Are women more gullible than men?
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 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); etc.
These phrases indicate that many people believe 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 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 Eden. In Genesis 3:1ff, she is seemingly targeted by the serpent in the Garden who successfully persuades her to eat the forbidden fruit. She then shares the fruit with Adam who was with her. By eating the forbidden fruit, Eve and Adam each disobeyed God’s explicit command in Genesis 2:16–17. This act of disobedience had catastrophic consequences.
Genesis 3 tells us that both Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command about the forbidden fruit, both violated his rule, both were questioned by God and held accountable for their own actions, and both will suffer “sorrowful toil” (Hebrew: itstsabon). This much we know.
However, the scriptures simply do not tell us why the serpent spoke to Eve and not to Adam. Many people assume it was Eve because she was easier to deceive. But the scriptures neither state nor imply that she was easier to tempt or deceive than Adam.
Furthermore, 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 men in general, have escaped from being branded with the stigma that Eve, and women in general, have suffered with.
Yet 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 Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), nor is it mentioned in the Gospels. None of the writers of the Hebrew Bible or of the Gospels felt it necessary to bring up Eve’s momentary failure. Moreover, none of the writers of the Hebrew Bible or of the Gospels ever mention or hint that women are more gullible or more easily deceived than men.
Eve in Paul’s Letters
Paul is the only New Testament writer to mention Eve’s deception. He mentions it 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 gospel to what Paul had preached. Paul does not give the Corinthian women an extra warning about being deceived. Rather, 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—they are an accurate summary of Genesis chapters 2 and 3—the 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 false teaching that Eve was created first and that Adam was the one deceived, which is what several ancient Gnostic texts state. Paul succinctly corrects these false ideas with his words in 1 Timothy 2:13–14. [More on 1 Timothy 2:11–15 here.]
As an aside, note that the Greek noun used for Eve’s “transgression” in 1 Timothy 2:14 (parabasis) is the same noun used for Adam’s “transgression” in Romans 5:14. [More on Paul’s use of Adam in Romans 5 here.]
Like the other biblical authors, Paul never states or hints that women are more easily deceived than men. In fact, the false teachers in Ephesus who were especially problematic were all men: Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus. On the other hand, Priscilla was a trusted female colleague who ministered and taught in Ephesus (Acts 18:26; 2 Tim 4:19). [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), for example, deceived other men. 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, who included Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus, were predominately men. And each of the Gospels contains warnings from Jesus about false teachers who would come and deceive his followers (e.g., Matt. 24:23–24). While some of these false teachers would be women, many, perhaps most of them, were men. There are very few biblical accounts of women being deceived or deceiving others.
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. Appallingly, some Christian ministers, such as John MacArthur, continue to hold all women responsible for Eve’s sin and deception. (Source: Youtube) This is just wrong. Jesus has dealt with sin, including the guilt and sin of Eve.
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.
 Eve is mentioned or alluded to in three intertestamental Jewish writings that are included in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament. She is mentioned in Tobit 8:6, Sirach 25:24, 40:1, 42:13, and 4 Maccabees 18:7. Sirach, whose book is also known as Ecclesiasticus, is the first person to place the blame of the first sin on Eve: “From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die” (Sir 25:24). Alice Ogden Bellis notes, however, “Attribution of the origin of sin to Eve was not typical of Jewish interpretation at the time Sirach was written (second century BCE).” But, she notes that a few later pseudepigraphical Jewish writings (e.g. Life of Adam and Eve) did blame Eve. “Eve: Apocrypha,” The Encyclopedia of Jewish Women (Source: jwa.org)
 Commenting on 2 Corinthians 11:2–4, John H. Walton writes, “Paul does not suggest that Eve is ontologically deceivable, only that she serves as an exemplar—a warning for the people in Corinth and for all of us.” Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015), 94.
 Complementarian scholar Douglas Moo admits, “These verses offer assertions about both the creation and the fall, but it is not clear how they support the commands in verses 11-12.” Moo, “1 Timothy 2:11–15: Meaning and Significance”, Trinity Journal NS (1980), 62–83, 68.
 Apart from Eve, the only other biblical 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 a false prophet (Rev. 2:20ff). Rebekah deceived Isaac so that Jacob would receive his blessing (Gen. 27). Michal deceived her father Saul in order to protect David (1 Sam. 19:17). Other Bible women also lied in order to protect and save the lives of others (e.g., the Israelite midwives, Rahab, Jael). Jen Wilkins has a fascinating speech about women using deceit to defeat enemies, or “women against the serpent,” on Youtube.
 Tertullian is one example of an early Christian 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
© Margaret Mowczko 2012
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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.
Postscript 2: March 18 2021
I like what Sean du Toit, a New Testament scholar based in New Zealand, recently said in an informal online conversation regarding the idea that 1 Timothy 2:14 somehow indicates that women are more easily deceived than men.
How people could argue that women are more prone to deception, from a letter where the false teachers are men (1 Tim. 1:19–20) and have been excommunicated, is beyond me. The male false teachers have been targeting the women (2 Tim 3:6). The false teachers were the ones who were deceived first!
All my articles on 1 Timothy 2:12 are here.
