The two most prominent theologies or systems of understanding the Bible in the US are dispensational and covenant. Simple explanations for both would be:
- Dispensational: This system views the Bible through series of dispensations where God deals with man differently to test him. A key element of dispensational theology is the belief that the Church and Israel are separate. http://www.theopedia.com/dispensationalism
- Covenantal: This system views the bible through two great covenants. One between the Godhead, where Christ is appointed to die for mankind and a second covenant with man (Adam) of works, where disobedience required salvation. A key element in covenantal theology is the belief that the Church has replaced Israel. http://www.theopedia.com/covenant-theology
We will explore both theological systems in more detail in future posts. This article will look at the fall, Genesis 3 and the how a foundation for both Covenant and Dispensational theologies may be wrong, which puts into question the rest of their hermeneutical tradition towards the bible.
The verse we will focus on is the interpretation of Genesis 3:12
12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”[i]
The storyline before Genesis 3:12 is simple. The Serpent and Eve discuss the effects of eating the fruit, Eve eats the fruit, Eve gives to her husband, their eyes are opened and a discussion starts with God.
- The discussion on the commandment and it’s consequences are between the Serpent and Eve. Adam is not mentioned.
- The command to not eat the fruit is broken by both Eve and Adam
- The text is clear that Eve eats first and then offers to Adam
- Breaking the commandment is missing the mark or sinning.
How does verse 3:12 get interpreted by the church?
12 “It was the woman you gave to me who gave me of the tree and I ate.” The man’s reply goes over the events described in v 6. As people are wont in such situations, the man tries to excuse himself by blaming the woman and implying that it was really God’s fault for giving him this woman. Here the divisive effects of sin, setting man against his dearest companion (cf. 2:23) and alienating him from his all-caring creator, are splendidly portrayed. “This too is characteristically human: people are inclined to justify their conduct by pointing to the circumstances and fate that God has allotted them in life” (Cassuto, 1:157). God’s silence indicates his rejection of this plea.[ii]
3:12 Despite his culpability the man points to the woman as the real offender. Unlike the woman, the man was not deceived by the serpent—at least he does not refer to the serpent—so he cites her part in the matter. In particular Adam’s punishment is later related to his consent to the woman (3:17). Adam’s contention is given force by the emphasis on “she,” yielding the sense, “I only took what she gave me!” But there could be no exoneration for his crime on this flimsy basis. Not finished with shifting blame, Adam even accuses God for the tragedy by adding, “the woman you put here with me.” The NIV’s “put” translates the literal “gave,” which is repeated in the next clause, “she gave me.” By this Adam charges that the Lord “gave” the woman to him and in turn she “gave” him the fruit. The implication is inescapable: God ultimately is responsible for the success of the tempter and Adam’s demise.
The woman is depicted as God’s gift in 2:22, where Adam initially responds with enthusiastic glee. Now, like the serpent, he charges that God’s good gift was malicious, for she has led to his downfall. She is a mistake. This is a line still heard today. Commonly, the Old Testament is not timid in assigning divine responsibility for all manner of human affliction, but nowhere does the Bible acknowledge any divine culpability for this turn of events. The apostle James said that each person is responsible for his own sin (1:13). Sin was the deliberate choice of the man. By shifting the blame, the man hoped to evade accountability for his autonomous actions. Of course, interpretive speculation has always reflected on why God would permit the tempter’s ploy, but the narrative does not address such theological dilemmas.[iii]
- The woman … gave me—He blames God [Calvin]. As the woman had been given him for his companion and help, he had eaten of the tree from love to her; and perceiving she was ruined, was determined not to survive her [M’knight].[iv]
3:12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Instead of acknowledging his sin the man shifts the blame to the woman and to the Lord who had given him the woman. His response to the Lord’s gift of the woman here is very different from his initial response. The man refuses to accept his own responsibility.
If the woman was confused about the specifics of God’s command, it was the man’s responsibility to clarify since only he was the original recipient of the command. Either the man distorted the message, communicated it poorly, or failed to correct the woman in her misunderstandings. For the man to stand silently by while the serpent and the woman distort the commandment of the Lord is inexcusable. The man in part blames the Lord for even allowing the possibility of his own fall by giving him the woman to begin with. She is no longer “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Now she is the problem.[v]
Hopefully, in this small but representative sampling of both Covenant and Dispensational commentaries, the standard Christian view is that Adam blames the woman and potentially God for his sin. I will offer a Jewish Messianic interpretation for discussion.
I will start with an interlinear translation so you can look up the Hebrew if you want, there are no real translation difficulties in this text, but there are cultural issues that a translation may not reflect well. If your presupposition is to indict Adam, it is easy to read the text this way, that is Adam is putting the blame on Eve and/or God. But a clearer view would be that Adam is providing a simple statement of the facts and is not accusatory. The presuppositional difference is what did Adam know beforehand? This becomes difficult because we are not told why Adam acted this way, we must infer from the Biblical text.
|3 הָֽ||4 אָדָ֑ם||2 יֹּ֖אמֶר||5 הָֽ||6 אִשָּׁה֙||7 אֲשֶׁ֣ר||→||8 נָתַ֣תָּה||•||•||9 עִמָּדִ֔|
|10 י||11 הִ֛וא||12 נָֽתְנָה||13 לּ||14 ִ֥י||•||15 מִן||16 הָ||17 עֵ֖ץ||18 וָ||→||19 אֹכֵֽל|
We look at 1st Peter for our first clue:
and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.[vii]
Why doesn’t Peter tell us Adam was a transgressor? He ate of the fruit as well. Peter focuses on Eve and her salvation instead. This ties into what we know of Christ. A name for Christ is the Last Adam:
45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.[viii]
Paul is teaching us that Adam is a type of Christ. As an all types, we learn about the ultimate by the type. Knowing that we should consider Adam as a type of Christ and that Peter focused on Eve’s sin and salvation, can we learn about the architype from the type? Both are given a bride from God. Both brides sin and face death. Neither bride can save herself. Salvation for the bride can only come through the husband. The husband must also take on sin and die to provide that salvation.
Adam was not deceived, but knew precisely the cost of his actions. Christ knew the cost of salvation, even praying to the Father to take the cup of wrath away if possible. So how does Adam know what is going to happen?
Adam was made in God’s image.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. [ix]
What does it mean to made in the image of God? Is that just a physical resemblance? No, to be created in His image means we also share some of God’s traits (albeit in a limited fashion) including the ability to think and reason. There is no verse that says God walked in the Garden and talked with Adam before Gen 3:9, but there is tremendous Jewish tradition that claims that God walked with Adam and taught him the plan of salvation. It fits with Peter’s view—Eve will sin and will face death, only through childbirth can she be saved, only by dying himself can Adam bring about the birth that ultimately provides that salvation. Adam does not accuse Eve or God, but acts out in accordance to His plan as a type of Christ, dying for his bride as Christ must die for us (His bride).
If we understand the fall in this Hebraic manner, not as a test (dispensationalism) or the breaking of an implied Covenant of Works (Covenant Theology), but as the first enactment of a type of Christ, accepting death for the bride, in full knowledge of the consequences–some of the presuppositions of both theologies breakdown.
[iv] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 19). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.