Women, Eve and Deception

This article is also available in Spanish, Urdu and Sindhi.

According to Google Analytics (which provides me with statistics about visits to my website), people often arrive at this site after googling phrases about women and deception. Here are some actual Google searches that have brought traffic to my site last month: “females are deceptive”; “Bible verses on gullible women”; “Bible verses on deceptive women”; “women in the Bible who deceive men”; “Are women more easily deceived than men?”; “women are gullible and easily deceived”; “deceptions women believe”; “Why are women more vulnerable to false doctrine?” (in Spanish); “Scriptures on women who are deceptive”; etc.

These phrases indicate that too many people believe that women are generally more gullible than men, and that women are especially susceptible to deception and false doctrine. Moreover, it seems that many Christians assume that this is what the Bible teaches about women. Are these beliefs and assumptions valid? In this article, I take a quick look at what the Bible says about women and deception, and especially at Eve.

Eve in the Old Testament

According to Genesis 2:21-22, Eve was the first woman created. In Genesis 3:1ff, she is seemingly targeted by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. The Serpent successfully persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit which Eve then shared with Adam who was with her. By eating the forbidden fruit, Eve and Adam disobeyed God’s explicit command in Genesis 2:16-17. This act of disobedience had catastrophic consequences.

The Scriptures simply do not tell us why the serpent spoke to Eve and not to Adam. Many people assume that the serpent spoke to Eve because she was easier to deceive.[1] The scriptures, however, do not state or imply that she was easier to tempt and deceive than Adam.

While we know Eve’s excuse for eating the fruit—she was deceived—we are not told what Adam’s excuse was. So Adam, and all men, have escaped from being branded with the stigma that Eve, and all women, have suffered with.

Eve readily acknowledged and confessed her deception to God (Gen 3:13). She didn’t stay in a duped state. So it is utterly unjust to use Eve, in her short-lived deceived state, as a type for all women for all time.

Eve’s deception is never mentioned again in the Old Testament, nor is it mentioned in the Gospels. None of the Old Testament or Gospel writers felt it necessary to bring up or remember Eve’s momentary failure. Moreover, none of the Old Testament or Gospel writers ever mention or hint that women are more gullible or more easily deceived than men. Eve’s deception is not picked up again in the scriptures until Paul.

Eve in the Pauline Letters

Paul is the only New Testament writer to mention Eve’s deception, twice. He mentions Eve’s deception in 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 where he warns both men and women about the danger of being deceived by people who were preaching a different Jesus and a different gospel to what Paul had preached. Paul did not give the women an extra special warning about being deceived. He believed that both the men and women of Corinth were putting up with false teaching too easily (2 Cor 11:4b).

Eve’s deception is also mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:13-14. While the meaning of these two verses in 1 Timothy is clear, the precise intent of these verses is far from clear. We cannot say with certainty why Paul brought Adam and Eve into his discussion. Some say that Adam being created first and Eve’s deception are the reasons a woman cannot teach a man (cf. 1 Tim 2:12). I suggest, however, that Paul was correcting a Gnostic heresy which stated that Eve was created first and that Adam was the one deceived. Paul succinctly corrects this false doctrine in 1 Timothy 2:13-15. [More on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 here.]

Like the other biblical authors, Paul never states that women are more easily deceived than men. Women such as Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia, Euodia and Syntyche were among Paul’s trusted ministry colleagues.  [More on Paul and Women here.]

Are women more easily deceived than men?  

The Bible contains several narratives where men were deceived . . . usually by other men. Jacob (Gen 31:20, 27), Samson (Judg 16:10, 13, 15), Saul (1 Sam 28:12) and other Bible men deceived people. Paul, writing rhetorically, mentions that he was deceived by sin (Rom 7:11). Elsewhere, Paul describes false teachers as “people of depraved minds” who were “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:8, 13). These false teachers included men. Each of the gospels contain warnings given by Jesus about false teachers who would come and deceive his followers (e.g. Matt 24:23-24). While some of these false teachers were women, many (most?) of them were men. On the other hand, there are very few biblical accounts of women being deceived or deceiving others.[2]

Despite what too many Christians believe, the Bible just does not say that deception is a female trait. It is a tremendous injustice that later Christian theologians and ministers have used Eve and her deception as a type for all women.[3] Appallingly, some Christian ministers, such as John MacArthur, continue to hold all women responsible for Eve’s sin and deception. (Source) This is just wrong.

Here are links to every Bible verse in the NASB and the NIV that contain the word “deceive”, “deceived” and “deceiver”.  Click on the links and see for yourself if the Bible teaches that women are more easily deceived, or more deceptive, than men.


Endnotes

[1] Many people assume that the serpent targeted Eve because she was easier to deceive than Adam. My husband, however, speculates that the serpent targeted Eve because it may have already known that the Messiah was going to come through a woman. The serpent may have tried to compromise the woman and cause her to sin, thinking that this would thwart God’s salvation plan.

[2] Apart from Eve, the only other Bible accounts I can find of Old Testament women who were deceived is that of the witch at Endor who was deceived by King Saul (1 Sam 28:12), and Delilah who was deceived, or tricked, by Samson (Judg ch 16). Then there is Jezebel of Thyatira, a clear example of a deceived woman. She was a deceiving false teacher and false prophet (Rev 2:20ff). Michal deceived her father Saul in order to protect David (1 Sam 19:17). Other Bible women also lied to protect and save the lives of others (e.g. Exod 1:17-19).

[3] Tertullian is just one example of a theologian who used Eve and her deception as a type for all women:

“And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert— that is, death— even the Son of God had to die.  Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, Book 1, chapter 1


Postscript

I refuse to be held responsible for Eve’s deception and sin. I have enough failures and faults of my own to deal with, let alone having to bear the guilt of Eve’s sin. Still, I know that all my sin is forgiven. Surely the complete forgiveness of sin, even (or especially?) Eve and Adam’s sin, is the main message of the gospel! Furthermore, while I am a daughter of Eve, men are sons of Eve. Why don’t preachers (such as John MacArthur) who hold all women responsible for their mother Eve’s sin also hold men responsible for their mother Eve’s sin?  The unjust portrayal and treatment of women by Christians must stop.


Related Articles

Blaming Eve Alone
Women, Teaching and Deception

The Portrayal of Women in the Bible and Biblical Inspiration
1 Timothy 2:12 in Context
The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”
Jezebel of Thyatira: A Female False Prophet
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Misogynist Quotes from Church Fathers and Theologians