Blaming Eve Alone
Women, Teaching and Deception
The Portrayal of Women in the Bible and Biblical Inspiration
1 Timothy 2:12 in Context
Jezebel of Thyatira: A Female False Prophet
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Misogynist Quotations from Church Fathers and Reformers
58 thoughts on “Women, Eve, and Deception”
My take is that in Gen 3 there are 3 archetypes of sinners:
1) A deceived sinner – the woman
2) A deliberate sinner – the man
3) A deceiving sinner – the serpent
And there is a increasing scale of consequences for each. This story is a microcosm of the story of Israel coming to a land of milk and honey and then getting kicked out for disobedience. (Of course, a lot of the details are skipped, but the basic mapping is there.)
Paul picks up on the archetype of the deceived sinner as a concern of his for the members of the church at Corinth and by application of every believer.
This is interesting, Don. I’ll have to think about that.
My brother and I were talking about why Eve was targeted, and this was my best guess. As Adam’s ezer kenegdo, her very design could mean that she would have spoken up or done something to stop Adam from taking the fruit. As his “helpmeet”, she wouldn’t of left Adam to fend for himself in any situation, including the temptation. And since two are better than one (Genesis 2:18, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, especially v12), there would have been a greater chance that they wouldn’t have fallen compared to just one of them taking on this temptation. Satan wouldn’t have been ignorant of the fact that Eve was Adam’s ezer kenegdo, so he took a gamble on whether or not Adam would have been an ezer and helped Eve out since Adam’s design wasn’t based upon being an “ezer kenegdo”. And it worked, as Adam didn’t stop her while witnessing what was happening (Genesis 3:6).
(This isn’t to say that Eve is better than Adam or anything. During our Bible study, we also emphasized the fact that while Adam was there and didn’t stop her, Eve did choose to listen to the serpent rather than God. We left the Bible study with the knowledge that both were equally guilty.)
This sounds plausable, Sarah, and it somewhat fits with something a Hebrew reader told me about the meaning of “suitable helper” ezer kenegdo:
“In the Hebrew language this word kenegdo is not really ‘corresponding’ but rather ‘against’, so the woman was a ‘helper against him’. In other words, we would say that a true helper is one that brings challenges to the relationship. If a man were to think hastily, his wife can be best suited to be an advisory to bring balance in a relationship.”
However, The Greek translation of kenegdo in Genesis 2:18 and 20 suggests the word does mean “corresponding with him” and “similar to him”: https://margmowczko.com/kenegdo-meet-subordinate-suitable-or-similar/
It may even mean “his equal”: https://margmowczko.com/kenegdo-equal-to-him/
Yes, I think Adam and Eve were equally guilty. They both ate the forbidden fruit. We know Eve’s excuse – she was deceived. What was Adam’s excuse?
I have been a manager and department head in a university, church, counseling center, new business and I never hire a key employee without my wife’s agreement. She sees through people, especially women, than any man. I and other men are more easily deceived.
My top female colleagues are always wiser on some issues and ignoring their insights is dangerous.
Maybe that is part of a Hebrew statement about challenging male ideas. It is also why mutual submission is important. Shared insights are smart psychologically and spiritually.
Many have wondered about Adam’s excuse for sinning. I’ve considered the possibility that after standing there and listening to the conversation with Eve and the serpent that he may have just been curious.
You know, I really have no idea what Adam’s excuse was.
Some people suggest that Adam was impulsive. But no one says we can’t have men in leadership because they are impulsive.
Update: I’ve written a rather speculative article about Adam’s excuse here:
The first endnote makes no sense to me. It says that the serpent went to deceive Eve because he may have known that the Saviour was going to come through a woman. But if the serpent was afraid of that happening, why would he deceive her, which was the whole reason a Saviour was needed?
Thanks Ashley. I see what you’re saying.
Let me try to explain it again. Sending the Messiah was always God’s plan. It is possible that the devil knew of this plan and thought that if the woman sinned she would be disqualified from bearing the Messiah and so God’s plan would be ruined.
I will change the word ‘Saviour’ to ‘Messiah’ in the endnote for now, and think about how I can better state what I mean.
I realise that what I’m saying is highly speculative, but then so are all the other suggestions about why the serpent seemed to speak only to the woman and not to the man who was there with her.
Marg, it seems to me that the only way Satan (Lucifer) could perhaps have known about the Messiah, would have had to have taken place between him and God prior to his being cast out of God’s Presence for aspiring to be higher than God. However, salvation (rescue from our bondage to Satan and sin) only became a necessity after Satan’s fall and the creation of Earth and humanity . So somehow, for some reason, God would have needed to let Lucifer in on this knowledge (which of course God already had) so that, in the proposed scenario, Satan could have cleverly used it to deceive Eve and Adam. I admit, it is a possibility, but , as you say – highly speculative .” Perhaps Tolkien’s “Silmarillion” inspires these speculations? They ARE very interesting!
There are so many speculative ideas proposed about the Genesis 2-3 stories because the text doesn’t say everything we want it to say. I think, generally speaking, speculations lead us away from what the narrator of Genesis 2-3 was trying to tell his audience. I think everything he wanted to say is in the text.
