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Sex is not the Garden of Eden's forbidden fruit

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: There is evidence in the Bible that sex (not an apple) is the forbidden fruit tempting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. What do you think? -- From R in Berkeley, Calif.

A: I am not on board with the interpretation of the forbidden fruit as sex and thus with the conclusion that God has a hostile view of sex. Let's go back to the Garden,

"And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis 2:9)

So there were two trees in the Garden of Eden. One is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and one is the tree whose fruit yields eternal life. The law not to eat is confusing but specific:

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:16-17)

Then Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and God had no choice but to expel them,

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"And the Lord God 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 forever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. (Genesis 3:22-23)

If Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of eternal life, they would have no reason to procreate through sex because they would never need to replace themselves in the world through sex. The command that sex is holy is the first command uttered by God to man in Genesis 1:28,

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

Yes, sex is tied to procreation, but it is clearly holy and both a gift and a commandment from God. In fact, in Genesis 1:22 God gives the same command of "be fruitful and multiply" to the animals.

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