Protected from the Bible – The Problem of Free Will


This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Protected from the Bible

Free will is a problem?

Absolutely!


Free will means there’s responsibility attached to our choices.  If there’s a price to pay for a given choice, the bill comes to us.

Free will means that when we mess up, we are at least partly at fault.  It’s hard to blame someone else for choices that we made.

It’s much “nicer” to be able to say, “I was made that way”, or “It’s so-and-so’s” fault.

We can absolve ourselves of all responsibility.


The opposite approach is to take the one that many Christian denominations take, where they say God predestined everything.  Oddly enough, that puts them in the position of saying that a “good” God is responsible for all the bad things that go wrong in the world.  They also say that those who are saved are saved because God predetermined who would be saved – and everyone else won’t be.

I have problems with this predestiny approach, some of which I’ve written about already in The problem of Predestiny.


Having been a math major in college and taken a number of logic courses, I also understand the inherent questions that come up with my previous article.  It’s very hard to prove a negative.  The Problem of Predestiny goes over a number of reasons why Predestiny cannot stand up to close investigation.  If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to do so – although it’s not required to understand The problem of Free Will.


The Problem of Free Will is going to be a positive proof that not only does Free Will exist, but that Free Will was given to us by God.  Further, it may surprise you just how long we’ve had that free will.  And, since this particular point wasn’t covered in The Problem of Predestiny, it may surprise you just when Free Will was given to us.


If you’re thinking really early for this gift of free will, you may remember this from Genesis –

Ge 2:19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

Seems reasonable, since Adam named all the animals, after God told him to.

However, there’s a difference between “choose” and “free will”.  Looking up both “choose” and “free will” in dictionary.com brings up an interesting distinction for “free will” –

free will in Culture
free will definition

The ability to choose, think, and act voluntarily. For many philosophers, to believe in free will is to believe that human beings can be the authors of their own actions and to reject the idea that human actions are determined by external conditions or fate. ( See determinism, fatalism, and predestination.)  1)The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

You see, free will is more about a philosophical choice, where there is an absence of influence by things like fate, a divine being, or something like that.  Naming animals isn’t something where one would expect the presence of any of those things, so their absence here really has no significance.

No – we need to go a bit further to find free will.  Further back, actually. (maybe you already have it)  To this –

Ge 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden”

OK – maybe, since I used the NIV translation, the fact that it says “You are free” is merely a translation phenomenon, and applying free will to this statement is going beyond what was intended when God said this to Adam.

Sorry.  I don’t think so.

Let’s go to Young’s Literal Translation.  It’s Old English.  It’s also literal.  Both of these make it a bit difficult for us today, but here it is –

Ge 2:16 And Jehovah God layeth a charge on the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden eating thou dost eat; 17 and of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou dost not eat of it, for in the day of thine eating of it—dying thou dost die.’  2)Young, R. (1997). Young’s Literal Translation (Ge 2:16–17). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Again – God is telling Adam he can eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden.

These days, we tend to think of God having told Adam that He could eat from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The problem is – that’s not what God said!

What God actually told Adam is that he could, literally, eat from any tree in the garden.  However, if Adam eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then he (Adam) will surely die.

That’s very different – and makes all the difference in the world.
The difference between free will and predestiny.
The difference between God knowing that Adam would, at some point, eat from that tree and God making Adam eat from the tree.

Still don’t believe what I’m saying?

Here are a few more translations –

The English Standard Version –

Ge 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely 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 surely die.”  3)The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:15–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

But now, look at the New Living Translation –

Ge 2:15 The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”  4)Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 2:15–17). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

and another popular “modern” translation, The Message –

Ge 2:15 God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order. 16-17 God commanded the Man, “You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil. Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.”  5)The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

If we compare the first translations with the last two, we see something very different –
In the first ones, God tells Adam he is free to eat from any tree, but there are consequences for eating from one of them
In the last two, God supposedly tells Adam he can eat from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In other words –
In the previous translations, God gives Adam the free will to eat from the tree – even if the act of eating from it will make him die.
In the last two versions, God tells Adam to choose from among all the trees except one.  Then, if he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he will die.
It’s a difference of why Adam dies.  In one, it’s because he now has a knowledge of good and evil – because eating from the tree makes him die.  In the other, it’s because he disobeyed God, and that’s what makes him die.  It’s a difference between direct consequence of eating the fruit – and the consequence of disobeying God, without taking into account the effect of now knowing the difference between good and evil

Still not convinced?

