The Tree of Knowledge, painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The tree of life (Heb. עץ החיים Etz haChayim) in the Book of Genesis is a tree planted by the Abrahamic God in midst of the Garden of Eden (Paradise), whose fruit gives everlasting life, i.e. immortality. Together with the tree of life, God planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). According to some scholars, however, these are in fact two names for the same tree.
In the biblical story, the serpent, who is regarded as Satan in Christianity but not in Judaism, tempted Eve into eating a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve and Adam both ate the fruit, despite God’s warning to Adam that “in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). As a consequence of their transgression, the land, the Serpent, Adam, and Eve were each cursed by God. To prevent them access to the tree of life, God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden:
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” (Genesis 3:22)
In the Book of Revelation, a Koine Greek phrase xylon (tēs) zōës, ξύλον (τῆς) ζωής, is mentioned three times. This phrase, which is also used for the Genesis tree of life in the Ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, literally means “wood of (the) life”. It is translated in nearly every English Bible version as “tree of life”, see Revelation 2:7, 22:2, and 22:19.
The tree of life is represented in several examples of sacred geometry and is central in particular to the Kabbalah (the mystic study of the Torah), where it is represented as a diagram of ten points.