Eve, the mother of all living

(Laura) #1

Apologies if this has already been addressed here (I couldn’t find it at least), but this has had me wondering too. From Genesis 3:20:
“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.”

(That’s NIV – ESV and NASB say “was” instead of “would become.”)

Would a possible explanation be that “all the living” was simply used in a genealogical sense, meaning she was the mother of the Israelite line specifically, rather than all humanity in general? Even so, that seems an odd way to phrase it…

Cain's wife and ofther humans
(Christy Hemphill) #2

I think it is pretty hard to get around the fact that in the Jewish conception, Adam and Eve were the first people, the genealogical parents of everyone. Obviously there were not the genetic or biological implications that such a claim carries today, but it seems it was obvious is was their concept that they were the original couple. Genesis 1-2 is an origin story.

(Laura) #3

So in other words, we shouldn’t automatically take “genealogical” to also mean “genetic”? I guess that would be the reason for threads like Genealogical is not genetic, which felt a bit over my head at the time I read it. I still have a hard time with the idea that “all the living” doesn’t really mean “all the living” … aside from assuming that “living” simply meant something different back then… or in that language.

(Curtis Henderson) #4

Could it also refer to a sort of “spiritual living”? In my understanding, plenty of people have argued that the “death” resulting from eating the forbidden fruit was a spiritual death. It seems reasonable that a “spiritual life” might be considered here.

(Christy Hemphill) #5

I think they probably thought Eve was the mother of all people, of all humanity. Period. I think that is what it means. It isn’t scientifically true, because it isn’t a scientific account. The story answers people’s questions with truth, not necessarily with facts. I think we tend to conflate the two, but other cultures don’t as much.

So maybe they weren’t bothered by the fact that Eve is the mother of all living, but hey, Cain runs off to live with other people who aren’t his relatives.

Except the naming is post-Fall, post-curse, in Gen. 3:20.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #6

Good points. It makes me curious how a hypothetical discussion would play out if someone today who is troubled by such things could take a time machine back to Hebrew exile times, and proceed to press such modern concerns on them. Could they have been bothered by such things? I know this must be profligately hypothetical, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering.

(Jay Johnson) #7

Yes, I agree, and I feel the same about the flood. The language of God’s judgment is emphatically universal in those passages. It’s a constant drumbeat. A regional flood and a genealogical Adam may “solve” the history problem, but they don’t do justice to the language of the text, in my humble opinion. Your mileage may vary …


I have always viewed the Genesis myth (not meant in a derogatory sense) as being the opposite, that all mothers of humanity were Eve. The story reads to me as an allegory of children becoming adults, where they are at first innocent and naked, and then later in life they learn of morality and sin . . . and clothing. As a larger allegory, it speaks of humanity becoming human over time, starting out more like naked animals and then learning of morality and sin. It is a myth of innocence lost.

(Larry Bunce) #9

The Hebrew names for the first humans show that the creation story was intended to be symbolic. “Adam” originally meant “the man,” with references to “from the dust.” The name given to “the woman” by “the man,” chawwah, sounds like the word chawah, which means “to breathe,” and also like the word chayah, meaning “to live.” There is also a similarity in sound to the phrase meaning “mother of all living.” Ancient Hebrew liked plays on words, which later translators either didn’t get, or didn’t believe that God would stoop to using puns.

(Laura) #10

In other words, there wasn’t a way (such as capital letters in English) to denote a “proper noun” vs. a regular one, in that language?


I don’t see why that would matter if the author was using symbolism. Even today we use symbolic names in stories. For example, the movie “Leaving Las Vegas” made an impression on me in my early 20’s. The main characters were Ben and Sera. Ben was an alcoholic whose life was behind him, and he eventually drank himself to death. Sera had a bad life behind her, but she had a bright future if she chose to pursue it. You have Ben, as in “has been”, and Sera, the French verb “will be” as in “que sera, sera”. Sera was even careful to spell out her name (pronounced Sarah) to make the symbolism more obvious.

Naming the main protagonist “Man” is a pretty obvious hint that they author is using an archetype. If you replace “Adam and Eve” with “Man and Woman” in Genesis, it can lead to a deeper understanding of what Genesis may have been trying to convey.

(Jay Johnson) #12

No, no capital letters. The Hebrew 'dm or adam appears first in Gen. 1:26 - “Let us create adam in our image…” This is a generic noun, so it is translated “mankind.” From there until Gen. 4:26, adam appears with a definite article (“the” in English) as ha’adam, which is “the man.” The use of a definite article is the clue that adam is not being used as the name of an individual, just as in English you would not call me “the Jay,” and I would not call you “the Elle.” The only possible exception to this rule is “the Dude” from “The Big Lebowski.”

(Noah White) #13

Or “El Duderino” if you’re not into the whole ‘brevity’ thing.


