As I was reading over through Gen. 3.1-8 it stood out to me all over again that the serpent continually addresses Eve in the masculine, plural. While it could be argued that the serpent is merely quoting God it could also be proposed that the serpent is addressing two people–Adam and Eve.
We know that the Apostle Paul didn’t see Eve’s error as originating sin amongst humans (cf. Rom. 5.12: Adam brought αμαρτια) but that he saw Eve as a transgressor based on ignorance (Gen. 3.13; 1 Tim. 2.14: Eve “transgressed: [παραβασει]). God created Adam first (Gen. 2.7, cf. 1 Tim. 2.13) and therefore he was the one to receive the commandment regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2.17).
Oddly enough Eve adds to the commandment given by God saying that they cannot eat nor touch the Tree (Gen. 3.3). It is as if Adam relayed God’s commandment wrongly. Adam added something or at least Eve seemed to think the prohibition was stronger than we see from God. It may be that Eve added the additional command on her own, but I have a hunch that the Apostle Paul didn’t read it that way. He understood her to be ignorant of the command and therefore a transgressor; Adam knew better and therefore he was a sinner.
One very interesting Midrash (Gen. Rabbah 19.3) says that the serpent pushed Eve into the tree and that when she did not die he asked why she thought she’d die if she ate from the tree. Tamar Kadari shares it like this:
According to one tradition, Eve was led astray because she made a restrictive measure for herself that became more important than the actual prohibition. While God had only forbidden Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (Gen. 2:17): “but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die,” Eve added an additional limitation, and told the serpent that God had also forbidden touching it (Gen. 3:3): “Of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said: You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.” The serpent saw that Eve added things, and pushed her against the tree. He said to her [jestingly]: “Here, you have died!” He also told her: “Just as you did not die by touching it, so, too, you shall not die by eating of it” (Gen. Rabbah 19:3).
While it is impossible to know whether or not this tradition can provide insight into how to better interpret this story (not to mention the complex debates over whether Adam and Eve are symbolic or literal) it is nevertheless very interesting. It seems to bode well with Paul’s reading. It is not too imaginative an interpretation of the extra line stated by Eve that was not stated by God.
Where it gets really interesting is when v.6b comes around: Eve simply turns to Adam and hands him the food of the tree. She does not have to seek him. She does not have to call for him. She turns to him.
This would make good sense of the plural address from the serpent: Adam stood and watched the whole time. He knew the command of God directly. He heard Eve misrepresent God ignorantly. He let’s the serpent lead Eve into temptation without a recorded whisper. After all that he partakes and then he has the gall to blame Eve for deceiving him (3.12)!
Nahum M. Sarna says this in The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis (p. 27):
The woman is not a temptress. She does not say a word but simply hands her husband the fruit, which he accepts and eats. The absence of any hint of resistance on his part is strange. It should be noted, however, that in speaking to the woman, the serpent consistently uses the plural form. This suggest that man was all the time within ear’s reach of the conversation and was equally seduced by its persuasiveness. In fact, the Hebrew text here literally means, “She also gave her husband with her (‘immah),” suggesting that he was a full participant in the sin, thereby refuting in advance his later excuse.
I think Paul took it even further than that he participated in the sin: he was the only one who actually did sin in any significant manner.
Charles Powell made some interesting points that bear on this topic. He writes:
Both Schreiner, “Dialogue with Scholarship,” 145, and Doriani, “A History of Interpretation,” 259, adopt the view of Scholer…that Adam was present during the temptation of Eve and simply passively stood by without intervening. This view has one basic assumption: that the temptation and the fall occurred at the same time and place. However, this assumption has several problems. First, it seems that the temptation and the eating of the fruit were not collocated. Eve refers to the tree of knowledge of good and evil as “the tree which is in the middle of the garden” in contrast to all the other trees. By referring to the forbidden tree by a geographical referent, it suggests that both Eve and the serpent were someplace else other than the middle of the garden. In fact they were most likely some distance from the middle of the garden. This then implies that the eating of the fruit took place at another time.
Second, the waw consecutive of ar<Tew” is often translated in a temporal sense as in the NASB, “When the woman saw that the tree….” This also suggests there is a separation in time between the temptation and the eating.
Third, the wording of Gen 3:6 suggests that the woman did not instantly give in to the serpent’s temptation. Instead, it suggests that she pondered what the serpent said when she passed by or stood by the tree.
Fourth, apparently there was some discussion about the issue of eating the fruit because God begins his curse statement to Adam with “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife….”
Fifth, the OT often telescopes events both historical and prophetic. Genesis 3 shows such signs of telescoping.
Finally, the view that Adam was present at the time of temptation begs certain theological questions. It suggests that Adam’s first sin was a failure to exercise dominion over the serpent rather than eating of the fruit, the sin which God points out to Adam.
Those are some interesting observations. At face value I wouldn’t have seen a separation between the temptation and fall. I will read the article.
Neither would I. But now that Eve’s geographical reference to the tree as being in the midst of the garden (as opposed to “this tree”) has been pointed out to me, I think there must have been a temporal gap between the temptation and the fall, and I have no textual reason to think that Adam was present at the temptation.
BTW, this was just a footnote in Powell’s paper, so don’t expect to get any additional information on this topic from reading the whole paper.
I don’t know if it necessitates a temporal gap. As with the snakes statements it could be Eve “quoting” the commandment she was given. She may not have needed to say, “this tree” if the phrase “the tree in the middle of the Garden” is a label for the tree being discussed.
While I think it could go either way with Adam’s presence the use of the plural and Eve’s seemingly easy turn and share with Adam makes me lean in Sarna’s direction.
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