Eve Deceived

There has been a fair amount of discussion on the question of whether Eve was deceived or not, as Paul says in 1 Tim 2:14. Books have been written, vociferous posts have gone back and forth, and apostles have been quoted. I’ve heard well-meaning Mormons dismiss the 1 Tim 2:14 verse as the only verse that supported the idea that Eve was misled, suggesting that in this case Paul was mistaken. Instead, the perspective is put forward that we should interpret Eve’s actions as courageous and done with foresight.

This is clearly a tricky topic, ripe for misogyny. I’m somewhat sympathetic to George Bernard Shaw’s claim that Paul is the “eternal enemy of women” (cited by Pagels, JAAR 42 [1974] 538) because Eve’s actions are so frequently interpreted as carrying implications for all women (a view I disagree with, btw). It will take another post to discuss the appropriateness of Eve’s actions; here, I want to show that (1) there is substantial textual support for what Paul says, based on the Old Testament account, and (2) other Standard Works confirm Paul’s assertion. Let me try and outline both points.

First, the textual evidence strongly supports Paul’s choice of words, since he is basically just quoting Eve herself.  In Genesis 3:13, Eve says “The serpent beguiled me”; the Hebrew for the word “beguile”  in Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary of the Old Testament is as follows:

5377aÎvÎn nasha}, naw-shaw´; a primitive root; to lead astray, i.e. (mentally) to delude, or (morally) to seduce:—beguile, deceive, x greatly, x utterly.

Another translation translates this as “The serpent deceived me,” and the dictionary entry it uses reflects this:

New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible / Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary

5378 . aDvÎn nasha [674a]; a prim. root; to beguile, deceive:—come deceitfully(1), deceive(8), deceived(4), deluded(1), utterly(1).  

Some have argued that this word could have more benign translations, such as to divert or to amuse or even to fill with wonder. This seems unlikely. This Hebrew word is used with this meaning 14 times in the Old Testament; the other 13 times the KJV translators chose “deceive” rather than “beguile”; courtesy of Accordance I’ve put a list of these at the end if any care to review them (while I can’t read Hebrew, I do trust Accordance, and I welcome corrections/insight from others with Hebrew expertise). 

Interestingly, the Septuagint chooses to also use the Greek word for “deceive” here in describing this interaction between the serpent and Eve. The LXX for Gen 3:13 uses the word hjpa¿thse÷n, epatesen, which root Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament says means:

538. ajpata¿w apatao, ap-at-ah´-o; of uncertain derivation; to cheat, i.e. delude: — deceive.

Importantly, this is precisely the same word that Paul uses in 1 Tim 2:14. In short, when Paul says Eve was deceived, he is quoting Eve in Genesis 3:13. Of note, he does this again, in  2 Cor 11:3: 

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”   

The same Greek word is used here as well.

So, to summarize my first point, Paul uses the exact Greek word that is used by the Septuagint in describing this interaction, and that in the Hebrew OT is translated in the KJV as “deceive” 13 times and “beguile” once.

Let’s move to my second point. One might argue that the text was not correct in the KJV recording of Genesis. However, we have at least four versus in modern revelation that re-affirm that the serpent beguiled or deceived Eve:

Moses 4:19
And I, the Lord God, said unto the woman: What is this thing which thou hast done? And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
2 Nephi 9:9
And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.
Mosiah 16:3
For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.
Ether 8:25
For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

So Paul is not only quoting Eve, but using the same words that Jacob, Abinidi, Moroni, and Eve again all use, as recorded by Moses and Joseph Smith. Quite consistent. I won’t discuss the Endowment ceremony, except to say it strongly supports my point as well.

In short, to postulate that Eve made the decision to partake of the forbidden fruit because of foresight as to how this would allow us all to come in to mortality and would be fulfilling God’s plan is simply is not supported by the seven versus that say otherwise. Gen 3:13, 2 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:14, 2 Nephi 9:9, Mosiah 16:3, Ether 8:25, and Moses 4:19 all indicate that Eve (and in three cases Adam, interestingly) was tricked / deceived / beguiled by the devil.

Of course, the outcome was as God foresaw, and Mormons believe it was a Good Thing — just as God foresaw the crucifixion, which was also a Good Thing (in the big scheme of things). But to argue that Eve should be described as prescient about her decision is logically no more supportable than arguing that the crucifiers or Judas Iscariot were prescient of their choices.

