In Genesis 3, when God asks Adam and Eve if they have eaten from the infamous tree, Adam says, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." And Eve says, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate."

This is often interpreted to mean that Adam and Eve are cowards: They try to shift blame from themselves to someone else.

But does the text actually support this view? What Adam and Eve say is, strictly speaking, completely true. So is it possible that rather than shifting blame, they are simply relating the facts of the matter?


3 Answers 3


In seminary I wrote a paper on how Adam and Eve violated all 10 commandments in the garden. I'll spare you the whole paper but there are several reasons to believe that Adam and Eve are not simply being honest.

First, compare Gen 2:16-17 and Gen 3:2-3. The command of God has already been distorted. Since God gave the command directly to Adam, it is reasonable to argue that he distorted it when passing it on to Eve, although we can't be certain that Eve did not distort it herself. Either way, one of them has knowingly changed God's command. So simple honesty is already a problem.

Another factor is the fact that Adam and Eve are still in the "middle" of the Garden even though God has given them the command to "subdue" the earth, which certainly required them to expand the Garden, not to stay in the middle. So they were most likely neglecting God's will.

There are other factors to consider, but one gets directly to your question. Note that in Gen 3:6 when Eve ate the fruit she then gave it to Adam "who was there with her" and he also ate it. Since we know that Adam received God's command directly and that he was present when Eve made the decision to eat it and did nothing to dissuade or prevent her from violating God's command and, in fact, joined with her in her disobedience fully aware of what was happening, it seems reasonable to argue that Adam bears the true blame for this sin. He (likely) gave Eve misinformation about God's command; he did not obey God's command to subdue the earth and did not encourage Eve to do so either and he stood by allowing her to eat a fruit that God had promised would bring death, saying nothing and then eating it once he saw that she survived (clearly unaware of the kind of death God had warned about). To then say that he only did so because she gave him the fruit is quite false.

So no, Adam was not simply relating the facts.

  • 2
    Does this mean the "first sin" was before Adam and Eve ate? If so, why didn't this sin "bring sin into the world" and cause "the fall"?
    – Cannabijoy
    Jan 29, 2017 at 11:34
  • I think that's a very interesting question. I've come to look at the "first sin" as their cumulative actions rather than necessarily any one moment. The eating of the fruit is the moment of realization that they have willfully violated God's command. That is the "knowledge of good and evil", the realization that they have done evil. But the process of the sin began earlier. I think the description of the process of sin coming to being from James 1 is instructive.
    – P. TJ
    Jan 31, 2017 at 17:35
  • It would be interesting to see this fleshed out a bit more. Maybe not a re-post of your full paper, but it sounds like you have the material and research already in hand to reference this and develop the argument in a little more depth. It's already a good answer, but if you ever get time it could probably be made into a great one.
    – Caleb
    Feb 4, 2017 at 8:37
  • This answer puzzles me, in that the disobedience occurred in the decision to eat of the fruit, which had been expressly forbidden. To frame it as the sin occurring after the act, rather that the decision to act and then the follow through, seems to contradict the flow of the events. As @Caleb said, perhaps a bit more from your paper in terms of support would clear that up. Jun 26, 2017 at 12:19

11 He [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3)

Adam admitted that while he he ate the fruit, he did not take it from the tree.

The point is that Adam was at the forbidden tree with Eve. The question is: Why were they there? He watched her take the fruit and eat it and he did nothing to stop her. Adam essentially gave her permission to do what she did. As he did not know what death was, it provides the appearance that he was watching to see if she would die so he would know death.

Everything Adam had up until that time had been provided for him. It would have not been unthinkable for Adam to believe that if Eve had died (whatever death was) because of the choice she made, God would have given him another woman. Perhaps that might have happened, but Adam ate the fruit too. And both of them were separated from God and both suffered death.

So in summary, in the presence of Adam, Eve was overcome with temptation and ate the fruit, and to Adam's understanding, nothing happened. He did not know death, so he did not know what death was. Apparently he witnessed how pleasing this fruit was for her so, when she offered the fruit to him, he chose to disregard God's commandment, and ate.

So did he blame Eve? Yes, by inclusion. Adam watched her take the fruit and eat it, and watched as she handed the fruit to him before he chose to eat it too. In admitting his guilt, he volunteered the guilt of Eve.


The command:

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat... (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)

In a legal sense the command includes anything from the tree, not just the most obvious, fruit; other parts of the tree such as leaves, flowers, bark, sap, and seeds would be covered.

While the first two violated the command relatively soon after it was given, the intent of the command was enduring. If they had not eaten the prohibition would remain in effect for future generations.

Suppose someone inadvertently, or intentionally served someone else something from the tree. Would the person who was served the prohibited part of the tree be guilty of breaking the command? If they were unaware of what they had been served were they guilty of breaking the command?

Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25 ESV)

If someone unknowingly ate from the tree the Judge of all the earth would do what is just. The essence of what the man says speaks to this legal aspect of the command: does it apply to something someone else removed from the tree?

Now it is clear from the events described that Adam knew where the fruit he ate came from:

So 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 to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6 ESV)

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12 ESV)

The man's appeal is not so much as to blame the woman as an attempt to say he did not violate the command. "Yes I ate what came from the tree, but I took from the woman." The implication is that on some level "I" did not violate the command because "I" did not take from the tree.

Adam did not lie. He told all of the truth: he ate what came from the woman. Perhaps he had a good attorney or a good legal mind and so is hopeful he will be let off on the legal technicality that he ate what was taken from the woman. Perhaps he is like Abraham who hopes only that the Judge of all the earth will do what is just and be shown mercy in that in the very strictest sense of interpreting the command, there is room for leniency. After all it is true that he did not eat from the tree.

It is true the man violated the command as it was given to him. However, for a command that was to be passed on to future generations, especially if the population grew to cover all of the earth, taking directly from the tree becomes an integral part of the command.

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