Common Scriptures in Review: Genesis 3:12

RayMormon 21 Comments

There is frequent debate and disagreement about exactly what transpired in the Garden of Eden relative to the partaking of the forbidden fruit.  There are those who interpret the entire account allegorically – who come up with widely varying ways to liken it unto themselves.  However, even among those who read it literally, there are widely differing ways that the actions and statements are perceived.

One of the most often discussed verses, with the most wildly divergent perspectives, is Genesis 3:12, where Adam is quoted as saying:

The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

One common interpretation of this verse it to criticize Adam for passing the buck – for blaming the woman (and, by some interpretations, even God) for his actions.  However, when the words themselves are parsed strictly for what they actually say (especially when the PofGP version is considered), I believe a very different message and statement appears.

1) “The woman whom thou gavest [me]”

It is apparent in this phrase that Adam was referencing how he came to be with Eve – that they were together because God made it happen.

2) “to be with me [and commanded that she should remain with me]”

It is apparent in this phrase that Adam was referencing what God had told him about Eve – that they were commanded to stay together.  It also is worth noting that this commandment was given before the commandment to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil – meaning that the command to remain together appears to have been viewed by Adam as the “first and great commandment” he had been given by the Lord.

3) she gave me of the tree

In this phrase, Adam simply explains very succinctly and accurately what had happened, and it is important to point out that there are no disclaimers that would add any blame or recrimination or anger or any other emotion.  As actually worded, this phrase is as dispassionate as it is possible to be.

4) and I did eat.

This phrase, like the previous one, is a dispassionate statement of what happened, and it also can be viewed as a summation.  It is the conclusion of a simple and straightforward “this, therefore” juxtaposition.  The only question is if there is some contextual meaning hidden within the words – and I find no reason to believe there is such hidden meaning.

Therefore, I believe the straightforward meaning of this verse, strictly parsed into modern terms, would be something like:

“You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me.  Therefore, when she gave me the fruit to eat, and I realized we would be separated as a result, I ate it also in order to remain with her.”

Personally, to add a bit of the background story, I would fill it out thus – knowing that it is going beyond simple parsing, but confident that it is not wildly speculative or off-the-wall:

“You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me.  That was the first and greatest commandment you gave me.  Therefore, when she gave me the fruit to eat, and I realized we would be separated as a result, I ate it also in order to remain with her – and fulfill the first and highest law you gave me.  I had a choice to stay with you alone or be with her outside your presence, and I chose to remain with her rather than to remain alone with you.

I have read quite a few varying interpretations of this verse, but each of them requires that the interpreter make some core assumptions about the relationship between Adam and Eve – and, in almost all cases, those assumptions are a direct reflection of either our modern conception of relationships, an obvious argument for a particular politics- or gender-specific issue or a view that simply is not supported by the text itself.  As someone who sees the story figuratively rather than literally, I understand differing interpretations, but the one I have outlined is the only one that makes sense to me – given the totality of the account and the initial command to “cleave unto her and none else”.

Consider carefully the following point: “None else” includes the Lord, Himself – so, in a very real way, Adam was making the choice we teach that all will have to make in the eternities (to “leave home” and the presence of the Father and Son and embark on our own eternal journey as a united couple – “God” to our own spirit children).  Thus, I see figurative meaning in the Garden for both our mortal and immortal existences – and I see Adam’s statement in Genesis 3:12 as his straightforward explanation of his choice to accept the Father’s plan.  (I also see Eve’s partaking as a similar manifestation of her acceptance, but the difference between the two is a topic for another post.)

If you agree with this interpretation, what about it resonates with you?  If not (if your interpretation is different), why is that so?  What would you change about this version?

Comments 21

  1. What would I change about this version? the “I realized we would be separated as a result” part since I don’t think that this is implied because Eve spoke about “multiplying” which she claimed would not happen if Adam was a lone man in the Garden of Eden, so then Adam says “Eve, I see that this must be” and then “I will partake that man might be” or exist. So the principal reason why he took the fruit was to be able to have children and fulfill that God given commandment not necessarily the other one of not separating.

    The whole story is really about them, Adam and Eve, becoming adults and leaving their parents (God) presence to be able to have children.

  2. I parse this much the same way as Ray…that Adam is very specifically NOT assigning blame to Eve but is rather simply recounting the events as they occurred.

    This sequence came to me some time back, but what strikes me as important is that Eve does the same thing in the next verse (Gen 3:13) when queried:
    ” And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. ”

    She doesn’t try to hide what she has done, nor does she blame the serpent for its actions, but simply states the facts.

    I’ve always found this to be instructive as to what judgement will be like. God will ask us to give an accounting and beneath his watchful eye, and all-knowing gaze we will simply state the simple actions that we performed, including the causes for those actions as best we are able. What happens next? The serpent is punished, while stage is set for the repentence of Adam and Eve. (Of course, that’s not entirely clear from the Genesis account, but that is what’s going on…they transgressed a command, and had to be punished, but God also set up a time for them to repent. In the day of judgement the reverse is true…we will have not only sinned, but had time to repent–and Christ can then step in and intercede as appropriate.–at least that’s my understanding).

