The Creation of Eve 12-13th Century Mosaic Monreale Cathedral, Sicily
So, it’s been light blogging because I’ve been recovering from having my gallbladder removed last weekend. And percocet makes me mean. So I’ve been applying the adage my boys have heard 1 times a day since they learned to speak: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
But I’m off the dope and wanted to get back to our earlier discussion on Adam and Eve. (To understand this discussion, I suggest reading What’s the Deal With Adam and Eve? Part 1 first.) When we left off, Adam had determined that there was no gibbon that tickled his fancy and God put him into a deep sleep. Then God took a rib from Adams side, closed the spot with flesh and fashioned woman.
A few things here. The man is put into a deep sleep. This can certainly mean simply that Adam was unconscious. Under full anesthesia, if you will. However, because we are also reading the story as an allegory, it can be informative to go a little deeper. When we sleep, we are still alive. We are not aware of what is going on in the physical world, but we dream. Our brains are busy doing clean-up work that can not be tended to when we’re busy using it while awake. And often we wake up and remember none of it. If we do, as often as not, we’re left with an impression which is more emotion than anything and hard to put into words. From an evolutionary point of view, we would be looking at a time which, like sleep, was important to the brain, but didn’t change the body, per se. Perhaps this was a time of refinement of the human brain. Which would make it a time which would leave its mark on us. Figuring out what makes humans human and what makes us different from other animals is the holy grail of many scientific disciplines. And it has proven much harder to pin-point than anyone would expect. It’s turned out to be a bit like trying to pin down a dream. All yes, it’s all speculation, of course!
Creation of Woman, Cathedral of Freiburg in Breisgau,ca. 1200-1513
I think it’s also important to note that Adam’s deep sleep was caused by God. Adam was not an active participant in any of this. This was not a willful choice. And what was going on during this time? A separation of male and female. Before being put in this deep sleep, there was Man – Adam – humanity. After waking, there were now three categories of human being: Mankind, male and female. Adam the man and adam the Hebrew word for mankind have parted. We now all have dual identities: human and gendered. And God said, “vive la difference!”
Now, the differences between men and women have been an enduring problem (more about that another day). Religion has taken a lot of hits for institutionalizing attitudes which, while shockingly liberal in their day, just don’t work very well. I think the problem is that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female” is generally accepted as a truth worth defending today. At any rate, this passage, where woman is taken from the side of man to be a suitable “helper” for him has been used to justify women’s inequality in the church. However, this view is barely supported and certainly not required by the text. As I explained in this essay on Godly Submission there are other, more plausible explanations:
the Hebrew word ezer – the “help” from “helpmeet” – is only ever used elsewhere in the bible to describe God or a more powerful army coming to the aid of God’s people in times of extreme need. It’s the hero role. And it’s used to describe woman’s role at the start of creation. So yes, man was created first. But woman was created to be the portion of God’s help that men should look to in their most desperate times of need.
(I have a page titled “Women & Scripture” that you can explore if you’re looking for more on the topic.)
The Creation of Eve. Biblium Pauperum, 14th Century
Did you know that scientists speculate that our ancestors may have developed the ability to walk in order to improve the success of reproduction? The theory is that because birthing and raising our young is such a labor intensive task for females, men who were better able to care for their partner and her infant would make the most attractive partners. And their children would be more likely to survive the dicey first months of life. Being able to walk meant that a male could range far afield in search of food and resources while mother recuperated and cared for her vulnerable infant. Just like today, a woman left on her own to care for a child had a much tougher road to walk than one with a reliable partner. Being a helper isn’t just a female job. It’s a central part of the male identity as well. Always has been. When God separated male and female, it was a gift to Mankind – both male and female. We all needed a helper – an ezer. This wasn’t something special just to men, I don’t think. Both the texts and the work of scientists studying human evolution demonstrate how deeply entangled we are with each other as male and female for reasons of relationship and reproduction.
Also, let’s look at the relationship between Adam and Eve. It has often been said that the serpent approached Eve because, being weaker, she was more vulnerable to his lies. More likely, being the craftiest of all the creatures, he knew what they teach used car salesmen on their first day: “men are easy to sell things to. It’s the wife you have to worry about cuz she’s going to ask all the questions. And if you can’t get it past the wife, you’re screwed.” (They’ll admit it’s not always true and will just point to a less-common, but also good-to-know stereotype: “the father/daughter marriage”. Yes, I sold used cars briefly. I got fired. The ex took me to a fancy Chinese place to celebrate.) Although Adam and Eve were together, Eve apparently felt no compunctions about making her own decision. It was not her habit to seek approval from her adam first. And Adam seems to trust Eve. He just takes the fruit. I’ve been told it was the boobs. But really, isn’t there more dignity in being vulnerable to lies than boobs anyways?
Now, about Adam and Eve – what do we actually know about them? I have heard pastors describe Adam and Eve as perfect – “Super humans”. Without flaw, in constant communion with God, knowing their place and purpose in the garden. But I would argue that none of that is supported by the text itself. It’s speculation. So, as long as we’re speculating, I’ll throw my speculation into the ring. In order to do this, I’m going to skip ahead to after the fall.
The text says that “their eyes were opened” after eating the fruit. And the first thing they notice is . . . “OMG I’m naked!” So, we can say with some amount of confidence that Mankind has not ventured too far out of the woods and tall grass yet. Not exactly world travellers, these two. I’m pretty sure skiing wasn’t a desirable weekend get away.
We also discover that Adam and Eve seem to have a very confused idea of who God is. When he comes to see them, they try and hide. From God. Doesn’t that just sound dumb? And when he calls out to them, Adam says he doesn’t want to come out because he’s naked. Which God might have noticed already, but either this is no comfort to Adam or he’s still not thinking clearly. This is not the behavior of an ancient super-duo. Really, it sounds a lot like a kid who suddenly develops body modesty after spending the first 5 years of his life happily answering the front door in the buff.
The other thing we learn is that Adam and Eve were not, as some would have it, living in constant communion with God and living out their purpose on earth. At least not yet. God visits with them in the cool of the evening. He’s letting them live their lives, not following them around directing them. Also, Adam and Eve had been given dominion over creation, but had not yet begun to use the resources available to them to change or improve their lives. When they realized they were naked, they tried draping vines around themselves. Weaving and leather-making, two very old and very human activities were not yet in practice. (Neanderthals used leather, to give an idea of the place of this activity in human development.) Adam and Eve were very young and very primitive at the time of the fall.
So, there’s the second half of What’s the Deal With Adam and Eve? Also, I have written some about the fall in “Original Sin Gets a Bad Rap” if you’re just itchin’ for more! I’m probably going to get to the whole tree thing in a day or two. If you subscribe now, it will be delivered into your inbox. Or you can “Like” The Upside Down World on facebook and it’ll show up on your wall. Gotta keep up with the cool kids, right? ;p