but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (ASV)
God says that Adam will die "that very day" if the forbidden fruit is eaten. This apparently contradicts subsequent verses in which Adam remains alive (he lives for 930 years: Genesis 5:5), but from the context, it is clear that God is lying about the lethal effects of the fruit: thus, the actual contradiction is with those verses which claim that God does not lie (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Titus 1:2).
Uncomfortable with the notion of a lying God, apologists have attempted to explain this as a "spiritual death", but does Genesis say, or even imply, that "something inside them withered and died" when they ate the fruit? Apparently not: "And the eyes of them both were opened..." (Genesis 3:7) implies awakening and enlightenment, not death of any sort.
Another apologetic claim is that eating the fruit robbed them of immortality, condemning them to eventual death. However, Genesis says that death is to be immediate: the same day. Furthermore, this is inconsistent with Genesis 3:22-23, which states that Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden to prevent them obtaining immortality by eating of the Tree of Life (i.e. they were mortal by default). There is no support here for Paul's claim that "death entered the world" at this point (Romans 5:12).
It has been suggested that A&E were already eating from the Tree of Life (even though the Bible doesn't say so), and God didn't mind because it's only the combination of the two fruits that leads to godlike power. This might be consistent with a delayed death sentence imposed by God, but still contradicts the Christian doctrine of the act of "sinning" directly causing the failure of their immortality. In effect, God would be saying "on the day you do this, I will cut off your immortality-support and you will be doomed to die". Still no "spiritual death" as such: the act of sinning doesn't cause something to "wither and die" within them. And this interpretation is also contradicted by how eating from the Tree of Life is described, as a singular act which they WILL do (unless prevented) that will BESTOW immortality: "...and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever..." (Genesis 3:22).
It has also been claimed that death "on that very day" can mean "on a later date" due to a Hebrew idiom, citing 1 Kings 2:36-46 as support (Solomon eventually having Shimei killed): however, Solomon actually has Shimei killed on the first available opportunity, there was no deliberate, intended delay.
The actual Hebrew finishes with a repetition of the Hebrew "muwth", meaning death (i.e. muwth muwth). Young's Literal Translation renders this as "dying thou dost die". This is a form of emphasis in Hebrew: most Bibles render it as "surely die" or some variant thereof. Many Christian apologists, however, mistranslate this as "you will begin a process of dying", or "you will be doomed to death eventually": even though the same idiom is used in the previous verse to describe eating ('akal 'akal, "eating thou dost eat" in Young's), or "you can certainly eat" the other stuff. Yet the same apologists don't claim that Adam began a process that would eventually result in eating, or that doomed him to eventually eat.
The parallelism is obvious: yes, you can surely eat the other stuff in the garden. But, eat THAT, and you will just as surely die (that same day).
The lie is exposed by the Serpent, in Genesis 3:4-5: "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil." Of course, the Serpent is correct: that is the effect of the fruit, and it explains why God lied, as God does not want humans to have this power. This direct contrast between God's account and that of the Serpent, with the Serpent being correct, is further evidence that the author intended this as written: two contrasting outcomes, not a combination of both.
There is an obvious defect in the story: the status of the other magical fruit, of the Tree of Life, is left somewhat vague. It isn't originally listed as forbidden, but it later becomes the reason for the expulsion from Eden, to stop A&E eating it. This appears to be due to clumsy adaptation of the story from the original Sumerian version, in which only one sort of magical food had to be accounted for. In the Sumerian myth, the mortal Adapa is given the chance to eat and drink the food of the gods and thus become immortal. However, his patron deity Enki lies to him, claiming that he will die if he does. Adapa believes his god, obeys, and loses his chance to be immortal. In Genesis, a new magical food is introduced and the "toxic lie" is transferred to it. --Robert Stevens 05:54, 17 Oct 2005 (CDT)
The literal meaning is not "you shall surely die," it's "dying you shall die," which is surprisingly accurate. At this point, Adam entered the sin/death system (what Paul calls the "law of sin and death"). Aging definitely qualifies as "dying", since your body is decaying, and sickness and injury are also new possiblities that Adam wouldn't have been prone to before. With aging in mind, "dying you shall die" is quite appropriate.
Some would argue that death referred to spirit death, not physical. Old earth creationists in particular hold to this view.
In Genesis_1:5 the words Day and Night are defined as Light and Darkness. At that point there was no sun to measure a 24 hour period, yet the writer consistently used the word Day for the six creation events. This shows a Day defines a period of any duration between two events. Isaiah_23:15, for example says, "In that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, like the days of one king." Here "In that Day ..." spans 70 years; similarly, "like the Day of one king", that is, 70 years. In all three statements, "in that Day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years", "the Day(s) of one king", and "..for in the Day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die", all use the same Hebrew word literally meaning Light, or Hot. It is therefore a misinterpretation that Gen 2:17 must refer to a literal 24 hour period.
It is also instructive to see the effect the fruit had on Adam and Eve; they became self-concious and were ashamed, they feared God and hid from him; Adam justified his disobedience by blaming God for making the woman. (Genesis 3:7-12) None of these attitudes benefit any relationship. They are all mentally damanging and sometimes affect the body's health and well being. As an incurable, fatal disease will surely kill a person, so does the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.
Conspiciously absent from both Adam's and Eve's responses to God's question, "What have you done?" is accusing God of lying to them. Neither of them said,"The fruit has not killed us, like you said it would. See we're still alive - you lied to us". Instead, Adam blamed God for making Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent for deceiving her. Indeed, Eve clearly states the serpent 'led her astray' by suggesting they would not die, whereas, having eaten fruit and knowing good and evil, she now realises God was right. (Genesis 3::11-13) Neither Adam nor Eve took responsibility for their action, again the consequence of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.
The serpent's deception becomes even more obvious when we examine Genises 1:26,27 which states that God made humanity in HIS likeness and image. Adam and Eve were already like God in all respects except the sense of morality (knowledge of Good and Evil). Further, they were given the power and authority to dominate all earthly life-forms and be productive. All this belonged to humanity without knowing right from wrong, good from bad, nor benefit from detriment. Indeed, having a moral sense inhibits unity and productivity because it leads people into conflicting views that work against each other without profit or benefit to anyone (except the serpent). Such moral viewpoints sometimes esculate to 'holy wars' and a plethroa of "God warriors", where the very Godlike principles claimed are used for destructive purposes. All this comes from "the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil".
As for the tree of Life, it should become obvious that the trees in the garden of Eden are a metaphor that represent knowledge, information, understanding, and education. The trees provided that knowledge when experienced (eating the fruit) and, in turn, produced more knowledge (i.e. trees from the fruit's seed). The tree of Life requires considerable knowledge, which we are only now able to grasp through thousands of years of scientific enquiry (eating the fruit from all the other trees). This God deemed good for us to obtain, but only without a moral sense because a purpetual, destructive conflict of morality does not represent God nor the humanity he made. The Tree of Life does in fact appear in Revelation_22:2 as bearing fruit each month and healing leaves.
Nowhere in this account is there any suggestion that God lied about the effects morality has on humanity
There is another interpretation which origins from an ecclesiastical point of view. It states that the only possible reason for A&E not to die is that the Redemtive plan of salvation has been already put into operation/Zachariah 6:13/. That is why A&E, now sinners were dressed up in skins of lamb/Genesis 3:21/ representing the redemptive act of Christ /John 1:29/