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July 28, 2009

Evening the Playing Field?

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had about three instances where someone has brought up Eve and her knack for being "easily deceived." In two of the cases, it was brought up in a way that made the people conclude that women shouldn't lead - because of this "genetic" deceivability. In the other case, it also had to do with why women shouldn't wear gold or pearls and will be saved via childbearing (okay, so one of these people was St. Paul).

But anyway, all this talk about Eve got me thinking:

What exactly do people mean when they talk about Eve being so easily deceived? When we say it's "no wonder" that Satan chose Eve (as someone recently commented on a post here), what exactly does that "no wonder" imply? Are we right to assume that Satan chose Eve to slither up to (or hang down toward) because she - not Adam - reflected the gullible, easily duped side of God? That just doesn't seem right. Does it?

Now, I have to warn you: What I'm about to write could be complete heresy. So please keep your grace handy - ready to toss at me as you feel led. But I write this in a genuine attempt to understand how God created women to be and how he longs for us to live. So here goes:

My first stop in working through some of these musings was to revisit the story of the Fall. I read this passage (Genesis 3:1-6) over and over:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

I need to credit Carolyn Custis James and her book Lost Women of the Bible for being the first to introduce me to a couple important little nuggets often left out of this story in Sunday School: 1. That the thing Satan tempted Eve with was being like God - which would've been her heart's biggest longing (and should be ours). And - the one most glaringly omitted - 2. That Adam was with Eve during the whole conversation! Adam was standing right there the whole time!

So with these fresh ideas twirling around in my brain as I read (and reread) this passage, something else jumped out at me: Eve's leadership.

While it took all sorts of back and forth with the Master Deceiver to convince Eve to take a bite, all it took for Adam was to be handed the apple. He munched right in. Did as he was told, you might say. Gen 3:6 says, "She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it."

He didn't question. He didn't hem and haw. And most notably: He didn't put down his foot and say, "Now, look here, woman!!!" as one might imagine the Perfect God-Ordained Husband doing. No. He ate it. Crrrunch.

I don't mean to put down Adam (any more than he deserves), and I'm not letting Eve off the hook! But I do wonder, could the reason Satan chose Eve to "go after" be less about her gullibility and more about her leadership? More about her place of influence in the Garden of Eden? Have we ever considered that?

And if so, what does this say about all the rules that God set in place after the Fall regarding men's ruling over women? Could they be less about keeping women down and more about raising men up to something that's not necessarily "natural"--even in perfected form?

I don't know. I'm just asking. Just wondering. And I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Tags: leadership


I agree that Adam doesn't come off well in Genesis 3. Eve was deceived but he sinned with his eyes open. However, I see it as being about teaching and learning and what happens when that is not done properly.

It is interesting that the rabbis in the Genesis Rabbah (which I think is about 6th Century AD) see that Eve was deceived because she added to the command. She adds that God said that they weren't to touch the tree which he didn't say. God only said not to eat from it.

A teaching learning emphasis also makes sense in the context of the Pentateuch. Genesis 1-3 is at the beginning and the Pentateuch ends with Israel on the edge of the promised land being reminded of the law and the importance of learning the law and passing it on. Twice in Deuteronomy there is the warning not to add to or subtract from the law. Why subtracting from the law is wrong is obvious but why is adding to the law wrong? Well look at Eve. She added to the law and was deceived. I think that, in part, this is how Genesis 3 works.

I always teach that Adam was with Eve (as the bible indicates) when she ate the fruit. And I've often wondered why he didn't step in and stop her. Why did he just stand by and let her partake of the fruit? I wonder if maybe he wanted to see if Eve would drop dead first and when she didn't, he felt free to partake of the fruit as well.

Just a thought.

I, too, have wrestled through the "Deceived Eve" theory and found it wanting. I recently taught on this subject and also wondered about Eve's power of influence, not her gullibility, that had her doing what seemed like a good thing. Why else would she eat something that seemed good for eat, beautiful, and desireable for gaining knowledge AND then immediately give it to the love of her life? I hardly think she would be trying to bring Adam down with her! I think she did it--and he took it--because it seemed like a good idea--if you put God's commands aside!

You only have to look a few pages forward in the Genesis narrative to find a similar incident: when Sarai tells Abram to sleep with her maidservant and "Abram agreed to what Sarai said" (Gen 16:2)

I think as women we need to be more concerned with our enormous power of influence then our potential gullibility. With influence comes responsibility. Ezers, strong helpers, (see Carolyn Custis James) are made for relationship, made for influence, and called to obedience.

