Ten Christian Prooftexts:

The misuse of Hebrew Scriptures
to "prove" Christian claims, and the Jewish response

#3 GENESIS 3:22



And the Etrnl Gd said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Etrnl Gd sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

ANALYSIS:

Just as we saw in Genesis 1:26, Christians see the use of a plural in relation to Gd, and assume that it means the trinity.

There is nothing in verse 22 that indicates that Gd was speaking to Himself or to a part of any trinity. There are other explanations of this verse that do not agree with the Christians' interpretation that Gd was speaking to one or both of the other two in the trinity. For example, Gd could have been using what is called the 'pluralis majestatis,' the 'majestic plural,' or the 'royal we.' Many are familiar with the statement made by Queen Victoria in the early 1900's, 'We are not amused,' referring to herself. Again, even if this were a plural reference to Gd, it doesn't have to mean three, it could mean three thousand. If the Hindus were to interpret these verses as referring to the multiplicity of Hindu gods, how could Christians claim that the Hindu interpretation was any less valid than their Christian interpretation?

There is a more obvious meaning to be found in the entire passage and in the simple meaning of the verses. Gd is speaking to someone who, like Gd, knows the difference between Good and Evil, and who, like Gd, is immortal. Just a few verses before Genesis 3:22, Gd had already created the angels, the hosts of heaven.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. [Genesis 2:1]

From the Jewish perspective, in Genesis 3:22, Gd was speaking to the Heavenly Hosts, the angels. The angels, like Gd, are immortal, and, like Gd, they know the difference between Good and Evil. This is what the verses here are saying. Man, both Adam and Eve, have eaten of the fruit of The Tree Of The Knowledge Of The Difference Between Good And Evil, and therefore know the difference between Good and Evil. However, unlike Gd and the angels, Adam and Eve remain mortal. If they were to then eat from the Tree Of Life, they would become immortal, and so Gd separates them from the Tree Of Life by kicking them out of the Garden Of Eden, and then keeps them away from the Tree Of Life by placing Cherubims with flaming swords to guard the way to the Tree Of Life. This is exactly what the verses state:

...lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Etrnl Gd sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Again, just because there is some use of a plural word in relation to Gd, it does not necessarily indicate a trinity, and it can be interpreted in various ways other than meaning a trinity.

Questions? Email Rabbi Stuart Federow

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