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Woman, not man, was seduced. On the loss of grace and the condition of sin’ bk 3, ch.7; by St. Bellarmine

Woman, not man, was seduced

De Amissione Gratiae et Statu Peccati, book 3, chapter 7

[‘On the loss of grace and the condition of sin’ bk 3, ch.7; by St. Bellarmine]

Cardinal Bellarmine

From De Controversiis Christianae Fidei by Robert Cardinal Bellarmine SJ, written between 1586 and 1593, re-published at Rome in 1840; here vol. IV, pp. 166-168.

Translated especially for womenpriests.org from the original Latin
by Dr. Mary Ann Rossi

Paragraph numbering added to the text for easy reference.

Chapter 7

That, strictly speaking, it was not Adam who had been seduced

§ 1. From what I have said in the chapter above, another question can be solved: whether indeed Adam can properly be said to have been seduced. For on one side are the very famous words of blessed Paul: Man was not seduced, but woman, having been seduced, was in transgression, 1 Timoth. 2. And again I am afraid that just as the serpent seduced Eve by his cunning, so are your senses corrupted, 2. Corinth. 11. Where no mention was made of Adam. On the other side, the common feeling of the Fathers seems to hold this: that Adam was seduced.

§ 2. St. Ignatius in a letter to the Trallians, says: The Devil seduced Adam, the father of our race, through a woman. St. Irenaeus (in book 3, chap. 35, or 37): Adam, seduced by another under the [pretext of] the opportunity of immortality, is suddenly seized by fear, etc. St. Epiphanius, on heresy 38, i.e. the one of the Caiani 38, says: The Devil himself deceived Eve and Adam through lying. St. John Crysostom in homily 9 on the First Letter to Timothy says: In comparison with the woman he said that he had not been seduced. Where he teaches that Adam had been seduced, but by a minor seduction, [that is] that by comparison with the woman, he would seem not to have been seduced. St. Cyril of Alexandria (book 2 of Commentary on John, chap.3): "But after he, seduced by the devil’s deceit, had scorned the precepts of God, and having despised God's command, he had lost grace, he heard that he was of earth and that he would return to earth"...

§ 3. St. Hilary (let us move to the Latin authors), ch.3 in Matthew says: The serpent had surveyed Adam thoroughly and, by deceiving him, had given him over to death. St. Ambrose in his book on paradise, ch. 4, says: The woman was deceived first, and she herself deceived the man. St. Augustine, in his treatise on Psalm 68, in the passage "Since I did not lead astray, then I set free" [Aug.] says: Who led astray? Adam. Who first led astray? He himself who seduced Adam. St. Prosper in his book "Contra Collatorem" c.21: After Adam had subjected himself to his deceiver, he lost the knowledge of good. St. Leo, sermon 2 on the birth of the Lord, says: The devil congratulates himself that man, deceived by his fraud, has been lacking the divine gifts. Fulgentius in bk.2 on the Incarnation and on the Grace of Christ, ch.22, says: Because the first man was brought down in arrogance by diabolical persuasion, he lost humility, he lost faith, etc.

§ 4. Because of this seeming discord between the holy Fathers and the Apostle Paul, many have tried to construe the words of Blessed Paul in such a way that from them it cannot be concluded that Adam had not been truly and strictly speaking seduced; but these interpretations do not seem altogether to suit the words or the intention of the Apostle. I shall go through the chief interpretations briefly:

  • the First is, man was not seduced, that is, by the Devil; for he was seduced by the woman.
  • Second, the man was not seduced, that is, he was not seduced first. For before him the woman had been seduced.
  • Third, man was not seduced, that is, his seduction is not written in Genesis. Just as Melchisedech is said by the Apostle (Hebr. 7) to be without father, without mother, without genealogy, and not to have the beginning of his days or the end of his life, even though none of these things is read about him in the Scriptures.
  • Fourth, man was not seduced, that is, into transgression, as the woman was seduced into transgression. For the woman, having been seduced, was the author of transgressing for her husband. But the man after he was seduced, was not the author of transgressing.

§ 5. These four explanations do not seem to agree exactly with this passage of the Apostle. First of all, he himself states absolutely that man was not seduced, but woman was seduced into transgression; and even if he should say that both transgressed, but the man without another seducing him, the woman surrounded and seduced by another. Secondly because it was the intention of the Apostle in this passage to demonstrate that women are not so strong in judgement or in vigor of mind as men and therefore they ought not to teach in Church, but to learn from men. For when he had said: Let a woman learn in silence with all subjection [word misspelled in Latin--‘sabiectione’ for ‘subiectione’--Trans.]. But I do not allow a woman to teach or to rule over a man, but to be in silence. And he proves both: first, that a woman should not rule over a man, but be subjected, he gathers from this: Because Adam was formed first, then Eve. And also (as he adds in 1 Corinth.11) Woman was formed from man, not man from woman; and woman was formed because of man, not man because of woman. Then, that woman ought to learn, not teach, he proves from: Because man was not seduced, but woman , having been seduced, is in transgression.