Sadly, many godly men continue to stand idly to the side, abdicating their responsibiities as lovers and protectors, watching as their women wade into deep waters without someone to walk a bit ahead of them, to lovingly protect them, to wisely guide them, to gently counsel them.

We send our men mixed messages. We want them to lead ... but on the other hand, the old sin nature prompts us to think we can go it alone ...

What a lie.

The nature of the Fall exemplifies the human desire for autonomy. It wasn't enough that the tree was good for food and a delight to the eyes...but that it would make one wise (3:6 and 2:9). The act of disobedience was the desire for independence manifested in the eating from the forbidden tree. But what really stands out to me in this account is that there is nothing inherently wrong with Eve influencing Adam. Adam was not chastised for simply "listening to the voice of his wife"....if that were the case, sin would have probably entered the world much earlier. ;) This entire account revolves around God's command to not eat of the tree, God never commanded Adam to not listen to the voice of his wife.

Perhaps this tells us more about the nature of our relationships. Eve seemed more ready to act and Adam a bit more passive. With the end result being sin, this hardly seems complementary. Yet isn't that the goal in coupling opposites? Maybe our view of gender has become overly dualistic.

Thank you for this post. I agree with you entirely.

As an adult woman, I am not out here, as one poster put it, wading into deep waters needing a big, strong man to wisely guide me and gently protect me. I am an adult; I am educated (graduate degree); and I have a high IQ. I want a man, but I don't need one to keep me from being "easily deceived."

This concept of women being easily deceived is the false teaching du jour. Certain false teachers have made it popular with people who easily fall for such things. Now, as for Eve, if Eve truly was a real person, then she can no more represent all women than I can.

In graduate school, we learned that no valid study has shown a difference in intelligence between men and women. You read that right: there is no difference in intelligence between men and women. This, plus the experience of women out in life is proof enough that women in general are not more gullible than men are. The women Paul speaks of in Timothy were not educated thanks to their culture, so therefore could not tell a false teaching from a true one.

With beliefs like women being easily deceived floating around, it's no wonder that many people don't want to be Christian.

Intense study at one point led me to think that the sin for both was to seek to dominate. Adam sought to dominate with his mind and Eve with emotions. Both were wrong. The Gospel is about following the Holy Spirit. Letting God dominate; submitting to the will of God. Communicating and addressing the issues of mind and emotions in a situation to bring wisdom and understanding. So I would say it is about communication in a togetherness/unity/oneness way to better find the mind and heart of God. Then to do the will of God.

Eve seemed to then need to be dominated by life's work. Adam then seemed to need to be dominated by life's work. Forced to communicate and work together to survive.

Perhaps it is not about men and women but about needing each other, giftedness, everyone speaking up, pardners in the grace of God for the sake of the Gospel.

Consider that both Peter and Judas were deceived by Satan. The Word says that Satan "entered" Judas. In another place, Christ said to Peter "get behind me Satan!"--and these were two of Christ's disciples. If 2 of the apostles were misled by Satan...anyone can be. Deception is not limited to women in any way.

I believe there's another reason that Paul referred to that deception in 2 Timothy. My book about women in ministry (which I support) will be out by late August and I deal with this question and other issues in more detail there.

Stop by and check it out!

Jessica Carter
Author, "Why Trouble Ye The Woman"

Just a thought: When God made Adam and put him in the garden God told he about everything including the not eating of the tree of good and evil afterwards He caused Adam to fall into a sleep and made woman. The Question that has always stuck out to me is "Did God Say" (Eve: well I wasn't there I've just gone by what Adam told me") could it be that Satan new he could twick Eve's interest by that Question. Again just a thought.

I often wonder why those who quote Paul's words to Timothy out of their cultural and historical context to universally apply them to all women don't also put as much energy into applying Jesus' view of women universally. The three pillars of the Christian faith--Jesus' birth, death and resurrection--were revealed first to women. This hardly indicates that God thinks women are more easily deceived and should mean that Paul's instruction to Timothy be weighed against the actions of Christ and the Holy Spirit, not the other way around. I fear that the modern church often engages in the age-old sin of idolatry when it comes to perceived roles of men and women.

I agree with you Caryn. Great post.