One way we can see that men are just as gullible as women is to look at how many men have believed that their gender as male is the main criteria to be good leaders. If that were the case, then no men would be bad leaders and no women would be good leaders. Truth is that it has nothing to do with gender but everything to do with character, the will, the heart.
Interesting and cheeky point. It made me smile.
Yes, the fact that men have swallowed the lie that only men can be leaders — a lie based on flimsy evidence that ignores contrary evidence — does show that men are gullible.
Satan came after Eve because she was the one that could bring life! Satan doesn’t want just one person (Adam), he wants many….
It’s possible the Serpent may have targeted the woman because she was the life-giver. Did you see my first footnote?
Marg, insightful post, as usual! And helpful comments as well.
Phyllis Trible points out in “God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality” that the prohibition was given to ha-adam, not to ishshah. The prohibition is known by ishshah, and she uses the plural “you” to refer to the prohibition, indicating her equality with ha-adam. She also resists and adds to the original prohibition, showing intelligence and the ability to resist–at first. Ish is mute. She is hungry for knowledge while Ish simply watches. I happen to like that quality of desiring knowledge.
This may interest some: Biblical scholar Peter Enns asks the question, “Where in the Old Testament is Adam’s disobedience in the garden of Eden described as the cause of universal human sinfulness (and guilt)?”
His article 5 Old Testament Reasons to Rethink “Original Sin” is here.
Some Jews teach that Adam had already deceived Eve by not giving her the command correctly. Adam is the one that God gave the command to, and if Eve repeats verbatim what Adam taught her about the trees, either Adam did not handle the truth carefully when retelling it, or he added to it, or just plain old lied. If so, then Adam deceived her – making her an easy target for the serpent. Also, some speculate that Adam was there during the whole event – which makes sense if Eve offered him a bite. If he was there when Eve repeated back the ‘command’ to the serpent and did not correct her, he is doubly at fault. Either way, that’s kind of a whole new take on the event here in our shallow North American Church minds. Maybe, the whole story would then of course revolve around handling truth correctly and honestly, than it would about the lacking of integrity in women.
If Adam did not tell the truth, even in such a way as to misguide, then that is sin. If it was sin, then the eyes of them both would have been opened. But they were not. Therefore Adam did not commit sin, and therefore this Jewish tale is a lie, and therefore any believer of it has been deceived.
The Jewish tale is just that, a tale. Sadly I have heard Christians who believe versions of it and repeat it.
I don’t believe that the story of the Fall revolves around the lack of integrity in women in any way whatsoever.
The text does seem to say that the man was with the woman when the deception occurred (Gen. 3:6b)
We know that God told the first human not to eat the forbidden fruit, but anything beyond that is speculation. The narrative certainly brings up more questions than it answers.
In this article I suggest the woman quoted God accurately: https://margmowczko.com/eves-statement-to-the-serpent/
Some believe that Adam (the man, ish) and Eve (the woman, ishshah) were two sides of the original human being (ha adam). The biblical text literally says that the woman was “taken out” of the first man ( Genesis 2:23). Moreover, the Hebrew word traditionally, and inadequately, translated as “rib” (tselah) – the part that became the first woman – can mean “side” or “part”. The Greek word used in Gen. 2:21 in the LXX is pleura with means “side”. I’ve written more about this here: https://margmowczko.com/human-man-woman-genesis-2/
See also: https://margmowczko.com/gender-hierarchy-creation-narrative-genesis-2/
I very much agree with Don’s observation. I find that women misunderstand their influence. Why should woman having the glory of man also assume the glory of God? Does this make her equal with man to possess both glories and man possess only one? Therefore, God created man first, in God’s glory, woman for man (he needs help), and woman is from man.
Do Paul’s conclusions despise or degrade a man for being more likely to sin without deception or degrade a woman for being more likely to sin by deception? If man were 55% of the time likely to sin willfully and 45% by deception and woman were 55% likely to sin by deception and 45% willfully, is this description degrading of a specific gender? Each sex has God-given characteristics. God forbid that our God-given natures be considered degrading when humankind is made in His image and in God-given glories.
Thank you for letting me comment and be challenged by your writing.
Hi Scott, I’m not following all your ideas. I’m not sure which God-given characteristics you consider to be exclusively male or exclusively female.
I don’t consider the statement that “woman is the glory of man” to be a definitive statement about women. I think both men and women have many qualities that can be considered “glories”, but the fact that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and the fact that all followers of Christ are redeemed children of God, must rank as our greatest God-given “glories” – glories that are shared by men and women.
Update: I’ve written about woman as the glory of man (1 Cor 11:7) here:
I think what Scott is saying is that the Bible shows and then reinforces that Eve was deceived and accordingly points to women being more easily deceived, and states that Adam disobeyed (and accordingly points to and shows men disobeying). If we just take it at that, neither is really “worse” than than the other. Being fooled into sinning is no worse than choosing to sin. It is stated for each to understand weaknesses, and in my opinion folds well into why God ordained men as leaders and head of women in families and church, etc. As It doesn’t lessen the value of women at all, just points to inherent weaknesses to watch for, for each gender.
