THE THRILL OF BIBLE STUDY
T. PIERCE BROWN
I wish there would be found a way to transmit to those who have never really seriously studied God’s word the thrill that comes from uncovering some new aspect of truth as one studies it for himself. This is not to imply that one must think ones self smarter than the scholars who have written commentaries, but it does mean that they are not “the last word” on the subject, and when we have probed beyond what we can find in any of them, neither will our little gem be the last diamond in the mine.
Such a thrill came to me after a mid-week Bible study in Romans 5:12. As we discussed the meaning and application of that verse, questions were raised about how and when “all sinned.” This led to an examination of the original sin and what was involved in Eve being deceived and Adam not. The class raised, and we tried to answer such questions as “In what did the deception consist? Was it in the assumption that the eating was not WRONG or was it in the assumption that, although wrong, the penalty would not need to be paid?” This could lead into such questions as, “Is a thing which you really think to be right as destructive to the soul (as eroding to the character) as a thing which you know to be wrong, but think the consequences will not be so bad?”
Another question was raised with which, to my knowledge, no commentary deals. That is, “Since the tree was a tree of knowledge of good and evil, did Adam have that knowledge before he ate?” If one answers, “Yes,” then the question must be faced, “How then, did the tree provide the means by which he knew it?” If one answers, “No, Adam did not know the difference between good and evil before he ate the fruit,” then the question must be faced, “Why did he not, since God told him?” And “If he did not know the difference between right and wrong, how could he be held responsible for doing the wrong?”
As we probed into the question, I discovered that practically all the class (and probably all of every class I have been in for 40 years) has assumed that knowledge of good and evil means an intellectual awareness of right and wrong. This is simply not true, but rather than trying to write a comprehensive article on it, let me simply point you toward the path and let those of you who care to, walk through the gallery of God’s glorious revelation savoring the flavor of the bread, and seeing the beauty of the pearls first hand.
First, consider the word, “knowledge.” It does not merely mean an intellectual comprehension of a fact. Note Genesis 4:1. Adam had been aware of his wife before, but he had not experienced the intimate personal relationship the word “know” suggests. So with the knowledge of good and evil, knowing intellectually what is good and bad, and experiencing them are two different things. Adam had the first kind of knowledge, and thus could become guilty when he obtained the second kind.
Second, “good and evil” do not necessarily stand for “right and wrong.” Without any scholarly ability or great insight, one can take Young’s Concordance and discover that many times the words are almost equivalent to “pleasant or unpleasant” or “happy and unhappy.” Genesis 37:20, 47:9; Lev. 26:6; Josh. 23:15 and Job 2:10 are a sampling of many that show that the words are about as broad as our words “good” and “bad.” A cake may be “good” or an apple or dog “bad” or an experience good or bad without having any connection whatever with moral attributes of righteousness or wickedness.
So Adam and Eve, who already knew that it was right to obey God and wrong to disobey him (without which knowledge they could not have been morally responsible) came to know good and bad things, experiences, and sensations as a result of the disobedience. They had heretofore never been subjected to an unpleasant experience (toilsome labor or anguish in childbirth), but they would now know that. Pain is bad (“evil,” the Bible would say), and we now know experimentally or existentially both joys and sorrows (good and evil) as a result of sin.
So our Bible class, which never got past Romans 5:12, helped us to uncover some insights into the fundamental of all questions: What is the nature of man? Is he different before and after the fall? If so, how? What is the nature of sin? What is good and evil? How do these things relate to our responsibility and relationship to God?
Seldom does one learn what might be called “a whole new truth,” but he learns to look at one more facet of God’s glorious diamond of TRUTH and to each former facet added brilliance comes. If you determine to study the Bible more in depth as a result of this article, our purpose has been accomplished.