We Remain – The Story of Mitochondrial “Eve”

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INTRODUCTION

Hair that defies gravity, skin that welcomes the sun, hips and buttocks rounded by God to carry and birth offspring; straight, strong backs for getting the tasks done – first of the planet, created in God’s image – Eve is our mother and WE REMAIN.

If there is any question as to whom the paragraph noted above describes, let me be completely transparent – I am describing the FIRST WOMAN of the globe, one whom scientists and geneticists have named “Mitochondrial Eve.”  She is called the Mother of Humanity, the progenitor of all common human ancestry. 

                                                                          So, what does mitochondrial mean?

“The Eve” in question was actually the most recent common ancestor through matrilineal descent of all humans living today.  That is, all people alive today can trace some of their genetic heritage through their mothers back to this one woman. ” (pbs.org- NOVA Online- Neanderthals on Trial-Tracing Ancestry with mtDNA).

                                                                         So, why is mitochondrial important?

“The genes you [we] carry in the form of nuclear DNA are the result of a merger between your mother’s and father’s DNA – this merger is called recombination. mtDNA, however, is derived almost exclusively from your mother.  This is because the egg of a female human contains a lot of mtDNA, while male sperm contains just a bit of mitochondria.  This means that mtDNA is matrilineal – only the mother’s side survives from generation to generation.” (science.howstuffworks.com).

                                                                        So, why is Mitochondrial Eve important?

“…..Geneticists concluded that every person on Earth right now can trace his or her lineage back to a single common female ancestor who lived around 200,000 years ago.  Because one entire branch of human lineage is of African origin and the other contains African lineage as well, the study’s authors concluded Africa is the place where this woman lived.  In other words, there were many women who came before her and many women who came after, but her life is the point from which ALL modern branches on humanity’s family tree grew.”

 Simply put, the mother of humanity was an African woman, but then again………………………….we should know this!  Scientists called her “Eve.”  The question and assignment for us, as women who seriously study Scripture, especially those who are deeply pigmented , and our sisters (and brothers) who are woke enough to accept the truth is this:  WHAT DO WE SAY TO THESE THINGS and HOW DO THESE SCIENTIFIC FACTS AFFECT AND SHAPE OUR BIBLICAL FAITH?

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

(Genesis 1: 26-27 – The Torah – A Woman’s Commentary) – “God now said, “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness, and let them hold sway over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, over the beasts, over all the earth, over all that creeps upon the earth.  So God created the human beings in [the divine] image, creating [them]in the image of God, creating them male and female.” (translation – “The Torah – A Woman’s Commentary)

(Genesis 1: 26-27 KJV) – “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he him, male and female created he them.” (translation – King’s James Version)

(Let’s unpack the differences in the two translations – looking at the ways in which each perspective, from a womanist/female point of view may make us “feel.”)

(Genesis 2: 22 – The Torah -Commentary) “And YHWH (Yahweh) God  caused a slumber to descend on the human, and he slept.  And He took one of his ribs and closed flesh in its place.  And YHWH God built the rib that He had taken from the human into a woman and brought her to the human.  And the human said, “this time is it:  bone of my bones and flesh from my flesh.  This will be called ‘woman’ for this one was taken from ‘man.’

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Since the onset of the age of rationality in the 14th century, Scripture and science have rarely enjoyed intersection.  Those who espoused and uplifted the concepts of science and its empirical evidence, found little to nothing in common with the Bible and the stories found within.  Yet, for our purposes, examining the beginnings of humanity, (where and whom were the first of the earth), against the divine intentionality of an all-wise God choosing the continent Africa for humanity’s origins, we discover a “meeting of the minds” and peculiar agreement between Scripture and science:

                                         “And the human called his woman, “Eve,” because she was mother of all living.” (Genesis 3: 21)

If we as women, and specifically as those of African descent, acknowledge the idea that life, by God’s desire and command, began in Africa, and the first of humanity can be traced by genetic evidence to that of an African woman, how does this affect the ways and means by which we approach and understand Scripture, specifically the Creation stories found in Genesis chapter 1 & 2?  Does this cause us to reject the scientific presentation of Mitochondrial Eve, or instead acknowledge and celebrate the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Ruach/Shekinah/Sophia), as the sacred, omnipotent energy from which all life emanates?  Since we have celebrated and worshiped God as male, and man as first in biblical presentation, can we not look to alternative ways in which our understandings are now directed?

These are questions that grown women must tackle!  Moving away from biblical indoctrination, miseducation, and misinformation can be the beginning of new self-empowerment, self-awareness, and self-worth.  Ultimately, it is not about self-elevation; but, instead it is about self-celebration.  The many centuries of the misappropriation of his/story, at the expense of her/story, can be over, when we decide to reject what has been handed down to us.  Instead, our response can be to re-frame these ancient and inspirational narratives to discover innovative and powerful ways to understand them and integrate them into our contemporary lives and context: 

“Holy Wisdom is the mother of the universe, the unoriginate, living source of all that exists.  This unimaginable livingness generates the life of all creatures, being herself, in the beginning and continuously, the power of being within all being.  (“From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?”) [Job 38:29] …….All creatures are kin to one another and therefore, where spirit has reached the breakthrough of human intelligence, creatively responsible for one another.  All creatures are siblings from the same womb………..” (“She Who Is” – Elizabeth A. Johnson)

In order to grow in our faith, WE MUST BE STRETCHED!  Wrestling with new and non-traditional ways in which to engage Scripture is one of the means by which become better defenders of the Faith and students of the Bible who continue to mature spiritually.  Ultimately, God who is neither male nor female; but Spirit.  In this, we understand  God’s created humanity for God’s own glory and pleasure.  Amazingly, we are now presented with the new understanding that we, as God’s deeply pigmented daughters, were the first of this planet, and for God’s pleasure- WE REMAIN! 

To God be the glory for the wondrous ways by which God continues to bless us!

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