28 January 2010

The Tree in the Midst of the Garden and the Temple Symbolism of the "Center"

One thing that has always perplexed readers of Genesis is the location of the two special trees in the Garden of Eden. The Hebrew phrase corresponding to "in the midst" literally means "in the center." Although scripture initially applies the phrase "in the midst" only to the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge is later said by Eve to be located there, too.

Elaborate explanations have been advanced as attempts to describe how both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge could share the center of the Garden. For example, it has been suggested that these two trees were in reality different aspects of a single tree, that they shared a common trunk, or were somehow intertwined.

The subtle conflation of the location of two trees in the Genesis account seems intentional, preparing readers for the confusion that later ensues in the dialogue between Eve and the serpent. The dramatic irony of the story is heightened by the fact that while the reader is informed about both trees, Adam and Eve are only specifically told about the Tree of Knowledge. In the story of the Fall, Satan exploits their ignorance to his advantage.

A brief review of the symbolism of the “center” in ancient thought will help clarify the important roles that the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge played “in the midst” of the Garden of Eden...

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  1. I have read your article with many attention, it is great. I think that maybe the tree of life is a symbol of the work and the glory of God, becasue represent the eternal life but represent the inmortality too. I love your work, I will post you more when I improve my english, beocuse I am from Chile,

  2. Roberto-- Thanks for taking the time to write. It's a great pleasure to have a friend from Chile. My son just returned from a Spanish-speaking mission, and I wish I could write to you in this beautiful language as well as he could.

    I agree with your thought--because we know that there is no eternal life without immortality.

    Kind regards,