Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Women, Eve and Deception

This article is also available in Spanish, Urdu and Sindhi.

According to Google Analytics (which provides me with statistics about visits to my website), people often arrive at this site after googling phrases about women and deception. Here are some actual Google searches that have brought traffic to my site last month: “females are deceptive”; “Bible verses on gullible women”; “Bible verses on deceptive women”; “women in the Bible who deceive men”; “Are women more easily deceived than men?”; “women are gullible and easily deceived”; “deceptions women believe”; “Why are women more vulnerable to false doctrine?” (in Spanish); “Scriptures on women who are deceptive”; etc.

These phrases indicate that too many people believe that women are generally more gullible than men, and that women are especially susceptible to deception and false doctrine. Moreover, it seems that many Christians assume that this is what the Bible teaches about women. Are these beliefs and assumptions valid? In this article I take a quick look at what the Bible says about women and deception, and especially at Eve.

Eve in the Old Testament

Women, Eve and DeceptionAccording to Genesis 2:21-22, Eve was the first woman created. In Genesis 3:1ff, she is seemingly targeted by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. The Serpent successfully persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit which Eve then shared with Adam who was with her. By eating the forbidden fruit, Eve and Adam disobeyed God’s explicit command in Genesis 2:16-17. This act of disobedience had catastrophic consequences.

The Scriptures simply do not tell us why the serpent spoke to Eve and not to Adam. Many people assume that the serpent spoke to Eve because she was easier to deceive.[1] The scriptures, however, do not state or imply that she was easier to tempt and deceive than Adam.

While we know Eve’s excuse for eating the fruit—she was deceived—we are not told what Adam’s excuse was. So Adam, and all men, have escaped from being branded with the stigma that Eve, and all women, have suffered with.

Eve readily acknowledged and confessed her deception to God (Gen 3:13). She didn’t stay in a duped state. So it is utterly unjust to use Eve, in her short-lived deceived state, as a type for all women for all time.

Eve’s deception is never mentioned again in the Old Testament, nor is it mentioned in the Gospels. None of the Old Testament or Gospel writers felt it necessary to bring up or remember Eve’s momentary failure. Moreover, none of the Old Testament or Gospel writers ever mention or hint that women are more gullible or more easily deceived than men. Eve’s deception is not picked up again in the scriptures until Paul.

Eve in the Pauline Letters

Paul is the only New Testament writer to mention Eve’s deception, twice. He mentions Eve’s deception in 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 where he warns both men and women about the danger of being deceived by people who were preaching a different Jesus and a different gospel to what Paul had preached. Paul did not give the women an extra special warning about being deceived. He believed that both the men and women of Corinth were putting up with false teaching too easily (2 Cor 11:4b).

Eve’s deception is also mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:13-14. While the meaning of these two verses in 1 Timothy is clear, the precise intent of these verses is far from clear. We cannot say with certainty why Paul brought Adam and Eve into his discussion. Some say that Adam being created first and Eve’s deception are the reasons a woman cannot teach a man (cf. 1 Tim 2:12). I suggest, however, that Paul was correcting a Gnostic heresy which stated that Eve was created first and that Adam was the one deceived. Paul succinctly corrects this false doctrine in 1 Timothy 2:13-15. [More on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 here.]

Like the other biblical authors, Paul never states that women are more easily deceived than men. Women such as Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia, Euodia and Syntyche were among Paul’s trusted ministry colleagues.  [More on Paul and Women here.]

Are women more easily deceived than men?  

The Bible contains several narratives where men were deceived . . . usually by other men. Jacob (Gen 31:20, 27), Samson (Judg 16:10, 13, 15), Saul (1 Sam 28:12) and other Bible men deceived people. Paul, writing rhetorically, mentions that he was deceived by sin (Rom 7:11). Elsewhere, Paul describes false teachers as “people of depraved minds” who were “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:8, 13). These false teachers included men. Each of the gospels contain warnings given by Jesus about false teachers who would come and deceive his followers (e.g. Matt 24:23-24). While some of these false teachers were women, many (most?) of them were men. On the other hand, there are very few biblical accounts of women being deceived or deceiving others.[2]

Despite what too many Christians believe, the Bible just does not say that deception is a female trait. It is a tremendous injustice that later Christian theologians and ministers have used Eve and her deception as a type for all women.[3] Appallingly, some Christian ministers, such as John MacArthur, continue to hold all women responsible for Eve’s sin and deception. (Source) This is just wrong.