OK – maybe you still don’t believe me.
Maybe you don’t want to believe that certain translations have left something so important out of what they have written.

So, let’s go way, way back.  Back to the original Hebrew text, from which all of them should have started.

Starting with verse 16, we see this –

My software package gives the Hebrew along with the NIV translation, so that’s what you see above.  You can also see that the words do not line up neatly between the two.  For instance, there are no Hebrew words to go along with “in the”.  What’s not obvious at all is that English words in the NIV greatly expand on some of the Hebrew – while leaving out the meaning of other Hebrew words.

When there are gaps as far as words in Hebrew and words in English, the arrow points in the direction of where the gap was filled in from.  In the image above, that means “in the” applies to “garden” – not “tree”.  In this case, it’s obvious – but it’s not always so obvious, so I want be sure you know.

So – let’s see what we have here.

“You are free to eat” 

“You are free to eat” matches up with the two occurrences of 398.  398 points us to a Hebrew word –

398 אָכַל [ʾakal /aw·kal/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 85; GK 430; 810 occurrences; AV translates as “eat” 604 times, “devour” 111 times, “consume” 32 times, and translated miscellaneously 55 times. 1 to eat, devour, burn up, feed. 1A (Qal). 1A1 to eat (human subject). 1A2 to eat, devour (of beasts and birds). 1A3 to devour, consume (of fire). 1A4 to devour, slay (of sword). 1A5 to devour, consume, destroy (inanimate subjects—ie, pestilence, drought). 1A6 to devour (of oppression). 1B (Niphal). 1B1 to be eaten (by men). 1B2 to be devoured, consumed (of fire). 1B3 to be wasted, destroyed (of flesh). 1C (Pual). 1C1 to cause to eat, feed with. 1C2 to cause to devour. 1D (Hiphil). 1D1 to feed. 1D2 to cause to eat. 1E (Piel). 1E1 consume.  6)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

That word matches up with “eat”.  So, what about the “you are free to”?  Where did that come from?

Well, that’s because the word is repeated.  In Hebrew Scripture, there’s a special significance to a repeated word.  From Restoration Torah we read, in an introduction of How to Read Torah through Jewish Eyes

 Every word and every letter of the Hebrew Scriptures is significant.

In the Jewish understanding of Scripture, there is no such thing as repetition for its own sake.  That is, if a word or phrase is repeated, there is something new being conveyed; it is not simply the same thing said over again for emphasis (which can be eliminated without losing anything). Therefore, Jewish scholars search repeating elements more closely to discover what is different between the two (or more) cases, and what G-d was saying in each occurrence.

So, we see there’s something new being conveyed here in the repetition of “eat, eat”.  I submit to you that new thing is free will – the first time Adam has had a choice to do something significant – something that could separate him from God.  Something that used to be more clearly portrayed in the “older” translations of the Bible.  Something that we’re losing in the newer ones.

As I pointed out, there’s a huge difference between “you may eat from any tree”, with a later admonition of danger – and “you may eat from any tree except”.

However, there’s even more –

But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

First off, you can see there’s no matching Hebrew for “you must”.  The word “you” is assumed, since God us speaking one-on-one with Adam.  However, the “must” word – it’s added for the English speaker.  One can see from Young’s Literal Translation above, some extra meaning was added.

However, the issue gets even messier when looking at the Hebrew words:

Here they are, one at a time (please bear with me here – it’s important to go through this for a complete understanding of what was “lost in the translation” –

3808

3808 הֲלֹא, לֹא, לֹה [loʾ, lowʾ, loh /lo/] adv. A primitive particle; TWOT 1064; GK 2132 and 4202 and 4257; 76 occurrences; AV translates as “not”, “no”, “none”, “nay”, “never”, “neither”, “ere”, “otherwise”, and “before”. 1 not, no. 1A not (with verb—absolute prohibition). 1B not (with modifier—negation). 1C nothing (subst). 1D without (with particle). 1E before (of time).  7)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

398

398 אָכַל [ʾakal /aw·kal/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 85; GK 430; 810 occurrences; AV translates as “eat” 604 times, “devour” 111 times, “consume” 32 times, and translated miscellaneously 55 times. 1 to eat, devour, burn up, feed. 1A (Qal). 1A1 to eat (human subject). 1A2 to eat, devour (of beasts and birds). 1A3 to devour, consume (of fire). 1A4 to devour, slay (of sword). 1A5 to devour, consume, destroy (inanimate subjects—ie, pestilence, drought). 1A6 to devour (of oppression). 1B (Niphal). 1B1 to be eaten (by men). 1B2 to be devoured, consumed (of fire). 1B3 to be wasted, destroyed (of flesh). 1C (Pual). 1C1 to cause to eat, feed with. 1C2 to cause to devour. 1D (Hiphil). 1D1 to feed. 1D2 to cause to eat. 1E (Piel). 1E1 consume.  8)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

4480

4480 מִן, מִנִּי, מֵעַל [min, minniy, minney /min/] prep. From 4482; TWOT 1212, 1213e; GK 4946 and 4974 and 5088; 25 occurrences; AV translates as “among”, “with”, “from”, “that not”, “since”, “after”, “at”, “by”, and “whether”. 1 from, out of, on account of, off, on the side of, since, above, than, so that not, more than. 1A from (expressing separation), off, on the side of. 1B out of. 1B1 (with verbs of proceeding, removing, expelling). 1B2 (of material from which something is made). 1B3 (of source or origin). 1C out of, some of, from (partitively). 1D from, since, after (of time). 1E than, more than (in comparison). 1F from … even to, both … and, either … or. 1G than, more than, too much for (in comparisons). 1H from, on account of, through, because (with infinitive) conj. 2 that.  9)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

1931

1931 הוּא, הִיא [huwʾ, beyond, Pentateuch), hiyʾ /hoo/] pron 3p s. A primitive word; TWOT 480; GK 2085 and 2115; 38 occurrences; AV translates as “that”, “him”, “same”, “this”, “he”, “which”, “who”, “such”, and “wherein”. 1 he, she, it. 1A himself (with emphasis). 1B resuming subj with emphasis. 1C (with minimum emphasis following predicate). 1D (anticipating subj). 1E (emphasising predicate). 1F that, it (neuter) demons pron. 2 that (with article).  10)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

4480 (again!)

4480 מִן, מִנִּי, מֵעַל [min, minniy, minney /min/] prep. From 4482; TWOT 1212, 1213e; GK 4946 and 4974 and 5088; 25 occurrences; AV translates as “among”, “with”, “from”, “that not”, “since”, “after”, “at”, “by”, and “whether”. 1 from, out of, on account of, off, on the side of, since, above, than, so that not, more than. 1A from (expressing separation), off, on the side of. 1B out of. 1B1 (with verbs of proceeding, removing, expelling). 1B2 (of material from which something is made). 1B3 (of source or origin). 1C out of, some of, from (partitively). 1D from, since, after (of time). 1E than, more than (in comparison). 1F from … even to, both … and, either … or. 1G than, more than, too much for (in comparisons). 1H from, on account of, through, because (with infinitive) conj. 2 that.  11)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

6086

6086 עֵץ [ʿets /ates/] n m. From 6095; TWOT 1670a; GK 6770; 328 occurrences; AV translates as “tree” 162 times, “wood” 107 times, “timber” 23 times, “stick” 14 times, “gallows” eight times, “staff” four times, “stock” four times, “carpenter + 2796” twice, “branches” once, “helve” once, “planks” once, and “stalks” once. 1 tree, wood, timber, stock, plank, stalk, stick, gallows. 1A tree, trees. 1B wood, pieces of wood, gallows, firewood, cedar-wood, woody flax.  12)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

what we have now is –

but not eat from this from tree

with from being included twice.

There’s something special about this tree – otherwise it wouldn’t have been repeated.

However – did you catch something else in there?
Something that isn’t in any of the translation we look at?

It says not to eat from this tree.

We don’t know in our English translations that God placed special emphasis on that one tree (above and beyond the normal, since it the word was used twice) – like He was trying to put up huge “caution” “danger ahead” signs like we see today.  It’s hard to know for sure, but usage of the word meaning “this” could also indicate that God actually pointed out the tree – not just a casual, “oh, by the way Adam, don’t eat from that one tree that we called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”.

But – there’s still more, believe it or not.

Tree of the knowledge of good and evil

Ready for this?

Look at all those arrows and missing words.

Now, we have –

6086

6086 עֵץ [ʿets /ates/] n m. From 6095; TWOT 1670a; GK 6770; 328 occurrences; AV translates as “tree” 162 times, “wood” 107 times, “timber” 23 times, “stick” 14 times, “gallows” eight times, “staff” four times, “stock” four times, “carpenter + 2796” twice, “branches” once, “helve” once, “planks” once, and “stalks” once. 1 tree, wood, timber, stock, plank, stalk, stick, gallows. 1A tree, trees. 1B wood, pieces of wood, gallows, firewood, cedar-wood, woody flax.  13)  Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

1847

1847 דַּעַת, דַּעַת, דַּעַת [daʿath /dah·ath/] n m/f. From 3045; TWOT 848c; GK 1981 and 1982 and 1983; 93 occurrences; AV translates as “knowledge” 82 times, “know” six times, “cunning” once, “unwittingly 2 + 1097” twice, “ignorantly + 1097” once, and “unawares + 1097” once. 1 knowledge. 1A knowledge, perception, skill. 1B discernment, understanding, wisdom.  14)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

2896

2896 טָבַב, טִבָּה, טֹוב, טֹוב, טֹוב, טֹובָה [towb /tobe/] adj n m f. From 2895; TWOT 793a; GK 3176 and 3177 and 3201 and 3202 and 3205 and 3208; 559 occurrences; AV translates as “good” 361 times, “better” 72 times, “well” 20 times, “goodness” 16 times, “goodly” nine times, “best” eight times, “merry” seven times, “fair” seven times, “prosperity” six times, “precious” four times, “fine” three times, “wealth” three times, “beautiful” twice, “fairer” twice, “favour” twice, “glad” twice, and translated miscellaneously 35 times. 1 good, pleasant, agreeable. 1A pleasant, agreeable (to the senses). 1B pleasant (to the higher nature). 1C good, excellent (of its kind). 1D good, rich, valuable in estimation. 1E good, appropriate, becoming. 1F better (comparative). 1G glad, happy, prosperous (of man’s sensuous nature). 1H good understanding (of man’s intellectual nature). 1I good, kind, benign. 1J good, right (ethical). 2 a good thing, benefit, welfare. 2A welfare, prosperity, happiness. 2B good things (collective). 2C good, benefit. 2D moral good. 3 welfare, benefit, good things. 3A welfare, prosperity, happiness. 3B good things (collective). 3C bounty.  15)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

