Adam’s role as representative of his immediate family

We have seen that Adam was the legal representative of humanity. For those who see full equality before the fall (egalitarians), at the very least, Adam’s legal-corporate responsibility was different than Eve’s. Therefore, while it is true that Adam and Eve were similar in resemblance, constitution, and relationship, there was not full equality in representational function. We will now look at Adam’s role as representative of his immediate family.

We briefly noted that there are generally four phases a legal representative transitions through while fulfilling their role (See Part Two). They are: 1 ) Information Phase, 2 ) Knowledge Phase, 3 ) Investigation Phase, 4 ) Penalty/Reward Phase. As we look at Adam’s relationship to Eve, we see these phases being worked through, not just for humanity, but in Adam’s legal relationship with Eve.

Genesis 2 Legal Considerations

1) Informative Phase After Adam had been created, he was entrusted with legal headship. Ellen White noted in regards to the fourth commandment, “the Sabbath was committed to Adam, the father and representative of the whole human family" (FLB 32). God also gave him legal instructions regarding the test of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). Whether Adam first taught Eve of the prohibitions of eating of the tree, or God did, is not the issue. Adam was the "custodian of God’s Law," (Angel Rodriguez, Evaluation of the Arguments 20) and Genesis 2 clearly shows that He told Adam of the prohibitions first. God did warn both Adam and Eve: “He [God] had said to Adam and Eve, ‘But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'" (Ellen White, From the Heart, May 9, 141). Angels also reinforced the warning: “holy angels often visited the garden, and gave instruction to Adam and Eve" (1 SG 20). The idea here is not the instruction of information (Adam to Eve) per se, but the primacy of its reception. The idea that both Adam and Eve functioned as “students and both [had] the same privilege[s]” (Angel Rodriguez, Evaluation of the Arguments 20) misses the point. God could have created Eve before He gave the initial command regarding the penalty of eating from the tree, but He didn’t. This is not an oversight on God’s part, but a resounding affirmation of Adam’s legal status, not Eve’s.

2) Knowledge Phase It is more than coincidence that only after Adam ate of the fruit, that the “eyes of both of them opened” (Gen. 3:7, NKJV, NIV, NASB). It was Adam’s sin, that had legal consequences for humanity, not Eve’s. Not only were their spiritual eyes “opened” when Adam sinned, but also their physical eyes. After “his [Adams] transgression . . . the robe of light which had enshrouded them, now disappeared,” and “they saw that they were naked” (PP 57). Ellen White also states that it was at the moment Adam ate of the fruit (as our federal head) that Jesus assumed the punishment due to him: 

As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented himself surety for human race.... Review & Herald, March 12, 1901, par. 4

The instant Adam yielded to Satan’s temptation . . . Christ, the Son of God, stood between the living and the dead. Signs of the Times June 27, 1900

When Adam “seized the fruit, and ate it, then Satan exulted." 1 Spiritual Gifts 21

Adam’s decision to eat the fruit was the “decisive act, not the woman’s. It is only after Adam ate the fruit that the consequences became clear" (Ratsara Bediako, Evaluation of Egalitarian Papers 36). It was at this point that man’s “eyes were opened,” and he had “knowledge of good and evil.”

3) Investigation Phase When God came to the Garden, He called for Adam only (Gen. 3:9-11- “the Lord God called unto Adam. . . where are you?”). “In Hebrew the word ‘you’ is a masculine singular pronoun" (Evaluation of Egalitarian Papers 6). Again, this is not just coincidence or an unintended action on the part of God. Because Adam legally represented both the first family and human family, it was he that God called to. If there had been legal equality, God would have asked “where are you Adam and Eve?” Since Eve had sinned first, and had given the fruit to Adam, it would have made perfect sense in all other considerations for her to be addressed. However, “as the first among equals the Lord first seeks out the man to require accountability from him. God first questions the man at length . . . this is because he is primarily answerable for the activities of the family" (Evaluation of Egalitarian Papers 37) The question to Adam “where are you” (v. 10) is “an invitation to give an account for the rebellion" (Ibid). Interestingly, God directs “three questions to the man, and only one to the woman. . .  and Adam is first to be blamed for the rebellion in the garden" (Ibid).

4) Penalty Phase In the penalty phase, God cursed the ground, and told Adam he must now till the ground. Significantly, it was Adam who was prevented from eating of the tree of life: “the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil, now, lest he put forth his hand . . . therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken” (Gen. 3:22-24). The fact that God stated that “the man” was “taken from the ground,” and he was “to till the ground” (the specific curse given to Adam), negates this passage from referring to “man” in the generic sense (both Adam and Eve). Let’s be clear, both Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden, and both Adam and Eve were prevented from eating from the Tree of Life. But since Adam was the legal representative of his immediate family, it was he that God singled out from immortalizing sin through eating of the Tree of Life. When “God sees Adam, He sees his wife” legally in him.


We have seen that Scripture gives more than a hint of headship and that legal representation was a role delegated to Adam before the fall. Although not superior to Eve, he was responsible, in a way she was not, to God, his offspring and to her. The corporate nature of the fall is bound up in Adam’s sin, not Eve’s, since he legally represented humanity. And although Eve’s sin would have ultimately penalized her (had Adam not sinned), she had knowledge of good and evil only after Adam had sinned. Furthermore, her sin would not have affected the human race corporately. Biblical evidence also points to legal representation as applying to husbands and fathers of the family. Finally, this theology was not “developed in North America by a few Calvinist Evangelical teachers and preachers in the 1970s and 1980s, imported into the Adventist church in the late 1980s . . . and championed during the late 20th and early 21st centuries by a small but committed group . . . mostly based in Michigan" (Gerry Chudleigh, A Short History of the Headship Doctrine 3). Rather, it is the method God has chosen for families, groups, nations and His church to be legally represented and this has been recognized so for millennia.

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