Adam and Eve aren’t everyman and everywoman

While I think it’s true that Adam and Eve represent us, a lot of times they’re taken as mainly representing their sex. For instance, Adam shows passivity that men need to avoid, or Eve shows how women may be deceived. Among the many problems with those tropes is that they don’t fit how the story of Humanity’s family* uses those two characters.

The man and woman both represent humanity, but different aspects of it. While their characters are split by sex, they represent different sides of human nature that apply to both men and women.

The man is about humanity’s connection to the ground: working it, getting food from it, being made of it and returning to it. The Adam–earth pun is made early (Genesis 2:7) and repeated later (3:19). God’s punishment to the man also focuses on his connection to the ground through the difficulty in growing food. None of this is true of just men. Women die too! And women work in fields, prick their fingers on thorns and prepare food too. The man shows us one part of human nature, not the male nature.

The woman is about humanity’s social connection. While patriarchal cultures associate families with the father (as in the genealogies or the “house of David”), in this story family is linked to the woman. Her arrival (to cure loneliness) prompts the observation that a man will leave his parents’ house and be united to his wife. He will move under her roof – a shocking reversal of the actual cultural practice.

The woman’s punishment is about raising children and spousal relations: relational strife. Right before that, the serpent’s curse mentions the woman’s seed/descendants. While many see special meaning in this, it fits how this story makes no mention of the man’s seed. The later genealogy connects children to Adam (5:3–4), but this story links them to Eve (4:1–2, 25). The man even names the woman Eve, “mother of all who live.” Throughout, this story portrays humanity as the house of Eve.

Once again, family and social connection is not something that only applies to women. Men and women together raise families, establish households. If we don’t limit Eve to a picture of women or Adam to a picture of men, we can get so much more out of their story.

It also means we don’t have to avoid details that would seem demeaning to one sex. For instance, the man is portrayed as more primitive and instinctual than the perceiving, reasoning woman.** The woman is deceived into sinning; the man reflexively eats what’s handed to him. Both fail, but differently. This is repeated in their encounter with God. The woman admits she ate because she was tricked; the man simply because he was given – as if whatever is put in his hand automatically ends up in his mouth.

As a portrayal of the sexes, that’s pretty harsh. But when we recognize that both of them speak to all of us, we can hear a caution about our instincts and our reason. And more broadly, we can see how we are essentially connected both to the ground and to each other.


*. The account goes from 2:4 to the end of chapter 4, with “these are the generations” separators at both ends. The story shows humanity as a family, first focusing on the man and woman, then their sons.

**. Ironically, some ancient interpreters flipped this script, seeing the woman as sensual and the man as the thinker, showing how easy it is to read in what our culture trains us to expect.

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Excellent points. Seeing Adam and Eve this way also avoids the rather silly idea that people are not “complete humans” unless they are married or that a woman needs a man to be a full image bearer (something I have actually heard taught from a pulpit).

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I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess you heard it from a man.

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Ouch. I thought making stereotypes was no longer PC but maybe that doesn’t apply to a book nearly 2000 years old?

Any preacher trying that one on would not be welcome n my church. We had a 7th Day adventist trying to pull male superiority from the Bible once… Suffice it to say he has not been invited to preach since.

I doubt that even the Jewish rabbis would support the gender-orientated notions offered above.

Richard

A most modern riff. What we bring to the party eh?

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Perhaps you would prefer to live in the past? Always looks better, the further away you get from it.

:sunglasses:

Richard

Yes, I’ve suffered through sermons like that too. I was single into my early 30s, so it was a sore point. Sometimes the pastor was fixated on blasting certain views of sexuality and so he (yes, always he) didn’t realize the collateral damage of painting singles as broken humans. Kind of strange to imply Jesus fell short of full image-of-God humanity. But I don’t think consistency was the goal.

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The church is the bride of Christ… well that’s the traditional view. Most Catholic Priests are celibate which rather ruins sexuality. With the modern switch to allow for homosexuality I guess the whole broken single notion is dismissed or at least not PC. I, personally, see no reason why we need to pair up. Your ideal partner may be on the other side of the planet and never the twain shall meet. There are probably more almost perfect partnerships but the current divorce rate might imply that is not enough. Perhaps this subject is not really any of the church’s business?

Richard

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Yeah - that alone is enough. But as if it wasn’t enough … Paul (blissfully single himself, apparently) goes on to paint singleness as the highest aspiration a disciple could have, with marriage reserved as a concession for those sinners who can’t otherwise control themselves.

Kinda weird (or not, actually) how our modern culture inverted all that. One thing seems pretty sure: that’s a lot of carpet that the New Testament already yanks straight out from underneath the ‘marriage between a man and a woman is the Christian ideal’ crowd.

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Let’s remember that the curse in chapter 3 is a consequence of human sin and a distortion of God’s original intention. The result is a long history of God begging people to take care of widows and orphans precisely because a world dominated by sin see them as fair game for whatever abuse the “godless” (a term having nothing to do with atheism but more a synonym of lawless) want to indulge in.

