The Leaves of the Tree

The book of Revelation resembles Science and Health in this, that it is, among other things, an attempt to make clear the existing Scripture to the contemporary thought of the period in which it was written. For this reason a large part of the book is devoted to the exegesis of parts of the Old Testament; and consequently when the writer refers, in the last chapter, to the tree of life, it is impossible not to remember the earlier reference to the same tree in the book of Genesis: "And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." What, in short, the writer was engaged in doing was making plain to the readers of his century the words of allegory of the Jhvhistic document of the Hexateuch.

The leaves of this tree of life, the writer of Revelation points out to his readers, were for the healing of the nations: "In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." Now the word "nations" has, of course, a distinct doctrinal significance. In the Old Testament the word was doctrinal invariably used for the non-Israelitish people, and on the whole this distinction is maintained in the New. At the same time, the tendency grew among the later writers of the Old Testament to use the expression in a somewhat wider sense, and this sense broadened out in the New Testament until the word came to mean the universalism of Christianity. Thus the healing of the nations no doubt meant that the leaves of the tree of life would bring the healing of Christianity to all those by whom they were metaphorically eaten. The writer of Revelation had, however, an unquestionably different sense of life to any conceivable by a Hebrew of the day when the Jhvhistic document was composed. The older Hebrew never troubled himself about the salvation of the heathen. It took the teaching of Christ Jesus to convince his Hebrew followers of the equal necessity for this, nor was the lesson accepted in a moment. The writer of Revelation unquestionably had a much broader sense of life than anything possible to the writers of the Pentateuch. To him life was spiritual, or it was nothing. He had evidently treasured in his heart the famous saying of Jesus to Nicodemus, when the ruler came to him by night, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," and he knew how his great Master had defined eternal or spiritual life as a knowledge of God and of the Christ. Therefore the tree of life became to him the understanding of Principle and of man in the image and likeness of Principle, and it was the knowledge of Principle to be gained through a metaphysical understanding of what life is, which he symbolizes in the leaves of the tree of life which were for the healing of the nations.

Healing, then, it is perfectly clear, to the understanding of John could come only through an understanding of Principle; and this, surely, is just what Mrs. Eddy means when, on page 526 of Science and Health, writing of this very passage in Revelation, she says, "The 'tree of life' stands for the idea of Truth, and the sword which guards it is the type of divine Science." Truth, it need hardly be said, is inseparable from Life and inseparable from Love; in fact, there is no difference whatever between the three words, which are all used by Mrs. Eddy as synonyms for God or Principle. The healing of the nations, consequently, was to be brought about by a scientific understanding of Life, Truth, and Love, in a way made clear enough by Peter, in the statement, "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue;" for the Greek of this passage makes it perfectly clear that the knowledge, to which the writer refers, is no human knowledge such as that of good and evil, but the scientific knowledge of good alone, a statement which, once again, Mrs. Eddy makes clear in writing, in the paragraph already quoted from, "The 'tree of knowledge' stands for the erroneous doctrine that the knowledge of evil is as real, hence as God-bestowed, as the knowledge of good."

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The Pilgrims
July 24, 1920

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