Perspectives on the story of the first mother
A single bite of fruit forever heaved the entirety of a fallen and sinful creation onto the shoulders of Eve; through the lens of millennia of patriarchal interpretations of the scriptures, women throughout history have had to shoulder the blame and consequences. From an inferior place in spiritual service, to their place in society as a whole, women have been forced to take a backseat to their male fellows for no other reason than Eve ate the fruit first.
While most would not be surprised to find that modern scholarship and theological interpretations have taken great strides to find new perspectives on the story of the first mother, they would be astonished to learn that forward-thinking and pro-women interpretations of the Garden of Eden have been around for hundreds of years.
Dating from as early as the 14th century, these four biblical observations and interpretations helped to pave the way for more modern thinking and helped Eve’s daughters to regain their dignity and respect:
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(1) In Genesis 1, God creates Man and Women at the same time and gives them the same mandate: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Some women have used this to argue that this indicates God made no distinction between the sexes, and neither should society.
(2) In Genesis 2-3, the use of the word <em>‘ezer</em> (“helper”), does not imply subordination. Rather, God himself is described as the helper of the Israelites (Genesis 49:25; Psalm 37:40). Eve serves as the helper to Adam—as God served to the Israelites.
(3) Adam did not treat Eve as inferior to him or as his subordinate.
(4) According to Genesis 3, Adam was with Eve as she spoke with the serpent. Scholars have asked why he didn’t speak up. Why did he eat the fruit and allow Eve to do the same?
Eve is a complex character. Has she been adjusted to fit societal views and affirm the oppression of women, or does the biblical Eve truly demonstrate that women are made of “inferior stock”? To learn of the different interpretations of Eve by women, read Amanda W. Benckhuysen’s full article “The Gospel According to Eve,” published in the Spring 2020 issue of <em>Biblical Archaeology Review</em>.
Subscribers: Read the full article “The Gospel According to Eve” by Amanda W. Benckhuysen in the Spring 2020 issue of <em>Biblical Archaeology Review
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“Did Eve Fall or Was She Pushed?” by Susan L. Greiner The first woman has been blamed for a host of ills—from inspiring witches to being the very source of sin. Tracing the roots of Eve’s bad reputation leads not to Genesis (as many people assume) but to an obscure set of texts known as the pseudepigrapha.
“Was Eve Cursed?: Or did a woman write Genesis?” Adrien Janis Bledstein, In a recent popular book entitled The Book of J—for a period in 1990, it was on the best-seller list—Harold Bloom argues that the biblical author known to scholars as J was a woman.
“Eve and Adam: Is a feminist reading possible?” by Pamela J. Milne, Scholars have identified two different creation stories at the beginning of Genesis, one in Genesis 1–2:4a and the other in Genesis 2:4b–3:24.
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