§ 6. Which argument goes to show that woman is of a simpler nature, with less prudence and judgement than man, for (as Chrysostom notes in his commentary on this passage), the Apostle preferred to say, "man was not seduced, woman was seduced" rather than "Adam was not seduced, Eve was seduced." He said this in order to show that what happened to Adam and Eve came about from the different nature of man and woman, and that men are naturally more prudent and of better and more mature judgement and temperament than women, and for this reason women, who are more easily seduced, are not suitable for teaching.

§ 7. Now those four interpretations, if they are true, render the Apostle’s argument clearly weak and feeble. For it must not be thought that women are of immature judgement and inept for teaching because Eve was seduced by the Devil and Adam by the woman, or because Eve was seduced first, then Adam, or because Eve’s seduction was written in Scripture, but not Adam’s, or, finally, because Eve’s seduction was the cause of Adam’s transgression, not the opposite. For because Eve was seduced by the devil and Adam by the woman is so far from arguing that the woman is of a simpler nature than to argue rather the contrary, if indeed more difficult by far, for the man to evade the snares of the devil, than of a woman.

§ 8. But the fact that Eve was seduced first and Adam later, and that the seduction of one was written down, but not of the other, seem to have nothing to do with the subject, since only by chance are these held to demonstrate vigor of mind. Finally, that Eve’s seduction was the cause of man’s transgression happened by chance, since, first, she was seduced earlier, and then because there was no one to whom the man could give the opportunity of transgressing.

§ 9. Therefore St. Augustine’s opinion which we followed in an earlier chapter is very true: that is, that strictly speaking Adam was not seduced, and that the words of the Apostle ought to be received without any special addition ‘properly and formally’ (to use scholastic terms), when he says, Man was not seduced, woman was seduced in transgression. For in three ways Adam erred (as we said above): because he believed it was a venial sin to transgress the command of God; because he believed that by eating the forbidden fruit he would not die; and because he believed that he would be like God and subject to nobody's will or providence.

§ 10. The cause of his first error was too much love for his spouse, and for this reason, not the seduction of someone else who deceived him through a trick, but his own depravity and blindness coming from his earlier elation. The cause of the second error, because of his own blindness, was the experience which he had when he saw that his wife, after eating the food, was not dead, perhaps also the urging of the wife, which still could not properly be called seduction, since she made the proposal to her husband not with the intention of deceiving, but simply because she believed it to be true. The occasion of the third error was the serpent’s word relayed to her husband by the woman (‘you will be like Gods’); but the cause was not the authority of the serpent itself or of the woman, or their persuasion, but the earlier experience, which, as it made him doubtful about one thing (‘you will die’) also made him tend to believe the other (‘you will be like Gods’), as well as his own pride, that is, love of his own power for we freely and easily believe what we love. See Augustine, lib.11, de Genesi ad literam, cap. ult. et lib.14 de civit. Dei, can.11.

§ 11. And those holy Fathers who write that Adam was seduced do not fight with the Apostle; either they have not read the Apostle, or they have not understood him. But they spoke in another way about the seduction of Adam. For Augustine himself also wrote in one place that Adam was seduced, and in another place that Adam was not seduced, and he was not fighting with himself but interpreted the seduction now in one way and now in another. Thus the Fathers wished to signify this alone, that Adam was seduced by the Devil, not indeed immediately and strictly speaking, but indirectly, opportunely, and, (as we say) materially.

§ 12. In which meaning Blessed Paul accepts the same language when he says, Sin, through the commandment, seduced me, and by that killed me, Rom. 7 and He who thinks that he is something when he is nothing, seduces himself. Galat.6. Similarly the wise man when he says: "Creatures have become a trap for the feet of the foolish." (Wisdom 14); and Daniel when he speaks to that wicked old man, Beauty has deceived you, and lust has corrupted your heart (Dan. 13).

§ 13. Two earlier interpretations of the four we have refuted can be rightly received according to this opinion. The first interpretation, which was Man was not seduced, that is, by the serpent, is very true if it has this sense: Woman was really and properly seduced, because the serpent deceived her cleverly with the intention of deceiving, when he proposed the false to her under the appearance of truth. The man on the other hand was seduced to some extent by the woman, but not properly, because she did not have the intention of deceiving. and he was blinded not by her persuasion, but by his love for her, and I think that this is what St. John Chrysostom had in mind when he thought out this interpretation. For he himself was the first author of this interpretation.

§ 14. The second interpretation, which was "man was not seduced, that is, seduced earlier", which great authors hold (St. Epiphanius haeresi 38. St. Thomas, Theodoretus, and Oecumenius in his commentary), will be true, if understood in this way: man was not seduced earlier, because to be sure the devil knowing man to be wiser, did not dare to approach him directly, but he began with the woman who could be seduced more easily, so that when she had been seduced, he could overcome the man, if not by seducing properly, then certainly by swaying him by the blandishments of the woman and by driving him to the partnership of sinning.

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