I’m aware that there are modern apostle quotes that can be interpreted as either for or against the idea that Eve was deceived (Elders Nelson and Oaks versus Elder Talmage, among others, quoted in the earlier ‘nacle discussions). However, as best I can tell, none of these discussions or discourses actually engage the texts that I’ve cited. None of them indicate that they are explicitly either endorsing or rejecting these texts that so frequently and clearly state that Eve was beguiled/deceived. If a modern-day apostle is now saying that Genesis/Moses, Paul, Jacob, Moroni, and Abinidi all are wrong, of course that’s possible, we believe in modern-day revelation. However, in general modern revelation tends to confirm, rather than contradict, scripture. As we continue to think about Eve’s actions, it seems reasonable to keep in mind how frequently scripture states that she was deceived.


Here’s the Hebrew behind the 14 times the word “deceive/beguile” appears; 13 times it is translated as “deceive.”
Gen. 3:13
  lEkOaÎw yˆnA ayIÚvIh vDjÎ…nAh hDÚvIaDh
2Kings 18:29…whÎ¥yIq◊zIj MRkDl ayIÚvÅy_lAa JKRlR;mAh
2Kings 18:29  …whÎ¥yIq◊zIj MRkDl ayIÚvÅy_lAa JKRlR;mAh  
2Kings 19:10   ÔKyRhølTa ÔKS aIÚvÅy_lAa rOmaEl 
Is. 19:13  …woVtIh POn yérDc …waVÚvˆn NAoOx yérDc …wlSawøn 
Is. 36:14  …whÎ¥yIq◊zIj MRkDl aIÚvÅy_lAa JKRlR;mAh  
Is. 37:10   ÔKyRhølTa ÔKS aIÚvÅy_lAa rOmaEl 
Jer. 4:10  MDoDl DtaEÚvIh aEÚvAh NEkDa hˆwh◊y yÎnOdSa 
h‰ΩzAh MDoDl DtaEÚvIh aEÚvAh NEkDa hˆwh◊y 
Jer. 29:8  MRkyEayIb◊n MRkDl …wayIÚvÅy _lAa lEa∂rVcˆy yEhølTa 
Jer. 37:9  rOmaEl MRkyEtOvVpÅn …waIÚvA;t_lAa hÎwh◊y rAmDa  
Jer. 49:16  ÔKR;bIl Nwød◊z JKDtOa ayIÚvIh ÔKV;tVxAlVpI;t 
Obad. 1:3   oAlR;s_y´w◊gAjVb yˆnVkOv ÔKRayIÚvIh ÔKV;bIl Nwød◊z 
Obad. 1:7  ÔKVl …wlVkÎy ÔK…wayIÚvIh ÔKRtyîrVb yEv◊nAa  
2Chr. 32:15  …whÎ¥yIq◊zIj MRkVtRa ayIÚvÅy_lAa hD;tAo◊w 

(The word is used another 6 times with another meaning, “to be in debt,” but I don’t think that is relevant here.)


23 Replies to “Eve Deceived”

  1. Thoughtful post. It seems from a reading of the book of Moses that Eve was deceived, but then after eating the fruit and experiencing some of the consequences, particularly after being visited by the angel who taught them about the Atonement, she and Adam then understood the benefit of the decision to eat the fruit.

  2. I think one way of reconciling the issue – suggested by what you didn’t discuss – is that Eve was deceived about dying but not about doing the right thing (i.e. gaining knowledge) I vaguely recall a few GAs promoting that view. The idea that the devil was lying with a half-truth.

    The whole issue of the necessity of the fall is an interesting one. There’s just so much odd about the Gen 2 account and its variations.

  3. Say it ain’t so!

    I realize that the purpose of this piece was to examine the “facts” of the situation, as it were, and not the implications of those facts. But I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on the latter.

    You explicitly disavow the notion that “Eve’s actions… [carry] implications for all women,” by which I’m assuming you meant that we can’t say all women are bad because Eve was bad, or a temptress, etc. But what about the implications for Eve herself? If what you say is true, is she bad? I think we can assume from the temple that we should see ourselves relating to her in some way. Is she to be our hero? Or do we feel a kinship with her because she is awful and fallen, and so are we?

  4. Interesting. It seems to me that much of the angst about Eve’s deception comes from the idea that this is what brought about the current human condition. Do you think that the relevant NT texts on the human condition assert only this idea? And do you think that the author of 1 Tim (or Paul, in 2 Cor) is clearing up a misconception about Gen 1-3, or that he’s using a shared understanding of Gen 1-3 as a prooftext to resolve some other issue?

  5. Hmm. Thank you for the comments and I perceive attempts to pull me in further…danger, Will Robinson… My understanding of the Fall remains tentative, hence my post’s search for something sort of like ‘solid ground,’ even if it is only a small piece of ground. Venturing further is risky…

    #3, I do think that Eve’s actions hold lessons for me/us. Part of what I draw from how Eve was tricked is how common it is for us to be deceived: deception is a fundamental strategy in the darkness/light struggle. Reminds me to be more alert to deception.

