God Behaving Badly 5: What really happened in Genesis 3?

If only Eve had hired a publicist instead.  (In case you’re not sure, the publicist is the one wearing clothes.)

So, what did really happened in Genesis 3?   While Non sequitur‘s version may not be accurate, the popular version of “The Fall” isn’t really either (see text below).  The humans aren’t called “Adam” and “Eve” yet, but simply “the man” and “the woman”.  They probably didn’t eat an apple, but it could have been a fig, since their clothes were made of fig leaves (Gen. 3:7).  And while the women tends to get the bulk of the blame (making this passage seem sexist, see God Behaving Badly, pages 53-55), her husband was with her the whole time (Gen. 3:6).  He says nothing despite the fact that he had heard the command not to eat of the one tree directly from God (Gen. 2:17).  The woman at least offers some resistance to the serpent, but when she offers some to him he says, “OK, sure” (typical guy, always hungry).

Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t put the blame exclusively on the man.  So, who do you think was more at fault, the man or the woman?



  1. Both are to blame, of course, and both are cursed by God for it.

    Who was more at fault? I don’t think the Old Testament or the New Testament can easily resolve this question. If anyone thinks otherwise, please say so.

    Tim Challies recently posted on related issues at http://www.challies.com/bible/saved-through-childbearing and his second paragraph gives his point of view, which I do not share. I have heard that traditional interpretation used both ways. It could be said that the woman was most at fault because she usurped the man’s leadership. Others, however, have said that the man was most at fault because he was unfaithful to his leadership role by letting the woman lead the way.

    I am a married man. If my wife sinned, invited me to join her and I did, I would say that we were both at fault. If I sinned, invited her to join me and she did, I would say that we both were both at fault. Order of creation, order of leadership, order of whatever does not change the fact that both (Adam and Eve, my wife and I) were at fault.

    What do others think? What do you think, David?

  2. i think the clue to an answer (according to the author’s theology rather than a theology we might foist on him) lay with the curses each are subjected to. which curse is worse? which most difficult? which most ‘cursed’?

    instead of focusing on the male v. female aspect (a thoroughly modern method), perhaps another key is provided.

    1. Might you say more, Jim?

      What key is provided? What conclusions do you draw?

      (Maybe the answer is in David’s book, which I have not read.)

    1. does he? i guess it’s all a matter of perspective. for myself, having to give birth in agony and having to ‘adhere’ to another human being in a position of absolute dependence would be loathsome. but then again, eeking a living out of unyielding and unfriendly ground… that wouldn’t be fun either. but then again, eating dust and crawling on my belling and having my head stepped on…

      actually none of them sound much fun. so which is worse? maybe that’s just what the author intended. maybe for all of them theirs is the worst curse. maybe thats what being cursed means: i.e., that we think we’re worse off than anyone else…

  3. I think blaming the woman or the man is problematic… sin is a human condition not the fault of one or the other. The gender wars shouldn’t start so early!

  4. The woman’s curse was by far the shortest of the 3, and she’s the only one that has a positive promise coming out of the curses (her seed will strike the serpent’s seed on the head). I’m mainly trying to offer a corrective here to the “blame the woman” tendency among certain evangelicals.

    1. good point david. the fact that her’s contains a ‘promise’ is indicative of something that’s lost most of the time when evang.s look at the text. especially those influenced by the misogynist augustine.

  5. Rather than try to asssign blame, even by sophisticated means like Jim’s curse test, I think it is instructive to notice HOW human they are. The Adam (and in Ch.3 he is not called “Adam” but the ‘adam (the human-being) not only casually sins with little provocation, but when caught tries to shift the blame… Which seems to me to be what many contemporary gendered readings are doing! The sons of Adam have not learned much 😦

  6. If find the comments above from David and Tim striking.

    Because of the promise to the woman, one could actually argue from the text that woman are more blessed than men, or even than salvation comes through women more than through men. But such arguments are misapplications of this text, as are a number of arguments we often hear or read. I mentioned one in my post above.

    And as Tim implies, blaming the fall on one gender more than the other is surprisingly similar to what Adam did!

  7. Tim, Scott: Good point about blame. We do like to blame. Ultimately, I don’t think we should assign blame, but I think Jim and I are trying to offer a corrective. Perhaps the text is inviting us to “fall” into the blame game here?

  8. The point of the story was to establish that women were to blame. This was written in a culture of male-dominance. It was then a handy reference for males for hundreds of years. It’s our modern sensibilities that reject the unfairness of blaming the woman.

    1. I disagree.

      If the point of the story was to establish that women were to blame, the man would not have immediately done the same as the woman.

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  9. Art, if “the point of the story was to establish that women were to blame” the author was stupid. If he had just failed to mention “her husband was with her” before “and he ate also” he would have communicated the point you say he intended. But those few words undo the claim. It is not the author who wantedf to communicate that point it is some of the men who read the narrative!

    1. tim you’re quite right on this. adam (man) was standing right there with her the whole time. if anything, he comes off as a weak willed simpleton who wouldnt even bother to say ‘hey hold up a sec woman, god said not to eat that stuff. you can, but im not gonna!’ no, it isn’t about assigning the woman blame at all. at least not any more than the feckless guy.

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