*This post contains many scriptural references, each linked to the words/phrases concerned*
It is a common practice in church to hear the first woman’s speech in Genesis 3:3 made light of. Sometimes it is even ridiculed. The accusation is usually that Eve misunderstood God’s word or that she added to it. On this basis, there is a gender stereotype whereby men are taken more seriously than women, especially when it comes to matters of intellect. The testimony of a male—on almost any issue—is usually regarded as more authentic than that of a female’s.
The reason she is disbelieved is because of two major assumptions Christians have made from the creation story;
- Only one time, in Gen. 2:17, did God ever give a commandment about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to human(s).
- The reason for this assumption being: in the woman’s testimony there was some ‘erroneous’ added detail.
From these two parent assumptions spring many, many others;
- The woman got to know of God’s command definitely through the agency of the first human (who was supposedly a male).
- The one who, supposedly, conveyed the message was in the lead in the relationship. Thus, every husband has the divine mandate to be his wife’s teacher (of God’s word).
- The first woman was misinformed; her husband did not teach her well. Or, she was just dull.
- The woman was easily deceived because she was not the one God spoke to directly.
Now, as a matter of philosophy, if a parent assumption(s) is wrong, its offspring would also be wrong.
But…even if we do move away from that logic. Even if we go with the parent assumptions, does the Bible show these resultant assumptions to be true? That is;
- Does the Bible—even from the time of the old covenant—unequivocally portray men as the only agencies through whom God speaks to families? And if we do find in the Bible, cases where God used wives, was it always as a damage control because the husbands were spiritually dull?
- Does the conveyor of a message automatically translate to the leader and all-time teacher of the receiver of the message?
God used Sarah for her family in protecting Isaac’s divine inheritance. Abraham was a man given to keenness in the spirit, but God asked him to hearken to, that is, obey, his wife. God spoke to Rebekah concerning her family, Isaac was not a spiritually dull man. He was a man who heard God constantly. The woman of Shunem was the one God used for her family twice (2Kings 4:9-10;8:1); to save them from childlessness, and to save them from famine. Her husband might, or might not, have been dull spiritually, we cannot say for sure. The Bible offers us no clues to make an educated guess, so we make none. There is no need for it. Jochebed, Moses’ mother, was spiritually perceptive and was used for her family, we never hear of any role her husband, Amram, played. Also, we cannot assert that he must have been a spiritually dull man. Maybe God just wanted to shine light on a woman who played a major role. We need not assume anything else. Samson’s mother was the agent through whom God reached her family. In her case, Manoah, her husband, seemed to be not as spiritually keen as she was. She believed at first encounter. But he did not. He feared, she trusted. She was not being gullible. On the other hand, he was being doubtful. Moreover, the Lord did not repeat all the instructions already given to his wife to him. We can say the same for Abigael. She was more spiritual than her husband.
Clearly, God did employ the agency of the females in the marital context, both in cases where the man was obtuse and when he was not.
There is also no scriptural evidence of any instances where a person, for the singular reason of having conveyed a spiritual/prophetic message, automatically became the leader of the receiver of the message. Ananias did not become Paul’s leader. Neither did Agabus. Whenever a person became someone’s leader, it was by command. Moses became Israel’s leader through the agency of God’s word. It was not a presumption. Prophets were called before they conveyed messages. People did not assume leadership over God’s people just because they bore a message. As a matter of fact, God condemned in His people the practise of assuming the followership of anyone He did not specifically choose.
We also see nothing like this in Genesis. If God had established some mediatorship in the male, we would have seen it written as an injunction He made, something He specifically said. But there is no such thing. Instead we see both male and female, hear God and speak to Him directly. No mediator. (Gen. 1:28-28; 3:6-19).
Because the resultant assumptions are at odds with the rest of scripture, then the parent assumptions (listed below) cannot be right. We may not know, yet, what actually happened, but we know that these definitely are not what happened in the Beginning.
- Only one time, in Gen. 2:8, did God ever give a commandment about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to human(s).
- In the woman’s testimony there was some ‘erroneous’ added detail.
So, the question we ask now is; is it really unusual for God to speak about the same issue twice? Is an added detail really that big of a deal?
Well, the Bible actually shows that God has a penchant for saying the same thing more than once and also changing some details in each repetition. It is no strange trend at all in the scriptures, Hebrew and Greek Bibles alike, for God to repeat a command. One time we are told to love our neighbour as ourselves, another time we are told to love as Christ loved us.
When God told Abraham that he would have descendants as many as stars in the sky, it was equally true when God came back and added that they would be as sand on the sea shore. Different words, same intent. Eve’s extra detail in Gen. 3:3 does not contradict the one in Gen. 2:17, because the intent remained the same. We do not note this when we talk about the woman’s testimony.
And yes, God came back to Abraham five different times to promise him a son. I think that if God did not mind repeating a promise or a blessing, He would also not be hesitant to reiterate a warning that would prevent death and destruction. Makes sense?
Repetition of commands with change of details is really not that big a deal. The extra detail in Gen. 3:3 does not necessarily, and unequivocally, make the woman an unreliable source.
Another angle to this; the sources of the Gospels are not completely consistent. Yet we do not believe Matthew over Mark, nor do we trust Luke’s gospel more than we trust John’s. We excuse the seeming inconsistencies in the Gospels and say that it is perfectly normal that different people viewing the same thing would have different perspectives of it. Yet we have not given the first woman as much credit. Once again preconceived notions get the better of us in interpretation of scriptures. I like to think that we should see the testimony of the command recorded in Gen.3:3 as credible as the one in 2:17, just as we see the Gospel of Mark as authentic as that of Luke’s, especially because the two accounts are more complementary than they are contradictory. Moreover, we have a scriptural evidence of a likely second encounter. Genesis 1:29 does reveal an instance in which God speaks to two people about their food and their work. Maybe that was when there was an added detail?
It is sin to lie or add to God’s words. Rejecting the woman’s testimony is nothing short of saying she either lied or twisted God’s word. But according to scriptures the first sin of mankind was disobedience (parakoē) to an express command of God. To disobey is different from lying. Nowhere in scriptures do we see Eve referred to as a liar. Disobeyed, yes. Deceived, yes. But not a liar and a falsifier of God’s word. But someone did lie in the beginning, and Jesus tells us who that was. It was the serpent’s testimony that contradicted God’s instruction. Not the woman’s.
One more thing…
The fact that one woman was deceived that one time does not mean that all women for all time are gullible and easily deceived. No other time in scriptures are we told of any woman who was deceived. Instead we have more instances of women showing witty perceptiveness. But scriptural examples of deceived men abound. Isaac was deceived, Laban was deceived. Jacob deceived others and was deceived. Samson was deceived. King Saul was an unstable man. Sisera was deceived.
Next post I share two other possible sides to this story and afterwards present my conclusions.
Image By Dieffi