Whatever they are, they are described by the same idiom in Hebrew.
Here is an entry from the blog of Steven L. Cook, The McBurney Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at the Virginia Theological Seminary.
Misconceptions swirl around the nature of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" in the midst of the Garden of Eden that bore the fruit associated with the fall of humanity. You may be surprised to learn that this tree has nothing to do with the development of conscience or knowing right from wrong. Adam and Eve already knew right from wrong, aware that it would be wrong to disobey God and eat from that tree.
Actually, eating of the tree made one "like God" (Genesis 3:5), gave one powers of intellectual and spiritual penetration and discrimination. This is known from the use of the same Hebrew idiom in texts such as 1 Kings 3:9 and 2 Samuel 14:17.
The gifts of the tree are two-edged. Powers of penetration can help you get to the bottom of a matter, but they can also allow you to subdue and vanquish other human beings for your own selfish purposes. Powers of discrimination can help you sort out every kind of thing, but they can also allow you to treat certain groups unfairly simply on the basis of arbitrary differences. They can also lead to an extreme self-consciousness (cf. Gen 2:25), where you constantly evaluate yourself over against others.
My interest in the subject is two-fold. First, I think that Genesis 3 is one of the best short stories in world literature. It is rich, layered, and dense, the way that our most important dreams are. It is also a radically humanist work, so outrageously impious that to suppress it, it was canonized.
And second, I am repeatedly annoyed at atheists who bash Christians about the manifest injustice of God persecuting the mentally retarded, that is, our First Parents. That is my mother you are talking about. Back off.
Whether this topic will attract discussion or not, I don't know, but if it does, then let it be here on the debate side of the godly boards. And if it doesn't, then at least this post will be a reference target when the subject comes up next time, dispatching the inevitable folk etymology, that the knowledge of good and evil is knowledge. About good and evil.
Nope. Really not. Not even close.
For everyone's convenience, here are the passages (New American Bible) cited in the quoted matter:
1 Kings 3: 7-9
O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?"
2 Samuel 14: 17
And the woman [of Tekoa] concluded: "Let the word of my lord the king [David] provide a resting place; indeed, my lord the king is like an angel of God, evaluating good and bad. The Lord your God be with you."
Genesis 2: 25
The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.
Genesis 3: 5
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.
Thank you for reading. May the Mother of All smile on our undertaking in her name .
Edited by eight bits, 22 August 2009 - 10:10 AM.