Eve Part 3
Many women writers have defended Eve and her actions, and have wrestled about possible interpretations of Adam and Eve and their ‘fall’ from grace. Their fresh perspectives on Eve and her submission in eating the fruit has allowed womens’ voices to be heard from their own experience and not from that of a patriarchal view. Women throughout the ages have tried to reject the projection of sin put upon them by their male counterparts. Women are able to bear the burden of sin on their own if need be but having to be patriarchy’s scapegoat is not acceptable. Sadly, many women have accepted their ‘inferiority’, and this can be seen for example by the ambivalence with which many women and even young girls view their bodies.
Abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) spent much of her life meditating on Adam and Eve and the meanings to be gleaned from their time both within and outside Paradise in terms of person to person relationship; relationship to God and relationship to Satan. Hildegard was benign to Eve, seeing in her the person who bestows divinity onto humanity and seeing in her also the prefiguration of Mary. Pain in childbirth is not seen as inevitable or a curse. Rather, each time the mother gives birth, the hidden God is revealed. By giving birth, God’s image is revealed in every child who is born.*
Christine de Pizan (1365-1430) became a writer to avoid destitution after the death of her husband and father. She exchanged letters (Querelles des Femmes) with the male humanists of the era, arguing for equal status of women. She was disillusioned by the male writers of the time in their denigration of women. She rehabilitates Eve (The Book of the City of Ladies), arguing that Eve was made in the image of God and asserting that Adam and Eve’s souls were of equal value. She states that Eve, being fashioned from the rib of Adam shows surely that she should be at his side as companion, not as slave, and that a master craftsman’s hand must have been at work to make Eve out of Adam.
Sarah Joseph Hale (1788-1879) prefaces her book ‘Woman’s Record’ published in 1853, with her understanding and interpretation of the fall. She contends that Adam needed assistance in cultivating his good qualities and, ‘left to himself, his love becomes lust; patriotism (becomes) policy; and religion, idolatry. He is naturally selfish in his affections and selfishness is the sin of depravity’. She also contends that Eve took the apple because of her ‘higher faculties of her mind … (her) desire for knowledge and wisdom …(and that Adam ate with) compliance (typical of a person of a) lower nature … (and motives no higher) than gratifying his sensuous inclinations’.
Richard Lewontin of Harvard University tells us that according to the Haggadic legend, the celestial cloner put a great deal of thought into technique. In deciding what of Adam’s organs to use for Eve, He had the problem of finding tissue, what the biologist calls ‘totipotent’ i.e. not already committed in development to a particular function. So He cloned Eve-
”not from the head, lest she carry her head high in arrogant pride, not from the eye, lest she be wanton-eyed, not from the ear, lest she be an eavesdropper, not from the neck, lest she be insolent, not from the mouth, lest she be a tattler, not from the heart, lest she be inclined to envy, not from the hand, lest she be a meddler, not from the foot, lest she be a gadabout. But from the rib, a ‘chaste portion of the body’. In spite of all the care and knowledge, something went wrong, and we have been earning a living by the sweat of our brows ever since”.
And I read this somewhere – if Adam had not accepted the apple from Eve he would still be waiting for his supper –
* Pamela Norris: The Story of Eve. Picador 1998
Next week I will wrap up with Lilith & Eve
with thanks to google images for above image ..