Another one of those “contradictions” in the Bible. LOL The reality is that life can get messy and such makes for many contradictions.

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Aw come on. Is that really the od we worship? One disobedience and He curses the whole of humanity? What ever happened to
"How many times should I forgive my brother? (Matt 18)

Richard

I only used the word “curse” because that is what it is commonly referred to. Personally, I think it is more a combination of natural consequences and measures to recover the promise of human potentiality.

Furthermore I don’t think disobedience was the issue, but only the self destructive habits they fell into as a result. I don’t think God’s relationship is about a demand for obedience, but rather that of offering advice (like with what God said to Cain in Genesis 4:6-7. The commandment God gave to Adam and Eve was much like commandments parents commonly give to their children, “don’t play in the street or you will surely die.”

But you are still treating the story as real. Why?

Richard

I guess that would be because I see a great deal of meaning in the story when it is not treated either as an pseudo-science text or as a magical fairy tale. It is not like I have any great objection to treating this as a fantasy story for entertainment. I did so back in high school when someone asked me what I thought about the Bible. Obviously since that time I have found a more meaningful way of understanding the text. It may not be the approach that conserves the most time, thought, and energy, but some people are actually willing to put in some effort to find meaning there.

I never said otherwise, only that you seem to be accusing God of deliberately corrupting humanity so that He could save it (Something others here would both agree with and relish)

So what was the “sin” if it was not disobedience? What else can it be? Self interest? Or just gullibility.

Adam was told not to eat. he ate. That is disobedience. Anything else is supplementary.

I see no habbits? Self destructive or otherwise.

Maybe not only, but there is an element of it in following the guidelines and laws that He gave us. Jesus enforces the Decalogue. The principle of Love comes later, mostly from Paul.

I think I said this already, maybe not here though.

You will get a lot of stick for that from anyone who thinks the Bible is the word(s) of God. To suggest that God could contradict Himself is rather critical don’t you think?

Don’t get me wrong there are clear factual discrepancies within the Bible text as a whole but the general opinion is that there are no theological ones. You have just pointed out a rather ginormous one concerning forgiveness.

Richard

How? I cannot even fathom how you are getting that. But then how could I since you make no effort to explain.

I believe that sin consists of self destructive habits. And in this case it is the habit of blaming everyone and everything but oneself for ones own mistakes. It is quite easy to see how this leads to what follows, from Cain murdering Abel to what you see in how criminals talk, as if their victims are responsible for what they did.

Yes they were given advice from a source they should have trusted – and in the strongest terms possible. So blaming the serpent just does not wash. BUT God created them as living things not robots. Expecting that children will always simply do what is commanded isn’t reasonable. But just because disobedience is natural for children doesn’t mean it will not have dire consequences.

Ergo… you see nothing but a magical fairy tale as I do not.

Huh??? The principle of Love comes from Jesus, who upholds the law made equal to love, as its ultimate meaning and essence. I would refute any claim that Paul taught anything contrary or even fundamentally different to the teachings of Jesus. Paul simply brought the arguments of a scholar to it and gave us a clear theological picture of what Jesus was teaching.

I think the Bible is the word of God. Doesn’t mean people cannot find what looks like contradictions to them. I had just finished responding to the other thread listing a lot of such “contradictions.” Just means that Bible is not simple minded but responds to the complexity of real life.

Richard, for a current overview of some of the gender-oriented nonsense, get your hands on a copy of Aimee Byrd’s book, “Recovering from biblical manhood and womanhood.” There are others, but that’s the one I read.

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Similarly, we are all born naive.

Sorry, but if God did curse humanity into being inndemicably sinful then He has caused the need for Christ’s salvation.

I don’t see this. The sin comes first, then comes the responsibility determination.
And I do not see sin as a habit of any kind.

Do you see this as a justifiable consequence for one sin? Is that the forgiving God of the New Testament?

I am sorry for you then.

I do not see Paul as contradicting Christ either, but he certainly expands on the summation of Christ. Christ is still insisting on the Laws as guidance rather than using Love as the guide.

There are several viewpoints to this statement and I do not know how rigid your view is in terms of specific authorship.

I have no problem with certain types of contradiction within Scripture but I am more wary of theological ones.

Richard

Huh? There is nothing of that sort in the Genesis. It was all our doing and none of His.

I am sorry for you then.

Is death a justifiable consequence of jumping off a building? It is the nature of bad habits that they multiply and are destructive of our awareness, judgement, and freedom of will.

It is not about forgiveness. God offers that freely. It is about changing from these habits which are destroying us.

I don’t think so. Everything He said makes love the guide.

Indeed! My viewpoint is not inerrancy nor infallibility nor many other bits of nonsense like that. But I do believe God is the author using human writers and history as his instruments to serve His purpose and we should not alter it.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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