Where does the Bible say that women are more easily deceived than men?
What about the Bible verses where men were deceived?
Thankyou for your most brilliant website and most brilliant discussion on this topic.
I find it incredibly fascinating how fellow Christian males, Theologions and Priests use select Biblical texts to support their (overtly flawed) case that women are the minions of men.
Yet Jesus (the ORIGINAL Christian) LOVED women, REVERED women and the early church was run by BOTH men and women.
So what happened between Jesus and the Bible?
It is obvious that something was not passed on correctly when the spoken word was written, which was done by men, and then later translated by men, and then re-interpreted in churches by MEN!
I am certain God would be most pleased that finally the spoken word is being reviewed and reinterpreted through the lens of a woman’s ears and eyes.
Finally we may get closer to the REAL TRUTH!
Regarding what is said by Cornelia.
“It is obvious that something was not passed on correctly when the spoken word was written, which was done by men…”
This is contradicted by scripture itself where we read:
2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
2Pe 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Jesus Christ Himself constantly quotes scripture and we are told to measure everything against scripture.
Act 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
I disagree with that aspect of Cornelia’s comment too.
I regard the Bible as uniquely inspired by God.
Brilliant teachings + brill website!!
According to the new testament, (Apostle peter + others(?)) , all believers in Jesus are priests! ( men + women). The Greek word, when it came to teaching + preaching is the verb, “to dialogue” not “to monologue”. The disciples ( all of us men + women) as well as Elders ( men + women)who were, and still should be Senior Citizens, were and still should be dialoging the scripture with one another!!
The following is a sample of words used in the New Testament to describe the transmission and teaching of the gospel and Christian doctrine:
parrēsiazomai means “speak openly, boldly or freely”;
peithō means “persuade”;
martureō means “testify” or “bear witness”;
legō or laleō simply means “speak,” “talk,” or “tell”;
dialegomai means “discuss,” “reason,” or “dispute”;
parakaleō means “exhort” or “encourage”;
kēryssō means “proclaim” or “preach” (more on this word here);
euaggelizomai means “proclaim the good news or gospel”;
nouthetō means “admonish,” “warn,” or “exhort”;
ektithēmi means “put forth” or “explain” (more on this word here);
disdaskō means “teach”; etc.
There are also verbs with an aggel– stem and with different prefixes (one occurrence in the New Testament with no prefix) that mean “report” or “announce,” etc.
Was creating Eve Gods original plan?
Hello, Elias, I have no doubt it was.
Genesis 1 shows us that “in the beginning” both men and women were created as God’s image bearers and regents, and God gave them the exact same commands.
The narrative in Genesis 2 is designed to show that it is not good for people to be alone. In this story, the first human needed a partner. The suspense builds as he names the animals and discovers they are not suitable companions. And then God builds a woman from a part, or side, taken out of the first human’s body. This shows how profoundly similar the first man and woman were, and how suitable it was for them to have a profound one-flesh relationship.
God created both the man and the woman and pronounced what He had created, “very good.” Thus, there was no inherent deficiency in either one as created. The woman subsequently fell prey to the lies of the serpent (“you will be like God”), I believe, based primarily on her desire to fulfill her role as “suitable helper” to the man, as well perhaps because of lust of the eyes “she saw the tree was good…and pleasant to the eyes.” Targeting the woman instead of the man may have been a result of the serpent’s “subtil” nature, seeing that if the woman could be induced to sin, she would inevitably lead her man to do likewise, no doubt believing she was fulfilling her created role of “helper.” The inevitable result, when both the man and woman realized what they had done, would be a severely damaged relationship. The man would no longer trust his “suitable helper,” but worse, he would undoubtedly begin to distrust the One who brought her to him. This inevitable distrust of God by both the man and the woman would be a natural result of their sin, which the Scriptures elsewhere teach skews perception. The serpent, wiser above all creatures, would likely have known this. Was the man standing next to the woman when she was tempted by the serpent? The language used says he was “with” her, but this language, when compared to the same language used elsewhere in the Genesis narrative does not imply “with” as in “standing next to,” but implies “with” as in “equally” or “the same.” It seems inconceivable that the man would stand idly next to the woman while she was being tempted, and then watch her commit the very transgression they had both been warned against by God. Of course, whether he was next to her when she committed the transgression or elsewhere at the time, his own sin makes him fully culpable. He knew the prohibition as well as his helper, and there is no indication that she deceived him by disguising the fruit or telling him it was from some other tree. He knew, he ate, he was guilty. As an aside, it is interesting to note that when the serpent approaches the woman and asks her a question about God, her immediate response is to correct its error and teach it, and this verbal response comes before her sin. Could this didactic response by the woman illustrate an aspect of her created role as “helpmeet”?
You make some very interesting points, Rod. I’m especially intrigued by your last point! I’ve never thought of that before, that Eve corrected the serpent.
I am curious. God said Eve was a help meet. But do you really think they lived in the garden with the mentality that I am his helpmeet? Do you think because of our flawed doctrine surrounding this helpmeet issue that it has been puffed up far more than it was in the garden? What if it had nothing to do with why she chose to eat it? What if Eve just thought of herself on equal par with Adam, and we have the issue with help meet?
