I honestly don’t have much to say about the general plot, so I’ll just ramble a bit (or a lot) on the topic of the tree of knowledge.

In the text, God explicitly tells Adam not to eat from the “tree of the knowledge and good and evil”. Doing so, God says, will result in his death. Now, taking out the “good and evil” part, we are left with the “tree of knowledge” which is essentially the core of what Adam and Eve consumed. By eating the fruit, they gained “knowledge” which resulted in their shame of nakedness and subsequently their banishment from Eden. The important point here is not that they gained knowledge, but that they gained knowledge that God did not want them to gain. One way of putting it is that they freed themselves from the shell of ignorance that God had cast over them—whether God did so because he wanted to remain superior, as the Serpent said, or because he wanted to protect Adam and Eve is up for debate.

Before they ate of the fruit, Adam and Eve’s knowledge constituted solely of what God provided them. Adam was given the right to name the animals by God, and Adam was given Eve as a companion by God. Their world, everything that they knew, consisted of what God allowed them to have. Because everything that they knew was brought in conjunction with everything that they had, they never had yearnings and were thus fully or mostly content. Of course, the exception to this is when God mentioned the tree of knowledge which shouldn’t be eaten from as it is a piece of knowledge that they knew existed but would not be allowed to have. The fruit of the tree, which contains “foreign” knowledge, was in essence the only link they had with the world outside their own. It was the key to the door that locked them in ignorance and, arguably, happiness.

When they eat from the tree, it becomes immediately clear that they have gained foreign knowledge due to their embarrassment at being naked. As far as I can tell, they did not wear clothes prior to this and did not have contact with anything that did wear clothes (well, maybe God did but whatever). To be embarrassed means that the embarrassed person has an ideal image of what they should be or what should be occurring and knows that the reality is lacking, and thus feel shame at not being ideal. The fact that Adam and Eve had this “ideal” image meant that they had gained knowledge of it—knowledge that God did not want them to gain. Because their world no longer consisted solely of the knowledge God granted them, God knew that they could no longer be contained in the world he created. Thus, he cast them out of Eden to enter the “real” world, or to be more accurate, the one which suited the knowledge that they had. He also made it so that they would have to suffer in order to live and make them able to die. On both the former and later, he may have given humans suffering and mortality so that they would not be able to achieve what they did in Eden—to become fully content, with everything that they now knew accompanied by everything that they had.   

Finally, on the topic of the “good and evil” part of the tree of knowledge (which I realize I brushed off without much fanfare), I will give an explanation using society’s general definition of both terms. In Eden, the reason why there was no good or evil was because their contentment—that of Adam of Eve’s—were fully realized. They had everything that they wanted and nothing that they did not want (again, the tree being the exception), and thus had no reason to commit either the act of good or evil; in a sense, they were simply “existing”. However, as they gained the “forbidden” knowledge and their world extended to the one beyond Eden, limitations (suffering and mortality) were put on them by God and as a result a discrepancy arose between what they knew existed and what they actually had. Thus, assuming that it is human nature to attempt to close this discrepancy and gain everything that they know exists, they chose methods to do so that suited each individual. Those who try to close the gap in conjunction and co-operation with others and for the benefit of society as a whole are considered “good,” while those who try to close the gap in opposition to and by taking from others and for the harm of society as a whole are considered “evil”. Of course these are ridiculously simplified definitions, but they serve their purposes here. In any case, because “good and evil” comes from the yearning of humanity to gain what they do not have, I consider it to be a byproduct rather than the core of the tree of knowledge. What’s important is the knowledge itself and that it goes beyond humans means and what God originally intended.

Rambling over. 

«Genesis», Julianna`s Thoughts

Similarily to Vincent, this has not been my first time reading the book of Genesis. I too am a Catholic, so I am very familiar with the stories it entails.

I must say that I find it very difficult to analyse or critique this work seeing as for the most part I believe in the stories it dictates. But, I`ll try my best :)

Firstly, I noticed similarities between the God of Genesis and the gods of The Odyssey. Primarily, it was the acceptation of sacrifices. Both the God of Genesis and those of Homer`s work rely upon sacrifices given up by the people in order to stay appeased. However, unlike The Odyssey, Genesis`God appears to truly care for his people. Yes, he does wipe out Sodom, and flood the Earth, but he does so in order to cleanse the Earth of the evil that is growing upon it. He also possesses the qualities of justice and mercy, in that he spares the innocent, and even will pardon the most wicked city for the sake of the righteous. In The Odyssey, however, the gods create a perception that they have little to no concern for humanity, except when it adversely affects them, such as Poseidon hunting down Odysseus. Also, the God of Genesis is portrayed in a far more traditional manner; he is far less endowed with human traits, such as jealousy or lust, reflecting a more common view of a deity. This portrays the discrepancies between different cultures regarding religious beliefs and values.