    Correct, I don’t think Eve was bad (or all women, thanks for the cartoon). I think she was tricked, and we get tricked, often by our own desires, even righteous ones.

    Mogget, I’m reluctant to speculate much yet in this direction given how much has been written on these verses and how unfamiliar I am with that body of work. My inclination is that like in other Pauline Epistles, he is calling on past scripture to support his current prescriptions. So the latter of your suggestions — he’s using a shared understanding of Eve’s actions, not reinterpreting the Gen 1-3 story in a way that would be seen as new to his readers/listeners. What do you think? Other relevant NT texts on the human condition do seem to only briefly touch on the origin of the human condition.

    I find the centrality of the Fall story in LDS doctrine to be fascinating, on many levels. A fruitful area for future postings…

  6. It seems Mogget has already noted that Paul probably (according to the current scholarly concensus) didn’t write 1 Timothy (as opposed to 2 Cor.), so you may want to consider the possible implications that that fact may have on how one views *Paul’s* position(s) on woman/women in general, or the creation story involving Eve in Gen 2.4b onward in particular. Clearly the quote from 2 Cor. is still up for discussion, however.

    I am no NT scholar (Mogget help!), but I recall some articles/books (porbably by Ben Witherington) eluciadating various important roles that women played in early Christianity in general, and in Pauline churches in particular. Maybe someone (Julie!) could provide references to some relevant articles/books of interest.

    Anyway, sorry if I am derailing where you were intending to take this convsersation!

    Best wishes,


  7. “Eve’s actions are so frequently interpreted as carrying implications for all women (a view I disagree with, btw)”

    Do you disagree because you don’t think that the scriptures support this view, or because you don’t like the idea? If you are willing to accept that Eve was deceived on the basis of what the text “says,” it seems that you are bound to accept the view that all women are responsible for the fall and share in the punishment given in Gen 3. Many of the texts you cite here suggest precisely that all women are responsible. Why accept one and not the other?

  8. Secco,
    You;re bound to get responses evoking Beverly Campbell’s book, “Eve and the Choice Made in Eden.” You can get the cliff notes version here:


    Anyway, doesn’t the Lord tell us what the reasons were for Eve wanting to eat of the fruit? Gen 3:6.

    She saw that the fruit was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and desired to make one wise. There is no mention of bringing about children nor fulfilling God’s purposes, etc.

  9. Secco,

    First, you make me grin!! It is posts such as yours that remind us that characterizing some strands of LDS thought as “plain” in the context of “plain and precious things” requires a bit of nuance.

    Second, I see that TT and I might be headed in much the same direction. If you want to reject the implications you find objectionable, you might want to point out what features of the text make it problematic to consider it as normative. This means you’ll want to engage the texts in their historical and literary contexts from within the current (modern) situation of Christianity.

    For example, in 2 Cor 11:4, Paul does say that Eve was deceived, but how does he really use the idea? With respect to 1 Tim 2:14, what challenge is the Pastor working on? Does he base his comments about women on something integral to the gospel? Or perhaps on something else? And how good is his reading of Genesis? Given the description of the entity who deceived Eve, is it reasonable to suggest that she was/is stupid?

    I’m convinced that Eve was deceived, but why should I, a thoroughly Modern Mogget, care?

    (Except that we need to point out the harm that verse has done…!)

  10. There’s a lot here but I’ll just go for the low-hanging fruit (ha!) that others have mentioned: you can’t make this argument without addressing the fact that no serious scholars would confidently assert that Paul wrote 1 Timothy.

    Yellow Dart, there’s so much literature on women in early Christianity that it is hard to know what to recommend, but something like Schussler Fiorenza’s _In Memory of Her_ might be good.

  11. Since I brought up the issue of pseudonymous authorship, I suppose I should say something more about it…

    Regardless of who the author of 1 Tim might be, it is canonical and so I don’t think we can dismiss it out of hand for that reason. If we think the Pastorals are not Paul’s, then we still ought to approach them seriously and ask in what sense they reflect an authentic interpretation of Paul.

    In addition, Luke Timothy Johnson’s Anchor Bible commentary on the Pastorals does read them as authentic Pauline letters.