Adam was a wimp. Here's why.

Ephesians 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Adam's conflict in Eden was not with Eve but with Satan. He should have turned to the serpent and said, "Get the h--- out of my garden!" Instead, he didn't even try.

Picture this: A present-day married couple is enjoying the sunset in their backyard, and a stranger from the neighborhood barges in and tries to persuade the wife to take a drug. Would any husband worthy of manhood stand by in silence while his wife is seduced? No! He'd take on the stranger and chase him out of the yard--or honorably die trying!

I have also read about Eve's adding to the law. I think it is a great part of the lesson since we realize we have believed Eve's careless retelling of God's intention just as she believed the serpent's crafty version. It encourages everyone to be diligent, to study and test what we hear against the word of God who invites all of us to know and walk with Him. It should make us wary of anyone who speaks for God, especially those who try to use God to support a personal agenda. It is a deceivable person indeed who can believe he or she has a knowledge and authority that only God can have. When our eyes are open, we know otherwise.

Could it be as well that part of the woman being "easily deceived" in Paul's letter is related to having these sorts of conversations in community? All the comments on this blog strike me as pretty one-sided (though it is admittedly a blog for women). I wonder if this conversation might be more helpful to have in the (mutually submissive) context of the church (i.e. with men and women). Just a thought.

We've HAD these conversations in the context of the church, Andy. And we'll continue to have them in the context of the church. We'll also continue to have them here--a blog ABOUT women, not a blog FOR women.

Andy, Andy, Andy...what are you doing reading a women's blog? Just a thought.

It's curious to me that Satan stood God's order on it's head. The man and woman who were to rule over the creatures, were deceived by Satan in the form of a creature. And Adam abdicated his leadership role and submitted to Eve. What if this isn't so much about gender roles but Satan's subversion of God's design?

Hello Caryn,
Thanks for the article. Some of the questions you asked I have asked them too. Why did Satan address Eve instead of Adam? I don't think it is because of her leadership. It is in line with Satan's nature - to deceive - to go against God's order, precepts, principles, etc. Do you realise that when God came to restore them to Him, He addressed Adam and not Eve? Even before the fall, God's plan for mankind is for the man to lead and woman to support the man.There is a lot of leadership skills required in support role. The most beautiful couples and mainly Christian couples of today, follow that principle - the women support the men using their leadership skills. God created both man and woman in his own image and God is the greatest leader and share that nature with all his beloved creatures - men and women. Let's consider how to encourage one another to be what God has created us to be - both man and a woman. Let's not give in to arguments about who is responsible of what. We have a common ennemi and that is Satan. Let's use whatever gifts God has graciously given each one of us to bring the best of one another, this includes in our relation to men and women. The world is in a mess because they have failed to understand God's plan. We Christians, have all the divine power to understand it and live it out. Let's not waste time in playing the blaming game. Blessings

Leo, what evidence do you have that Adam was granted a "leadership role" before the fall?

1 Timothy 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

Hi Andy,

I saw from your comment above that you think the comments here are one-sided. Funny thing is that I posted a comment on 7/29 with a view that was a little contrary to this post related to how women were more emotional (not a bad thing) and how sometimes emotions transcend logic if not watched carefully, sometimes "helping" us be more easily deceived. My comment was removed after it was posted. I'm not sure why. I know it got posted too, because it shows up in a google search. Unfortunately, the cached page is now overwritten.

This is so very interesting! We women were created by God and given the greatest responsibility ever... to raise up future generations! Our children!

In Genesis 3:20, Adam calls Eve the mother of all living. This makes me wonder if this was the reason Satan went to Eve, and not Adam. If he would have went to Adam, would the sin have stayed just with Adam, since he is obviously not the mother of ALL living?

Personally, unless the Bible states that Adam was right there, I think Adam was close by, but not right there and listening in on the conversation. Lets face it, when does satan usually get us? When we are with close friends and family, or when we are alone? Either way, God said Eve was deceived and is right. God did not say Adam was deceived.

Both Adam and Eve were wrong! But thank God for His love through Jesus Christ our Lord! The blame game is a waste of time and creates further division between men and women. In God's eyes there is no male or female (Galatians 3:27-29). If we all just submit to the Holy Spirit of God, the work of the kingdom will be accomplished! Put down the pride and arrogance and become tender-hearted and loving toward one another!

