Soon after our first human couple were created in the Garden of Eden, they violated God’s only rule. They sinned by doing something that God told them not to do. So, which one was at fault — upon whom should we place the blame?
One of them must have been responsible for this first transgression, but clearly placing the blame isn’t an easy determination. Part of the problem is that some people don’t even believe Adam and Eve sinned, and others don’t believe this caused their death. Here we are in the very first chapters of the very first book of the Bible and we can’t all even agree on what happened.
I really didn’t know about all the confusion among some Christians concerning the creation story until I started ministering about sin and how it entered into the world. The first challenge I received, many years ago, was “Why was Adam and Eve punished so harshly for such a minor offense? Besides, Satan didn’t lie — it seems like the serpent actually helped them out.”
If it has been awhile since you read the story, please review Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3 to refresh your memory. Chapter 1 is an overview of all creation, chapter 2 gives details about humankind’s creation, and chapter 3 tells the story of our human couple’s encounter with the serpent. Sometimes I get questions pertaining to the serpent in this story, but I don’t want to get off course, so for a detailed study of this creature, see a previous treatise on that subject called “Nachash: the Snake in Genesis 3 — was it Satan or Not?” which is listed in References & Notes.1
The Serpent makes an appearance.
The important part of our study concerns the narrative as recorded in the beginning of Genesis, chapter 3, when the serpent confronts Eve and the dialog questions God’s rule about eating fruit from a particular tree in the garden.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So 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 to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, (Genesis 3:1-7a, NRSV).2
The argument I sometimes get from someone is that the couple didn’t really die from eating the fruit, but continued to have a very long life span, longer than we enjoy today. The real point, however, is that they did eventually die. Death would come, just not immediately.
Remember there were two special trees in the middle of this garden, the tree of good and evil knowledge that they were not to eat from, and another tree of which they could eat from — the tree of life. “Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9).
By disobeying God, they lost the privilege of living in God’s garden (park, protected area, land set apart) in which grew that tree of everlasting life. Over time, without access to that tree, they would finally grow old and die. There was nothing in the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil that could take their life; it was not poisoned with some substance. The problem was that they disobeyed God’s single and simple rule, so they were kicked out of the garden.
There was no rule against eating fruit from this tree of life. In fact, it was expected that they did so. As long as they could eat from it they would not die. God created humans to live forever, as long as they obeyed his rule. And when they did eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, they were exiled from the garden and had no further direct access to the presence of God or to his tree of life.
Then the LORD God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24).
Many people forget about them being separated from this tree of life, when wondering why Adam and Eve did not immediately die upon partaking from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Like us today, Adam and Eve were subject to death, not immediately, but gradually. It is a good thing, too, because this world with its population of humans would not exist, if they didn’t have time to procreate.
When God said, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Genesis 2:17), it is true if you consider the following. The fact that we all die within a day in God’s time scale is implied later in the Bible in several places. For instance, “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). And, ”But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
God didn’t say that they would die within twenty-four hours, but that within a day by his own measurement. And if that day to God is a thousand human years, then God made a true statement. In fact, no human, ever, has lived more than God’s day of one thousand human years. The longest living human, the biblical patriarch Methuselah, lived 969 years (Genesis 5:27), a bit short of the one-thousand-year limit.
So, to answer the question posed in the opening paragraphs, yes the serpent did lie, because they did die. Secondly, it wasn’t a harsh punishment, for the punishment wasn’t for something minor, it was about the only rule in the world, and a direct warning was announced about the results from disobeying it. God basically said, “Do anything you want, just don’t do this one thing, because if you do it you will die.”
The third part of that query, “It seems like the snake helped them out,” is a little more difficult to judge. Whether helping or harming is questionable and probably should be answered, “Maybe!” I will address this topic in another article, for I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole right now. But they did learn about good and evil, although they were not mature enough to handle this knowledge properly, just yet.
So, who was at fault?
Discussions about which of them was at fault for this first sin has been a point of contention between men and women for thousands of years, so I am certain we won’t settle the argument in this article. However, we can show the argument from different perspectives and let you decide.
Our first couple’s sin, exile, and death sentence is considered the ‘fall of man’ (or mankind, or humankind) and is many times referred to only as the ‘Fall’. The earliest explicit New Testament references to the Fall appear in two letters from Paul (Romans and 1 Corinthians) which compare Adam to Christ.3
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come (Romans 5:12-14).
For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
To New Testament Jews, this was an eye-opener in explaining how the problem of the Fall was going to be corrected. Basically Jesus, a perfect man, would become the exchange for another ‘once perfect’ man who sinned. By sacrificing himself for Adam he would redeem or ransom one life for another. This retroactive exchange would purchase not only Adam’s life, but that of all people since the Fall. (For a deeper explanation, see the article “What do you mean, Christ died for our sins?” listed in References & Notes.)4
In the Old Testament, there are passages, which seems to allude to the Fall in Ezekiel 28. In reading this scripture, many believe it is about a myth or human ruler or even Satan, but there are three points that justify the description is about Adam. Although verse 2 begins ‘son of man’ in some versions, in the New Revised Standard Version it says ‘mortal’, because it is from the Hebrew word for Adam (˒âdâm).5 Also you will find, within that chapter, references to ‘cherub’ (verses 14 and 16) which guarded Adam’s home, and ‘Eden’ (verse 13) which, of course, also references Adam’s home.6
Now, these references place the blame upon Adam, but there are others that suggest both Adam and Eve (when speaking of mankind or humankind), as well as specifically to the woman. Let us examine a couple of deuterocanonical books.7
For God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-24).
In the book of Sirach, the instigation of evil is attributed to the woman, a break with traditional interpretation. Eve is blamed for the original sin instead of Adam.8 “From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die” (Sirach 25:24). And there are other books that mention the Fall: 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
If Eve was deceived, what was Adam’s excuse?