That actually sounds pretty logical to me. I never thought about that. No one will argue that others lived outside of the genealogy, but it had a purpose in telling a story, just like father Abraham isn’t the father of all, I guess Eve could be the mother of all the living.

Interesting insight, thanks.

Lol, nice

That explains this quote for me, thanks folks.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #15

Something here has been left unexplored, I think, regarding how scriptural authors make use of what we now call contradiction. Experts in literature must have a word for this, but more than once in the new testament (probably the old as well) there is a thought expressed that is immediately followed by a contradicting thought – a “paradoxical couplet” if you will. I have read these often enough before, but the only one that comes to mind at the moment is when Jesus says of John the Baptist: "among those born of women no one is greater than John; … " That would be everybody, right? Even Jesus himself, if we were to just take that literally. Then Jesus continues “… yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.” Okay then. John is not greater than just everyone! Of course this paradox is only a “problem” when people try to pull these modern stunts on the Bible, but to those who want to attend to the actual teaching content, it seems fairly obvious here that Jesus is highlighting just how great John was, and then how much more awesome yet the Kingdom of God is so that by contrast, even the least in that Kingdom is so much greater yet!

Or we often read of how “it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for ___”. So were they [Sodom & Co.] not so bad then? Are there different levels of hell and they are in one of the less harsh levels? No; it seems Jesus (and other old testament prophets who used the same formula) was using those whom his audience held as poster-children for evil and then for shock value telling them “well guess what? --you’re even worse!”. So it isn’t commentary on Sodom at all, but rather just using a sledge hammer to make a point to a smug audience. Anything else we now want to monkey around with about arguments, technicalities, or contradictions is just so much (willful?) distraction from the crater left by Jesus’ sledgehammered point.

So I am inclined to agree with others here earlier who have pointed out that biblical authors just weren’t as bothered by contradiction as we so often are now, and far from being unaware of it, often were even using it to make a point.

(Jay Johnson) #16

The examples you gave are of a fortiori argumentation. The easiest way to remember it, for me, is that it is a “how much more” style of rhetoric. Paul, in particular, was very fond of it:

For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!

Edit: Not that I’m claiming to be an expert! haha

(Victor) #17

The reference to Adam continuing (imperfect) to call her Eve does not occur until Chapter 3. In chapter 2, he calls her woman, because she was taken out of the man, ishsha. The context clearly shows that he called her this when he awoke from the operation and God brought her to him. He also refers to her as ishsha in 3: 22, when he ne calls her mother of all living, Eve. However, the context does not explain when he called her this.

It is important to remember that Hebrew had no verb tenses. They did not explain things relative to a philosophical notion of time. In Hebrew, events are not necessarily placed in chronological order.They may be arranged in order of importance. When Adam continues to call her Eve, he may be anticipating their children or she may have already borne Cain. We do not have a specific reference to when he called her eve because the context is ambivalent.

In chapter 3, God imposed a passive continuing curse on all animals. He also causally increases the toil of women in childbirth. The ground also received a passive continuing curse so that it would continue to bring forth thorns. Thus, man had to labor for his bread. Yet dry ground plants did not exist in the Eden era when water came out of the ground and watered the entire face of the Earth. (Notice that everything endures change from the curse. All animals deteriorate and even the ground passively produces things that are not good, as they were in chapter 1.) Men and women both suffer. They also gradually die. In chapter 2, God tells Adam on the day you eat of the forbidden fruit, dying you will continue to die (imperfect and participle words for to die are use). Yet Adam lived 930 years. They ended up dying because they could no longer eat of the tree of life. In the New Jerusalem, the tree of life is for the healing of the nations.


(Phil) #18

Victor, whar do you make of the part do the curse where Eve is told that as a consequence man would rule over her. Do you see the patriarchal social system as part of the curse? Perhaps that would explain why God bypassed it on many occasions.

(Victor) #19

God made Eve from his side, not his foot or his head. They were companions, not master and subject.

Eve was deceived. Yet it was because of Adam’s disobedience that death passed to all men. Evidently, he had more information about the Creation, since he spent a considerable period cataloging and naming the land animals. God placed Adam in the eastern (meaning earliest) garden before Eve existed. It was to Adam, that God gave the instructions not to eat the forbidden fruit. She knew the instruction since she explained it to the serpent. Thus she went against her husband who doubtless had warned her about the tree. She also gave fruit to her husband.

Perhaps it was because she went against the instructions of her husband, that God told her her desires will be to her husband and he will rule over you.

Before sin, they were innocent. They had no need for a ruler. All the world was theirs. No need for laws about property. The only law they had, other than the tree, was that they would be one, clinging to each other (The law of marriage).

Rulers, the Bible states, are in authority for our good. God did not intend for those in authority to lord it over others or to imagine that they are greater than those who are subject to them. Yet in an evil world, there is a need for a system of authority. However, the Bible tempers this with a command. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. I know of no man who can say I always obey this command perfectly.


(system) #20

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