderful explanation of the purposes and the nature of creation in the Book of 2 Nephi.

10 And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement—
11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.

In the Mormon view, it isn't necessary to have actually sinned to claim that 'knowledge of good and evil' but merely to have been enticed by sin (else how could Jesus have claim to know our suffering and yet remained sinless?). Adam and Eve, having eaten of the fruit, had progressed beyond simply being and had become self directed, 'agents unto themselves, able to act rather than be acted upon'. They were ready to begin their mortal sojourn.

21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

I apologize for the length of the quotes but they are my favorite in all of scripture. God's intent in the creation of men is that they might know joy and all the commandments and instructions we receive from God are geared toward teaching us to follow the path that leads to joy. Adam and Eve partaking of the fuit was anticipated and was a part of God's plan (how could anything that comes to pass not be anticipated by One who knows all?).

We aren't told how long Adam and Eve spent in the garden. It could have been days or weeks or many millenia. We aren't told how long it took the serpent (Satan) to convince Eve to eat of the fruit, though it's my personal feeling that we have been given only a synopsis of what must have been a long series of conversations. Having eaten they became aware of and subject to the temptations of sin, capable of experiencing grief and therefor joy, sadness and therefor happiness, fear and therefor faith. And they were cast out of the garden and into their mortal probation.


Lets start with the serpent:

Genesis 3:4-5 (KJV)

4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods..

Which is a lie, they were already "like" gods

Genesis 1:27 (KJV)

27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him

But there eyes were not opened to evil

Genesis 3:7 (KJV)

7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked

There eyes were opened to the ability to:

  • doubt God
  • disobey God

This is the knowledge that they gained.

From this all sin was brought into the world:

Romans 5:12 (KJV)

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Because the heart of man was defiled

Jeremiah 17:9(KJV)

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

The complications of this was that God had to send Jesus to open the eyes of man to:

  • trust God
  • obey God

Ephesians 1:17-18 (KJV)

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

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