The Law as a Metaphor

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

I am someone who believes in the judicial system. Despite all the drawbacks, we see – for example – the United States Supreme Court disqualifying torture as an interrogation method, even when the president of the republic and his vice have, through legal artifices, tried to justify it.

Nonetheless, my belief is not shared by many people. A lawyer friend said to me that “the law is not made to solve problems, but to prolong them indefinitely.” Just to exercise my imagination, I decided to use his theory analyzing Genesis, first book of the Bible.

If God were alive today, we would all still be in Paradise, while He would still be replying to pleas, appeals, letters rogatory, court injunctions or writs – and would have to explain at countless hearings his decision to expel Adam and Eve from Paradise – just for breaking an arbitrary law, without any legal grounds: not to eat the fruit of Good and of Evil.

If he hadn’t wanted that to happen, why did he put that tree in the middle of the Garden – and not outside the walls of Paradise? If he were called to defend the couple, an experienced lawyer could allege the theory of “administrative omission”; besides putting the tree in the wrong place, he didn’t surround it with notices and fences, failing to take the minimum safety measures and exposing all who passed by to danger.

Another lawyer might accuse him of “inducement to crime”: he drew the attention of Adam and Eve to the exact place where it was growing. If he had not said anything, generations and generations would have passed through this Earth without anyone being interested in the forbidden fruit – considering that it should have been in a forest, full of similar trees, and, therefore, lacking any specific merit.

But Genesis happened before the judicial system and, therefore, allowed God to have full freedom of action. He wrote a single law, and found a way of convincing someone to break it, just to be able to invent Punishment. He knew that Adam and Eve would end up bored with so many perfect things, and – sooner or later – would try His patience. He stayed there waiting, because also He – Almighty God – was bored with things working perfectly: if Eve had not eaten the apple, what would have happened that was interesting in these billions of years?


When the law was broken, God – the All Powerful Judge – had even simulated a pursuit, as if he did not know all the possible hiding places. With the angels watching and amusing themselves with the prank (life for them also must have been very tedious, since Lucifer had left Heaven). He finds Adam.

“Where art thou?” God asked, already knowing the answer. He did not warn him about the consequences of the reply. He did not say the well-known words that we have heard so often in movies: “anything you say may be used against you.”

“I heard your steps in the garden, I was afraid and hid, because I am naked,” answered Adam, without knowing that, from then on, he would then be the admitted culprit of a crime.

Well. Through a simple trick, where he seemed not to know where Adam was, nor the reason for his escape, God had managed to get what he wanted. He expelled the couple, and their children ended up paying also for the crime (as happens until today with the children of criminals), and the judicial system had been invented: law, breaking the law, judgment and punishment.

© Translated by James Mulholland

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Paulo Coelho

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