Here is an interesting piece of biblical exegesis from an unlikely source.

I have been reading Hans Fallada’s long and somewhat torturous novel based in Weimar Germany, Wolf Among Wolves.

This morning I came across this intriguing little bit of biblical exegesis:

Since her confirmation Sophie had never had a Bible in her hand, and then her preoccupation with this book had been limited to learning verses and – more often – to looking for seductive passages. But this evening she had leisure for once; so she took up the Bible and, in order to deal with it properly, started to read from the beginning. (If it turned out to her liking, she would pack this excellent free holiday reading in her trunk.) It would be interesting to find out what there really was to this famous book. The narrative of the Creation awoke only a moderate interest – for aught she cared it might have happened like that or it mightn’t – it was unimportant, anyhow. The important thing was to be here oneself – thanks to the creation of Adam and Eve in the second chapter, and the fall from grace in the third.

 … Sophie rediscovered everything – the Tree of Knowledge. Certainly, God had forbidden man to eat it, but that was before woman had been created. To punish woman for something which had not been forbidden to her at all was a fine thing! That was exactly what men would do!  

 If it starts like that, she thought, what can you expect? It’s a put-up job – only a fool would be taken in by such rubbish. And those chaps still go on preaching to you nowadays. Well, let them come to me about it!… She shut the book angrily… What! Take it with me on my holidays? I shouldn’t think of it for a moment. I should get annoyed. That’s why they leave the book about so freely – there’s no demand for it. (Fallada, Hans. Wolf Among Wolves. (trans. Philip Owens) Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2010 (orig. pub. in German 1937). Hans Fallada (21 July 1893 – 5 Feb. 1947, 247)

Perhaps all Bible readers already familiar with Fallada’s point here, although I doubt it was much observed in the mid-1930s when Fallada was writing. Regardless, I do not think I have ever seen it.  So, I checked the Genesis account.

It is true that in the first account of the creation of humankind, it is stated that

male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

But, Fallada seems to be basing Sophie’s experience on the second account of the creation of human kind in Genesis chapter two. Here it is clear that first, God created Adam (Genesis 2:7). It is only by the time we get down to verse 18 that the narrator observes,

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will, make him a helper as his partner. (Genesis 2:18)

And, it is not until verses 21-23, that woman actually appears on the scene.

But the injunction not to eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” is given in the middle of chapter two and is explicitly addressed to the man:

the Lord God commanded the man (Adam), “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:17, 18)

It is not until five verses later that woman appears on the scene in Genesis 2:22.

So, it is at least worth noting that Genesis chapter two is clear that Eve was not yet around when the injunction was given to Adam to refrain, on pain of death, from eating the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”.

It is true that, when she is approached by the serpent in chapter three, Eve seems to have some awareness of the prohibition. But, she does not appear to have heard it directly from God, does not seem to be expressly aware that this forbidden tree is the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, and has apparently received an embellished version of the actual injunction (Genesis 3:3).

For centuries, Eve has been portrayed as the seductive cause behind the “fall” of human kind. She has been viewed as the guilty one who intentionally led astray poor innocent Adam, despite his noble efforts to resist her wily ways.  Hence, for generations women have been viewed as the cause of humanity’s fall from grace.

Sophie’s judgment of the biblical account that “only a fool would be taken in by such rubbish”, may be a bit harsh. But it is at least worth asking how much Eve is actually portrayed in the biblical text as acting intentionally in defiance against direct first-hand awareness of God’s will.

Preachers and biblical scholars may owe women an apology for the way we have eagerly taken texts, even when they are not overtly misogynistic, and made them more gender-shaming than they actually are.




The Father of Latin Christianity, 155-245 CE

”And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die. And do you think about adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins?”
De Cultu Feminarium (On the Apparel of Women), Chapter 1 (Read it here.)



Bishop of Hippo, Doctor of the Church and Latin Father, 354-430 CE

On the Trinity, 12.7.10 (Read it here.)

“Watch out that she does not twist and turn you for the worse. What difference does it make whether it is in a wife or in a mother, provided we nonetheless avoid Eve in any woman?