What do we think of when we hear the name Eve? Does Eve’s name invoke a positive or negative image of her? Additionally, how does one’s perception of Eve relate to how one views women in general? Are women to be viewed as the cause of sin entering the world? There is a wide-spread understanding of Eve as a seductress and temptress, but does the text of Genesis 3 support such view?
Tertullian wrote, “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” (On the Apparel of Women, 1.1). Here we see that Tertullian not only blames Eve for the results of sin but seems to state that she possessed powers to persuade her husband to sin even though the devil would not have been able to do so. Additionally, Tertullian appears to be claiming that man alone is God’s image, though it is possible he is using ‘man’ to mean humankind in general. It is difficult to tell from the context.
Genesis clearly establishes that both male and female are in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). So, let us move on to look at the account of the fall in Genesis 3 to see what scripture actually says. In regards to Tertullian’s statement that the woman persuaded the man to sin, there is no biblical rationale to support such a claim. “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate (Gen. 3:6 NASB). The woman did nothing more than hand the fruit to her husband, and he ate. She did not nag him, coerce him, nor tempt him; in fact she said nothing at all! All she did was hand him the fruit and he freely and willingly ate of it himself. The text also tells us that the man was there with her the entire time that she is having the conversation with the serpent, and therefore, it is the serpent who tempts the man along with the woman, and at the same time as the woman. The man did not have to be persuaded by his wife to eat, he was already convinced and persuaded by the serpent, just as the woman was.
So, do we do Eve, and subsequently women in general, justice by placing the blame on them for sin? No, we do not. Why do we persist in accepting a misconstrued telling of the account of the fall in Genesis 3? Is it not time that we, who claim to have a high view of scripture, start questioning these negative views of women that are clearly not expressed in scripture? Did Eve make a bad decision in eating the fruit? Yes, she did. Yet, the man made the same equally wrong decision. The fall is a result of both man and woman, not Eve alone. We need to question how our views of women today as those who are more easily tempted, and those who seek to tempt others are built upon a false understanding of the biblical text. Eve was not a seductress who led Adam to sin.