  3. “So the principal reason why he took the fruit was to be able to have children and fulfill that God given commandment not necessarily the other one of not separating.”

    I don’t see a lot of conflict between this interpretation and Ray’s, unless you are stating that Adam cared only for God’s commands and would have let Eve be cast out if he could have done so without disobeying without breaking a commandment. If so, I don’t agree. The commandment to multiply was certainly a major part of Adam’s decision to partake, but I think the wording suggests he also knew this was a choice about whether to live with his father or with his wife. The “to multiply” command is implied, but the “to remain with Eve” rationale is explicitly stated.

  4. Ray you didn’t go deep enough…

    With the introduction of modern scripture (PoGP) and the temple, we are supposed to accept that Eve convinced Adam that they would not be able to fulfill the “multiply and replenish” commandment if they are to be separated. Adam reasons this out in his mind (BEFORE eating of the fruit of the tree) and appears to UNDERSTAND procreation at a time when he supposedly doesn’t yet have this understanding.

    Now if you of the belief that they were able to procreate prior to partaking of the fruit and they had the knowledge that this was possible, then what evidence in scripture do you have of this?

    I see a real problem with the LDS church, on one hand, trying to sell us on the idea that they were “innocent” BEFORE partaking of the fruit and then had that knowledge AFTER partaking of the fruit, while on the other hand, we are supposed to buy the idea that Adam had prior knowledge of procreation thus allowing himself to reason out why he needed to remain with Eve in order to fulfill the commandment.

    Yet another example of the flawed gospel and wretched legacy of JS!

  5. Missionary Stu – I don’t see that in this text, just implied in the temple. I think that’s Ray’s point. You have to strip away what’s not in the text and only look at what is. Going deeper can’t mean adding to the text, which is arguably your point (that the temple adds what is not there?).

    Ray – What really struck me as I read this was that it’s clear that family came before God. This is something I have been puzzling out for a while. It seems that often we hear (and it’s in the NT by the Savior no less) that God comes before family. (Matt 10:37: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”)

    But the church’s emphasis on family really puts family first (even before God in a practical sense). And I think that it’s right to put family first. I guess the real question is which way does it shake out the best? If God is before family and to the exclusion of family, people are alienated and caught up in being right and excluding others. If family comes before God, the pace to God may be slower, but more likely to influence more people for good (unless it’s a family of con artists, but you get the point).

    When there is a difficult choice between God and family (families with gay members), that’s the real test. I think families have to stick together first and foremost and try for a solution that ennobles all.

  6. hawkgrrrl,

    You know Ray is a rabid Kool-Aid drinker when it comes to the LDS church. He wants us to consider the text Gen 3:12 and suggest that Adam understood that he and Eve were to stay together because it was the greatest commandment given to Adam from God. That’s all fine and good if you are going to look at the Bible only. But I would think that a rabid Kool-Aid drinker would be honest about what JS ADDED to the Adam and Eve story and evaluate the implication of the narrative that tells a story of Adam’s knowledge of procreation prior to having that knowledge.

    And yes hawkgrrrl, that is my point, adding to the text only serves to confuse and diminish the original.

  7. “Yet another example of the flawed gospel and wretched legacy of JS!”

    Stu, LDS do not believe that “partaking of the fruit” is a euphemism for procreative acts. There’s no inconsistency in Ray’s thinking. We believe the transgressed a command by partaking of fruit they were commanded to avoid; the fruit made them mortal and the transgression removed them from God’s presence, making them totally dependent on the Savior for their redemption. Sexual relationships were not part of the equation in LDS thought — they were married, so FAILURE to procreate would have been disobedience. Depending on who you ask, it may be that they could not have children until they left their UNmortal state and became mortal; however, it is implied by the text that they knew procreation only happened when they were together, so the knowledge about procreation appears to have been in place before their transgression.

    “adding to the text only serves to confuse and diminish the original”

    Or clarifies the original intent of the biblical version. We reject the notion Adam and Eve’s loss of innocence had anything to do with sexual sin, and we reject the “original sin” philosophies that accompany such a viewpoint. Of course this conflicts with mainstream Christian understanding of the fall, which is precisely the point. Thank goodness for the legacy of Joseph Smith.

    “rabid Kool-Aid drinker”

    You stay classy.

  8. Missionary Stu – Ray only sips the pure kool-aid of the vine through a fine straw with his pinky raised.

    Every religion has added a lot to the Adam & Eve narrative, most of it sexual innuendo. It’s kind of a sexy story, when you think about it.

