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Eve confronted the question:

Gen 3:1 NIV

… Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

In part at least, this proved sufficient cause for Eve to doubt the priority of God’s edict of Gen 2:17 “… but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge”. I posit that doubt, ‘to feel uncertain about’, is a necessary precursor to this act of disobedience.

If Eve's capacity for doubt predates the act (here the Fall and moral awareness), how is doubt a moral consequence of the Fall, or where does it come from?

Background

Doubt pervades Scripture, yet is abhorred by God. Scripture is full of concern about it, or faith on its flip side, involving many principal characters in one way or another. Doubt and faith are evidently very important to God.

Here are just some examples:

  • Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise of a child; they actually laughed at it. (Genesis 17:16-18)
  • Asaph doubted because the wicked prospered and he doubted the value of serving God. (Psalm 73)
  • Moses doubted God could use him to lead Israel out of Egypt. (Numbers 11:21-22)
  • Gideon doubted God could use him to turn the tide against Israel’s oppressors. (Judges 6:36-40)

And some NT texts illustrating God’s NT position are ongoing

James 1:5-8 NIV

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Matthew 14:29-31 NIV

29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 17:20

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

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  • You are asking about a non-Biblical subject. Nothing in Scripture is described as "primal". The closest we get is "In the beginning, God ..." God is the only prime cause. Doubt arose only after the fall of Satan (Isa 14:12-15, Eze 28:12-17.)
    – Dottard
    Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 21:39
  • Thank you - my question is better phrased 'Did Eve's doubt pre-date the fall? Which is biblical as I believe the question is. I shall change the title, if that is permissable. Those Isa and Eze texts relate to the fall of Satan and the Fall per se, whereas my question concerns whether Eve's doubt must predate the Fall. It cannot predate Satan's fall obviously.
    – user59096
    Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 22:02
  • How could Eve's doubt not predate the Fall? Are you suggesting she and/or Adam fell first, and only then did her doubt arise? Commented Sep 23, 2023 at 23:17
  • @Robbie Goodwin Thank you - Doubt is a value assessment of truth(s). Before the Fall Eve had no knowledge of evil, yet appears to assess God’s truth wrongly and doubt God. One might argue that without knowledge of evil, Eve is unequipped to doubt God, since his truth is ultimate. We must avoid a conclusion that Eve foreknew evil before the act, so it seems fair to seek another explanation or expansion and hence the question ‘Did Eve's doubt pre-date the Fall?' As Dan Fefferman puts forward in his answer, for example.
    – user59096
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 8:46
  • Can you make clear whether this is about Eve's doubt in particular, or the existence of doubt in general? Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 16:44

4 Answers 4

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I think the OP mis-understand "Doubt" alone is a sin.

  • Someone who are faithful to God but doubt if they were able to accomplish a God's mission, that is, they were doubt of their own capability, not of God. The OP's examples: Abraham and Sarah, Asaph, Moses and Gideon belong to this situation.
  • Someone who lack of faith to God whose doubt is to challenge the validity of a God's command, that is, the subject they doubt is God. About the NT texts the OP quote: In James 1:5-8, James demanded not to doubt God won't deliver. Second one Jesus did not take Peter's little faith a disobedience. Matthew 17:20 is a hyperbole to describe the power of faith.

The scripture is more explicitly saying "Disobedience" is a sin, "Doubt" is marginal approaching to "Disobedience" and therefore all Christians must be cautious not to fall into "Doubt". In fact, for those who have faith in Him but doubt themselves their capability, God is very patient to help them. His prominent quote: "Do not fear, for I am with you". Check how much time God spend to encourage Moses and Gideon, even gave them signs to prove God was with them.

Eve's situation was not doubt alone, it was Satan's trick to trigger a common human weakness of "Doubt", eventually led to her "Disobedience" against a God's command. This sinful "Doubt" has a mark that it always accompany with human own desire. In Eve's case, it is said:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. (Genesis 3:6 NIV)

Did Eve's doubt pre-date the Fall?

Tricky part is "What is wisdom?". It appears that Eve has no concept about that question “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” until Satan asked her, and this was the time her "Doubt" happened. Therefore it is not "Doubt pre-date the Fall", it is "Doubt makes the Fall".

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  • I agree. It is true that, without knowledge of good and evil, Eve would lack understanding of many concepts. The paradox you raise in the final para of your answer is resolved when Eve’s doubt is part of the Fall. Then Eve’s capacity for doubt, like her capacity for disobedience must be intrinsic to her being, not a product of the Fall, and not requiring her to know good and evil.
    – user59096
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 8:16
  • @Thermion - glad that you find my answer useful Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 13:12
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In the beginning, the Creator formed Adam and placed him in the garden of Eden, giving him specific instructions regarding the trees within the garden. Adam, being the first of creation, received these divine commandments directly from God.

Later, the Creator formed Eve, a companion for Adam, and brought her into being after conveying the instructions about the forbidden fruit. Eve, not having heard these instructions firsthand, relied on Adam to relay the Creator's words to her. However, in this relay of information, a subtle deception took root.

The serpent, cunning and deceptive, engaged Eve in a theological debate. The crafty serpent cunningly switched the positions of the trees in Eve's understanding. The tree that stood in the midst of the garden, the tree of life, was portrayed as forbidden, and Eve, in her response to the serpent, unintentionally misunderstood the Creator's divine decree. She erroneously stated that they were forbidden to even touch the tree, amplifying the restriction beyond what God had commanded (Genesis 3:2-3).

Thus, when Eve encountered the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she found herself without restraint, believing she could partake of it without consequence, for she had been deceived in the theological discourse with the serpent. In her deception, she reached out and ate of the forbidden fruit.

However, the Creator, being just and righteous, held all accountable for their actions. As a consequence of this deception and disobedience, Eve, along with Adam, faced the judgment of the Creator, facing the consequences of their actions and the consequences of engaging in theological debate contrary to God's explicit instructions (Genesis 3:6-7, 16).

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    @Bethos thank you. Even if Eve's act was based upon misunderstanding without malice, she would still have faced a conflict of truths “You will not certainly die,” Gen 3:4 versus “you will certainly die” Gen 2:17. And Eve resolved that by disbelieving (i.e doubting) God, even if without malice. But this is before the Fall and eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
    – user59096
    Commented Sep 23, 2023 at 8:28
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In order to understand the situation, we need to answer two questions:

  • If Eve was doubting the importance of God's instructions, where did the doubt come from?
  • If Eve was not doubting, what caused her disobedience?

Both of the questions can be answered at the same time by looking at the events that transpired. Note the following in the topic of "Eve" in the Insight on the Scriptures:

Deception and Disobedience. Then came a day when the woman, while not in the company of her husband, found herself near the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. There a cautious, lowly serpent, used as a visible mouthpiece by an invisible spirit, in seeming innocence asked: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” The woman replied correctly, doubtless having been instructed accordingly by her husbandly head, who was one flesh with her. But when the serpent contradicted God and stated that violating God’s command would result in being like God, knowing good and bad, the woman began to look upon the tree from a different viewpoint. Why, “the tree was good for food and . . . something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.” Moreover, the serpent had said she would be like God if she ate. (Compare 1 John 2:16.) Completely deceived by the serpent and with a strong desire for the prospects tied up with eating the forbidden fruit, she became a transgressor of God’s law. (1 Timothy 2:14) As such, she now approached her husband and induced him to join her in disobedience to God. Adam listened to his wife’s voice.​—Genesis 3:1-6.

Eve had been given the commandment not to eat of the tree from her husband, Adam. It is possible that he impressed upon her the importance of not eating from the tree by telling her not to even "touch" the tree. (Genesis 3:3) So Eve fully knew the commandment and its consequences. But Satan was doing something more, he was tempting her. We see in verse 6 what happened after this conversation:

Consequently, the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something desirable to the eyes, yes, the tree was pleasing to look at. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it.

This is why Satan, aka "the Great Tempter", offered Eve a different way of looking at things. James 1:14 describes this as "each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire."

Eve can be compared to a very young child. She knew very little about the world around her. In Satan's own words, she didn't know "good and bad." (Genesis 3:5) She was very inexperienced in that anything presented before her was probably good.

So, it wasn't that Eve was doubting Jehovah God's commandment but that Satan was twisting the situation in a way that gave Eve a different way of looking at things with no regard for her true Father, Jehovah.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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Doubt may indeed be a precursor to Eve's sin. It should not be seen as a moral consequence of the Fall but as a pervasive cultural condition that the Fall created. In other words, doubt would still exist if there had been no Fall, but it would be far less prevalent.

Children usually follow their parents' faith without questioning. Adolescents need to question their faith in order to "own" it for themselves. Adults, if they inherit the faith of their parents, need to pass through doubt to a mature faith. Eve's attitude was the natural posture of an adolescent, but she made the wrong choice.

Doubt is not always "abhorred by God." God wants us to doubt the wisdom of "this world." (1 Corinthians 1:20) Job was even praised by God when he resisted the arguments of his friends who counseled him to have faith and stop questioning God's justice. (Job 42:7) In the case of the OP's NT citations, each of them displays the heart of a parent speaking to spiritual children (disciples and believers relatively new to the faith). To move beyond the heart of a spiritual child to that of a spiritual adult, people have to pass through doubt and achieve a faith which understands, rather than a faith never questions. It is one thing, after all, to question the prediction of a miracle, and another to grapple with doubts of a more existential nature, as Job and Asaph did.

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:11-12)

Conclusion: Doubt is natural. Disobedience is not.

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