7451

7451 רַע, רַע [raʿ /rah/] adj n m f. From 7489; TWOT 2191a, 2191c; GK 8273 and 8274; 663 occurrences; AV translates as “evil” 442 times, “wickedness” 59 times, “wicked” 25 times, “mischief” 21 times, “hurt” 20 times, “bad” 13 times, “trouble” 10 times, “sore” nine times, “affliction” six times, “ill” five times, “adversity” four times, “favoured” three times, “harm” three times, “naught” three times, “noisome” twice, “grievous” twice, “sad” twice, and translated miscellaneously 34 times. 1 bad, evil. 1A bad, disagreeable, malignant. 1B bad, unpleasant, evil (giving pain, unhappiness, misery). 1C evil, displeasing. 1D bad (of its kind—land, water, etc). 1E bad (of value). 1F worse than, worst (comparison). 1G sad, unhappy. 1H evil (hurtful). 1I bad, unkind (vicious in disposition). 1J bad, evil, wicked (ethically). 1J1 in general, of persons, of thoughts. 1J2 deeds, actions. 2 evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity. 2A evil, distress, adversity. 2B evil, injury, wrong. 2C evil (ethical). 3 evil, misery, distress, injury. 3A evil, misery, distress. 3B evil, injury, wrong. 3C evil (ethical).  16)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

what we now have for this segment is –

tree the knowledge good and evil

which the Christian Bible translations have as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
that we look at as meaning eating from this tree gives one the knowledge of good and evil, which apparently Adam didn’t have at the time of this encounter with God.

It’s not that the tree has the knowledge – but eating from the tree gives one this knowledge – the ability to know good and evil.

and finally, we have –

for when you eat from it you will certainly die

In this verse, the Hebrew words are –

3588

3588 כִּי, כִּי עַל כֵּן, כִּי־אִם, כַּמָּה [kiy /kee/] conj. A primitive particle; TWOT 976; GK 3954 and 3956 and 3955 and 4015; 46 occurrences; AV translates as “that”, “because”, “for”, “if”, “surely”, “except”, “yea”, and “doubtless”. 1 that, for, because, when, as though, as, because that, but, then, certainly, except, surely, since. 1A that. 1A1 yea, indeed. 1B when (of time). 1B1 when, if, though (with a concessive force). 1C because, since (causal connection). 1D but (after negative). 1E that if, for if, indeed if, for though, but if. 1F but rather, but. 1G except that. 1H only, nevertheless. 1I surely. 1J that is. 1K but if. 1L for though. 1M forasmuch as, for therefore.  17)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

3117

3117 יׄום, יׄום [yowm /yome/] n m. From an unused root meaning to be hot; TWOT 852; GK 3427 and 3428; 2274 occurrences; AV translates as “day” 2008 times, “time” 64 times, “chronicles + 1697” 37 times, “daily” 32 times, “ever” 17 times, “year” 14 times, “continually” 10 times, “when” 10 times, “as” 10 times, “while” eight times, “full 8 always” four times, “whole” four times, “alway” four times, and translated miscellaneously 44 times. 1 day, time, year. 1A day (as opposed to night). 1B day (24 hour period). 1B1 as defined by evening and morning in Genesis 1. 1B2 as a division of time. 1B2A a working day, a day’s journey. 1C days, lifetime (pl.). 1D time, period (general). 1E year. 1F temporal references. 1F1 today. 1F2 yesterday. 1F3 tomorrow.  18)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

859

859 אַתְּ, אַתָּה, אַתִּי, אַתֶּם, אַתֵּן [ʾattah, or (shortened),, ʾatta, ʾath, ʾattiy, ʾattem, ʾatten, ʾattenah, ʾattennah /at·taw/] pers pron. A primitive pronoun of the second person; TWOT 189; GK 905 and 911 and 914 and 917 and 920; 11 occurrences; AV translates as “thou”, “you”, and “ye”. 1 you (second pers. sing. masc.).  19)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

398

398 אָכַל [ʾakal /aw·kal/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 85; GK 430; 810 occurrences; AV translates as “eat” 604 times, “devour” 111 times, “consume” 32 times, and translated miscellaneously 55 times. 1 to eat, devour, burn up, feed. 1A (Qal). 1A1 to eat (human subject). 1A2 to eat, devour (of beasts and birds). 1A3 to devour, consume (of fire). 1A4 to devour, slay (of sword). 1A5 to devour, consume, destroy (inanimate subjects—ie, pestilence, drought). 1A6 to devour (of oppression). 1B (Niphal). 1B1 to be eaten (by men). 1B2 to be devoured, consumed (of fire). 1B3 to be wasted, destroyed (of flesh). 1C (Pual). 1C1 to cause to eat, feed with. 1C2 to cause to devour. 1D (Hiphil). 1D1 to feed. 1D2 to cause to eat. 1E (Piel). 1E1 consume.  20)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