God made the first woman as an ezer kenegdo, a “help meet for him.”
The Hebrew word ezer means “a vital help or helper.” The Hebrew word kenegdo means “meet or suitable for him.” It can even mean “equal to him” which is how it is translated in an Afrikaans Bible. Poor translations are a big part of the problem.
The first human was all alone, and this was not good (Genesis 2:18). Eve was made primarily for companionship and to solve the problem for the first man’s alone-ness. She helped just by being there. And I have no doubt that Adam helped her equally.
Like you, I think there is an issue with traditional interpretations of “help meet for him,” and it produces a flawed and oppressive doctrine.
I have read your teaching . I agree. I just wonder if she viewed her station as we view it. I kind of don’t think she was as up in arms over it as we are. That’s all.
I can’t see that she had any kind of station.
I’m sorry but I have to disagree. Women are deceptive by sinful nature. I am going through a situation right now where one has denied the truth, another had an agenda and pretended she was innocent, another has been deceived to think someone who wasn’t a stalker was and someone who was a stalker wasn’t and other friends aiding and abetting her in her pathology.
I have not met one woman who has been pure before marriage, they all cover up their sexual sin. How many times have you heard a woman say “make an honest woman out of me”? And these are Christian women. One of them appears to be prim and proper and yet I saw her signed up to a hook up group on Facebook.
I will no longer work with single christian women simply because they can’t be trusted.
I know of many virtuous women and men. I also know of men who fit the description you give, JT. I think you need to find another social group and broaden your perspective of humanity.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I grew up in “Biblical Patriarchal” churches where it was commonly assumed that women were much more easily self-deceived. The end result, is that women living with domestic abuse were not listened to. Bad doctrine bears bad fruit.
Hi Brandie, There is so much bad fruit from the idea that women are more easily deceived than men. It even causes sensible women to second guess themselves. I’m glad people are beginning to realise that deception is not a female trait.
That John MacArthur video in the link is quite disturbing for many reasons. But I wanted to ask you about what he says at the 0:37 mark.
About 1 Tim. 2:12: “All the verbs in that verse are Present. And that means they have a sort of continuing idea. “I am NOT allowing a WOMAN to BE engaged in teaching or to BE taking authority over the man but to BE CONTINUALLY in SILENCE. In other words, all those Present Indicatives indicate that this is a continual commitment on the part of Paul through the Holy Spirit.”
How did he reach that conclusion? Doesn’t the grammar in this verse indicate just the opposite (a place-specific, temporary limitation)?
John MacArthur makes a slip at the 54 minute mark. Epitrepō (“I allow”) is the only present indicative verb in 1 Timothy 2:12. Didaskein (“to teach”), authentein (“to domineer”), and einai (“to be”) are present infinitives, they are not indicative verbs.
The Greek present does have a continuous sense, but the present indicative verb also has a present tense as we understand it in English. It does not refer to an action that has been completed or to a future action that has not already started.
Paul is stating his prohibition (“I am not allowing a woman” …) for “now,” in his time. But the prohibition is also relevant the next day and the day after that, etc. However, the continuous sense of the present tense does not mean that a person is doing, or not doing, something forever.
For example, in Acts 26:1, Paul is given permission to speak. Epitrepō is used here, also as a present indicative verb. But he certainly did have permission to speak forever before Agrippa and Bernice, the governor Festus, and the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of Caesarea. Paul had permission to speak at that point in time.
The word epitrepō, itself, means that the permission is limited to a specific or local situation. I’ve written about this verb here: https://margmowczko.com/1-timothy-212-and-1-corinthians-1434-epitrepo/
There are lots of present verbs and present infinitives in 1 Timothy chapter 2. Paul is speaking about things that are relevant for the Ephesian Church at their present time. I’ve added a PV where there is a present verb, PI where there is a present infinitive, and PP where there is a present participle in the Greek behind the following text. This is to show how common and “normal” the present tense is, and that it doesn’t mean Paul’s exhortations, wishes, and instructions are forever. As with the whole Bible, we need to read it using common sense and work out what are useful, lasting principles and what is local or temporary.
1 TIMOTHY 2
First of all, then, I urge PV that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made PI for everyone, 2 for kings and all those who are PP in authority, so that we may lead PV a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants PV everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a herald, an apostle (I am telling PV the truth; I am not lying PV), and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8 Therefore, I want PV the men in every place to pray PI, lifting up PP holy hands without anger or argument.
9 Also, the women are to dress themselves PI in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, 10 but with good works, as is proper PV for women who profess PP to worship God.
11 A woman is to learn PV quietly with full submission. 12 I do not allow PV a woman to teach PI or to domineer PI a man; instead, she is to be PI quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. 15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense.
Please don’t let John MacArthur bamboozle you. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about things relevant to them. We can draw principles from his words, but Paul does not continue to prohibit a woman who is long dead. Here’s my article on 1 Timothy 2:12 in a nutshell: https://margmowczko.com/1-timothy-212-in-a-nutshell/
Wow, thank you so much, Marg! This was excellent. I so appreciate the time and effort you spend to help others. God bless you.
