"Thus both of them break the commandment and come to experience evil. Their punishment is to be cast out of the Garden, into a world of pain and suffering and hard work."
"How does God do evil?"
"How does God do evil?"
"He doesn't. That is, if you are talking about the concept of God referred to in this passage, it would be impossible."
"That's what I thought. I mean, if evil means disobeying God, God couldn't disobey himself."
"That's true. I'm not quite sure what your question is."
"It says…" Sofia shuffled through the pages of the text, losing one, which drifted to the floor. She made a grab for it, missed, then let it go and found the page she was looking for.
"See? Here, at the beginning—it says 'God knows that when you eat it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'"
Jeremy leaned forward. "I see what she's saying. If the 'knowledge' in this passage is experiential, and if God knows evil, then he must know it by doing it. If that's impossible…"
Sophia shot Jeremy a smile.
"Yeah," she said, "I mean, if it was knowing the difference between good and evil—that would make sense. It would be, like, that's God's job, not ours. We could just live and let live."
"It makes sense," said Jeremy. "That way the fruit of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would be just what it says—like the Tree of Life. Instead of the fall being disobedience to a moral rule, it would be introducing the moral rule. Wow."
"Yeah." Sophia was excited now. "They're perfectly happy, just living naturally in the garden the way God created them, not worried about being naked or anything—and then they mess it all up by trying to know about right and wrong."
The professor interrupted.
"Before you two get too enamored of your theory, there are a couple of points to consider. First of all, isn't it possible that knowledge is completely different for God than it is for humans? And secondly, have you noticed that the quote you're basing this on is coming from the mouth of the serpent, who is the deceiver in this passage?"
That should wipe the smile off of Jeremy's face.
But it didn't.
Jeremy flipped rapidly through his copy of the text.
"But God says the same thing—toward the end. 'Human has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.' So it's not just the serpent, God says it too."
"And," Sophia added, "if knowing good and evil is how humans became like God, it doesn't make sense that it's a whole different kind of knowing."
The professor knew when to stop digging1. He glanced at his watch.
"I'm afraid that's all we have time for today. We'll have to take this up at the next session."
The students began to pack up and leave, their chatter echoing through the room and down the hall. Paulette approached him with a technical question, designed, he was sure, to show him that she had followed up a footnote in the reading.
The autumn leaves shifted in the breeze outside the window, stirring some feeling he could not define in his chest.
Paulette's question was actually perceptive, but for some reason the professor found himself more interested in the smile Miss Simple gave, so freely, to Jeremy, as she floated out the door.
1The reference is to a proverb of the period: "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." -ed.