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 Genesis 3:1ff, she is seemingly targeted by the serpent in the Garden of Eden 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 disobeyed God’s explicit command in Genesis 2:16-17. This act of disobedience had catastrophic consequences.
(Note that the Greek noun used of Eve’s transgression in 1 Timothy 2:14 (parabasis) is the same noun used of Adam’s transgression in Romans 5:14. Both Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command about the forbidden fruit; both violated his rule.)
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. The scriptures, however, 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.
Eve, however, 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.]
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 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 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) 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.
 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 this would thwart God’s salvation plan. The scriptures, however, do not tell us why the serpent and the woman have a conversation, and why Adam, who was there with Eve, apparently says nothing. We must not let our assumptions and speculations obscure what the author of Genesis 2-3 wanted to say.
 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). 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,” here.
 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, 2016
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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 one’s 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