4480

4480 מִן, מִנִּי, מֵעַל [min, minniy, minney /min/] prep. From 4482; TWOT 1212, 1213e; GK 4946 and 4974 and 5088; 25 occurrences; AV translates as “among”, “with”, “from”, “that not”, “since”, “after”, “at”, “by”, and “whether”. 1 from, out of, on account of, off, on the side of, since, above, than, so that not, more than. 1A from (expressing separation), off, on the side of. 1B out of. 1B1 (with verbs of proceeding, removing, expelling). 1B2 (of material from which something is made). 1B3 (of source or origin). 1C out of, some of, from (partitively). 1D from, since, after (of time). 1E than, more than (in comparison). 1F from … even to, both … and, either … or. 1G than, more than, too much for (in comparisons). 1H from, on account of, through, because (with infinitive) conj. 2 that.  21)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

1931

1931 הוּא, הִיא [huwʾ, beyond, Pentateuch), hiyʾ /hoo/] pron 3p s. A primitive word; TWOT 480; GK 2085 and 2115; 38 occurrences; AV translates as “that”, “him”, “same”, “this”, “he”, “which”, “who”, “such”, and “wherein”. 1 he, she, it. 1A himself (with emphasis). 1B resuming subj with emphasis. 1C (with minimum emphasis following predicate). 1D (anticipating subj). 1E (emphasising predicate). 1F that, it (neuter) demons pron. 2 that (with article).  22)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

4191 (repeated!)

4191 מוּת [muwth /mooth/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 1169; GK 4637; 835 occurrences; AV translates as “die” 424 times, “dead” 130 times, “slay” 100 times, “death” 83 times, “surely” 50 times, “kill” 31 times, “dead man” three times, “dead body” twice, “in no wise” twice, and translated miscellaneously 10 times. 1 to die, kill, have one executed. 1A (Qal). 1A1 to die. 1A2 to die (as penalty), be put to death. 1A3 to die, perish (of a nation). 1A4 to die prematurely (by neglect of wise moral conduct). 1B (Polel) to kill, put to death, dispatch. 1C (Hiphil) to kill, put to death. 1D (Hophal). 1D1 to be killed, be put to death. 1D1A to die prematurely.  23)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

and we have –

because when/if you eat from this die die

Notice – the word “because” is a better word than “for”, since in today’s language usage, is better emphasizes the relationship between the eating of the fruit from this tree and the “die die” consequence – being a direct one to one cause and effect scenario.

Some may take issue of my substitution of the word “if” for the word “when”.  However, when could be construed as a forgone conclusion that God is expressing to Adam.  While God certainly knew that Adam was, at some point, going to eat from this tree – it’s not certain that God would have expressed this knowledge to Adam.  Use of the word “when” implies that God essentially told Adam that He was going to eat from this tree.  

Going back to  Restoration Torah we read, in an introduction of How to Read Torah through Jewish Eyes

The ambiguity in Hebrew Scripture was intentional, and inspired by G-d.

The rabbinic teaching, supported by Yeshua’s declaration,[1] is that this textual condition is not a detriment that needs to be fixed, but a fluidity by which G-d spoke – and still speaks – to many situations and on different levels, through one given passage. This principle is known in Jewish tradition as “The 70 Faces of Torah” (applied to the Prophets as well). Therefore, the written text itself is inspired, not just one specific idea expressed in the written words.

All possibilities in the unpointed Hebrew text should be explored, and can be taught.

The purpose of the Masoretic “nikud” was not to limit the ambiguity, but to provide uniformity in public reading throughout the Diaspora. The unpointed Hebrew text is studied by Jewish scholars under the assumption that the Holy Spirit endowed it with various levels of intentional multiple meanings. All reasonable possibilities in meaning are considered legitimate and are required study for the complete understanding of the Scriptures.

