The Story of Eve – #You Must Not Know ‘Bout Me!

Part Two of Three

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What came first – the chicken or the egg?

In other words, how can two narratives (Genesis 1 & 2), that tell the same story of creation, be SO very different in their presentations?  Or are they? Perhaps, it is our interpretation of these stories that really cause an issue.  Based on how and why we choose to tell, teach, or preach the creation story, an agenda is often built, then judgment follows. This can lead to corrupt and erroneous conclusions about these two biblical narratives that were originally written for the purpose to teach us about God and God’s awesome act of creation, with  “no shade” intended!

So, why not take another look and begin AGAIN!

And now, THE WORD from Our Sponsor…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Genesis 2:4-24New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Another Account of the Creation

In the day that the Lord[a] God made the earth and the heavens, when 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; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,[b] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out 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. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The 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. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but 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.” 19 So 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 every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man[c] there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So 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. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,[d]
    for out of Man[e] this one was taken.”

24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The 2nd creation story is the one most familiar to us.  Since childhood, we have heard and can recite its abbreviated details:

God forms Adam from the dust of the ground and places him in the Garden of Eden.  God then breathes life into Adam.  Then God creates all the animals and birds and causes Adam to sleep.  From the rib of Adam, God creates a helper for Adam.  Adam awakens, sees her, and calls her, “Woman.”  (Eve’s name means mother of living things).

There we have it, the story of creation.  It’s all wrapped up and presented to us in a neat, little package, right?

It’s no wonder we come away from the story with a misguided, hierarchical bias about whose in charge of whom, and who rules over whom.  If we unpack this traditional teaching, here’s what it really looks and sounds like:

Adam (personal name) is created first(Therefore, man must be more important than woman).

God forms Adam from the dust of the ground and breathes life into Adam. (Therefore, man must be more important than woman).

Adam receives the privilege of being in the Garden of Eden first and names all of the animals. (Therefore, the man is given dominion over all creation).

Adam grows lonely without anyone like himself, so God creates a “helper” for Adam. (Therefore, man is in charge and woman is man’s helper/helpmate/help meet).

God forms the woman from Adam’s rib. (Therefore, woman is made in the image of man).

Adam names the woman, “Eve.” (Therefore, hierarchy is definitely established.  Eve -woman- is subordinate to Adam-man).

But, what if we consider this biblical narrative in its original language of Hebrew?  Would the original language make any difference? ***

***(Hebrew Translations from Rabbi Richard Friedman – “Commentary on the Torah,” and classic.studylight.org – Hebrew lexicon.)

then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,[b] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

“man” here translates in Hebrew to “adam,” meaning human, humankind, or human being.

“dust of the ground” translates to “adamah,” (adamah is a pun of adam).

“living being” is “nephesh” in Hebrew, meaning “living soul.”

So in Hebrew:  “then Jehovah Elohim formed adam from adamah, and breathed into nostrils (pronoun “his” not used in this verse), the breath of life; and the adam become a nephesh.  Note:  all gender distinctions are missing in the Hebrew translation!

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but 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.”

So in Hebrew:  “Then Jehovah Elohim took the adam and put the adam in a garden of Eden to till it and keep it.  And Jehovah Elohim commanded the adam, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die.”  Note: still no gender distinction used in the text.

   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.” 

In Hebrew: ” Jehovah Elohim said, “It is not good that the adam should be alone; I will make the adam a ezer kenegdo as ezer.”  In verse 18, “him and his,” masculine pronouns are English additions, these words do not occur in the Hebrew text. Only “adam” is used to describe God’s human creation. The term, “helper,” translated in the KJV “help meet/help mate,” is a corruption of the Hebrew term: “ezer kenegdo.”  This term, as translated by Rabbi Friedman and other biblical scholars means:  corresponding strength or corresponding counterpart. If this translation is accurate, then as with the 1st creation story, both humans are created in the image of God, and as corresponding strengths to and for each other.

The story continues to verse 21 with “adam,” the human, falling into a deep sleep caused by God.  Again, and for further emphasis, masculine pronouns are added to this text in the English bible translations.

  22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

In Hebrew: {The*} Rib Jehovah Elohim taken {from*} the adam made ishshah (“woman” in Hebrew) brought to the adam.

{words*} added for clarity

This is the first time in this story that a gender distinction is used!  But, it is not until verse 23, where the word, “man,” makes its first appearance in the text:

23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,[d]
    for out of Man[e] this one was taken.”

In Hebrew:  The adam said:  “this at last is bone of bones (“my” and “flesh” are English additions).  “This one called ishshah because this one taken {from} iysh” (Hebrew for “man”).

After woman is formed, the Hebrew word for “man,” is used for the first time in the story, instead of  the adam (human).  As Rabbi Friedman observed:  “Sexual distinction has no meaning unless there are two or more kinds of species, so there is no male until there is a female.”  {Friedman adds animals as the 3rd species here}

Well, Praise THE LORD!  One important aspect of serious bible study is the desire to learn something new and different, and to release ourselves from our childhood Sunday school traditions of scripture that, while good intentioned, do not challenge our preconceived notions.. Hopefully, we now can see the creation story bears little resemblance to what we first learned in Sunday school.

                                               Verse 24 wraps the story up nicely:

 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

And, we are back to the final conclusion from part one of this series:  “WE (truly) ARE ONE!”

Questions for our study and consideration:

As a female, have you ever felt uncomfortable with the presentation of the creation story?  Have you ever wondered why God would create Eve, as Adam’s subordinate?  Explain.  Based upon the information presented in this study, do you now feel differently about the story?  Explain why?

What are some of the agendas for how and why the story is presented in the church and traditional bible study settings?

Does this presentation of the narrative (Hebraic considerations) challenge any of your notions about Adam and Eve, and male and female in scripture?  Explain.

As contemporary women seeking empowerment through biblical narratives, how does this story help (or not) with women’s empowerment issues?

How can we use this teaching to change the image which both boys and girls, men and women, hold about themselves in our society and in our churches?

Final Considerations:

 “Then you will know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  (John 8:32 – KJV)

“To thine own self be true.”  (William Shakespeare)

“I’m every woman, it’s all in me.” ( sung by Chaka Kahn – lyrics by Valerie Simpson& Nick Ashford )

 “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,”  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

written by Evangelist Maxine (Angie) Garrett – Tabitha’s Daughters

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