I, too, may be wrong, but I have a sneaky suspicion that while Caryn "would love to hear y(our) thoughts, that she is not just "wondering". Still, I will accept her invitation and share my own thoughts.

First, I would like to respectfully disagree with Carolyn Custis James' first "nugget".

The story seems to suggest, to me, that what Eve was tempted with was not being like God, but doubting God and playing God. She wanted to be autonomous woman.

Also, there is nothing in the story that tells us why Adam acted like he did in allowing the serpent to deceive Eve. One writer suggests that Adam's silence was his assent to Eve's revolt against God. However,in the speculation game, one guess is as good as another.

Second, while Paul says Eve was deceived, he also says that sin entered the world through "one man", and that it is in "Adam" that "we all die". In other words, mankind's descent into sin is not blamed on Eve, but on Adam.

Third, Eve being deceived, in my opinion, might have had less to do with gullibility or "deceiveability", and more with lack of knowledge; which was also the case at with the women at Ephesus in I Timothy 2.

My own understanding and thinking on this have been influenced mainly by two Christian men and Bible scholars. One is my professor at Trinity, Dr. R. Averbeck, an OT scholar, who said that, "the serpent was crafty. He knew that the nature of man's relational commitment to the woman made them vulnerable to attach through that relationship." In other words, women do have a "powerful" position to men in marriage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “leadership”. Neither is “men ruling women” a “rule” of God; rather, God was telling them the consequences of their sin, as V.P. Hamilton puts it in his commentary, “the two who once reigned as one attempted to rule each other.” The other one is Dr. C. L. Blomberg, a NT scholar, whose essay on “Women in Ministry” was collected in the book Two Views on Women in Ministry (2nd ed., 2005). As I will not be able to do justice to his writing, which surveys both OT and NT to help readers form a biblical perspective on this broad subject, I would simply encourage all Christian sisters to read the book.

Has anyone ever considered that one of the deceivers goals was to divide and conquer? It seems we continue to see this passage as a man verses woman. God placed us together to compliment one another not compete with one another. Rather than to continue finding fault with the opposite sex, maybe just maybe we could actually find ways to work together to defeat the tactics of the real enemy- Satan! Just a thought.

Wow! Fascinating interaction. With your permission, may I throw a few items on the table for consideration? Being convinced that nothing in Holy Writ makes sense apart from two specific issues (1. The kingdom of God; and 2. Our apprenticeship to that same kingdom), I think we might've missed the original "big idea" of Paul's "deceived" statement. The context may suggest an emphasis on husband/wife relations. Not general man/woman issues. Context also seems to focus on experiential-learning processes (the verb form of disciple, or better yet, apprentice is traditionally rendered "learn"). I doubt the kingdom-paradigm is for all women to be subservient to all men. That's simply stupid. And perhaps wives aren't to be blindly submissive to their husbands either. Maybe Paul is reminding married couples that both are to be equally submissive (think Eph. 5:21) to one another throughout the pursuit of their apprenticeship, especially when one (male or female) has some level of mastery beyond that of their partner.

And for the record, if one gender is more easily tricked than the other, I fear it may be us guys. I hope this makes Pastor Julie proud!

There is a fascinating discussion of this Garden event in a book by Anne Primavesi entitled "Making God Laugh."

Here's a tidbit from the discussion:
"Eve's behavior entails no suggestion of inferiority to the man. She opens the conversation with the serpent on behalf of both of them, judges for herself that the fruit is good to eat and will provide useful insight, and takes the initiative in eating it. Then she offers to share it with the man, and he accepts it from her, and both receive insight into the nature of good and evil. Are the consequences of this so terrible?"

OK, this book leans a bit to starboard (left) but its a fun read nonetheless.

See... you all just don't get it.

The first sin wasn't Eve rebelling against God by eating the fruit which God had forbidden them; a sin immediately repeated by her husband. Paul was mistaken.

The first sin wasn't pride in wanting to usurp the divine perogative, as classical theologians thought.

The first sin was male abdication. Adam was a pansy. That's why we fell. Adam abdicated his leadership role over the woman and she, poor, defenseless and unprotected was left vulnerable to the deceiver. We all know that women can't be counted on to make good decisions and are vulnerable to being deceived. That's how it was in the beginning and how it always will be. We should be very grateful to Wayne Grudem and John Piper and Mark Driscoll and CBMW for explaining to us how male abdication was the first sin (and so the greatest sin for all time).

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