I’ve also suggested that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil might be called the law tree. Haven’t you ever struggled with the phrase “good and evil?” One would think that it would be totally evil. But, no! It’s both! I’d argue that it represents man’s devising of his own explanation and standards in life. It’s the law tree! It’s knowing and living by the dos and don’ts of whatever system we might subscribe to rather than eating from the tree of life which represents a trusting relationship with God. That these two trees are opposites seems pretty clear from their description in Genesis. I think the tree of the knowledge of good and evil might actually have been a fig tree. I’d suggest that the tree of life might actually have been the olive tree. It represents a different way of relating to God and God relating to us.

When Noah let the dove loose to see if the water had receded from the land, the dove returned with what kind of a branch? It was an olive branch. It has even become the symbol of peace. To offer an olive branch to someone is to do something to show that you want to end a disagreement. The expression alludes to the olive branch that the dove returned with. Yet, I think it was really a leaf. Just as the leaf from the fig tree that Adam and Eve used to cover themselves, it was an olive tree leaf that the dove returned with in Genesis 8:11. The KJV has “an olive leaf pluckt off”; the New International Version, New King James Version, New Revised Standard Version, and the Revised Standard Version have: “a freshly plucked olive leaf”; the New American Standard Bible has “a freshly picked olive leaf”; the New Century Version and the New Living Translation have “a fresh olive leaf”; and the Contemporary English Versions has “a green leaf from an olive tree.” What we really have here, it seems to me, is the story of two leaves!

The fig leaves from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents man’s efforts to relate to God on his own terms. Man establishes the standards of life, the law (ie., good and evil) and attempts to use the leaves of the law to cover his own failure to live up to the standards. The olive leaf is the symbol of the expiration of God’s judgment being meted out to a sinful world and his grace being offered to man once again. Jesus cursed the leafy fig tree with eternal fruitlessness. But he blessed the Olive branches with eternal life. That eternal life is established not on the basis of how much good, or how little evil, one does in life, but on the basis of God’s grace that is channeled through the root of the tree into the branch and then into the leaves. The religious people of Jesus day insisted on law and rejected God’s offer of grace received through faith. Because they didn’t believe, they lost God’s favor. As a result, you and I, the Gentiles, can experience God’s grace through faith. Romans chapter 11 discusses this at great length. It says, “…and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Now it’s verse 20 that explains the basis for the cutting off the fig leaf followers and the grafting in of the olive leaf followers. Paul concludes, “They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.