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A:Written by the anonymous source now known as the Yahwist, Genesis chapter 3 is the story of the Garden of Eden, and follows and rounds out the second biblical creation story.

Leon R. Kass (The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis) says that the Garden of Eden is a purely mythic place, as indicated by the fact that there can be no single terrestrial place that would serve as the common source of these four widely separated rivers. True, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers do meet, but the lands the text associates with the first two rivers are clearly separated from the Tigris-Euphrates valley, the first to the north, the second to the south. The talking serpent, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life are all represented in earlier Near Eastern creation myths.

Although usually read at a superficial level, this is actually a very sophisticated moral story. Kass says that we can learn most from the story by regarding it as a mythical yet realistic portrait of permanent truths about our humanity, rather than as a historical yet idealised portrait of a blissful existence we once enjoyed but lost. Man's longing for immortality is a hidden theme.

To the ancients, everything was either 'good' or 'evil', so 'good and evil' meant everything in the world. Thus. when Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he knew everything that could be known. This is why God realised he had become like the gods (Genesis 3:22: "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us..."), except of course that he was not immortal.

Adam and Eve now knew that they must work, that childbirth would be painful and that they must die one day. Knowing about death, they would now be tempted to eat of the second forbidden tree, the Tree of Life. It is for this reason, not as a punishment, that Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden. God placed cherubim and a flaming sword across the path back to the Garden of Eden, so that humans could never go back and, eating from the Tree of Life, become immortal.

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Q: What does Genesis chapter 3 really mean?
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