Refusing to accept responsibility for one’s actions has been a frequently recurring theme in the Bible. Adam blames Eve for his disobedience. Aaron blames the Israelites for the golden calf; Saul blames his troops’ impatience and Samuel’s late arrival for his disobedience; Then Saul blames his soldiers for the failure to carry out God’s instructions; The man who buried his talent blames his action on his master’s hardness. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. Adam blamed God and then Eve for his part and then Eve seems to be passing the buck to the serpent. Genesis 3:13 says, “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”

Beginning with another rhetorical question, God confronts Eve with her failure. He asks Eve what she has done and Eve’s answer contains two parts. First, she explained that the serpent deceived her. But Rosscup is right, “That is ‘passing the buck,’ yet an aspect very true even if not all of the picture. The serpent indeed hood-winked her. The Spirit of God later leads the apostle Paul to the commentary in I Timothy 2:12 that uses a special, stronger word for the woman’s being deceived. She was “really deceived,” not just “deceived” (apatao) but “profoundly deceived” (exapatao).” That means she was telling the truth. Yet, we cannot fail to see it’s in some way passing the buck also. Then Rosscup mentions the second part of her answer: “Second, Eve enlarges on the picture, and pours out her confession of guilt, ‘and I ate.’ She comes clean about her own culpability in the deviation. She, too, had acted out of harmony with what she realizes, sadly, God’s word had made clear as the way of obedience.”[1]

In the Pseudepigrapha (False books) of the Old Testament is the Apocalypse of Moses. It tells a fanciful story of the life of Adam and Eve after they are thrown out of the Garden of Eden. In Chapter 14:3, Adam is said to have said to Eve, “O Eve, what have you done? You have brought a great wrath upon us, namely death which rules over our entire race.” He then commands her to tell their children how this came about. She and Adam weep together and finally Adam falls asleep. Their children gather around the bed and weep over their father and Eve decides to tell them the story.” [2] Who knows if this is true, but it adds a touch of humanity to their lives after the fall? Even in this story she still blames the serpent for her actions. To err is human, to deny responsibility is as old as our first parents. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent. Today we blame society or our parents’ upbringing or our economic condition. Will Rogers once said that there were only two eras in American History, the passing of the buffalo, and the passing of the buck. Harry Truman, the thirty-third president of the United States, had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that read, “The Buck Stops Here,” reflecting his belief that the president must make decisions and accept responsibility for them. For the man who made the decision to drop the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that was one grave action to take responsibility for. Adam, the first man, would have been well served had he demonstrated similar accountability.

[1] Rosscup, James E. 2008. An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible: Igniting the Fuel to Flame Our Communication with God. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Jonge, Marinus de, and Johannes Tromp. 1997. The Life of Adam and Eve and Related Literature. Guides to Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press.