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The previous post in this series may be found here.

What sort of effect did the tree of “conscience” as Kuyper calls, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Kuyper rules a primarily physical effect because the response of the pair to Adam’s eating was the realization of shame. They were not immediately poisoned by the fruit, but they did immediately have a different understanding of themselves. 

He further notes that it was language which led to their trouble, in that the Serpent tempted them by speaking. 

This raises an interesting question: “what meaning language had for Adam and Eve in paradise.” The way in which the original pair related to language could have been different than the way in which we understand language, because we have more social background and experience for the words we use.

We develop concepts through and with language over the course of time.

For instance, what did “die” mean to someone who had never seen another human being die? And yet, we must not overdo this consideration. The text indicates that God was speaking to Adam and that God understood that Adam would know the meaning of the words.

“In addition, however, the notion that Adam understood language still only imperfectly cannot be reconciled with the rest of the narrative. In the first part of the story, Adam listens more than he speaks, but it is entirely different in the continuation of the narrative. There, with astuteness and nuance Eve argues with Satan, and Satan with her. Then she reasons with Adam.”

Thus, Kuyper concludes, that this capacity to use language effectively must have been something known to Adam and Eve. If they were “wise, holy, and righteous” then they must have had linguistic ability: these aspect require capable thought and thought requires language. 

Kuyper rejects a quasi-evolutionary understanding of language (he calls it a “patchwork”) whereby we point at the same object and make an arbitrary sound which “means” that object. 

Instead, he sees the capacity and use of language as a necessary element in the creation of Adam. The original speech of human beings then later broke into families (particularly after the confusion of language (Gen. 11)). He references the evidence, which had shown remarkable coherence and development of languages. He makes no extended discussion of this point other than saying here is some evidence.

He makes an interesting comparison then to animals which operate by instinct – such as the bee making a honeycomb. But we come to our abilities through development and learning (which would necessitate language). 

Now, if we have the capacity to develop the ability to form and use complex concepts there is no inherent reason that God could not grant to Adam the fully developed capacity at creation (much as Adam was not created an infant who then fared for himself for decades).