It’s very helpful to see which verbs and tenses Paul uses and where. I’m fully aware that he was addressing one Ephesian woman’s false teachings, thanks to your research. I see through MacArthur’s attempts to bamboozle. I just wanted to understand the grammatical details, and you’re my go-to for Greek 🙂
I had a thought regarding Eve and deception. When patriarchalists read Genesis 3:17, they unjustly hone in on Eve’s sex and say Adam was punished for listening to a female human. Therefore, no men should listen to women.
But what if God had given Adam a brother, who gave the fruit to Adam? God would have said:
“Because you have listened to the voice of your brother and have eaten…”
Would this mean that all second-born men are more easily deceived than other men?
Would patriarchalists conclude that their own older brothers should exercise lifelong/eternal authority over them?
Eve’s sex was irrelevant. The focus should be on her all-too-relatable HUMAN failure in trusting a voice other than God’s, which we are all guilty of, as we are all sinners.
If Adam’s “brother” had been deceived, patriarchalists would attribute his momentary lapse to a weaknes in his individual character. Yet when Eve errs, they blame her sex–then heap this burden of shame on the shoulders of every girl and woman to ever live, no matter our differences in character, personalities, intellect, wisdom, life experiences, etc. They must stop viewing only men as unique individuals but women as a flat monolith. It’s dehumanizing.
When churches treat the female body like a cage, how are the girls and women there supposed to believe that Jesus gives freedom to ALL believers? Such churches make Jesus appear contradictory and therefore flawed.
I’ve often wondered why Eve was punished/cursed for her sin by being given a desire for her husband. Apparently God saw that as akin to pain in childbirth! I’d love to see that explored more as well (and perhaps examined in light of the response to Israel when they requested a human king to rule over them.)
Hi Raya, Neither Adam or Eve are cursed. God continues to care for them. Only the snake and the ground are cursed in Genesis 3.
Less than ideal relationships are a consequence of sin in the world. Adam and Eve went from a relationship marked by mutuality and unity (Genesis 2) to a relationship that Eve still wanted—she still desired to be married to Adam—but now Adam would rule over her.
I have more on this phrase in Genesis 3:16 here: https://margmowczko.com/teshuqah-desire/
The Hebrew word for “rule” in Genesis 3:16 is mashal מָשַׁל. The Hebrew word used when Israel asked for a king to “rule” them in 1 Samuel 8:5-6 is shaphat שָׁפַט. This word is usually translated as “judge.”
Eve did not ask for, want, or need Adam to rule her. The Israelites asked Samuel who was already judging (i.e. leading) them for a king to judge (lead) them. Israel wanted to be like the other nations. I’m not sure why Samuel didn’t suffice. Maybe he wasn’t flashy or “mighty” enough.
Interesting article. Are there any positive commands from God, or the authors of scripture, that promote gender parity? I’ve searched, but I haven’t found any. And if there aren’t, it would seem that the positive commands promoting complementarianism outweigh the speculations against. Like I get the grammatical arguments, but they seem to miss the forest for the trees in the verses above in my opinion.
And Don’t get me wrong, I’m a free Methodist, and generally agree with Wesley and B.T. Roberts on their opinions of women in leadership. But that’s church tradition and rationale. I just haven’t found the evidence in scripture. So currently, I’ve found myself in the generalized complementarianism camp.
Hi Xeilias, I can certainly understand if people aren’t interested in the grammar of certain Bible verses. But Jenna asked me a question about grammar, and so I answered her query.
However, since you are specifically looking for commands, I’m not understanding your concern. Grammar (along with vocabulary and context) is typically what determines if a sentence is a command, especially in Greek.
In the New Testament, there are general statements expressing that the mutuality of all people including the mutuality of the sexes is a New Creation dynamic, but I can’t think of any commands off the top of my head. There may be commands about not showing partiality or favouritism. I’m not sure about this.
I also don’t know of any statement or command that says patriarchy is a New Creation dynamic or a good idea. And note that there is no verse in the New Testament that commands men to be leaders or authorities either in the home or in congregations. There are also no such verses in the Hebrew Bible except for the edict of King Xerxes (Esther 1:22).
In regards to church leadership, there are no general statements or commands that directly or positively say women must not be leaders. In 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, Paul addresses and silences problem speech from both men and women. And in 1 Timothy 2:8-15, Paul addresses and corrects problem behaviour from both men and women. These two passages are not general teaching but are addressing local issues.
There are quite a few commands in 1 Cor. 14:26-40, including the last phrase of 1 Corinthians 14:26 and two commands in 1 Corinthians 14:39-40. And the Greek verb for “be silent” is used as an imperative three times in this passage for three different groups of unruly speakers.
On the other hand, the only statements plainly written as commands, as such, in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 are 1 Timothy 2:11 and probably the last phrase in 1 Timothy 2:12.
I don’t think it’s generally helpful to give greater weight to a sentence just because it’s written as a command. Paul writes many incredibly important things as statements rather than as plain commands.
