In Genesis 2:16-17, God commanded the first human not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Along with the command was a warning of death for the transgressor. This command and warning were given to the first human, Adam, before the first woman was made.
Did Adam have an added responsibility towards Eve?
Some Christians believe Adam was given the responsibility of telling the woman about God’s command and warning. This assumption, however, has no biblical basis. The Bible simply does not state or imply that the man was given the responsibility of passing on God’s command once the woman was on the scene.
Implicit in this contrived notion of the man’s responsibility is the idea that God must not have spoken directly to the woman, but only spoke to her indirectly, through her husband. Genesis 3:13 and 16, however, show us that God did speak directly to the woman, at least occasionally.
The Bible includes several narratives where God, or his angel, spoke directly to a woman. So it should not be a stretch to think that God spoke to the first woman on several occasions just as he did with the first man, and indeed, that he mostly spoke to them as a couple. From Genesis 3:8 we may infer that it was not uncommon for God to walk with the couple in the garden and that he conversed with them both.
It is apparent that the first woman did know God’s command, even if her words to the serpent in Genesis 3:2-3 are a little different compared with the original command as recorded in Genesis 2:16-17. Eve’s statement to the serpent contains an added clause, as well as plural, rather than singular, second-person pronouns. (The significance of plural pronouns and the added clause is discussed here.)
The text tells us that the woman quoted God. It does not say that she quoted her husband. That is, she does not say, “My husband told me . . .” Rather, she says, “God said . . .” (Gen. 3:3). There is no indication that the woman got her information about God’s command second hand.
Furthermore, if the woman was originally one side of the first human, she would have heard the original command. (More about the first human having two sides here.)
Considering what the biblical text actually says, there is more credence in suggesting that God also told the woman the command and warning, than there is to suggest that the man was given the responsibility of teaching the woman. Nevertheless, we are just not told either way.
Did Adam have authority over Eve?
Even though there is no biblical basis whatsoever for the idea that the man was authorised to pass on what God had said, this idea is still brought up all too frequently by Christians who believe that men have been given a spiritual authority that comes directly from God, and that women are to be under the spiritual authority of men.
There is nothing in Genesis chapters one or two that suggests the first man had authority over the first woman, or that men have authority over women in general. In Genesis 1:26-28, we see that men and women had the same status: they are made in the image of God. And we see that they are given the same authority: to rule and have dominion over the animals. It was not just the first man who had authority over the animals as it might seem from Genesis 2:19-20.
It is important to note that at creation, and before the fall, there is simply no indication that men are to rule or lead women, or that men are the sole arbiters of God’s authority and instructions. Rather, both women and men were spoken to directly by God and both were told to rule and have dominion over animals, not people (Gen. 1:26-28).
Despite knowing God’s command and warning, both the man and the woman ate the forbidden fruit. Each is confronted and individually questioned by God about their disobedience (Gen. 3:7-13, 16-19). Both were guilty, both were punished, and both had to live with the consequences of sin. From then on, women have had to suffer the injustices of patriarchy—the dominance and rule of men. Patriarchy is a consequence of sin.
Our Identical Authority in Jesus
When Jesus walked on earth as a human being two thousand years ago, he continually taught and demonstrated to his followers how to live as kingdom people. Jesus did not just teach and show a better, more benevolent way of living, he taught about a social and cultural revolution. Jesus taught against hierarchies and he warned about the dangers of power, prestige, and primacy among his followers.
Jesus taught that in his kingdom, the humble are exalted, the lowly are the greatest, and the last are first.
Jesus wants to restore the equality and harmony among people that was present at creation. He has dealt with the sin problem with his redemptive death on the cross, and he has sent his Spirit to renew us and enable us to live as new creation people with kingdom ideals.
Men and women had an identical status and authority at creation; this was part of God’s “very good” creation (Gen. 1:31). In the new creation, men and women also have an identical status and authority as children of God. We are already part of the new creation, but it will be even better and “very good,” when the new creation comes in its fullness (2 Cor. 7:14-15). In the meantime, we need to deconstruct unhealthy, hierarchical relationship models and remember that every man and woman who is in Christ has the same God-given rights, authority, freedom, and privileges (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26-28; Rom. 8:14-17).
A version of this article was first published on the 18th of December, 2014, by Christians for Biblical Equality (International) in their weekly newsletter, Arise. It can be read online here.
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Excerpt of “Creation” by Marc Chagall
What Eve’s Statement to the Serpent tells us
5 Questions about Adam’s Role in Genesis 2-3
Human (Ha’adam) Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2
The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”
Kenegdo: Is the woman in Genesis 2 subordinate, similar or similar to the man?
Gender in Genesis 1