Eve was lied to by the serpent; she was deceived. Deception is known throughout the Bible as one of the traits of Satan. Paul the Apostle wrote: ”But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). For a study of Satan’s methods, read the article “Satan’s Strategies of Attack — How to Protect Yourself” listed in References & Notes).9 Many argue that, deceived or not, Eve was to blame.
But, what about Adam? He was not deceived, so why did he eat the fruit, too? Although scripture states Eve was with her husband, “and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her” (Genesis 3:6b), he may not have been right at her side. It seems more likely he was elsewhere in the area. So, it is not like he just stood there and watched his wife exchange her life for a piece of fruit.
Some people suggest that Adam, having already experienced loneliness before Eves’s creation, didn’t want to live if Eve was going to die and decided to eat the fruit, so he, too, would die with her. Or maybe he felt that since Eve ate and didn’t immediately die, maybe God was lying and the serpent was correct.
My own suggestion is that they were equally at fault. Here is my reasoning. God put Adam into a deep sleep and created Eve from part of his own body (Genesis 2:21–23). These two individual people, through marriage, are joined once again into a single unit and are ‘one flesh’. What each part does, affects the other. In marriage, one is partly responsible for what the other does. Adam and Eve were two components of one entity.
Okay, that is just my own personal opinion and I don’t expect that it holds much weight in the argument, for most readers. But I look at marriage a bit differently than most people today. I think in a marriage, the husband and wife have individual traits, but they must function as one unit. Because of this man-woman closeness, when performing marriage ceremonies I used to quote from a book by C. S. Lewis, who stated the following concept.
Concerning the ‘oneness’ in marriage, Lewis said that the Christian idea of marriage is based on God’s words that a husband and wife are to be regarded as a single organism – for that is what the words ‘one flesh’ would be in modern English. And, Christians believe that this is a fact, just as when one says that a lock with its key is one mechanism, or that a violin with its bow is one musical instrument. The inventor of the human machine was telling us, that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined in every aspect of life.10
For a deeper study on the subject of the creation of Adam and Eve, please see the article titled “Did God Really Make Eve from Adam’s Rib?” A link is listed in References & Notes at the end of this article.11
Related to this article’s subject matter is a country song titled ‘Adam & Eve’, recorded in 2012. It was written and performed by Australian artists Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, who were husband and wife at the time. Much of Chambers song writing validates influences from her upbringing in a Seventh-day Adventist family. Selected lyrics are below and a link to their music video is listed in References & Notes.12
My name is Adam, my name is Eve
I was the first man to live and breathe
God made the ocean, He made it blue
He told us “Don’t eat forbidden fruit”
Oh, He can see us, hear what we say
But He was resting on that seventh day
She met a serpent that afternoon
He smiled at her and she broke the rule
Copyright © 2020, Dr. Ray Hermann
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Reference & Notes
- Hermann, Ray, “Nachash: the Snake in Genesis 3 — was it Satan or Not?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 11 December 2019), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/nachash-the-snake-in-genesis-3-was-it-satan-or-not/
- Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), ©1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Smith, Mark S., The Genesis of Good and Evil: The Fall(out) and Original Sin in the Bible, 1st ed., (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), pp. 26-27.
- Hermann, Ray, “What do you mean, Christ died for our sins?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 31 December 2017), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/what-do-you-mean-christ-died-for-our-sins/
- Strong’s Hebrew #120: אָדָם ˒âdâm, from #119; ruddy, i.e. a human being (an individual or the species, mankind, etc.)
Strong, James, The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).
- Smith, Mark S., The Genesis of Good and Evil, (see above), pp. 17-18.
- Ibid., p. 21.
- Mays, James Luther, (Ed.), Harper’s Bible Commentary, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), pp. 848-849.
- Hermann, Ray, “Satan’s Strategies of Attack — How to Protect Yourself”, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 20 November 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/satans-strategies-of-attack-how-to-protect-yourself/
- Lewis, C. S., Mere Christianity, (New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1952), p. 95.
- Hermann, Ray, “Did God Really Make Eve from Adam’s Rib?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 23 December 2018), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/did-god-really-make-eve-from-adams-rib/
- “Adam & Eve”, artists and songwriters: Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson; album: Wreck & Ruin, © 2012, Liberation Music in Australia, (licensed to YouTube by ASCAP, others) – MUSIC VIDEO: https://youtu.be/-p8zUdZMwKc
2 thoughts on “The First Sin: Whose fault was it, Adam’s or Eve’s?”
The question of who sinned first is really moot. They both knew the fruit was forbidden, and that God had said they would die if they ate it. Though the ’cause’ Satan used for his purpose was different for Eve and for Adam the ‘effect’ was the same. Nowhere does God say that you may sin without suffering the consequences if you have a good motive for sinning.
I believe that Eve fell to the influence of flattery that Satan employed, that she was potentially equal to her creator but was being held back from realizing her potential because of God`s jealousy, while Adam was faced with the loss of half of himself (some would claim ‘the better half’) and decided that he didn’t want to live as only half a man. Both distrusted God and yielded to the Serpent`s suggestion. Therefore they were equally guilty.
Thank you for your comment and for thoughtfully taking the time to respond to this article. It is appreciated.
I agree with your point that it matters not who sinned first. Each, being half of an original single unit, was equally responsible. But the female half of the human did take the first step, because of the serpent’s deception. The KJV states, he “beguiled Eve” (seduced: from the Greek), so I think you were correct in saying she was flattered.
Would Adam have been as easy a target, for the serpent’s lie? Some might say that he was by Eve’s side, during the conversation with the serpent, and Eve was responding for both her and her husband.