Johnson: The Act Of Eating Was A Spiritual Decision

As far back as the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolized a spiritual issue. Eating from it would bring death but not because the fruit was physically poisonous. Indeed, its fruit was “good for food” (Gen. 3:6). Nor was the death that resulted on “the day” (2:17) that Adam and Eve ate the fruit the physical death of their bodies (although that would inevitably come). Rather, the act of eating from the tree constituted a spiritual decision that Eve and her husband made regarding the criterion by which they would “know” good and evil. The issue was whether their moral judgment and behavior would be controlled by what God had said (2:16–17; 3:1, 3) or by their “independent” (really, Satan/serpent-influenced) perception of what is good and desirable (3:6). Their autonomy itself and consequent alienation from the Creator who is life’s source and sustainer, symbolized in their expulsion from the Garden, was the death that ensued immediately. As the Lord later indicted Israel, using another vivid metaphor, “they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Thus from the beginning of the Torah, Moses invites his readers to recognize a spiritual depth to events in the physical world.

Dennis Johnson | Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, ed. John J. Hughes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 219–220.


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Posted by Tony Phelps | Tuesday, October 24, 2023 | Categorized HeidelQuotes, Hermeneutics, Scripture | Tagged Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Phelps

Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children. Meet all the Heidelberg contributors»


  1. I think this really comes down to whether we will “eat,” or discern that what we hear or read is according to God’s Word, as the truth, as opposed to lies that may be fed to to us. We are responsible for what we understand by being wise Bereans, who examine and compare what we hear and read with the Scriptures. To accept false gospels is spiritually deadly.

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