How Is Adam’s Sin Different From Eve’s?

The Fall of Man – Hendrik Goltzius (1616)

In Friday’s blog post, I sought to explore the details of original sin and to convey that there are subtleties and stages to it. The sin was more than eating a piece of fruit; there were things that led up to it, both externally and internally.

Today I would like to consider how the sacred text speaks of the sin of Adam and differentiates it to some extent from that of Eve. Biblically, original sin is Adam’s sin, not Eve’s (cf Rom 5:12 inter al).

It is not that Eve did not sin, nor that her actions have no interest for us, but as the head of his household and of the human family, it is Adam who bore the responsibility and thereby incurred the “original sin,” which comes down to all of us.

Today’s post isn’t going to be very politically correct, because in striving to differentiate Eve’s sin from Adam’s I will take up a controversial text from St. Paul. It does not comport well with modern notions, so it is important to consider a couple of points before beginning.

First, we ought to remember that it is a sacred text, and even if St. Paul may draw some of his reflections on the cultural experience of his time, he also gives theological reasons for what he writes.

Second, this is only one text from one author. Further, what St. Paul says rather absolutely in the verse that follows, he qualifies to some extent in other writings.

With this in mind, let’s examine the controversial text and strive to see the distinctions between Adam’s sin and Eve’s. St. Paul writes,

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner (1 Tim 2:11b-14).

Upon reading the text like this, so astonishingly out of step with modern thinking, many are prone to dismiss it out of hand as a relic of a past dark age. It is debatable whether this edict that women should not teach or have authority over men was merely a disciplinary norm that need not be observed today. It is also debatable how absolute Paul’s words were, for Paul speaks elsewhere of women as catechists (e.g., Phoebe in Romans 16), spiritual leaders, and benefactors (e.g., Lydia in Acts 16) in the early church communities. And in Corinthians, he says that when a woman speaks in the assembly, she is to cover her head (1 Cor 11:5). So, what St. Paul says in his Letter to Timothy is distinguished elsewhere in a way that allows for women to both speak and teach the faith.

In the passage from Timothy, the context seems to be that of the family and marriage. St. Paul affirms the headship of the husband here just as he does in Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18 as does Peter in 1 Peter 3:1-6.

There is another text in which Paul speaks of women being silent in the church. The context in the following passage seems to be liturgical:

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church (1 Cor 14:34-35).

Here again, there is legitimate debate about how strictly the silence described in this passage is to be interpreted. Generally, Church practice has understood it to mean that women are not to give the official teaching in the liturgy that we refer to as the sermon or homily. This stricture has been observed from antiquity to the present day; the homily can only be given by a bishop, priest, or deacon. In more recent times women have been permitted to serve as lectors, cantors, and singers, but the official teaching moment of the homily is still reserved for the male clergy.

While some prefer to see St. Paul’s observations as cultural artifacts that can be adjusted, we need to see that Paul sets forth theological reasoning for the difference between Adam’s sin and Eve’s.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner (1 Tim 2:13-14).

St. Paul begins by saying that Adam was formed first, then Eve. So, here he teaches, as he does in other passages, that the husband has headship, authority. The husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the Church (Eph 5:22).

In terms of original sin, St. Paul says that Adam was not the one deceived, it was Eve who was deceived. Thus, St. Paul speaks of Eve’s sin as different from Adam’s. She was deceived and so sinned. Adam was not deceived; his sin lay elsewhere.

Eve herself speaks of her own deception: “The serpent tricked me and so I ate it” (Gen 3:13). Of Adam’s sin, God says, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it’ …” (Gen 3:17).  Thus, Adam’s sin lay in his willingness to allow his wife to tempt him. These sorts of teachings grate on modern ears, but this does not make them untrue.

Perhaps a little additional reflection may help to avoid knee-jerk reactions to either gloat or become angry. Adam’s and Eve’s sins are described differently and can also be understood as weaknesses to which each was particularly susceptible: she to deception, he to being swayed by Eve’s feminine mystique and beauty.

St. Paul does not simply ascribe these two weaknesses to Adam and Eve as individuals but also as male and female. Hence, St. Paul seems to teach that a woman ought not to have solemn teaching authority in the Church because of her tendency to be deceived.