Given that, and ruling out the possible translations that make no sense, the usage of “if” certainly fits in with the way Jewish people study their Scripture.  This is something that, according to Restoration Torah, Christian translators don’t always do.

The words “you eat from” certainly are in line with the Hebrew.

Again, we see the Hebrew word that could just as well be translated as “this”, meaning a specific tree that may have been pointed out – instead of just naming the tree.

And then we get to the final word(s) and the final time something is left out of the English translations.  All of them,

This time it’s “die die” – meaning there’s special emphasis on die.  And something else that Adam is learning for the first time.  
Unfortunately, too many people who are used to reading the English translations are also learning it for the first time – right now as you read it.

as a side note here – something I hope to get to later – when looking at the dialogue between Satan and Eve, we see something else.  We know that Eve didn’t really know / understand what God said.  When looking at the Hebrew, we find out just how much Satan knew about what God said – much more than you might have thought.  Satan even let Eve know that – by telling her something that she apparently forgot (or didn’t understand) – and she still ate from the tree.

 

Conclusion on the verses

we now have, paraphrased / in a more modern and literal translation –

Ge 2:16 … “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

today means –

I (God) give you (Adam) the free will to eat from any tree in the Garden.  But do not eat from this, from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because if you eat from this you “die die”.

God gives Adam the free will to eat from literally any tree in the Garden of Eden.  However, if he does eat from that particular tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he will die in a death that’s worse than anything he has knowledge of.

I say that he has knowledge of, because the word is repeated.  This is new.  
However, in the conversation between Satan and Eve that I alluded to earlier, Eve uses the single word translated as “die”.  The implication – there’s something else – maybe not death as we know it today – but something that Adam and Eve apparently know of that distinguishes the “die die” of this verse from the “die” that Eve used.

Whether that knowledge came from the days before the Garden of Eden or somehow in the garden, we aren’t told.
Remember, from verse 15, Adam was created and subsequently placed in the Garden of Eden.  Eve was created after Adam was already in the Garden of Eden.

The thing to be cognizant of here – is that somehow / some way – Adam and Eve apparently knew the difference between “die” and “die die”.

I found one other item from Restoration Torah to be most interesting when examining this issue – 

Contradictory meanings are viewed as further proof of Divine involvement.

There is no attempt to try to determine a single “original” or “correct” or “best” meaning of a passage, but rather to study its various possible meanings, also in connection with related passages in other contexts.  This approach is also applied to Scriptural prophecies (which in Jewish understanding can have multiple contexts and multiple fulfillments).

When these possibilities appear to conflict with one another,[6] it does not provoke doubt or confusion, but rather celebration of the truth that G-d’s thoughts and ways are deeper than our own, and a renewed effort to comprehend the mystery represented by the paradox He is presenting. 

The serenity of the Jewish response to Scriptural contradictions may seem strange to the Christian believer, whose approach to “scriptural difficulties” is to seek a resolution of the “problem”.[7]  Yet the Jewish view is based on the assumption is that such quandaries mark the Scriptures as revelation from G-d.  Indeed, if everything in the Scriptures were comprehensible to the human mind, it would imply that they were merely a work of human literature.

 

Conclusion on what it means

It’s not the way most (if any) translations look at it.  
It doesn’t fit into the nice, neat, “we know everything about scripture” point of view.
It leaves things that we don’t know for sure.
But it also opens up, in this case, a much deeper relationship that may well have existed between God and Adam & Eve than we who read the Christian translations of the Torah would normally hear.

And yet everything I have above fits in the way that Jewish people would study the scriptures in their native language.

But even there, the Jewish people are still waiting for Messiah.  They don’t believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah of their Scripture.  

So they look at the same Scripture from a different point of view – and with different methods to determine meaning.

It should be no surprise then, that using the Jewish methodology with the Christian viewpoint on Messiah, something different should become apparent.

And then one reaches the point of my last inclusion from Restoration Torah –

Translations are not adequate for in-depth Scripture study.