  12. I’m with Clark–yes, she was deceived, but what was she deceived _about_? I dislike Talmage’s assertion that she was just captivated, like a child shown a toy store, and grabbed at the pretty thing (knowledge, being like God). And really, Satan didn’t deceive her in that. But he did say that she wouldn’t die. And she did. So my feeling is that she mostly knowingly took a risk–knowing there would be sorrow, knowing that God’s commandments to her had been contradictory (don’t eat the fruit, multiply & replenish). Maybe she believed serpent’s word that she wouldn’t die because that made the leap seem a little less frightening, even though God had already told her otherwise.

  13. Thank you all for the comments! It’s fun to see how differently this post has been interpreted compared to what I _thought_ I said :-), and how much attention a parenthetical has received. Blogging is fun :-)!

    So, first, to get it out of the way: yes, Dart and Julie, I agree there are good reasons to consider that the author of 1 Timothy (the Pastor, as Mogget calls him/her) might not be Paul. But I did not consider authorship relevant to this discussion, and I still don’t, which is why I didn’t nibble on Mogget’s very gently dangled initial bait. Indeed, the very gist of my argument is that there are many places in our canon stating that Eve was deceived. I don’t see how it is relevant whether it is Paul or another author is the one making the claim in 1 Tim, or even if the other six verses were written by the named authors or a pseudonymous writer; typically when a message is repeated this many times in scripture, our confidence in it is high.

    As a side note (which I can see are the ones that get me in trouble!) while intellectually the process of deciphering authorship is as much fun as a good mystery novel, most of the time I find myself more on the Childs/Alter side of the deconstruction aisle, choosing the more difficult task of facing up to the whole canon as we’ve received it. As Mogg points out, no one is proposing taking 1 Timothy out of the canon, so whether it was the Pastor or Paul speaking in 1 Tim 2:14 might be relevant in some discussions – but not in this one.

    Furthermore, in many Mormon contexts making the distinction between “Paul” and “the author of 1 Timothy” can come across as sort of show-offish, even condescending, so I’ve generally reverted to treating it the way I do the BC/AD versus BCE/CE debate: if you feel strongly about it, sure, I can go along with it, but it’s not something I get worked up about anymore. If it’s important to you-all that no matter what the context, I be careful to say, “the author of the Fourth Gospel” instead of “John,” then fine, I can do that if I really must. I simply find it more efficient and less distracting to say, “Matthew,” as a surrogate term for what I am happy to concur is frequently a much more complex and nuanced issue, and save the space and energy for the point at hand (unless that point is textual deconstruction).

    Tim, yes, you’ll find that the “Books have been written…” link in my second sentence of the original post links to Campbell’s book, so yes, I’m aware of it. It’s an argument that’s been around for a long time, and it is her sort of argument that prompted my initial post: stating that Eve’s actions were prescient is contradicted by multiple scriptural texts. 1 Tim 2:14 is the one that uses the word “deceived,” so it has gotten the most attention, but to restate my point, lots of verses support this assessment. And Clark and fMhA, Eve’s (and Adam’s) reaction to God’s query as to their actions seems to make it clear that Adam and Eve understood that they had clearly gone against God’s wishes.

    As for “rejecting the texts [I] find objectionable,” I’m not sure where I’ve done that. I think TT and Mogget are taking my parenthesis that Eve’s deception does not mean all women are deceived as somehow rejecting a text somewhere, to which I ask, huh? what text would that be? TT, what text says “all women are responsible for the fall,” as your comment states? Not even sure Paul/The Pastor seems to be saying that in 1 Tim 2, though I agree he says things we now ignore (trivial example: wearing pearls, v 9).

    But do I agree that our current culture does make it hard to have a “plain” conversation about Eve, for as Shaw, Moggett, and so many others have noted, 1 Tim 2 has been used, and continues to be used, to justify some terrible treatment of women. Those centuries of mistreatment color all discussions about the Eve story, and I guess you all are correct; I can’t really ignore that elephant, much as I might like to suppress it. And the “current (modern) situation of Christianity” is included in this IMHO: we in the Church too frequently take this foundational story farther than the text suggests, perhaps even the opposite of what the text says. I lament that the story of Eve has been used to justify the mistreatment of women. But Campbell’s argument that Eve was prescient falls flat on its face. We can and should do better. (I’m working on it, hopefully some of you are too… )

  14. Secco,

    As my initial comment states, recognizing problems with authorship is relevant for potentially determining what *Paul’s views* are on women in general, and Eve in particular. That’s all I said, and that’s all I meant. Inasmuch as the person of Paul himself is relevant to the topic of this post I thought it was worth mentioning.

    Further, as I said, the quote from 2 Cor. is still up for discussion; but there is more about woman/women in 1 Tim 2 than simply that Eve was “deceived”, and Paul should not necessarily be labeled “the eternal enemy of women” for it.

    Best wishes,


  15. Very fair point, TYD. Sorry for the overstatement. “Paul” and “the corpus of work attributed to the apostle Paul” sometimes blur together in my usage out of convenience. I don’t know how to assess Paul the individual apostle’s views on women (and certainly not his eternal views 🙂 ) but I concur that the views on women expressed in 1 Tim and 2 Cor sure seem different. Thanks again for your comments.

  16. It should be noted that the Greek and Hebrew transliterations in the post above are completely useless. I am afraid that non-unicode texts do not enter the web-world very well.

    I think that we all agree that this is a theologically loaded issue, which is why I think that both Mogget and I are pushing you to examine the theological motives for the interpretions offered in the text. These texts begin with the assumption that Eve was deceived in order to make a point, in some cases a rather strong point as in 1 Tim 2. Eve’s deception is the basis for why women should remain silent, submissive, and child-bearing. Rather than treating Eve’s deception as a bare fact, we should investigate how this interpretation is mobilized for different ends. Perhaps we will discover that this “fact” is mobilized for a variety of different ends, perhaps including some that we might even find liberating.

    For instance, consider some of the non-canonical accounts of the fall, which take the Genesis story quite literally, including Eve’s deception, but the serpent is the hero and God is the villain. While other stories start with the assumption that God is good, these texts expose that this is an interpretive choice, not a self-evident truth.

    For me, what this points to is that we need to pay attention to how a story is used, and examine those assumptions, not simply what a text seems to say. It may turn out that what a text “says” and what its assumptions are become entirely incompatible with how else we interpret the text. Another quick example is that Paul’s condemnation of “homosexuality” is actually a condemnation of effeminate men, which would include stay-at-home dads. We can’t selectively decide that we are going to accept one assumption of Paul’s and reject another without some good hermeneutical work.

  17. Hello, Secco!

    As I was lying in bed last night I was thinking that perhaps we had not played together very nicely in your sandbox. So here are some nice, chaste, Mogget kisses….

    TT is right, I am nudging you in the direction of contextualizing your readings. With respect to texts that highlight Eve’s gullibility and her precedence in the Edenic disobedience, I am gently nudging you in a specific direction. Why do we need to sort this story out so badly?

    I find myself less and less convinced that it plays an integral role in the gospel:

    *We can talk about the origins of the human condition without it; in Romans, it is Adam’s disobedience that is the issue and in the Gospels Jesus NEVER expresses his mission in relationship to the Fall.

    *With respect to 1 Tim 2, Eve’s activity is a proof text. We can certainly talk about the need for culturally appropriate gender relationships without getting into Genesis.

    *Eve’s deception and transgression were hot topics in the milieu of the NT so it is surprising that it doesn’t come up more often than it does. Did the majority of the NT authors realize that it was an inappropriate model for gender relationships between disciples?

    So I think you’ve raise a good point: Mormons spend a lot of time thinking and writing about Genesis 1-3 and Eve, and much less on texts such as Galatians 3. Why is that? What, in our little corner of Christianity, is it really supporting? And is it something that could be supported in other ways?

  18. Hi to TT and Mogget (et al),

    Thanks for your patience with me and kind nudgings/remarks/etc. Sorry I’m so slow to get your hints. In my defense…It’s funny: I did not intend this as a post about 1 Tim 2. Not really about a single reading of any text at all. Instead, I was responding to the Beverly Cambell argument — ‘canonized’ in an unfortunate sort of way in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism — that Eve was prescient. That just didn’t strike me as supportable given all the scriptures that say otherwise. That’s the (only) point. 1 Tim 2 is a flashpoint of conflict about Eve’s knowledge, so that’s why I picked it.

    Given your comments, though, I will try to respond to at least a couple, over the next days. You’ve laid out some provocative questions, and so I hope to try to respond thoughtfully (with some more time); already I can think of a brief incident as a student in a locked psychiatric unit, and, separately, a very insightful reading by a Catholic scholar that are the seeds of responses to a couple of your questions.

    In brief, I think we actually do need to sort out this story, it’s unavoidable, and it merits our attention. Thanks for pushing for a more thoughtful, encompassing approach. Oh, and sorry about the fonts, they worked really well in my browsers…

  19. Hi Secco,

    Once again, I found myself lying in bed thinking that I have not yet found a nice, collegial, proper “Mogget tone” from which to interact with you. So your patience and thoughtful responses as we talk about these things reflects very well on your character and intelligence. It is I who am learning from you in more ways than you likely appreciate right now.

    In any case, I do agree that we cannot afford to ignore these issues, so have at it!


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