Anyway, Paul only silences and prohibits bad speech and bad behaviour. All his general teaching about ministry, including the ministry of leading, does not hint at excluding women in the Greek: Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28; and Ephesians 4:11 (cf. 1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16).
Neither God nor Paul have an issue with capable, gifted, and godly women leading God’s people. But I understand that others think differently on this.
Hi Marg! Thanks for your reply.
I suppose when I say “command,” I mean “prescription.” A statement that says “this is how it ought to be.” The reason more weight should be placed on prescriptions is because a descriptive can be turned into a prescriptive more ways than a straight prescription can. For instance, many early churches found the statement “there is no male or female,” and “in heaven, there will be no marriage,” to mean bisexual orgies are okay and commendable. The reason we can say that is wrong is not because it’s “yucky,” but because there are prescriptions against such practices in the Bible. On the flip side, nuance can be added to prescriptions by descriptions. So “do not get drunk with wine,” can be nuanced by the miracle of the water to wine in Cana. Or as Jesus says, “if you are to put away your wife…” Is nuanced by the fact that “from the beginning it was not so.” But the clear direction is that the prescription sets the principle, and the description adds nuance.
However, of course, there is precedent that is set by descriptives as well, but where there is both a prescription and a description on a single issue, the prescription should normally take priority. Those are my cards, at least. I would be interested to hear your reasons why you dont think this is the case.
Now of course there were female prophetesses (Miriam), judgettes (Deborah), and apostlines. Although I know there is debate on the apostle point. Because of this descriptive, we would know that “women, be silent,” is nuanced by these abnormal women. However, that is still the prescription being nuanced by the abnormal women. So the command could be altered to “women, be silent, unless x,” basically. Or more generally: “God mostly calls men, but He sometimes calls women too.”
So for the 1 Corinthians 14 section you mentioned, I see only one “be silent” imperative directed to an innate characteristic. The other two are directed towards orderliness. So it would seem then that the two should be silent under x circumstance, while the other should be silent in general. So basically, if no one is there to interpret, be silent; if there is someone already prophesying, let another be silent; and if there is a woman, let her be silent. Those are not equally sweeping statements. So I’m not really sure what you are getting at with this example.
Hi Xeilias, If you’re just talking about general statements or prescriptions about the way things should be in the body of Christ, then I wonder why you think these tip in favour of complementarianism.
Every general statement or prescription about the way followers of Jesus should live, and how they should relate to each other, says nothing whatsoever about men being leaders and women being submissive followers, which is the underlying premise of complementarianism. All the general prescriptions given in the New Testament potentially apply to all followers of Jesus regardless of sex, ethnicity, or social status.
I don’t know of any statements or prescriptions that say men, in general, are leaders, and women, in general are not to be leaders. Nowhere in the New Testament are men told to be leaders and authorities of women, or that this is a good thing and the way it should be. Nowhere.
The whole passage 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 is Paul addressing disorderly speech in Corinthian meetings and encouraging orderly and edifying speech. I point out the three verbs here: https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-1434-35-in-a-nutshell/
Most early churches, by far, pushed ascetic sexual practices. We see the beginnings of this in the New Testament. The vast majority of early Christian congregations did not encourage orgies, let alone bisexual orgies. I don’t know where you got those ideas from. It’s wrong. Sources such as Epiphanius whp criticised “heretics” and pagans who criticised Christians are not reliable. They literally said anything to discredit certain Christian groups or Christianity in general. Christians were not cannibals either, which was another criticism sometimes levelled as Christians. https://margmowczko.com/chastity-salvation-1-timothy-215/
I’m not sure why you are writing to me. If you prefer a complementarian interpretation of the Bible, that is your prerogative. I believe Jesus and Paul were painting a very different picture of the way things should be.
Hi Marg, and thanks again for your reply. I’m sure you’re very busy as a scholar and all. I apologize if this is tedious to you.
I dont know what version of complementarianism you are familiar with. What I’ve come to understand is the underlying premise is that men and women tend to have different strengths, and therefore should lead where their strengths lie. Of course, this then begs the question of whether God would preserve certain domains exclusively for each gender (as opposed to generally), but I am not so sure about that. As the scholar here, maybe you can tell me what this view is called if it is not complementarianism?
The example of the bisexual orgies comes from Dale Martin’s intro to NT studies lectures. He’s secular, but he seems to treat the topic with a decently even hand in my view.
I like your point in the article you shared, that both men and women were praying and prophesying. It definitely lends credence to the egalitarian view on a descriptive level. And I think it certainly alters the straightforward reading of ch. 14. I still have a hard time with a couple things though:
In the article, you say that it should be read “women should be silent in churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law says, if there is anything they desire to know. They should ask their husbands.” So grammatically, it would mean “women should be silent in churches if there is anything they desire to know,” “they are not permitted to speak if there is…” Etc. That is how I interpreted your version of the reading in the article. This seems possible. But why then does he continue “for it is shameful for a woman to speak in church”? It seems to negate that reading. This is sort of the forest for the trees argument I referenced above.
I also wonder what your reading of ch. 11.3-16 is. Because although it describes male and female cantors and prophets, and makes us codependent, it still places God, Christ, man, and woman onto a hierarchy of some sort. What that hierarchy is, isn’t clear, but it does seem to be there.