Here are links to every Bible verse in the NASB and the NIV that contain the word “deceive”, “deceived” and “deceiver”.  Click on the links and see for yourself if the Bible teaches that women are more easily deceived, or more deceptive, than men.


Endnotes

[1] Many people assume that the serpent targeted Eve because she was easier to deceive than Adam. My husband, however, speculates that the serpent targeted Eve because it may have already known that the Messiah was going to come through a woman. The serpent may have tried to compromise the woman and cause her to sin, thinking that this would thwart God’s salvation plan.

[2] Apart from Eve, the only other Bible accounts I can find of Old Testament women who were deceived is that of the witch at Endor who was deceived by King Saul (1 Sam 28:12), and Delilah who was deceived, or tricked, by Samson (Judg ch 16). Then there is Jezebel of Thyatira, a clear example of a deceived woman. She was a deceiving false teacher and false prophet (Rev 2:20ff). Michal deceived her father Saul in order to protect David (1 Sam 19:17). Other Bible women also lied to protect and save the lives of others (e.g. Exod 1:17-19).

[3] Tertullian is just one example of a theologian who used Eve and her deception as a type for all women:

“And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert— that is, death— even the Son of God had to die.  Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, Book 1, chapter 1


Postscript

I refuse to be held responsible for Eve’s deception and sin. I have enough failures and faults of my own to deal with, let alone having to bear the guilt of Eve’s sin. Still, I know that all my sin is forgiven. Surely the complete forgiveness of sin, even (or especially?) Eve and Adam’s sin, is the main message of the gospel! Furthermore, while I am a daughter of Eve, men are sons of Eve. Why don’t preachers (such as John MacArthur) who hold all women responsible for their mother Eve’s sin also hold men responsible for their mother Eve’s sin?  The unjust portrayal and treatment of women by Christians must stop.


Related Articles

Blaming Eve Alone
Women, Teaching and Deception

The Portrayal of Women in the Bible and Biblical Inspiration
1 Timothy 2:12 in Context
The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”
Jezebel of Thyatira: A Female False Prophet
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Misogynist Quotes from Church Fathers and Theologians

Posted August 19th, 2012 . Categories/Tags: Bible Women, Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Marriage, Equality in Ministry, Gender in Genesis 1-3, , , , , , ,

Unkind, judgemental, bizarre, and off-topic comments will be deleted.

43 comments on “Women, Eve and Deception

  1. Don Johnson says:

    My take is that in Gen 3 there are 3 archetypes of sinners:

    1) A deceived sinner – the woman
    2) A deliberate sinner – the man
    3) A deceiving sinner – the serpent

    And there is a increasing scale of consequences for each. This story is a microcosm of the story of Israel coming to a land of milk and honey and then getting kicked out for disobedience. (Of course, a lot of the details are skipped, but the basic mapping is there.)

    Paul picks up on the archetype of the deceived sinner as a concern of his for the members of the church at Corinth and by application of every believer.

  2. Marg says:

    This is very interesting, Don. I’ll have to think about that.

  3. Sarah says:

    My brother and I were talking about why Eve was targeted, and this was my best guess. As Adam’s ezer kenegdo, her very design could mean that she would have spoken up or done something to stop Adam from taking the fruit. As his “helpmeet”, she wouldn’t of left Adam to fend for himself in any situation, including the temptation. And since two are better than one (Genesis 2:18, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, especially v12), there would have been a greater chance that they wouldn’t have fallen compared to just one of them taking on this temptation. Satan wouldn’t have been ignorant of the fact that Eve was Adam’s ezer kenegdo, so he took a gamble on whether or not Adam would have been an ezer and helped Eve out since Adam’s design wasn’t based upon being an “ezer kenegdo”. And it worked, as Adam didn’t stop her while witnessing what was happening (Genesis 3:6).

    (This isn’t to say that Eve is better than Adam or anything. During our Bible study, we also emphasized the fact that while Adam was there and didn’t stop her, Eve did choose to listen to the serpent rather than God. We left the Bible study with the knowledge that both were equally guilty.)

