Re: 2 queries

From: Maurice A. O'Sullivan (
Date: Tue Jun 15 1999 - 10:36:19 EDT

At 12:28 14/06/99 -0400, you wrote:
>>As regards question 1, there is much _more_ material in this book -- if you
>>canot get access to it let me know and I'll type up some of it (it's
>>getting late in this neck of the woods as I post )
>I dont have access and the next time I can get to a research library that
>might have it will be in August when I am at Notre Dame for the CBA meeting.
>Could you give a few snippets?

I have been reading those passages from Nehama Leibowitz I recommended to
you more carefully, as well as dipping into Midrash Rabbah, and I found
myself getting more and more confused, as references to "the tree", "tree
of life" and "tree of knowledge ......" interweaved, and I began to think
thay maybe your post-Enlightment need for a "taxonomy of tthe trees" ( only
kidding, well, only half-kidding <g>) was causing you to ask the wrong
question! to begin with..

So I went to:

Westermann, Claus. Genesis I-II: A Commentary. Trans. John A. Scullion,
S.J. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984.

and found this::

"The following may serve as a preface to the protracted and endless
discussion about the two trees in Paradise: To ask whether there were two
trees in he middle of the garden or only one is to put the question
incorrectly. It is impossible to answer such a question. We have only this
narrative before us, and it is there that our enquiry must begin, Does it
deal with one tree or with two? A proper answer can be given only by
looking at the narrative as a whole: it is oncerned with one tree onJy. K.
Budde has demonstrated this convlncingly (we can leave aside the
conclusions he draws) and notthing has been advanced yet to refute him. He
has shown that there is only one tree in the body of the narrative!. 2, 3,
5, 11, 12, and that it is qualified in two ways ~ the tree in the middle of
the garden. 3:3. and the forbidden tree. 3.11
The tree of life in 2:9 is to be explained from 3:22-24. The person who
tatached the motif of the tree of !ife to the end of the narrative and at
the same time set it in the introduction, 2:9, intended it to be part of
the whole span of events (i.e. part of the Gesschehensbogen). He wanted to
say that a similar event was linked wiih the iree of life as wiih the tree
of the narraiive. . If we presume a variety of narratives about the
primeval event from which one type was chosen, then this procedure of
allowing the narrative of the tree of life to speak through that of the
tree of knowledge - a second voice as it were together with the melody - is
an ingenious and intelligent resolution. We can take it that we are not
dealing with a secondary addition; the whole has been deliberately shaped
by J himselfso that the final product appears as a unified composition.

If this explanation is correct then we have the solution of yet another
difficulty. The description "tree of life" is attached to this tree in each
place that it is mentioned, 2:9; 3:22, 24. This is not the case with the
other tree. The description "tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. is
found only in 2:9 and 17 rhe tree is mentioned in the main part of the
narrative, 3:2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 12, 17, but is never described by this title.
It is either .'the tree'. or .'the tree in the middle of the garden" or
"the tree from which I forbade you to eat.-' This is a striking difference;
and there is another. Only the description "tree of life'. is a fixed
formula which occurs elsewhere both in and outside the Old Testament.

This suggests that the formula "the tree of life" was at hand to the
author, vhereas he fashioned the title of the other tree out of the
narrative itself. 3:5b. He was obliged to do this only after he added the
motif of the tree of life to the Introduction; the other tree then had to
have a name. However. he used this name only in the beginning of the
narrative. In Gen 3 he left the description of the tree as it was before it
was linked with the tree of life. The conclusion is that before this the
tree was called , 'the tree in the middle of the garden " in 2:9 and 17 also."

I like that metaphor of one melody, two voices, IMS.

BTW, the Budde he cites published all this, in German, in 1883 -- maybe all
those who get entwined in two trees should realize that help has been at
hand for over a century.


Maurice A. O'Sullivan [ Bray, Ireland ]

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