(9) Why does Moses say that every tree in the Paradise was beautiful to look upon and good to eat? (#Ge 2:9). He says this because the virtue of trees is of a twofold nature, consisting in bearing leaves and fruit, one of which qualities is referred to the pleasing of the sight, the other to the gratification of the taste; but the word beautiful was not employed inappropriately. Indeed it is very proper that the plants should be always green and flourishing perpetually, as belonging to a divine Paradise, which as such must be everlasting; and it is fit too that they should never degenerate so as to lose their leaves. But of the fruit he says, not that it was beautiful, but that it was good, speaking in a very philosophical spirit; since men take food, not only because of the pleasure which it affords, but also because of its use; and use is the flowing forth and imparting of some good.
(10) What is meant by the tree of life, and why it was placed in the middle of the Paradise? (#Ge 2:9). Some people have believed that, if there were really plants of a corporeal and deadly nature, there are also some which are causes of life and immortality, because, they say, life and death are opposed to one another, and because some plants are ascertained to be unwholesome, therefore of necessity there must be others from which health may be derived. But what these are which are wholesome they know not; for generation, as the opinion of the wise has it, is the beginning of corruption. But perhaps we ought to look on these things as spoken in an allegorical sense; for some say the tree of life belongs to the earth, inasmuch as it is the earth which produces everything which is of use for life, whether it be the life of mankind or of any other animal; since God has appointed the situation in the centre for this plant, and the centre of the universe is the earth. There are others who assert that what is meant by the tree of life is the centre between the seven circles of heaven; but some affirm that it is the sun which is meant, as that is nearly in the centre, between the different planets, and is likewise the cause of the four seasons, and since it is owing to him that every thing which exists is called into existence. Others again understand by the tree of life the direction of the soul, for this it is which renders the sense nervous and solid, so as to produce actions corresponding to its nature, and to the community of the parts of the body. But whatever is in the middle is in a manner the primary cause and beginning of things, like the leader of a chorus. But still, the best and wisest authorities have considered that by the tree of life is indicated the best of all the virtues of man, piety, by which alone the mind attains to immortality.