Was Adam with Eve when the serpent tempted her?
Personally, I do not believe so, but there are some Catholic intellectuals such as Msgr. Charles Pope who states that Adam was indeed present, even though Cornelius à Lapide, S.J. in his Commentary on Genesis believed in the opposite point of view, which is the traditional Catholic viewpoint.
Nevertheless, this as yet seems to be an open question.
Now a look at Scripture:
Genesis 3 deals with the fall of Adam and Eve.
- Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? - Genesis 3:1
- And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. - Genesis 3:4
- And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat. - Genesis 3:6
St. Paul adds:
- But I fear lest, as the serpent seduced Eve by his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted, and fall from the simplicity that is in Christ. - 2 Corinthians 11:3
- And Adam was not seduced; but the woman being seduced, was in the transgression. - 1 Timothy 2:14
While in the seminary, it was generally accepted that Adam was not present at Eve’s temptation by Satan.
The “Complexity” of Original Sin – When we think of the first sin we tend to think of it as simply the eating of a forbidden fruit. But I want to suggest to you that the first sin was a little more complicated than that and thus involves Adam a little more we commonly think.
Adam had been placed in the Garden and, even prior to Eve’s creation, been told to work the garden and keep it (Gen 2:15). Some translations say he is to work in and guard it. After the creation of Eve and at the moment of temptation we see that Eve has something of a long conversation with the devil wherein he spars with her to cause her to be tempted and ultimately to fall.
Now during this time where is Adam? He would seem to be far off since nothing is said by him. But the text quite remarkably discloses that he was standing right next to her the whole time she converses with Satan! (Gen 3:6). Why this silence from Adam? One would expect Adam to say to Satan, “Why are you speaking with my wife?….What are you saying to her?……Why are you trying to mislead her….?” One would further expect Adam to retort what Satan was saying and defend his wife from this temptation and error. Surely Eve should not have had to answer the Devil all on her own. She does well to begin but then grows weak under the onslaught. Why does Adam not step in to protect and augment his wife’s strength? Why does he not assist her in this struggle and help defend against this threat? Is his silence not part of the first sin? Is his omission not integral to the fall of them both?
Adam had an obligation to rebuff Satan and guard his wife and the garden. But he is passive. As head of the house he has the first responsibility to defend his household from all error, sin and threat. Eve should not have had to face the devil and answer him alone. He was worse than useless, his silence gave strength to Satan’s arguments. Eve is not without sin but Adam has failed miserably to assist Eve and provide the support she needs and deserves.
Now, dear reader, permit my flourishes here. After all I am a preacher at heart and preachers love hyperbole. I admit some excess in my cross-examination but also stand by its basic point which is that the first sin involved more than eating the fruit. That was its culmination. But complicit silence from Adam was integral to the fall as well. It set the stage for the first sin. In this sense too, the first sin is fittingly called the “Sin of Adam.”
Well, enough said by me. Have at it. Add other points. Distinguish what I have already set forth or wholly reject it if you wish. But ponder with me why, when original sin is called by name, it is called, “the Sin of Adam?”
On the other hand, Satan knew full well Adam would not have listened to him and had to tempt Eve when she was alone. Within Catholicism, this is the most popular opinion being held (Adam was not present). The reason that the serpent attacked Eve when she was alone and away from Adam is that she was more likely to be tempted than Adam. Adam had heard God's command directly from God (Genesis 2:16-17), but Eve received the command indirectly through Adam (her creation is described subsequently in 2:22).
Ambrose of Milan (4th c.) explained:
[The devil] aimed to circumvent Adam by means of the woman. He did not accost the man who had in his presence received the heavenly command. He accosted her who had learned of it from her husband and who had not received from God the command which was to be observed. There is no statement that God spoke to the woman. We know that He spoke to Adam. Hence we must conclude that the command was communicated through Adam to the woman.
On Paradise, Ch. XII
In the Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, she placed Adam not at the scene of the crime so to speak.
Again I saw Adam on the shining hill upon which God had formed the woman from a rib of his side as he lay buried in sleep. He stood alone under the trees lost in gratitude and wonder. I saw Eve near the Tree of Knowledge, as if about to pass it, and with her that same animal more wily and sportive than ever. Eve was charmed with the serpent; she took great delight in it. It ran up the Tree of Knowledge until its head was on a line with hers. Then clinging to the trunk with its hind feet, it moved its head toward hers and told her that, if she would eat of the fruit of that tree, she would no longer be in servitude, she would become free, and understand how the multiplication of the human race was to be effected. Adam and Eve had already received the command to increase and multiply, but I understood that they did not know as yet how God willed it to be brought about. I saw, too, that had they known it and yet sinned after that knowledge, Redemption would not have been possible. Eve now became more thoughtful. She appeared to be moved by desire for what the serpent had promised. Something degrading took possession of her. It made me feel anxious. She glanced toward Adam, who was still quietly standing under the trees. She called him, and he came.
Eve started to meet him, but turned back. There was a restlessness, a hesitancy about her movements. Again she started, as if intending to pass the tree, but once more hesitated, approached it from the left, and stood behind it, screened by its long, pendent leaves. The tree was broader above than below, and its wide, leafy branches drooped to the ground. Just within Eve's reach hung a remarkably fine bunch of fruit.
And now Adam approached. Eve caught him by the arm and pointed to the talking animal, and he listened to its words. When Eve laid her hand on Adam's arm, she touched him for the first time. He did not touch her, but the splendor around them grew dim.
I saw the animal pointing to the fruit, but he did not venture to snap it off for Eve. But when the longing for it arose in her heart, he broke off and handed her the central and most beautiful piece of the clustering five.
And now I saw Eve draw near to Adam, and offer him the fruit. Had he refused it, sin would not have been committed. I saw the fruit break, as it were, in Adam's hand. He saw pictures in it, and it was as if he and Eve were instructed upon what they should not have known. The interior of the fruit was blood-red and full of veins. I saw Adam and Eve losing their brilliancy and diminishing in stature.
It is not just only Catholic opinion that Adam was not present when Eve was tempted by the Devil. John Calvin stated the following in his commentary:
“And gave also unto her husband with her. From these words, some conjecture that Adam was present when his wife was tempted and persuaded by the serpent, which is by no means credible. Yet it might be that he soon joined her, and that, even before the woman tasted the fruit of the tree, she related the conversation held with the serpent, and entangled him with the same fallacies by which she herself had been deceived. Others refer the particle (immah,)“with her,” to the conjugal bond, which may be received. But because Moses simply relates that he ate the fruit taken from the hands of his wife, the opinion has been commonly received, that he was rather captivated with her allurements than persuaded by Satan’s impostures. For this purpose the declaration of Paul is adduced,
‘Adam was not deceived, but the woman.’ (1 Timothy 2:14).
But Paul in that place, as he is teaching that the origin of evil was from the woman, only speaks comparatively. Indeed, it was not only for the sake of complying with the wishes of his wife, that he transgressed the law laid down for him; but being drawn by her into fatal ambition, he became partaker of the same defection with her. And truly Paul elsewhere states that sin came not by the woman, but by Adam himself, (Romans 5:12). Then, the reproof which soon afterwards follows ‘Behold, Adam is as one of us,’ clearly proves that he also foolishly coveted more than was lawful, and gave greater credit to the flatteries of the devil than to the sacred word of God.” - Was Adam With Eve When She Spoke to the Serpent?
It is interesting that the first temptation of Adam and Eve and that of Our Lord both involved food. It is almost as if the Devil is unable to tempt one with food (a basic necessity), he is not likely to succeed with serious temptations in other domains!
In any case, the Church has not pronounced on this subject matter in one way or another.
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