  4. […] The “for” (gar) in 1 Timothy 2:13 is taken by many to mean that Paul is giving the creation order, or possibly Eve’s deception, as his rationale for his prohibition. However the “for” could also be used to introduce Paul’s repudiation of part of the false teaching at Ephesus. […]

  5. Marg says:

    This sounds very plausable, Sarah, and it somewhat fits with something a Hebrew reader told me about the meaning of “suitable helper” ezer kenegdo:

    In the Hebrew language this word “kngedo” is not really “corresponding” but rather “against”, so the woman was a “helper against him”. In other words we would say that a true helper is one that brings challenges to the relationship. If a man were to think hastily, his wife can be best suited to be an advisory to bring balance in a relationship.

    However, The Greek translation of kenegdo in Genesis 2:18 and 20 suggests that the word does mean “corresponding with” and “similar to”. More on this here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kenegdo-meet-subordinate-suitable-or-similar/

    Yes, I think Adam and Eve were equally guilty. They both ate the forbidden fruit. We know Eve’s excuse – she was deceived. What was Adam’s excuse?

  6. TL says:

    Many have wondered about Adam’s excuse for sinning. I’ve considered the possibility that after standing there and listening to the conversation with Eve and the serpent that he may have just been curious.

  7. Marg says:

    You know, I really have no idea what Adam’s excuse was.

    Some people suggest that Adam was implusive. (But no one says we can’t have men in leadership because they are impulsive.)

  8. […] How should we understand and implement the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12? […]

  9. Ashley says:

    The first endnote makes no sense to me. It says that the serpent went to deceive Eve because he may have known that the Saviour was going to come through a woman. But if the serpent was afraid of that happening, why would he deceive her, which was the whole reason a Saviour was needed?

  10. Marg says:

    Thanks Ashley. I see what you’re saying.

    Let me try to explain it again. Sending the Messiah was always God’s plan. It is possible that the devil knew of this plan and thought that if the woman sinned she would be disqualified from bearing the Messiah and so God’s plan would be ruined.

    I will change the word ‘Saviour’ to ‘Messiah’ in the endnote for now, and think about how I can better state what I mean.

    I realise that what I’m saying is highly speculative, but then so are all the other suggestions about why the serpent seemed to speak only to the woman and not to the man who was there with her.

  11. TL says:

    One way we can see that men are just as gullible as women is to look at how many men have believed that their gender as male is the main criteria to be good leaders. If that were the case, then no men would be bad leaders and no women would be good leaders. Truth is that it has nothing to do with gender but everything to do with character, the will, the heart.

  12. Marg says:

    Interesting and cheeky point. It made me smile.

    Yes, the fact that men have swallowed the lie that only men can be leaders — a lie based on flimsy evidence that ignores contrary evidence — does show that men are gullible.

  13. SSMob says:

    Satan came after Eve because she was the one that could bring life! Satan doesn’t want just one person (Adam), he wants many….

  14. Marg says:

    I think the Serpent may have targeted the woman because she was the life-giver too.

    Did you see endnote 1?

  15. Marg, insightful post, as usual! And helpful comments as well.
    Phyllis Trible points out in “God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality” that the prohibition was given to ha-adam, not to ishshah. The prohibition is known by ishshah, and she uses the plural “you” to refer to the prohibition, indicating her equality with ha-adam. She also resists and adds to the original prohibition, showing intelligence and the ability to resist–at first. Ish is mute. She is hungry for knowledge while Ish simply watches. I happen to like that quality of desiring knowledge.

  16. Marg says:

    This may interest some: Biblical scholar Peter Enns asks the question, “Where in the Old Testament is Adam’s disobedience in the garden of Eden described as the cause of universal human sinfulness (and guilt)?”

    His article 5 Old Testament Reasons to Rethink “Original Sin” is here.

  17. Karen says:

    Some Jews teach that Adam had already deceived Eve by not giving her the command correctly. Adam is the one that God gave the command to, and if Eve repeats verbatim what Adam taught her about the trees, either Adam did not handle the truth carefully when retelling it, or he added to it, or just plain old lied. If so, then Adam deceived her – making her an easy target for the serpent. Also, some speculate that Adam was there during the whole event – which makes sense if Eve offered him a bite. If he was there when Eve repeated back the ‘command’ to the serpent and did not correct her, he is doubly at fault. Either way, that’s kind of a whole new take on the event here in our shallow North American Church minds. Maybe, the whole story would then of course revolve around handling truth correctly and honestly, than it would about the lacking of integrity in women.

    • Will says:

      If Adam did not tell the truth, even in such a way as to misguide, then that is sin. If it was sin, then the eyes of them both would have been opened. But they were not. Therefore Adam did not commit sin, and therefore this Jewish tale is a lie, and therefore any believer of it has been deceived.