Why might this be, that a woman could be more easily deceived? Perhaps it is rooted paradoxically in her strength. Women are more naturally spiritual and inclined to be a source of unity and peace in the family. While these are wonderful strengths, in certain circumstances they can provide an easy opening for deception. If one seeks to make peace too easily, one may compromise with error and sin; and though being open to spiritual things is of itself good, one should not be open to erroneous spiritual concepts.

Further, should a woman cede to these, she can have undue power over her husband and other men who may be drawn by her beauty into setting aside their better judgment.

To my mind, this is St. Paul’s point when he says that Eve was deceived and Adam was not, and therefore a woman cannot have teaching authority in the Church. There was a similar warning in ancient Israel that a man should not take a foreign wife because she might confuse his heart into the worship of her foreign gods. A man’s heart can easily be swayed by a beautiful and influential woman.

Addressing this double threat, St. Paul forbids women to have teaching authority in the Church and ties it back to the archetypal incident of Adam and Eve. Eve was deceived and then was able to seduce her husband to sin.

In modern times it may well be that St. Paul’s caution is affirmed by the problems in liberal Protestant denominations that have a large number of female leaders. It is these very denominations that have departed significantly from the orthodox Christian faith, denying basic tenets of the Trinity, moral teaching, and biblical interpretation. This was not caused solely by the presence of women in leadership roles, but there is a high correlation between denominations that have embraced women as leaders and departure from orthodox Christian beliefs.

Have I been politically incorrect enough for you? Please feel free to comment below, but keep in mind that the focus I am interested in is the different descriptions of the Adam’s sin and Eve’s sin.


Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: How Is Adam’s Sin Different From Eve’s?

26 Replies to “How Is Adam’s Sin Different From Eve’s?”

  1. Being politically correct is overrated, and certainly not as important as speaking the truth. I admit to having a hard time being submissive to my husband, but believe that IS what God expects of me(I am a work in progress!). Thank you, Msgr. Pope for always speaking the truth ‘in season and out,’ even when it is difficult to hear. You take your vocation to work for the salvation of souls seriously and your heart is always in the right place. I appreciate the lessons you teach here, so keep them coming, PC or not!

  2. It seems to be the same in politics.

    A couple of decades ago, they were saying that more women in politics would humanize politics and the social environment of the country here in Canada.

    We have more women than ever as ministers etc… and at the same time we have never had as much needs for food banks, kitchen soups etc… So, for many people, it does not seem to improve their living conditions having more women in the government.

    People are so confused, we must be in the end times. I am a firm believer in the prophecy of the popes. Francis being the last one, I really think Jesus is coming back soon.

    We have to pray Saint Jude and of course the Holy Rosary.

    God bless

    1. Michel, I would not recommend paying any attention to the Prophecy of the Popes. It is most likely a fraud. Thinking that Pope Francis is the last pope destroys hope. The ‘Prophecy’ is not clear if the last pope is actually number 112 at all.

      The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.

      Especially beware that some people are also adding to this fraud (note recent posting of a youtube video on Mystic Post that claims the last pope is also controlled by satan)

      Forget about it, and trust in God.

      1. Stephen,

        Of course, we cannot be 100% sure that a prophecy is accurate, but I do not think it is bad to believe it, to the contrary. I know there is a pope, I do not remember which one, who was saying that believing a prophecy can bring graces even if it turns out to be unaccurate.

        But, I have to humbly disagree that it is destroying hope to believe that Jesus is coming back soon.

        God bless

        1. Revelations 22: 17 indicates that we should be asking Jesus to come. Our life can end at any time, Jesus can come at any time. We have to be ready. We don’t need any Prophecy to know that, especially a fraud, a false prophecy.

          However expecting that Jesus will return in the next 10 to 20 years (the possible life expectancy of the Pope) is something totally different. We can make life decisions that may not be the best choice. We may stop trying to build the Church which may be needed for hundreds of years. (i.e. Hope to continue doing God’s work until the end with prayer and repentance)

          There would be no benefit in believing a false prophecy. A true prophecy may not happen due to prayer and repentance. There are therefore huge benefits in believing in a true prophecy that does not happen because we prayed with hope. There is an infinite difference here!

  3. I, for one, am grateful for your willingness to be politically incorrect and candid. This will surely grate on modern ears, as you said, but we must get over it and listen.

