Genesis 3, The Fall, and Adam and Eve's Sin

by Matt Slick

Another area of focus in support for women pastors and elders deals with Adam's representation of mankind.  Did Adam represent mankind when he fell, known as Federal Headship; or did sin enter through him because his sin was worse than Eve's?

Federal Headship is the teaching that Adam represented mankind; so when he fell, we fell in him, and we inherit his sinful nature.  This would also mean that he was in an authoritative, representative position over humanity. This becomes important when we look at how Paul relates authority with Adam's primacy.  "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression." (1 Tim. 2:12-14).  As Adam is drawn into the issue by Paul, the egalitarians must deal with the connection . . . and they do.

The egalitarians assert that the reason sin entered the world was not because Adam represented mankind but that his sin was purposeful and worse than Eve's--while hers was accidental and out of ignorance and from being deceived.  In other words, Adam knew better; but Eve was sincere and in her ignorance was deceived. So, the egalitarians say sin entered through Adam and not Eve because of the difference of their intentions and not because of Adam's authoritative representation.

This is an important issue for two reasons.  First, the authority structure in the church is in question here as far as male headship goes because the issue of authority is tied to Adam; and if to Adam as the representative head (not Eve), then it relates to authority in the Church.  Second, denying that the first Adam represented us in The Fall risks denying the second Adam represented us in salvation.  More on this second part later.  But for now, let's take a look at the text in question and then analyze it.

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. 8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “ Where are you?” 10 He said, “ I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:1-13).

We see a lot of information in the preceding 13 verses.  Let's summarize the section in a series of short observations.

  1. The serpent went to the woman and not Adam, 3:1.
    1. Was the serpent trying to get to Adam, God's designated representative on earth, by going through his wife?
    2. Adam was given the responsibility of keeping the Garden.  Eve was supposed to help Adam do what God called him to do.  Should she have consulted with Adam about the proper way to keep the Garden since eating the fruit was part of cultivation and part of Adam's assignment to keep the Garden?
  2. The serpent cast doubt on God's word with his first words, "Indeed has God said . . . ?" 3:1.
    1. This is the first step in producing error.
  3. Eve responds to the serpent but changes the word of God given to Adam in 2:16-17.
    1. Since God's command to Adam to keep the Garden was given to him before Eve was made (2:16, 22), we can assume that Adam told Eve what his instructions had been.
    2. There is no reason to assume that Adam altered the words from God in any way.
    3. In her conversation with the serpent, Eve changes God's words in three places.
      1. She omits the words 'any' and freely' from 2:16.
      2. She refers to the forbidden tree by location instead of by what it is.  She changes "tree of knowledge of good and evil", 2:17, to "tree which is in the midst of the garden." 3:3.
      3. She adds the phrase, "You shall not touch it." 3:3.
    4. So Eve misrepresented the instructions of God that she had received through Adam.
  4. The serpent, (having more confidence to proceed by Eve's misrepresentation?), then directly contradicted God's word and impugns God's motives also in three places, 3:4-5.
    1. "You will not die." 3:4.
    2. "Your eyes will be opened." 3:5.
    3. "For God knows . . . you will be like God." 3:5.
  5. Eve listened to the serpent's words, rejected God's proclamation, and decided for herself that the tree was desirable, 3:6.
    1. In so doing, she usurped the authority of God by determining for herself what is good.
  6. Eve gave the fruit to Adam and he ate, 3:6.
    1. No explanation is given for why he so readily ate.
      1. Adam should have known better since God's word was given to him directly.
    2. Was Adam right there during Eve's conversation with the serpent?  The text does not tell us.  "With her" could mean close proximity as 'with her a couple feet away,' or distant as 'with her in the Garden'; and the Garden could have been large.
    3. Did he eat because he loved and trusted Eve?
  7. Adam and Eve knew that they were naked and covered themselves, 3:7.
    1. They covered themselves with the own works--the fig leaves.

Answering the challenge:  Was Eve ignorant?

Are the egalitarians correct in asserting that Eve's sin was one of ignorance and being deceived, and that her sin was less than Adam's thereby lending support to the position that that is why sin didn't enter the world through her?

It cannot be maintained that Eve was ignorant about the command of God given to Adam since she repeated the basic message, though with changes, to the serpent (2:16-17).  The command to cultivate and keep the Garden was given to Adam prior to Eve's arrival (2:16, 22).  Therefore, since we see no record of God communicating to Eve about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we can conclude that Eve obtained her knowledge from Adam.  She repeated the gist of the command to the serpent, so she had the same knowledge that Adam had regarding the restriction of eating the forbidden fruit.  If we also consider that Eve altered the words of God in relating them to the serpent, we might be able to make the case that she is even more guilty than Adam since she is cited as altering God's commands first.

But, some might object that Adam altered the message from God when he told to it to Eve. If this is so, where is the evidence.  We have no such record recorded in Genesis. The only record we have of the message being altered is that from Eve. So, the objection that Eve's sin was one of ignorance and was somehow less than Adam's cannot be maintained from the text.

Was Eve deceived?

Was Eve deceived?  Yes she was.  2 Cor. 11:3 says, "But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."  Also, 1 Tim. 2:14 says, "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression."

Is being deceived an excuse when it comes to sin, or that it somehow lessens its offense to God? I searched through the Bible examining all 179 occurrences of deceive, deceived, deceit, deception, etc.; and I found none that support the idea that being deceived is less an offense to God or somehow excuses a person from the consequence of that deception.  On the contrary, if anything I found evidence to the contrary.

  1. Deut. 11:16, "Beware, lest your hearts be deceived and you turn away and serve other gods and worship them."
    1. Though people are deceived and worship false gods, there will be no excuse for them on the Day of Judgment.
  2. Rom. 7:9-11, "And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me."
    1. Paul's account of sin is personified; but notice that though he said he was deceived by sin, it still killed him.  Being deceived still kills.
  3. 2 Cor. 11:3-4, "But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully."
    1. Nowhere in these verses or the context surrounding them does believing in a false Christ and/or false gospel excuse the person from the consequences of that deception, nor is that consequence said to be lessened.
  4. Eph. 5:6, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience."
    1. We see that the wrath of God still comes upon those who are deceived.

We see that even when people are deceived, the full consequences of that deception are dished out to those thus deceived.  Therefore, are we to conclude that Eve being deceived was somehow excused from her sin or that its severity was lessened as an offense to God?  If so, where is the evidence for this because I cannot find it.

There is one more set of verses worth examining before we leave this topic.  When Jacob deceived his father Isaac and received the blessing that belonged to Esau, the blessing was not rescinded when the deception was discovered. "When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and has taken away your blessing." (Gen. 27:34-35).  The point is that the effects wrought through deception are powerful and not lessened in consequence upon the one deceived even though it is from deception.


Upon examining the biblical text, we see that Eve had the same knowledge as Adam did regarding the command of not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden.  We also see that the Scriptures do not excuse Eve for her sins even though she was deceived.  Therefore, to say that sin entered the world through Adam because his sin was more serious than the Eve's can't be maintained.

Objections Answered

  1. Paul was shown mercy because he acted ignorantly (1 Tim. 1:13).  Eve was ignorant, like Paul, so that is why sin didn't enter the world through her.
    1. But this argument is invalid since we have already established that Eve was not ignorant.  She knew the law of God that had been revealed to Adam.  She clearly repeated it to the serpent though she didn't quote it perfectly.
  2. Adam saw the animals being made, so he was more guilty then Eve since she did not see the animals created.
    1. There is absolutely no evidence to show that Adam saw the animals being created.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.