  18. Marg says:

    Hi Karen,

    I don’t believe that the story of the Fall revolves around the lack of integrity in women, at all.

    The text does seem to say that the man was with the woman when the deception occurred (Gen. 3:6b)

    We know that God told the first human not to eat the forbidden fruit, but anything beyond that is speculation. The narrative certainly brings up more questions than it answers.

    God may have repeated his command several times. Adam may have passed on the instruction to Eve correctly. Eve may have even heard the original instruction.

    Some believe that Adam (the man, ish) and Eve (the woman, ishshah) were two sides of the original human being (ha adam). The biblical text literally says that the woman was “taken out” of the first man ( Genesis 2:23). Moreover, the Hebrew word traditionally, and inadequately, translated as “rib” (tsalah) – the part that became the first woman – can mean “side” or “part”. The Greek word used in Gen. 2:21 in the LXX is pleura with means “side”. I’ve written more about this here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-created-order/
    I have another article pending that further explores the concept of the “splitting of the adam”.

  19. Ryan says:

    I think eve was targeted because in scripture it is written that the head of every man is Christ and the head of every woman is man.1 Corinthians 11:3. With that being said out of all that were tempted throughout the Word, Christ is the only one with the authority to rebuke the devil.man is more subject to fall short of the grace of God so whether you put the blame on Adam or eve, it’s still man…I would bank on it that God being the creator and all knowing had provisions in place for his perfect will to be fulfilled.. Good? Maybe? On the right track??

  20. […] Mary Kassian (1990:111) has written, “. . . both psychology and history lend credible support to the biblical recognition of innate differences between men and women, with a major difference being a heightened spiritual perceptiveness in women.” Sadly, Kassian sees this heightened spiritual perceptiveness as including a general propensity towards spiritual deception among women. (The Bible never states that women are more easily deceived than men.) Despite believing that women are prone to deception, Mary Kassian has a public ministry as a Christian speaker and writer. […]

  21. […] Women, Eve and Deception […]

  22. […] Eve’s deception is never mentioned again in the Old Testament after Genesis 3, nor is it mentioned by Jesus in the Gospels. None of the Old Testament or Gospel writers felt it necessary to bring up or remember Eve’s momentary failure. Eve’s deception is not picked up again in the Scriptures until Paul, who mentions it on two occasions. [In 2 Corinthians 11 he uses it to describe the gullibility of men and women.] But I don’t think he brought it up in 1 Timothy 2 in order to imply that women are more likely to be deceived and therefore all women should be prohibited for all time from teaching and leading men. The Bible nowhere states or implies that women are more easily deceived or deceptive than men. And I don’t believe Paul thought this either. He greatly valued his female ministry co-workers. […]

  23. I very much agree with Don’s observation. I find that women misunderstand their influence. Why should woman having the glory of man also assume the glory of God? Does this make her equal with man to possess both glories and man possess only one? Therefore, God created man first, in God’s glory, woman for man (he needs help), and woman is from man.

    Do Paul’s conclusions despise or degrade a man for being more likely to sin without deception or degrade a woman for being more likely to sin by deception? If man were 55% of the time likely to sin willfully and 45% by deception and woman were 55% likely to sin by deception and 45% willfully, is this description degrading of a specific gender? Each sex has God-given characteristics. God forbid that our God-given natures be considered degrading when humankind is made in His image and in God-given glories.

    Thank you for letting me comment and be challenged by your writing.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Scott, I’m not following all your ideas. I’m not sure which God-given characteristics you consider to be exclusively male or exclusively female.

      I don’t consider the statement that “woman is the glory of man” to be a definitive statement about women. I think both men and women have many qualities that can be considered “glories”, but the fact that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and the fact that all followers of Christ are redeemed children of God, must rank as our greatest God-given “glories” – glories that are shared by men and women.

      • Miguel says:

        I think what Scott is saying is that the Bible shows and then reinforces that Eve was deceived and accordingly points to women being more easily deceived, and states that Adam disobeyed (and accordingly points to and shows men disobeying). If we just take it at that, neither is really “worse” than than the other. Being fooled into sinning is no worse than choosing to sin. It is stated for each to understand weaknesses, and in my opinion folds well into why God ordained men as leaders and head of women in families and church, etc. As It doesn’t lessen the value of women at all, just points to inherent weaknesses to watch for, for each gender.

