My question today was prompted from reading a new release from Baker Academic: Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin edited by Hans Madueme and Michael Reeves. C. John Collins writes the first chapter—“Adam and Eve in the Old Testament.” Collins firmly believes in a literal Adam and Eve but that’s not what I want to focus on here. Rather it is a comment he makes about the “tree of life” in Genesis 3 that intrigued me. Here’s what he wrote:
“But what of the ‘tree of life”? Does it work ‘automatically,’ which is what most mean by calling it magical? Genesis says very little about it. What it does say (3:22, where God fears that the man might live forever if he takes of the tree of life) should be put together with the other passages that use the same idea. In Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4, various blessings are likened to a tree of life: all of these blessings, according to Proverbs, are means to keep the faithful on the path to everlasting happiness. In Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19, the tree is a symbol of confirmation in holiness for the faithful. This warrants us in finding this tree to be some kind of ‘sacrament’ that sustains or confirms someone in his moral condition: that is why God finds it so horrifying to thing of the man eating of the tree in his current state. I call it a ‘sacrament’ because I do not know how it is supposed to convey its effects, any more than I know how the biblical sacrifices, or the washing ceremonies, or baptism, or the Lord’s Supper work. But they do work. Only in this sense may the tree be called ‘magic,’ but this sense has moved us away from folklore.” (p. 20-21)
He adds a footnote to this on C.S. Lewis. “He [Lewis] describes the sacrament of communion as ‘big medicine and strong magic,’ and then defines his term: ‘I should define ‘magic’ in this sense as ‘objective efficacy which cannot be further analysed.’” (p. 20n.57)
It’s something to think about.
Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin is from Baker Academic. It is a paperback with 352 pages and sells for $26.99.
Hans Madueme (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is assistant professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and an adjunct professor at Trinity Graduate School, Trinity International University. He also serves as a book review editor for Themelios.
Michael Reeves (PhD, King’s College, London) is theologian-at-large at Wales Evangelical School of Theology. He previously served as head of theology for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) and is the author of several books, including Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith.