(Part One of Three)
Eve, the mother of humanity, and perhaps the most misunderstood and maligned woman of Scripture; makes her appearance in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Eve carries the burden and disfavor of succumbing to the seduction of the serpent; leading Adam into sin; her wanton disobedience to God; and the ultimate fall of humanity. Eve is also the first to eat the “forbidden fruit,” leading to humanity’s separation from God and from each other. It would seem, from the look of things, it’s all about Eve! This is the way the story is taught. This is the way the story is presented. This is the way the story happened. Or is it?
As serious students of the bible, we should take a deep breath, remove our biased lens (hermeneutic), and read the story of Adam and Eve for the first time – AGAIN! If we can do this with sincerity and an authentic desire to truly understand the story, without passing judgment on Eve, we will find that many of the “facts,” traditionally taught about her are completely invalid and outright wrong.
So, let’s begin again. The first consideration is to realize the book of Genesis contains two different versions of the Creation Story. The first account is the oldest story (Genesis 1 -2:4) and parts of this story precede the second account by approximately 200 years. The first creation story is structured as follows:
Day One – Light; Day Two – Water/Firmament; Day Three – Dry Land/Vegetation; Day Four – Luminaries; Day Five – Fish/Birds; Day Six – Land/Animals/HUMANS, Vegetation for Food – Day Seven – God rests. The world is created in 6 days.
And now, THE WORD from Our Sponsor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
(The first Creation Story – New Revised Standard Version- NRSV)
1In the beginning when God created* the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God* swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6 And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14 And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20 And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ 21So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
27 So God created humankind* in his image,
in the image of God he created them;*
male and female he created them.
28God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ 29God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
In the second account, found in Genesis 2:4-25, there is no indication or order of time for creation, the title for God is different (Yahweh in the first account and Lord God –Elohim in the second), and the order of creation is also different: Man is created first and then The Garden of Eden is planted by God. Trees, including the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil come next. Animals, birds of the air, and living creatures are next. Woman (formed from the side/rib of the Man) is created last by God.
Another Account of Creation (New Revised Standard Version)
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,* and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
18 Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man* there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
‘This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,*
for out of Man* this one was taken.’
24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Should we even care that there are two distinctly different creation stories in Genesis? Should we concern ourselves with what seems to be scriptural minutiae; the proverbial splitting of a hair? The answer must be “yes,” if we care enough to reverse the traditional ways in which these texts were/are misrepresented and taught.
In the oldest creation story, man and woman are first created as a united being. God, in God’s wisdom, and through the “Shechinah,” which means the indwelling and nurturing aspect of the divine, creative presence of God, makes humans “just a little lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:7). In spite of the misconceptions and misinterpretations of the Genesis creation stories, we see in the first and oldest story God’s intentional action is to create an equal partnership. This action become a mandate for God’s humanity: to be blessed and to bless the earth. In this story, both man and woman bear the divine image and semblance of God. God creates what is described in the text as “adam,” which is a Hebraic term meaning ” human.” This was not a personal name; but instead, the term is indicative of a species. It is a generic descriptive much like the terms, “fish or fowl.
In verse 26-27a, God says: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created humankind in his image.
Duly noted in the text, God creates, “the human,” of which there are 2, with no hierarchy. God creates humanity, at the very same time, as one. Humanity is yet to be distinguished by sexual difference/gender. What is to be understood is God creates humankind (adam) in the divine image, giving humanity a characteristic which animals do not share. It is only humankind who possesses some element of the Divine (God’s likeness). Then, in verse 27b, after “adam” is created by God, we see God creating the gender distinction: “male and female He created them.” Both are endowed with a specialness and commanded by God, “to be fruitful and multiply the earth.”
In verses 26-30, God speaks to the divine entourage, literally translated as the “sons of God.” In these verses, humankind is “adam.” They have no names; yet, they are in partnership, equal, with the same assignment. There is no gender hierarchy in this text. Their story teaches us that male and female are created for God’s pleasure, and as pleasure for and to each other. In fact and adamantly, we can declare: Adam and Eve are created as one!
Questions for our study and consideration
Thinking about the 1st and 2nd creation stories, what are the important differences between the two?
What is the importance of understanding the Hebrew term “adam.” How does this term change your understanding of the creation of Adam and Eve by God?
Why do you think the 1st creation story is less familiar to you (us) than the second? Explain.
Consider this verse in the New Testament, written by Apostle Paul: 1 Corinthians 11:7. Knowing the 1st Genesis story better, how would you approach this verse? Explain.
Lastly, how can this 1st account assist us, as contemporary, empowered women, to break the misconceptions and mistaken notions about Eve in particular, and women in general?
“Men and women are most alike at their most mature and soulful levels. Men and women are most different only at their most immature and merely physical levels.” – Richard Rohr
“A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is given. A woman is human.” – Vera Nazarian
“The soul has no gender.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Written by Evangelist Angie Garrett – Tabitha’s Daughters Bible Empowerment Series