        • Marg says:

          Where does the Bible say that women are more easily deceived than men?

          What about the Bible verses where men were deceived?

          • Cornelia says:

            Dear Marg,

            Thankyou for your most brilliant website and most brilliant discussion on this topic.

            I find it incredibly fascinating how fellow Christian males, Theologions and Priests use select Biblical texts to support their (overtly flawed) case that women are the minions of men.

            Yet Jesus (the ORIGINAL Christian) LOVED women, REVERED women and the early church was run by BOTH men and women.

            So what happened between Jesus and the Bible?

            It is obvious that something was not passed on correctly when the spoken word was written, which was done by men, and then later translated by men, and then re-interpreted in churches by MEN!

            I am certain God would be most pleased that finally the spoken word is being reviewed and reinterpreted through the lens of a woman’s ears and eyes.

            Finally we may get closer to the REAL TRUTH!

            God Bless

          • Ursula van Heerden says:

            Regarding what is said by Cornelia.

            She says:
            “It is obvious that something was not passed on correctly when the spoken word was written, which was done by men…”

            This is contradicted by scripture itself where we read:

            2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

            and

            2Pe 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

            Jesus Christ Himself constantly quotes scripture and we are told to measure everything against scripture.

            Act 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

          • Marg says:

            Hi Ursula,

            I disagree with that aspect of Cornelia’s comment too.

            I regard the Bible as uniquely inspired by God.

  24. […] Women, Eve, and Deception […]

  25. […] We know what the ancient serpent did in the garden of Eden. He questioned and contradicted God’s words, and he deceived Eve, which led to both Adam and Eve sinning. Satan has continued to contradict and twist God’s words, and it is disturbing to see how quickly Jesus’ teaching, and that of his disciples, was being corrupted in the very early church. […]

  26. Elias Mwita says:

    Was creating Eve Gods original plan?

    • Marg says:

      Hello, Elias, I have no doubt it was.

      Genesis 1 shows us that “in the beginning” both men and women were created as God’s image bearers and regents, and God gave them the exact same commands.

      The narrative in Genesis 2 is designed to show that it is not good for people to be alone. In this story, the first human needed a partner. The suspense builds as he names the animals and discovers they are not suitable companions. And then God builds a woman from a part, or side, taken out of the first human’s body. This shows how profoundly similar the first man and woman were, and how suitable it was for them to have a profound one-flesh relationship.

  27. Rod Dearth says:

    God created both the man and the woman and pronounced what He had created, “very good.” Thus, there was no inherent deficiency in either one as created. The woman subsequently fell prey to the lies of the serpent (“you will be like God”), I believe, based primarily on her desire to fulfill her role as “suitable helper” to the man, as well perhaps because of lust of the eyes “she saw the tree was good…and pleasant to the eyes.” Targeting the woman instead of the man may have been a result of the serpent’s “subtil” nature, seeing that if the woman could be induced to sin, she would inevitably lead her man to do likewise, no doubt believing she was fulfilling her created role of “helper.” The inevitable result, when both the man and woman realized what they had done, would be a severely damaged relationship. The man would no longer trust his “suitable helper,” but worse, he would undoubtedly begin to distrust the One who brought her to him. This inevitable distrust of God by both the man and the woman would be a natural result of their sin, which the Scriptures elsewhere teach skews perception. The serpent, wiser above all creatures, would likely have known this. Was the man standing next to the woman when she was tempted by the serpent? The language used says he was “with” her, but this language, when compared to the same language used elsewhere in the Genesis narrative does not imply “with” as in “standing next to,” but implies “with” as in “equally” or “the same.” It seems inconceivable that the man would stand idly next to the woman while she was being tempted, and then watch her commit the very transgression they had both been warned against by God. Of course, whether he was next to her when she committed the transgression or elsewhere at the time, his own sin makes him fully culpable. He knew the prohibition as well as his helper, and there is no indication that she deceived him by disguising the fruit or telling him it was from some other tree. He knew, he ate, he was guilty. As an aside, it is interesting to note that when the serpent approaches the woman and asks her a question about God, her immediate response is to correct its error and teach it, and this verbal response comes before her sin. Could this didactic response by the woman illustrate an aspect of her created role as “helpmeet”?

    • Marg says:

      You make some very interesting points, Rod. I’m especially intrigued by your last point! I’ve never thought of that before, that Eve corrected the serpent.

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