  4. Fr. Jim Nisbet, renowned Scripture teacher from Monterey Diocese, said that in the early church, women were often uneducated and would sit in the women’s section of the church across the aisle from the men’s section. Apparently, some women were rather shouting out questions to their husbands when they did not understand something and so St. Paul told them to go ask their husbands at home and not to speak in church. I also believe the great downfall of women pastors is that they seek that position to seek power, rather than answer a true call from God. Anyone, man or woman, who seeks a church position for the purposes of achieving power is a scourge upon the Body of Christ.

    1. “Now seeing the constancy of Peter and of John, understanding that they were illiterate and ignorant men, they wondered; and they knew them that they had been with Jesus.” — Acts 4:13

      So it can’t just be a matter of education.

      Bear in mind that there are interesting parallels between women and priests. It is especially repugnant for either to be targeted with violence, regardless of how brave or strong they may be; a gentleman removes his hat in the presence of either; one is (traditionally) expected to be more careful with the language used in the presence of either, etc. And of course, just as a priest cannot really become a woman, though he can mutilate himself physically and spiritually, a woman cannot become a priest, though she can mutilate herself spiritually.

  5. Thank you again, for the desire to engage hearts on these matters , considering our times .Readings in church now , on the ‘poverty of the spirit ‘ of The Kingdom , grace to discern the need to depend on God , to esp. include the desire for holiness – mistaking same for carnal desires and ego being what misled our First Parents as well .
    St.Peter who would have well known that truth , in mentioning Christian households, starts with the mention of the sufferings of The Lord , asking wives to be ‘likewise ‘, men to be so too , that in the midst of issues , calling forth for The Spirit , to bring forth the truth of the holiness God grants us can bear fruit , in some , even without a word .
    There is the need to know that seduction is not true love but the lie that what one is looking for cannot be hard by going to God , that one has to resort to sort of deceptive ways of filling the ego , at the expense of not cherishing the holiness and dignity granted in The Lord .

    Having heard that the Gregorian chant omits certain notes that came into the world only after The Fall , some of the mystery of the role of Adm , he would share with us , in the hereafter , starting with the omission of not guarding
    The Garden .
    ‘He has seen the lowliness of His handmaid ‘ – Bl.Mother , filled with grace ,
    yet , in wisdom well aware of the lowliness of the creature ; women too , through social circumstances , biological make up etc :, well suited to be aware of same need , to keep turning to The Lord , to help the husband in same as well, in the holiness and Father dignity The Lord wants to pour into him , thus to be given place of that honor , in turn, to receive same for oneself and for those in one’s life as well , that to include those in similar roles in The Church as well .

    In the midst of the many sad news , those in The Church being well aware that His mercy as holiness can be with the most broken hearted , the ‘poor in spirit ‘ . Thus , instead of shame or bitterness /scorn , the trust that through prayers and blessings , hopefully many others out there can be helped too ,
    who , willfully have chosen to deny own roles , to be instead under the false , seductive voices and roles , seeing same not for the mirage it is , in the
    sandy , dangerous deserts .
    The articles even in what used to be considered as respectable publications , instead seemingly well intent on wanting to portray The Church as a place under the totally depraved , thus need to just ‘mainstream ‘ their destructive agendas –
    reminding us of St.John Paul 11’s words that we are in the midst of the last and greatest battles ; the seductive voices telling The Church that there is not strength or holiness in The Lord seems to be the underlying theme .

    Thank God that the Shepherd’s voice , to be close to Him, in Adoration , is also being heeded by many , which is where Adam and Eve too would have been protected .

  6. As difficult as it might be to hear, I do think there is truth in what you are saying. I know from personal experience that women seem more drawn to spiritual “things” and can often be deceived by dabbling in New Age (chakras, yoga, crystals, etc.). I don’t find that to be as prevalent in men. I know many Christian women who mix what might actually be occult practices (or at least pagan) with Christianity and find nothing wrong with it.

  7. Karen, from an above post— I’m with you. Msgr Pope, please don’t be politically correct. We are hungry for truth.

    This post speaks to my Catholic woman’s heart and soul. The so called marginalization of women in the Church is a cancerous concept that eats away the peace and joy that comes with the equality and submission in marriage or living the religious life.

    Equality and submission are defined as opposites in our present world. Yet, scripture tells us differently with Jesus’ submission to his Father’s Will— yet, he remains equal to the Father. And the creation of male and female in the Image of the Trinity reflects that equality— same but different.

    Is the husband ordained by God to be the head of the family— Absolutely, Adam names his helper Woman, and later, Eve. Naming shows authority (that’s why we are discouraged from naming our Guardian Angels). Though both born equal Adam is given the responsibility of caring for the garden of which Eve is part of. Eve is to be his helper, an equal in the task at hand.

    In chapter 3 of Genesis Adam and Eve are told of the punishment due to their sin. Adam will have to toil, really sweat, to provide for his wife and care for the land. Eve will have Adam rule over her. These tasks will be difficult to do. Mind you, these very things had been part of their life in the Garden before the sin, but after the sin these very natural actions became difficult. In the temptation of Eve, she failed to look to her husband for help. In the case of Adam, he failed to protect the garden and his wife. These temptations continue to haunt us in our world today. They are encouraged and made to look good as the apple. Our very Church (those within) has listened to the “voice” of the feminists (Adam is punished for listening to the “voice” of his wife. Which is different from listening to his wife :o).

    As a wife of 35 years, there is great peace in working hard to look to my husband as head of the family— Is it hard to do so at times? Definitely! Is it worth my female struggle to be equal but submitting?— It makes for a good and peaceful life on our journey Home.

  8. Political correctness is a tool of relativism – another lie spewed by the devil himself.

    Didn’t G. K. Chesterton say something about the truth being true regardless of our willingness to accept it?

    May we all recall that Adam was not off organizing things in his toolshed when the Serpent was “romancing” Eve, he was standing next to her. Adam failed FIRST in his role as head of the family by not protecting her from these lies. He, like his wife, had the benefit of relationship with God, and rather than rely on God and trust in him, he stood silently by as his wife was tricked.

    Original sin was borne out of a failure to act. Adam knew or should have known what was happening right in front of him was wrong.

    And look at our Church and society today. How many evils have happened because good men did nothing? How many will continue to happen until they rightfully reclaim their positions of authority?

    1. I agree with your comments. Politically correct is a term when used in an introduction sets up the reader to the discussion. St. Paul was writing to his time audience not to our current situation in the church. Women in the church have often been what saves the church from its short comings.

  9. “female leaders [presumably this means pastors]. It is these very denominations that have departed significantly from the orthodox Christian faith, denying basic tenets of the Trinity, moral teaching, and biblical interpretation.”

    I do not think, from what I’ve seen, people should assume that association.

    It no doubt happens sometimes, but my experience is the opposite, that the 2 female pastors I heard preach pushed their churches back sharply towards orthodoxy, with such as putting faith into practice, and very strict adherence to the words of Christ, and similar.

    1. “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater.” Luke 16:10

  10. I’ve always wondered (i.e., I’ve been tempted to think) that Adam, realizing what Eve had done – disobeyed God’s command and thus incurred the punishment prescribed – that Adam felt sorry for her and ate so that she would not be “alone in her sin.”

    Of course, that means that Adam would have “chosen the woman he loved” over the God that loved him, so I’ll leave it to Scorsese to put that in his next opus.

    BTW, note that, as soon as Adam sins, he blames his wife.

    Case closed.

    1. They both past the blame on to another— nothing has changed. Few people cast the blame of wrong doings onto themselves. I wonder what would have happened had Adam taken on the blame and told God of his sorrow and repented.

  11. I have always thought that part of the issue was that God had told Adam to not eat of that tree. When Eve took it Adam should have stepped up to the plate and reminded her that were not to eat that fruit. Apparently Adam was there as the devil tempted her. Adam did not accept his responsibility.

    We seem to be In a similar situation with men stepping back and letting women take the lead. We are equal but different and when we assume another’s role we create an imbalance in nature. The very great role of women as mothers and wives has been made to appear as a lesser goal for women when in fact it is the highest goal of all.

  12. The article and some of the comments also help to see the wisdom of The Church in advocating male only priesthood as well as again need for headship of the man .
    The envy of the devil, from wanting to be the life bearer ,how that has set off a cascade can be discerned as the source of what we are dealing with .
    Persistence of that envy manifesting in various ways , thus not able to see the dignity and strength of being a true father , instead desiring to destroy that role in others , lusting after a mother role in degrading ( demonic ) manner and ways .
    God has thus given men the roles that are to powerfully counter such a fallen
    trait , starting with the headship in families as well as in The Church .
    In today’s readings , Eve is mentioned as saying -‘ I have brought forth a
    son ..’, such an attitude could only have added to any envy in Adam, if he had
    same .
    Cain shows the effects tragically .

