A common accusation made by Gnostic sympathizers against orthodox Christians is that Christians equate knowledge with sin. For example, in The Gnostic Bible, the editor Marvin Meyer writes of "the fundamental biblical notion that knowledge is sin." But is this notion as biblical as Gnostics assert? On the contrary, such proclaimations represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bible in general and the book of Genesis in particular.
For example, in Exodus 31 the filling of Bezalel with the Spirit of God is said to occasion wisdom, understanding, knowledge and skill. In Job 36 resistance to knowledge is associated with an untimely death. In Proverbs 1 the despising of knowledge is labelled foolish. In fact, the whole book of proverbs is a treatise on the desirability of knowledge and wisdom. No, the Bible is not anti-knowledge. If we seek understanding of the Bible, if we seek knowledge of God, we need to look closer.
What does Genesis actually say? This is something Gnostic sympathizers rarely quote in full: "The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." It is important to observe that God does not call the second tree the "tree of knowledge" in an unqualified Gnostic fashion. God called the second tree, very specifically, the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil". And since humanity was already "very good" according to God, what of good and evil was being kept from them? Why, only the knowledge of evil! This tree then, was Pandora's Box.
To know the Bible is to know that knowledge is not sinful in an of itself. What is sinful is deciding that you know the difference between good and evil better than God. For this is arrogance, this is unrestrained ego. This is where Gnostic sympathizers misunderstand Genesis. What the book of Genesis seeks to awaken in us is knowledge of the consequences of choosing self-centricity over Spirit-centricity.
From what I have read and seen I am under the understanding that Islamic art forbids lifelike portraits. So I asked some Muslims, how does that square with apparent Islamic acceptance photography, including Facebook selfies?
One said, "It forbids anything that could be used as an idol, a prohibition against polytheism. Photographs and such that are not worshipped are fine. Of course, the legalities are nuanced and there is a range of opinions amongst the scholars on the matter." Another said, "The prohibition is against recreating creation - my words. So Islamic paintings, strictly speaking will not be of people or animals. This is why florals and geometric design feature so heavily. Of course, you can find a number if exceptions if you're looking for them. I have never heard a prohibition on three dimensional objects though, just anything with a soul."
I must say, I still find myself none the wiser.
Hey, just thought of another interesting question. What about parasites - tapeworms, gut bacteria, leeches? If everything God created was good, what does their existence imply? Does it suggest a gap between our standards of goodness and God's? How do we explain their parasitic nature? Is this something that they acquired after the fall? If it was always there, how do we reconcile their feeding off us, eating us, drinking us, with standard interpretations of the fall?
The ace of cups has some fascinating imagery from a Christian perspective. This illustration comes from the Illuminated Tarot, which in turn is derived from the Rider Waite Tarot.
You will notice that the chalice has streams of living water flowing from it. That a white dove, representing the Holy Spirit, is decending upon it with a communion wafer, inscribed with a cross, in its beak. The cup in turn is held by the hand of God, eminating from the clouds.
This wealth of communion imagery reveals this cup is the grail, the cup of the last supper of Jesus of Nazareth.
I have a question that I feel exposes my stupidity on something I should know lol; but I have to ask this. Let me explain. This past summer was baby sitting my 6 year old nephew a lot and he always enjoyed watching “Nature-Wildlife docs on YouTube. You know the kind that shows animals eating each other for food which is kind of what we all do lol. Has anyone in our little family here ever wondered, why? Why God made it this way?. I never really thought about this before since I was a little child and remember asking a Sunday school teacher in church this question. The answer I got back then was “because of original sin” and the “fall of man” in the Garden of Eden. And we know alot of other theories such as Darwin penned and so many others...Since converting to Islam I never, and many years prior, I never gave any consideration to this question or truly knew the answer. Feel like there is either a simple answer or a complex one. I have my theories. However I would like to expose my ignorance and just ask out of curiosity and see what if. Peace
Now, I have thought about this issue over the years and I think it is valid to question in what sense is death a consequence of sin. For example, is plant death a consequence of sin? Is apoptosis (programmed cellular death that is essential for healthy growth in an organism) a consequence of sin? Is entropy a consequence of sin? To answer yes to any of these questions is to stray increasingly far from the biblical account. To answer yes to the last would land us in Gnosticism. I think, therefore, there is a case to be made for drawing the line a bit further back. As to where exactly, I am not sure the Bible gives us a definitive answer. But I think the kind of death the Bible is focussed on is untimely human death. Adam and Eve could have eaten from the Tree of Life, but instead ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and forfeited eternal life. I think its safe to say the forfeiting of eternal life is certainly a consequence of original sin. That at least draws some outer boundaries to possible answers. A benefit of this approach is that it does leave scope for harmonizing pre-human dinosaur extinction with the Genesis account.
This image comes courtesy of Christine Sine. It is called "Entry of Christ into Jerusalem" and is by the German Expressionist painter Wilhelm Morgner. You will find more background on him here.