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inadequacies of the particular interpretation and subsequent doctrine. It is interesting to note the centrality in Christian theodicy of the Garden of Eden drama. The mainstream Augustinian philosophy of original sin and the fall of man traces evil in the world directly to the original “sin” at Eden. In the Augustinian formulation, all man kind is punished for man’s original sin at Eden. There are many theological and philosophical problems with this formulation, yet it remains the mainstream Christian doctrine on evil.

Common Jewish and Christian exegesis holds that Eve and Adam sinned in partaking of the Tree of Knowledge. In the Jewish philosophical tradition there is a spectrum of viewpoints on the Garden of Eden and its manifold symbolisms.

Our interpretation is that while Eve acted in contradiction to Divine tziviteecha (caution), the category of classic “sin” is simply inapplicable to the pre-Tree of Knowledge state. Rather, Eve, the symbolic mother of mankind, and Adam, the symbolic father of mankind, exercised their divinely granted measure of freedom to decline the warning of the Divine, and to choose the path of dynamics known by the title “Tree of Knowledge.”325 Man forsook the low-risk approach to life favored by the Divinity at that point for a bolder and riskier approach to life,326 which, while not favored by the Divinity then, was nevertheless definitely permitted.327 Man took the route advanced by John Stuart Mill: “Better Socrates dissatisfied than the fool satisfied; better the fool dissatisfied than the pig satisfied.”328

Berkovits notes:

Since man, without the challenge and the freedom of meeting it in responsible action, would not be human, we might as well say that, to the extent to which we are unable to attach sense and dignity to human existence, man is of necessity linked to imperfection. He who desires man in all his nothingness and potential glory must also desire the imperfections of man’s cosmic condition.329

——————- NOTES ——————-

325 See Buber, The Prophetic Faith, p. 103. “The unformulated primal theological principle of the Garden of Eden story about the divine-human relationship [is] . . . that created man has been provided by the Creator’s breath with real power of decision and so is able actually to oppose YHVH’s commanding will.” As cited in Herberg, Judaism and Modern Man, p. 84, n. 15.

326 Man foresook a low-risk/ low-reward-potential existence, for a high- risk high-reward-potential existence.

327 While Luzzatto’s treatment of Providence is very different from ours, he notes: “God arranged matters so that man’s chances of achieving ultimate salvation should be maximized.” Luzzatto, The Way of God, p. 125.
Cf. Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship,” in idem, Mysticism and Logic (New York: Norton, 1929), p. 48. “A strange mystery it is that nature, omnipotent but blind, has brought forth at last a child, subject still to her power but gifted with sight, with knowledge of good and evil, with the capacity of judging all the works of his unthinking mother. . . . Man is yet free, during his brief years, to examine, to criticize, to know and in imagination to create. To him alone in the world with which he is acquainted, this freedom belongs and in this lies his superiority to the resistless forces that control his outer life.”

328 See Hick, “Faith and Knowledge,” pp. 518-519.
Cf. Berkovits, God, Man and History, p. 146. “By creating man as a being in need of spiritual, intellectual, and ethical freedom in order to fulfill himself, God took a chance with His creature.”

329 Berkovits, God, Man and History, p. 79.


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