Like Adam in the picture above, I sometimes scratch my head at what people come out with in church and in Bible Studies. Often what they say is actually the gospel according to some celebrity preacher who obviously must know more than I do because I’m just a country hack preacher without a TV show.
So last night we were watching a part of a DVD asking about death and sin, and there was a re-enactment of the temptation of Adam and Eve. In the dramatised version, it showed Adam nearby watching the interaction between the woman and the serpent (which actually had a human rather than a snake-like form).
At the end of the presentation discussion was dominated by an assertion that Adam wasn’t there when Eve was tempted and he came along later, and then she gave him the fruit and then he ate it. This theory is based on Paul’s assertion in 1 Timothy 2:14 that it was not Adam who was deceived but the woman. So clearly Adam wasn’t in on the temptation part and must have come later.
In three years of theological college and 30 years of pastoring, I hadn’t heard that one before. I can’t even see how you derive a doctrine on such a thin bit of text. The whole section of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is difficult because of its use of language, including a word translated as “to have authority over” which is used only once in the whole of the New Testament and probably means more along the lines of to domineer or to intimidate rather than to merely teach or lead.
So I did some research and found that this view that Adam wasn’t there for the temptation is not uncommon. For example it gets a run at Answers in Genesis. It seems to have been formulated by Reformer John Calvin, and its popularity in some evangelical circles goes back to him, and is often used as a reason to keep women in an inferior position in the church.
If you look at the story in Genesis 3:1-6 you notice that it is closely written and that it does seem to happen quickly. We don’t know how long the conversation went on with the serpent. We know in our own experience that temptation can happen in a flash or it might take years to ferment before an action occurs. You could speculate that the serpent was on Eve’s case day after day- we just don’t know the time scale. We do know that even in a perfect environment, sin is always a possibility.
So on the day of the sin, the temptation comes again (or maybe for the first time). This time Eve looks at the forbidden fruit and her desire for it is awakened. In Hebrew, verse 6 is written with a narrative form called the “vav (or waw) consecutive.” This means each phrase is introduced by the letter “vav” which means “and”. It could be written as “she took some and ate and gave it to her husband who was with her and he ate it.”
We are meant to see this as one rapidly occurring action with each step following swiftly from the one before. There is no time delay.
The text even says “her husband who was with her”. The Hebrew word iym which means “with” suggests not just near proximity but common purpose (as in the name for Jesus Immanuel- God is with us).
There is no gap implied in the text. Adam was there right on the spot when she was looking at the fruit. He knew what she was thinking, and not only did he fail to stop her from sinning, he joined right in.
Paul says that Eve was deceived but Adam was not. But Paul says in Romans 5 that sin entered the world through Adam, not Eve. To me that says that Eve had an excuse, but for Adam it was just plain rebellion.
The most important rule of Scripture interpretation is this: The plain meaning of Scripture is usually the one that is right. You make allowances for context and literary types, but Scripture should be, and usually is, easy to understand.
The second rule is this: Allow the Scriptures as a whole to help interpret a specific text. Sometimes you will find a New Testament reference to an Old Testament passage and that will give some added insight into the meaning of both.
Finally, try to allow God’s holy word to speak for itself. Ask Holy Spirit to give you understanding and try to keep your preconceived notions to one side. That way we allow God to speak to us rather than us telling God what He should believe.