Eve

How the first woman's relationship with man and God is complicated.

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In light of this, the notion of general male dominance in the second half of the verse is a distortion. More likely, the idea of male "rule" is related to the multiple pregnancies mentioned in the first half of the verse. Women might resist repeated pregnancies because of the dangers of death in childbirth, but because of their sexual passion ("desire," 3:16) they accede to their husbands' sexuality. Male rule in this verse is narrowly drawn, relating only to sexuality; male interpretive traditions have extended that idea by claiming that it means general male dominance.

Eve does not disappear from the biblical story at the expulsion from the garden. In a little-noticed introduction (4:1-2a) to the ensuing Cain and Abel narrative, Eve is said to have "created a man together with the Lord." The NRSV translation--"produced a man with the help of the Lord"--obscures highly unusual language. The word for "create" is the same as the word used in the Bible for the creative power of God (Gen 14:19, 22) and in extrabiblical texts for the creativity of Semitic mother goddesses.

Women in the Bible are said to "bear children," not "create a man"; and creating a man "with" God puts female creative power alongside that of God. This view of the woman as the source of life, together with the more conventional notice of the birth of her second son, Abel (Gen 4:2a), is the last direct reference to Eve in the Hebrew Bible (although she is mentioned indirectly in Gen 4:25, where she gives birth to Seth). It follows the scene in which Adam names her, presumably signifying his power over her. Is that a male narrator's attempt to compensate for the awesomeness of female creativity, akin to God's?

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Carol Meyers

Carol Meyers is the Mary Grace Wilson Professor in the department of religion at Duke University, where she teaches biblical studies, archaeology, and gender in the biblical world. As a field archaeologist, she has participated directed many excavation projects in Israel. Her recent book, Women in Scripture, is the most comprehensive study ever made of women in Jewish and Christian scriptures.