    The headship issue , in our confused times could be better used if the role of being lectors is also exclusively given to men / boys ; the male voice also said to have God intended purposes in such .
    Women wearing veils too – to may be show the angels that there is no need to
    envy , since one is under authority ,since the fallen ones are after power and pride .

  13. it is Adam who bore the responsibility and thereby incurred the “original sin,” which comes down to all of us.

    Matthew 12:31 Therefore I say to you: Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 And whosoever shall speak a word against the SON OF MAN, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.

    Adam sinned against the Holy Spirit, who was given by God’s breath. But Eve did not receive the breath of God, hence, did not sin against the Holy Spirit, but against “THE WORD” Jesus’flesh body, THE SON OF MAN, the physical aspect, who was in her heart/soul, slain like a lamb from the beginning of the world.Rev.13:8. This is mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 12:32 above. Consequently, only Eve was allowed and predestined to be PHYSICALLY tempted directly by the PHYSICAL serpent, Satan, SINCE the conflict between God and Lucifer/Satan was regarding the state of the Flesh, whether spiritually alive with God, or hard and mortal with Satan. The fact that Eve became the mother of all the living in the FLESH, while Adam was the father of the spirit, who died buried in the flesh, which he inherited from Eve once became subject to her, and ignored the fact that he was ONLY subject to God, while Eve in that moment in time was already under control by Satan, the fact that God said to Adam:
    Genesis 3:17 And to Adam he said: Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife,…
    TO THE VOICE OF YOUR WIFE, not to your wife, which definitely, since she ate of the fruit and died, it was the voice of Satan, who occupied Eve’s heart. and became of stone.

    Also, God cannot be tempted. thus, Eve never had the Holy Spirit.

    This also occurred when Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert, where Jesus was not in the power or state of the Holy Spirit, but as an ordinary man during those forty days, in order to be tempted by Satan. Well indicated by Jesus in

    Matthew 4:7 Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

    The fact that since the church is run by the Holy Spirit, WOMEN can never be priests. At least that’s how I see it.

    1. That is some pretty … unique scriptural reasoning, and I do not find it consonant with the public and enumerated truths and traditions of the Faith (including the salvation of Adam) and the orthodox interpretations of the Scriptures I am aware of. Please correct me if you can point to someone.

    2. “This also occurred when Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert, where Jesus was not in the power or state of the Holy Spirit, but as an ordinary man during those forty days, in order to be tempted by Satan”

      This sounds a bit like Arianism.

  14. The wisdom in the pronouncements of God after The Fall also make deeper sense ;
    the pride of the enemy who wanted to usurp the life bearing role of Eve is going to be destroyed by the seed of The Woman ; the labor pains of the woman would be more, may be to counter the envious desire for child bearing , that could have come into Adam from that same spirit of envy ,related to The Fall and any false pride in the woman also countered , with her seeing her need for the man ; he would have to work harder ,to bring forth fruit from Mother earth , taking pride in same , also to not forget his humble origins .
    The awareness of His mercy and remedy in such to help us to be free from the tendency to point fingers – at God , as our First Parents did , instead to be filled with praise and gratitude .
    Let us hope that in the current crisis too, God would bring forth the goodness through the poverty of spirit it can instill – a ‘poor Church ‘ , as prohesied , to help us to call on The Father , in all the ways He has made it possible , that all get to produce the fruits in abundance , in being filled with His Spirit .

  15. I wonder if perhaps Eve’s sin (being deceived into eating the forbidden fruit) is perhaps not sinful per se, as being deceived may lack culpability. If Eve were not previously exposed to deception and lies, how would she know to be on guard against them?

    Adam, however, was not deceived. He knew Eve had broken God’s commandment, and there was no trickery involved in following Eve’s example.

    My thoughts are not theologically literate, but I wonder if it is akin to the difference between venial and mortal sin. Eve’s lacked full knowledge, while Adam’s didn’t. Venial sin does not destroy the relationship with God, while Mortal sin (by its nature) does.

  16. I’ve sometimes wondered if the difference between Adam and Eve’s sin is the same as the difference between venial and mortal sin and the difference between the natural and supernatural orders. Was Eve’s sin venial, and Adam’s mortal? Did Eve have supernatural/sanctifying grace or was she to receive it from Adam? If so, Adam, not Eve, lost supernatural grace and is credited with original sin. Just my thoughts.

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