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Was Adam more guilty than Eve?

Illustration by Caleb Salisbury 9411-the-fall
Adam and Eve wanted to decide what they should do and not do for themselves. They wanted life without God. Pictures are from Russell Grigg’s book for children Adam and Family.

A reader of ’s article re the sin of Adam and Eve (see Is ‘the ultimate curse’ the result of ‘the sin of Adam and Eve’?) has interpreted it as implying that Adam was more guilty than Eve. We present his comments below, interspersed with Russell’s response.

Robert S., Australia

I agree with 1st half, Adam is held accountable because he is father of all humankind and his was the leadership role.

Thank you, Stephen, for taking the time to relay your concerns to us. Yes, Adam is held accountable because, as you say, and as the Bible teaches, “he is the father of all mankind and his was the leadership role”, or as I put it in the article, “Adam, the first human created by God, is the federal (or responsible) head of the human race—all human beings, including Eve, have descended from him.” Adam’s accountability is what the Apostle Paul emphasizes in Romans 5:12–20, not just once but a total of eight times in these few verses, as highlighted below:

12 sin came into the world through one man
14 death reigned from Adam to Moses
15 many died through one man’s trespass
16 the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation
17 because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man
18 one trespass led to condemnation for all men
19 by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners
I disagree with the implication of 2nd half that Adam was more guilty than Eve; and with RG’s Scripture interpretation techniques. Eve knew she was not to eat the fruit. She made a terrible mistake listening to the serpent over God, then she added to this by giving the fruit to her husband. He makes a terrible mistake taking the fruit. Both committed the same sin for different reasons. I see no justification for the implication that Adam was more guilty than Eve or vice versa. Adam is held to account as the father for all mankind—why? He was the first born and he was the leader. Was he more guilty? No, they committed the same sin for different reasons.

I was not making a value judgment, nor do I think that I did so by quoting 1 Timothy 2:14. The context of this verse is Paul saying:

12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Rather I was highlighting what the Apostle Paul says, namely in Romans 5:12–20, he holds Adam accountable eight times. In contrast, Paul mentions Eve twice in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:3 and 1 Timothy 2:14) and on both occasions he says she was deceived.

RG then uses some questionable Scripture interpretation to qualify his reasoning. He introduces speculation with terms such as: “it appears; something like; suggest; further suggests”. CMI normally frowns upon this.

The command not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given by God to Adam (Genesis 2:16–17), and ends up quite a bit differently when repeated by Eve to Satan (Genesis 3:2–3). There is no record of God instructing Eve, so it seems that the discrepancies were either in Adam’s retelling of the command to Eve, or in Eve’s misconstruing what was said by Adam. As the Bible does not record that God gave the command to Eve, I indeed speculated that Adam might have told Eve not to touch the tree, but in using the words “it appears”, “something like”, “suggest”, “further suggests” I ensured that readers would know I was presenting a suggestion, not a fact. Readers who do not accept this suggestion are free to surmise for themselves how the alleged prohibition about touching the tree arose.

With 1 Tim 2:12–14, RG changes the focus from the author’s focus. Paul focuses on Eve’s stated sin as 2nd reason why woman are not to lead men. RG changes the focus to Adam’s action which is not described per se as sin by Paul, and draws out a charge of sin even more serious than Eve’s! This is a switching around of the author’s intent, another interpretation no-no.

It is a fact that here Paul’s focus is on Eve, and he calls her “a transgressor”. And as already mentioned, elsewhere his focus is on the sin of Adam. In neither of these Bible statements does Paul say that one of them was either more guilty or less guilty than the other. Rather he leaves his readers in no doubt as to the consequences of their respective sins. Clearly, according to Paul, Adam is responsible for the mess we are in today.

Last, RG very liberally links Mark 7:20–22 with Adam pre-fall. If we read Mk 7 in context, JC is clearly describing people’s current state—which is post-fall. Adam’s name is not used, Man is used once, Person is used 5 times. The theme is clearly, people’s state now, not Adam’s state just before the fall. Today, men are oft-times blamed for all society’s evils. This article’s latter 1/2 partly reinforces that ‘men more than women are at fault’ stereotype.

In my response to some other readers’ feedback on the subject of ‘Did Adam sin out of love for Eve?’, published on our web on January 26th, I wrote that between Adam and Eve there was “a distortion of what God had actually said, a disbelief in the integrity and goodness of God, and finally a deliberate decision on the part of both of them to disobey the command of God”. And I suggested that this rejection of God’s authority over them was arrogance. The reference to Mark 7:20–22 was to show that Jesus said that such arrogance comes “out of the heart” of man, and so their actions were not a sudden impulse. See Did Adam sin out of love for Eve?

There is a disturbing trend of Adam more guilty than Eve in these comments and even more disturbing a distinct trend of drawing conclusions on the basis of what people think is implied, not on what is actually written. Somehow the statement Eve was deceived has become a mitigating excuse, not an abject failure on her part. Read the account; Eve listened to the serpent over God for crying out loud, and then handed the fruit to her husband. Why is Adam’s excuse (he listened to the woman Genesis 3:17) not as valid as Eve’s? Aren’t you unwittingly suggesting that Eve was more feeble-minded than men if her being deceived is partly excusable?

Paul indeed does not present Eve’s being deceived as a mitigating or an acceptable excuse (either in 1 Timothy 2:14 or elsewhere), which is the reason I did not say that her behaviour was partly excusable. Nor did I present Eve as being more feeble-minded than men, either wittingly or unwittingly.

Eve knew what she was supposed to do and she deliberately chose to disregard God’s warning, listening instead to the serpent. Nowhere that I know of is Eve’s actions ever excused or mitigated in seriousness comparative to Adam’s. It is quite clear, God is unhappy with both of them.

Quite correct. A moment or two before eating the fruit, speaking to the serpent, Eve gave voice to her understanding of God’s command not to eat, so her actions were in direct and deliberate disobedience on her part to what she believed God’s command to be.

Adam is held to account because he is the father of all living and he had a leadership responsibility—period. As for the sin itself, they both committed the same sin, they both disobeyed God, they are both equally guilty. Show me where it is stated, Adam is more guilty than Eve? Stop with the self-loathing men, women are just as sinful as men, but typically in different ways. James says the sins of many are obvious whilst the sins of others trail far behind. That is a pretty good summation of the sins of men and women. Men’s sins are typically quite obvious, women’s often not so. Our sexual equality in this country is under attack fellas, don’t fall for the belittling nonsense I was raised on that men are less worthy, less noble than women. Jesus had to die for the sins of women equally as much as the sins of men. Do what Adam should have done and show some backbone.

One last comment. Think about what we say to the childish excuse, he/she told me to do it. If he/she told you to jump off a cliff would you do it? No? So why is he/she told me to do it an acceptable excuse in this instance?

Paul in his exposition of the origin of sin, and death as the result of sin, in Romans 5:12–20 (above) says that “death spread to all men because all sinned”. No descendant of Adam, either male or female, has ever lived to an age of conscious awareness of right and wrong without actually choosing to do the wrong—to sin. The good news is that God has provided a remedy—forgiveness through the death and Resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul highlights this fact also in Romans 5:12–21 in contrast to the effects of sin:

Illustration by Caleb Salisbury 9411-the-fall
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. … much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
17 much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
19 by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
20 where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
21 so that, … grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

To summarize then, both Adam and Eve made a deliberate choice to disobey God, as does mankind and womankind today. God can justly forgive us our sin (1 John 1:9) because our penalty has been paid by the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). This forgiveness is accessed by repentance and faith (Acts 17:30–31; John 1:12).

Published: 26 July 2014

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