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Who Sinned First?

There are many Biblical chestnuts pulled out to limit woman’s participation in the Christian Church. Women cannot be in leadership, cannot preach, cannot teach, and cannot speak because of such verses as 1 Timothy 2:14 (King James Version):”And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression”.

The message is clear that Eve sinned and therefore she should not act in any of those roles mentioned or utilize any gifts for the corporate body. Adam in this verse is an innocent.

Timothy I & II are commonly attributed to Paul and it is suggested the books were written about 60 C.E. – some thirty years after the death of Jesus. This statement, however, appears to contradict other statements by Paul found in Romans (dated to the 50’s C.E.).

Let’s review the account of the sin in Genesis 3. The Tempter in the guise of the serpent came to the woman. Why the woman? This section falls directly after the second creation account explaining her origins and after how they are now to be ‘one flesh’ She had been told the rule…but apparently not taught its significance yet. The couple eats of the fruit, move from a state of innocence to one of awareness, and hide from God. When God locates them, he asks by what means they came to lose their state ignorance and innocence. The man then says, “The woman you gave me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” A strong argument of ignorance can be made for the woman but for the man is a conscious decision to both do that which he knew to be wrong and then to try to avoid his own responsibility.

In God’s eyes, the HUMAN was both male and female crafted in the image of God. Only later, through rabbinic commentaries, philosophers, and other writings will Adam be shown in the same light as in 1 Timothy. Indeed, some writings show Adam as an “angel” who remained untainted despite Eve’s fall.

Romans 5.12-21, carries a discussion of sin and the need and means of repentance. In verse 12 Paul writes “by one man sin entered into the world” and v.17 ‘by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace…” and v. 19 “for as one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” In 1 Corinthians 15: 21-2 Paul clearly writes “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of them that slept. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” The word used is quite often the more generic Greek term, meaning humans or humankind. It is thus clear, that Paul’s understanding in Romans was that by the first human (seen as one flesh and thus gender was unimportant?) sin entered into the world

Why then would Paul say something so diametrically opposed to his early statements? Why would he switch the blame to Eve in such a manner? Paul refers to Eve in 2 Corinthians 11:3 but clearly says by his great subtlety the serpent “beguiled” Eve and he was fearful that the Christians at Corinth might be equally deceived. To be “beguiled” is to deceive, to give false impressions, or to present oneself as something different. The word is found elsewhere in reference to someone being deceived by riches, by false teachers, etc.

Looking at the section in 1 Timothy in context it is apparent something else may be at work. The verses preceding it . Chapter 2 begins with a call to prayer for the blessings of kings that all may live “quiet and peaceable life”.

In verse 8, the writer calls for all men to “lift up holy hands, without wrath and doubting”. Then the writer plunges into verses 9-15 dealing with the conduct of women “professing godliness”. Issues of hair and appearance are in verse 9 “modest apparel”, “not with braided hair” or “gold, or pearls, or costly array”. These were not normally a part of the grooming of women at that time. Indeed, if 1st Corinthians 11 actually teaches, as some suggest, that Paul demands women be veiled – why this directive at all? Why does not the apostle simply say to the women “wear a veil”?
So - when did women braid their hair with gold and pearls?

It is known that in the late 1st century and into the early part of the 2nd century the Roman Flavian dynasty (see images at set a trend with a flamboyant hairstyles on aristocratic women. They were so elaborate and strange that the satirist Juvenal even wrote about them.

The section just following this, verses 11-14, contradict Pauline statements in 1 Corinthians 11 and elsewhere. Rather than women being forbidden to speak, teach, or be active in other ways, Paul accepts as a norm in 1 Corinthians 11 that women will preach and pray (the prophecy refers to communication, or speech, of a divine imperative). Why does Paul contradict himself?

Finally, verse15 is a confusing and troubling verse that has vexed scholars for centuries. It infers that women are saved, not through faith in the salvation work of Jesus Christ, but through having children. This directly conflicts with Peter’s statements in Acts 4:12 that “neither is there salvation in any other…” Childbirth, clearly is not a means to salvation.
Second, it infers that the so called sin of Eve (v. 14) becomes an “unpardonable sin” from which womankind is never to find redemption. Compare this to Paul’s statement in Romans 3:24-25 “ Being justified freely by his grace through faith in his propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past…”

All this would suggest that the section in question may be a later addition to the letter or the letter may be a letter written by someone using the authority of Paul’s name (a common practice in the time). If not, there is a troubling contradiction of Paul’s writings and theology. Given the fact that a later time is suggested by the reference to the ornate hair styles, there is contradictory theology present in v. 15, and the fact that in the very next chapter (I Tim. 3) is a discussion of “offices” in the church, it is probable that the book was written later.

So, who sinned first? If one believes to be deceived is a sin then the text is that Eve sinned first. If one believes that that to be deceived is an act of ignorance and that to intentionally do that which is understood to be wrong, than Adam clearly sinned first. Yet, the emphasis is not one or the other. Both were seen to have sinned, both received punishments, and both had to be redeemed.

[1] New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NIB). Abingdon, 2003.
[2] R. C.J. “Adam.” Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Harper & Row, 1985.

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