The Myth of the Absent Husband

The Myth of the Absent Husband

The story of the temptation and fall (Genesis 3:1-7) is one of the stories that sustains some complentarians and advocates of male leadership and authority. I use “myth” here in the partial technical sense of a story that explains and reinforces a cultural norm.

In particular, people point out that Eve was taken in by the snake because she didn’t as her husband or because he wasn’t with her. I’ve heard sermons based on these points. Don’t leave you husband! Follow his leadership! Look what happened to Eve! The same sorts of things can be said about consultation. But these views are not supported by the text itself. They are, I believe, examples of reading the white spaces.

The problem is that nowhere in the story is it specified that Adam was not present, nor is it stated that Adam did not discuss the matter with Eve. The story itself is typical of Hebrew narrative, especially in the Pentateuch. It is short and to the point, with no unneeded words.

When Eve does share the food with her husband, it says that she gave it to him “with her.” Now it’s interesting that when I was taught this very early, I remember being told that Eve went to look for her husband and then passed him the fruit, thus reinforcing her aloneness and leaving open the option that male leadership principles have been violated. In case you think I’m making this up, and since I grew up Seventh-day Adventist, let me quote Ellen White on the matter:

The angels had cautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupied in their daily labor in the garden; with him she would be in less danger from temptation than if she were alone. But absorbed in her pleasing task, she unconsciously wandered from his side. On perceiving that she was alone, she felt an apprehension of danger, but dismissed her fears, deciding that she had sufficient wisdom and strength to discern evil and to withstand it. . . . (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 53)

And again:

. . . And now, having herself transgressed, she became the agent of Satan in working the ruin of her husband. In a state of strange, unnatural excitement, with her hands filled with the forbidden fruit, she sought his presence, and related all that had occurred. (ibid, p. 56)

That is, of course, entirely gleaned from the white spaces. The text actually suggests that the two of them were together, and gives no indication that Adam objected, or was any more concerned than his wife. The idea that Adam was tempted by Eve comes not from the story of the actual temptation, but from Adam’s excuse.

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