And a third thing is that Paul does not make a similar statement to men broadly. In your reading, is it only the women asking the personal, irrelevant questions (which is what I got from the article), while the men were either silent already, or asking good questions? Or else, is there another passage that makes a similar statement towards men without indicting women as well?
I recognize it’s not like these letters were all-encompassing practical theologies, but were answering specific questions, but it still seems like if we want to hold the egalitarian view, there should be some unruly men that led an apostle to silence all men in a congregation.
~ I don’t mind replying to people if I understand what they want or what their intentions are. It sounds to me like you’ve decided that complementarianism makes the best sense of prescriptions in the New Testament. And I don’t want to repeat ideas that are already written in my articles to someone who has already decided that their own ideas and interpretations are better or more sound. That’s just wasting time for both of us.
~ I have a great deal of respect for Dale Martin. I’ve listened to his lectures. In fact, I’ve posted a link to them here.
I don’t recall him saying that many early churches found the statement “there is no male or female,” and “in heaven, there will be no marriage,” to mean bisexual orgies are okay and commendable. If I have time, I’ll listen to them again. However, if you know the exact reference, please let me know. (Also, Dale Martin is an Episcopalian. Perhaps I don’t understand what you mean by “secular.”)
~ It was shameful for women to speak in ways that disrupted church meetings and say things that could easily be kept for home. Until recently, there has always been a much greater expectation for women to be well behaved than men. If men behave badly, it was bad. If women behaved badly it was disgraceful and even shocking. Nevertheless, Paul lays out and frames the context for 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 reasonably clearly: it’s about unruly and unedifying speech. It cannot refer to legitimate and orderly ministry because, as you and I have mentioned, in chapter 11 of 1 Corinthians, Paul states that women, as well as men, prayed and prophesied and he doesn’t say they should stop. He just gives both men and women instructions about how they should wear their hair (or head-coverings) while they are praying and prophesying in church gatherings.
~ I do not use the word “know” at all in my article “1 Corinthians 14:34-35, in a Nutshell.” The usual Greek verbs for “know” do not occur in 1 Corinthians 14:35. Rather, Paul says, “If they (wives) desire/ want *to learn* something …”
And Paul’s solution is that these wives stop talking and keep their questions for home where they can *ask* their husbands.
“To learn” (mathein) is the infinitive form of the verb manthanō. See here. It is related to the noun mathētēs (student, disciple).
~ I don’t understand the logic of your last paragraph. Paul is responding to the situation in Corinth. He wasn’t thinking about evening up his corrections along gender lines. Nevertheless, 1 Corinthians 14:28 and 30 potentially applies to both men and women. And nothing excludes women from Paul’s strong encouragements to minister in healthy ways. Paul does tell men to behave in other passages in his letters, and worse (e.g., 1 Tim 1:20).
~ There is a hierarchy of status, or differing levels of honour, presented in the first half of 1 Corinthians 11:2-6 for the benefit of reputations to outsiders. Paul then demolishes this hierarchy in the second half of the passage for men and women who are in the Lord. This is my shortest article on this passage: https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-112-16-meaning/
These messages have moved beyond your initial request for commands (or prescriptions) about the way things should be in the church. As I said before, I don’t know of any such general statements in the New Testament that support complementarianism. Rather all the general statements and prescriptions are about treating people without any partiality, and are about men and women sharing in ministry.
What are the commands or prescriptions that you think support complementarianism? There are too many for me to list all the verses that support mutualism or egalitarianism (all the “one-another” verses, for starters), but I mention a few verses that support mutualism here: https://margmowczko.com/christian-egalitarianism-in-a-nutshell/
If you like reading books, I recommend this short one entitled Paul Distilled. It barely goes into egalitarianism, but it explains Paul’s theology. Paul’s basic theology about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, etc, does not support complementarian ideas at all! The opposite, in fact.
One thing not mentioned or considered that I can see is that most scholars (men with time on their hands) today consider the Pastorals to be pseudepigraphia (ie: falsely attributed, in this case, to Paul):
The words in the so-called Pastorals, and their meanings, remain the same whoever the author was. It is words and their meanings, and the author’s intention, that is my concern.
I know this article is old but I wanted to comment since I just found your site. I am Catholic and am familiar with the OT books you reference. One thing that is worth pointing out is that Eve was deceived by a superior creature to her in that the intellect of angels (even fallen angels) are superior to humans. We don’t know if Adam was deceived or just went along with Eve, but he went along with his equal. For those who like to argue that Eve is his subordinate that would mean he went along with a subordinate.
Thanks, Carol. 🙂
And he is described as arum (עָר֔וּם) which is translated as more crafty (ESV, NIV, NRSV), more/most cunning (CSB, GNT, NASB 2020, NKJV), most intelligent (CEB), shrewder (NET), more/ most clever (various translations) than all the other animals.
The Hebrew word arum is contrasted with arummim (עֲרוּמִּ֔ים) which occurs in the previous verse (Genesis 2:15) and which is translated as “naked.” It’s a play on words and it may imply that the couple are naive.