As a result of the Christian approach mentioned above, the built-in ambiguity of the Hebrew text is generally regarded by Bible translators as a “difficulty to resolve” in the translation process. The average translation will pass on only a single layer of meaning, usually the “pshat” (or surface message) of the Hebrew text.  A “study Bible” may give one more alternate reading (listed in the margin) for an occasional word that is especially obvious in its ambiguity, or that has a Messianic application in the New Testament. An “amplified study Bible” may try to give a few more alternate readings of selected phrases deemed to be significant by the editors.   But a translation cannot afford to include alternative meanings for entire passages, much less many of the figurative meanings or word-plays found in the Hebrew.

For this reason, the Hebrew Scriptures are studied by Jewish scholars mainly through the Hebrew original (with the freedom to ignore the “nikud”), and with special attention paid to unusual and unexpected words and spellings.  Key Hebrew words that appear in seemingly unrelated passages are also noted and explored.  Many of these “keys” disappear in translations, which assign the same Hebrew word different meanings in different contexts.

So what does it mean?

Looking at  the verses this way, it means (I believe)

God gave Adam the free will to decide whether or not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God made certain Adam knew which tree that was.

God also made certain Adam knew the consequences of eating from that tree.

After that, as part of the free will given by God to Adam, Adam (and therefore Eve) could choose to believe God or not, to listen to God’s warning or not, and accept the consequences of the actions they took, knowing full well that God had already informed them of those consequences.

Which goes back to what I said at the top –
Free will comes with responsibility.
Decisions and actions come with consequences, some of which may be undesirable.
We have to pay the price for our actions.

Adam and Eve knew this – acted according to their own choice – and there was a price.

With the translations many people read today, it’s not hard to convince ourselves that what happened in the Garden was “just” a simple case of Satan tricked Adam & Eve.  The words were so close – they didn’t really understand what was at stake.

Some, especially atheists it seems – take this further and call God evil for making every person ever born pay the price for what Adam & Eve did.

But it wasn’t a case of “simple trickery”.

From what we’ve seen, it’s more like God really made sure Adam knew what was as stake – knew something truly different and truly deadly was going to happen if they ate from the tree.  

It seems to me like what we have today is closer to what people think happened in the Garden.  Today, I’m not sure people understand just how fully all of this was explained to Adam.  And I’m not sure people today understand how much Adam knew about the consequences of eating from that tree.  

There’s also the question of who told what to Eve, that I think is poorly presented today.  (I wrote about this earlier, but it’s not moved over yet.  When I do, I’ll add a link here.  You can also subscribe to the site and receive an email when new stuff is put up.)

Anyway – I feel like Adam & Eve knew a lot more than we, today, are led to believe.
And – I feel like, in the process of protecting us from what the Bible really says, we know less than we should.  
Less than what God intended for us to know.

Given this Proverb on the benefits of wisdom – shouldn’t we have the full knowledge and understanding?

Moral Benefits of Wisdom

Pr 2:1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
Pr 2:2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
Pr 2:3 and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
Pr 2:4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
Pr 2:5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
Pr 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom,
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Pr 2:7 He holds victory in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
Pr 2:8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Pr 2:9 Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
Pr 2:10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Pr 2:11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

Pr 2:12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
Pr 2:13 who leave the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
Pr 2:14 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
Pr 2:15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.

Pr 2:16 It will save you also from the adulteress,
from the wayward wife with her seductive words,
Pr 2:17 who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
Pr 2:18 For her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
Pr 2:19 None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.

Pr 2:20 Thus you will walk in the ways of good men
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
Pr 2:21 For the upright will live in the land,
and the blameless will remain in it;
Pr 2:22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the unfaithful will be torn from it.

Don’t be protected from the Bible.

Learn and understand from it.

 

Series Navigation<< I didn’t know you prayedProtected from the Bible – Who’s in Hell >>

References   [ + ]

1. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
2. Young, R. (1997). Young’s Literal Translation (Ge 2:16–17). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:15–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
4. Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 2:15–17). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
5. The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
13.  Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

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