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  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:
5377. aÎvÎn 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 4:19And 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 9:9And 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 16:3For 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 8:25For 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.
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
Is. 19:13 …woVtIh POn yérDc …waVÚvˆn NAoOx yérDc …wlSawøn
Is. 36:14 …whÎ¥yIq◊zIj MRkDl aIÚvÅy_lAa JKRlR;mAh
Jer. 4:10 MDoDl DtaEÚvIh aEÚvAh NEkDa hˆwh◊y yÎnOdSa
h‰ΩzAh MDoDl DtaEÚvIh aEÚvAh NEkDa hˆwh◊y
Jer. 37:9 rOmaEl MRkyEtOvVpÅn …waIÚvA;t_lAa hÎwh◊y rAmDa
Jer. 49:16 ÔKR;bIl Nwød◊z JKDtOa ayIÚvIh ÔKV;tVxAlVpI;t
Obad. 1:7 ÔKVl …wlVkÎy ÔK…wayIÚvIh ÔKRtyîrVb yEv◊nAa
2Chr. 32:15 …whÎ¥yIq◊zIj MRkVtRa ayIÚvÅy_lAa hD;tAo◊w