  9. And if you take stock in evolution, you MUST believe that physical death and sexual reproduction occurred previous to the Fall. Following this path, Adam and Eve are the first human beings with spirits begotten by HF and HM, and no spiritual death nor spiritual procreation (process by which another spirit of HF and HM enter the body of human offspring) existed before the Fall. I see Adam and Eve’s fall as a process of becoming self-aware, of understanding one’s own existence as something separate and unique in the world, and of an ability to chart one’s course through that world through one’s own wits. Only when we are awakened to a sense of self can we start contemplating along these lines: “I am here now. Where did I come from? Where am I going? What am I made of?” Perhaps the fruit is simply the vehicle for helping Adam and Eve contemplate their own sense of self. “I will partake that man might be”? By understanding the concept of “I am” and “man is”, Adam had effectuated his fall even before taking the bite.

  10. Hawkgrrrl,

    I thought the same thing after reading this post. A lot of meat to chew on in the family/God dichotomy, or at least the conflict that we think is there but probably isn’t. For example, in Adam’s case, it wasn’t actually a choice between sticking with Eve and doing God’s will — he stated that he partook of the fruit because he was commanded to remain with her (and couldn’t multiply without her). It was precisely because of his obedience that he partook of the fruit and was cast out tnd that’s precisely what God wanted him to do, but he wouldn’t make the decision for him. Adam had to transgress another command in order to fulfill the one he saw as more important.

    We likewise have a lot of daily choices where it seems we can serve God on the one hand or our families on the other, and it’s up to us to decide which command we most need to keep and/or which transgression bears the lesser of the consequences. At least in theory, family members of a practicing homosexual, for example, don’t necessarily have to choose between loving their children and accepting their choices and their belief the teaching that only husbands and wives should have sexual relationships. But as we all know, that’s much easier in theory than in practice among real family members with real needs and feelings. And there can likewise be some very strange dynamics and decisions at play in dysfunctional families and marriages.

    Family: the greatest source of joy, and the primary source of our own Abrahamic and Adamic tests!

  11. “Every religion has added a lot to the Adam & Eve narrative…”

    Oh, I didn’t realize this was “Every Religion Matters”. My mistake. In the future, I’ll make sure I don’t bring up the Mormon skew on anything religious.

  12. Missionary Stu, we simply sip different recipes for Kool-Aid, my friend. I like a little more sugar in mine; you like to use straight lemon juice instead of water. To each his own. *grin*

    I literally only have time to type the following before I dash:

    Thanks, everyone. I’ll try to address individual comments when I get back home.

  13. Thinking out loud. Eve took the fruit having conversed with Satan in the knowledge that the only way to progress was for us to make our own choices in the absence of God.Having partaken she was willing to accept the consequences and be accountable for them.Adam,seeing that he could not fulfill the commandment to be fruitful without Eve also willingly partook,and accepted the consequences.I think the problems arise when we put the two commandments to be fruitful and multiply and not to partake of the tree in opposition.I wonder how we started to do that-traditions of men creeping in there perhaps?
    Also,guys,what `m I supposed to be teaching my children about the creation and fall these days?Or is that a blogjack?

  14. “Also, guys, what `m I supposed to be teaching my children about the creation and fall these days? Or is that a blogjack?” Well, my TBM parents taught me they were doing the hokey-pokey and got caught. And somehow I turned out all right.

  15. Nice, Hawk. That’s a solid theological foundation. *grin*

    wayfarer, since I read it figuratively, I think you are free to teach them whatever you see as the best interpretation. For example, I would argue with your “Eve knew what she was doing” view if I was parsing strictly (since she says she was “beguiled” [meaning “tricked” or “fooled”]), but I also could blame the male compilers for that wording if I chose to do so – since we believe in translation and transmission errors. Reading things figuratively kind of leaves it wide open for interpretation, and I like that when dealing with really ancient records.

  16. “Well, my TBM parents taught me they were doing the hokey-pokey and got caught. And somehow I turned out all right.”

    Depends on if you still believe that….. 🙂 BTW, was it right foot in or right foot out?

  17. I tend to agree with Ray on this as well. Just for fun, I went to the Hebrew to see if there was any difference. It is pretty much a word for word translation. And the Masoretic English translation is exactly the same as the KJV.

    I always viewed this as a decision between a good choice and a better choice. We portray Adam and Eve as innocent which some translate as dumb. While Lucifer had a hand in moving things along, Adam and Eve knew what they were doing. God clearly gave them a choice. They made it in favor of mankind.

    Satan thought he was thwarting the plan but, in fact, he helped it.

  18. the whole story is unlolgic,adam and eve was both not know what was good or evil when they eat the it can not be that they was guilty of anythings.
    when they was swallow the apple it was allready to late ,even to know they was doing evil or good.
    this story is anyway also 1 evidence more thats a lot of things in the bibel not compertible is with logic and untrue,it speaks for it self!

  19. Pingback: The role of parsing in Mormonism « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  20. you all not get the point they both was innocent before they eat the appel ,they can not be guilty of any kind of sind,thats all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *