Episode 364 – Top 40 Texts #2: Genesis 2 with Dr. German


  • Gary Locklair says:

    Fantastic insights, Dr. German. I love this series. I have a question regarding your comment, “Why would ‘knowing good and evil’ cause death?” In ethics sections of my courses, I refer students to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer said (paraphrasing), ‘Ethics appears to be about determining good and evil. Christian ethics must overthrow this idea because man, in his origin, knew only one – the Good.’ Humans cannot know/determine good and evil, because knowing good and evil means we want to define good and evil. Today, that defining would be done in our own sinful nature. Rather than focusing on ‘good and evil,’ Adam was to focus on the Good, God. Is it appropriate to see the connection between Bonhoeffer’s comment on ethics and Genesis 2? I appreciate your comments on this.

    • Dr. Brian German says:

      Thanks for the great comment and question!

      I appreciate Bonhoeffer’s focus on “the Good” before the fall into sin. The light was good, man/woman together was good, and so on. For humanity to know “good and evil,” however, along the lines of God’s command about the tree, would be fatal. Was that because humanity would then redefine evil, as you/Bonhoeffer intimated? That certainly happened repeatedly in the history of Israel (e.g, Is. 5:20)! Was it because humanity wouldn’t be able to refrain from participating in evil? Would humanity, by this knowledge, de facto become evil? I suspect these and kindred explanations may all be at work.

      At the same time, one caveat to Bonhoeffer would be that in a fallen world, the task of knowing “the Good” also involves recognizing and refusing the evil. See, for example, the repeated phrase in the psalms: “Turn away from evil and do good” (Ps 34:14; 37:27). King David is praised for being able to distinguish these (“…my lord the king is like the angel of God to discern good and evil. The Lord your God be with you!” [2 Sam. 14:17]), and Solomon prays for the same discernment: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil…” (1 Kgs. 3:9). A nice summary of what that looks like, I think, is in Dt. 30:15, which associates “the good” with life and “the evil” with death.

      Dr. Brian German

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