Another aspect that I noticed is the authority that God desires to possess over His people. The Lord only becomes angry with Adam and Eve when they obtain the knowledge that He has. This portrays the dominance that all Lords wish to have. In an attempt to see this from a non-religious perspective, one could say that the only reason the Lord abhors sin and wickedness is because it is contrary to what he dictates as law. As soon as God feels his authority is lost, such as with Sodom, and with the story of Noah and the ark, he must wipe out any opposition to his will.

Finally, it was interesting to note the discrepancy between what is considered justifiable. For example, when Cain commits the first murder of his brother, Abel, the Lord abhors the action, yet when the sons of Jacob kill Shechem, Hamor, and the rest of the city, all for raping Dinah, the Lord pays no heed. Perhaps adultery is considered horrible enough to justify such atrocious actions, but at the moment, I am a tad perplexed as to how one deems actions as acceptable…

All in all, I look forward to some heated literary and religious discussions in class :)


I didn’t grow up religious and my family never owned a Bible, so this was my first time reading it. Although I was familiar with the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (having read a portion of “Paradise Lost” in a high school Literature class), I knew next to nothing about Isaac, Abraham, Jacob, or Joseph.

I found that while I was reading “Genesis”, the God in “Genesis” didn’t exactly fit into my image of God. I always think of God as an omniscient Being who is very loving, wise, and gives unconditionally. The God in “Genesis” was often angry (well, not exactly angry, but rather stern). Someone who doesn’t laugh or smile very much. When He created the giant flood to wipe out humanity and the animals on Earth except for Noah and the creatures in the ark, I felt that He didn’t fit into my image at all. This God in “Genesis” was someone who gives, but wants and expects something in return. He was much more reasonable and mature than the Ancient Greek gods who have about the reasoning level of a three year old, but He just didn’t seem very nice. He seemed very condescending towards many of the male characters in “Genesis”, often treating them as if they were servants. And I always thought of God as a friend, a mentor, a person who genuinely cares about you and plans out things accordingly. This God was almost like a dictator. But he was certainly more caring towards people in general than, say, Stalin or Hitler.

“Genesis” itself wasn’t very action-packed. I felt that it was like a list of events that happened to a family that went on for generations. It wasn’t particularly interesting and for now, it’s hard for me to pick out the morals. Are we supposed to not listen to snakes? It wasn’t especially illuminating on human psychology or social structures, unlike “The Odyssey” or “Medea” where there’s more material to delve and discuss. “Genesis” was just… like reading family history. It’s a great read for those who enjoy reading about creation stories though. Other than that, I didn’t see a great deal of depth or substance in the “Genesis”. For those who are religious, I felt that “Genesis” wasn’t particularly religious in any way. “Genesis”… was basically a story where the characters simply obeyed God’s words and it’s about a family, generation after generation. I’m not quite sure why so many church people have to read this book because in my opinion, a book like “Harry Potter” has far more to say about religion and love than “Genesis”.

On the other hand, I felt that “Genesis” was one of those books that may not be entirely thrilling (“Paradise Lost” wasn’t very thrilling either, but it’s considered a masterpiece) but it’s definitely worth reading just to have a general background knowledge of some of the stories that take place in the Bible. Many novels and poems in modern day society will have some reference to mythology or the Bible, so it’s worth knowing about the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, and Adam and Eve.

Vincent’s Re-reading of Genesis

Being a catholic, I have read Genesis before, but this is my first time reading the entire section at once.

Trying to read the bible as a secular document is impossible for me given my beliefs so the way I interpret what I read is heavily influenced by what I know of the catholic church.  The Book of Genesis, is both a historical text and religious text.  Not only is it meant to document the early customs of the Jews and Christians in order for future Jews and Christians to follow, it is also a documentation of the early humans who descended from Adam.  The combination of both religious and historical text gives The Bible a very unique style of writing. Events and religion are blurred together to create a extraordinarily cohesive    piece of writing in which God is dealt with as a real historical being.  Unlike the Greek Myths, in which the gods have very human-like characteristics, the God of the Bible is more distanced, and while human-like characteristics define him, he is less flawed like the Greek Gods, although just as demanding.  Lineage is extraordinarily important.  The Bible continuously provides long lists of names that link the families of Jacob to Abraham, to Noah, to Adam.  In a sense, these lists provide a list of continuity that link the various persons in The Bible together.

Genesis also describes events that can be described today as horrific.  Levi and Simeon’s slaughtering of the men who wanted to marry Dinah for example.  They had a reason, but their action was very monstrous, but since the code of honor at the time was extremely stringent, they might have felt their actions were justified.  These events usually made me narrow my eyes, but they also enlightened me to the code of honor and the conditions at the time.

Possibly the most debatable person in Genesis is God himself.  His actions constantly direct the lives of the men who would become the Israelites and there are some parallels to him and the Greek Gods.  God, does aid the Israelites and the men.  He also punishes men who are bad or evil.  Yet, unlike the Greek Gods, the God of Genesis can be very merciful as he did promise Abraham that if he found 10 good people in Sodom, he would not destroy the entire city.  While God can be extremely powerful and destructive, he is also capable of very compassionate acts.

All in all, it was interesting to read Genesis after reading Medea and The Odyssey.