Originally, my musings on A Year of Biblical Womanhood were going to be limited to a baker’s dozen—one post each for the introduction and the chapters in the book. But as I started reading through it again, I realized two things. One, I don’t need to limit each chapter to a single post; each one is rich and deserves as much space as it needs to fully breathe. Two, the women of the Bible that Rachel writes about at the end of each chapter also deserve their own space. For those reasons, I’m extending this series as long as it takes.
First up among the Bible’s many women: Eve.
Well, now. Isn’t that a topic to stir things up right out of the gate. As Christians, particularly of the very conservative stripe, we’re taught early and often that Eve is the Original Temptress. She’s the reason all of humanity is in such a mess. (Note that in the artwork above, she holds a skull in one hand.) It hardly matters that when it comes down to it, that’s not even what it says in the New Testament. Paul explicitly says,
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man…
Right there, in black and white, Paul reminds us that sin came through Adam. So why does Eve get the shaft? Even way back in Genesis, God holds all three of the players in this drama responsible. Yet one would hardly know that for the ways in which women have been blamed and judged accordingly throughout the whole of Christianity.
Rachel quotes Tertullian on this matter:
You are the devil’s gateway. Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on your sex lives on in this age; the guilt, necessarily, lives on too.
There’s a cheery thought. Sadly, I think this is perpetuated far too often. We are the ones who are held responsible not only for our own direct actions, but for the actions of men as well. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in matters of sexuality. We’re told that we should dress modestly and avoid situations where we might become temptations for men. Yet we’re also told that if we “let ourselves go,” we might lose our men to prettier women. We must keep our husbands (of course, always husbands) sexually satisfied, whether or not we ourselves are satisfied. Some of us are expected to pledge our virginity to our parents (particularly our fathers), with shame and guilt forthcoming should we fail to keep that promise. The social consequences of sex before marriage are much more dire for women.
But we’ve forgotten one very important thing about Eve.
The association between Eve and guilt is so strong that we’ve forgotten who she really is. Eve is the giver of life; in fact, it’s what her name means. At the end of the section, Rachel draws the parallel between Eve “the mother of all the living” and us—not merely in the sense of childbearing, but in a broader sense:
We are each associated with life; each subject to the impossible expectations of men; each fallen, blamed, and misunderstood; and each stubbornly vital to the process of bringing something new—perhaps something better—into this world.
In a sense, Tertullian was right. We are each an Eve.
I love those words, especially because we’ve been taught for so long that the only “new” thing we bring into this world is more babies. Everything else is dependent on what men have wrought. But we, as givers of life, have much more than our bodies to offer. When we are given the challenge, we rise to it. It’s not that we don’t need men, but that we ourselves are necessary for more than the duties of wife and mother.
It saddens me that when it comes to Scripture, we women are expected to learn from both the men and the women whose stories fill the pages, but the stories of women are nearly always solely for the purpose of educating and edifying other women. There is a lot that men can learn from Eve, including that our mistakes may have consequences, but they don’t need to define us (her name is Life, after all, not Sin) and that through Christ we can all be bearers of life and light in the world.
May each of us, men and women alike, go out and be an Eve this week, bringing life everywhere we go.