Re analyzing adam and eve


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Re analyzing adam and eve

  1. 1.     Rojas 1  Re-­‐Analyzing  the  Story  of  Adam  and  Eve    Maria  Rojas  Dr.  Irons    Women  in  the  Bible  
  2. 2.     Rojas 2Maria RojasDr. IronsNovember 27, 11Women in the Bible Re-Analyzing the Story of Adam and Eve It is only two chapters long with only four characters. The dialogue is simple, mostlyshort and concise. If the plot were put into a play, it would last no more than ten minutes,perhaps even five. Really, it is so plain and straightforward, it too easy to narrow down…or is it?Yes, it is the story of Adam and Eve found in Genesis 2-3. And yet, despite its “simplicity,” thisstory is also abrupt, untidy, and full of ambiguity. Perhaps it is the lack of descriptive analysis inthe text itself that has generating multiple interpretations throughout the centuries, most of whichhave been negatively portrayed. However, in the last century, modern theological scholars havechallenged these traditional interpretations and viewed this story more positively. Hence, thepurpose of this paper is to analyze such interpretations, generally held as “new,” revaluate Eve,Adam, and the serpent through contemporary lenses, and to see how different interpretations aredemonstrated in popular culture. Traditionally, the story of Adam and Eve has been analyzed and interpreted negatively,particularly by the Christian theological doctrine of Original Sin derived from the Fall of Man.Although traditional interpretations have put the blame on the three culprits—Adam, Eve, andthe serpent—they have put a particular emphasis on Eve’s deception (“And it was not Adam whowas deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression." 1 Tim. 2:14). Formany years now, Eve has been condemned as the dangerous temptress who after eating theforbidden fruit, urged Adam to do so, bringing down punishment on both of them. Thus
  3. 3.     Rojas 3accordingly, Eve deserved her punishment of childbearing and submission to her husband,Adam. This common belief was then spread to women generally, who were held responsible for“bringing the original sin in to the world, and for being a continuing source of seduction”(Wijnaards). Furthermore, traditional interpretations have also speculated that the serpent was adisguised-Lucifer who knew how to bring forth temptation. Yet surprisingly, not much has beensaid about Adam’s faults. Although traditional interpretations are still commonly referred to, beginning in the 19thcentury, different and more positive interpretations of Genesis 2-3 have emerged. In 1896, one ofthe most well known women activists, Elizabeth Stanton, along with a “Revising Committee,”wrote the book The Woman’s Bible, which became the first attempt by women to evaluate theJudeo-Christian legacy and its impact on women throughout history (Stanton). Written in a timewere America was going through a somewhat traditional religious revival, The Woman’s Biblewas denounced by religious leaders across the country (Murphy). And yet, despite thecontroversy it produced by its thought-provocative alternatives to the Bible, The Woman’s Biblebecame a bestseller. Although Elizabeth Stanton generally viewed the Bible negatively—for ittaught the “degra[tion] of women from Genesis to Revelation”—she did found some femalecharacters in the Bible who were fascinating, such as Eve (Stanton). In her analysis, instead ofcondemning Eve’s actions (eating the forbidden fruit), Stanton wittily praises Eve for her“intense thirst for knowledge, that the simple pleasures of picking flowers and talking withAdam did not satisfy” (Stanton). And yet, although The Woman’s Bible had a lot to say, according to Cullen Murphy, ithas not been until the last forty-years were a “generation of scholars has found new ways tointerpret the Scriptures and the societies that created them” (Murphy). Among one the most
  4. 4.     Rojas 4prominent female contemporary scholars today is Phyllis Trible, who unlike Elizabeth Stanton, isa feminist who views the Bible positively. In a lecture she gave titled, “Depatriarchalizing inBiblical Interpretations,” Trible argues that if the Bible is reinterpreted differently fromtraditional interpretations, it does not say what centuries of male-dominated religious studieshave held them to say (Murphy). In other words, stories in the Bible, particularly that of Genesis2-3, are not necessarily hostile to women. Instead, these stories in the Bible could actually bereclaimed as spiritual sources for women. Although many do not agree with Phyllis Trible, hertheological ideology has influenced contemporary scholarship in which Eve is reinterpreted.Reevaluating Eve According to the Order of Creation According to Genesis 2: 20-23, Eve was created from Adams’ rib. Hence, manytraditional interpretations have claimed that because woman was formulated as a second thought,she is inferior to man. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:7, the issue of women’s veiling comesforth: there is a questioning of whether or not women should be veiled in the church. In theletter, the apostle Paul claims that a man should not have his head veiled, “since he is the imageand reflection of God, but woman is the reflection of man,” hence she should wear a veil. Healludes to Adam and Eve’s order of creation, somewhat placing women secondary in the church.This sentiment seems to reappear again in 1 Tim 2:11-13, where the author delivers a similarmessage: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or tohave authority over a man, she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”However, these interpretations of Genesis 2 are not necessarily true. In her essay “Eve andAdam: Genesis 2-3 Reread,” Phyllis Trible claims that when God created the man of dust,‘adham, it could be referring to man or to humankind. Because ‘adham is a generic term, it could
  5. 5.     Rojas 5be reinterpreted as androgynous: “one creature incorporating two sexes” (Trible). Hence therewas no differentiation among sexes as many traditional interpreters held it to be. In other words,it was until Eve was differentiated as a woman that Adam was differentiated as a man.Reevaluating Eve as the Temptress According to Michael Molloy, it “has sometimes cynically been said that there are twotypes of women in the scriptures: dutiful wives and dangerous temptresses” (Molloy). Eve, the“mother of all living” has generally been considered an example of the latter due to her“disreputable reputation” that began in the second century A.D. (Cornell). However, if one readsthe Bible closely, she is not only the temptress, but also the most colorful character in Genesis 2-3. Though not much is said about Eve’s psychological state of mind throughout the narrative, weas readers can infer the possibilities of what made Eve eat the forbidden apple. Furthermore, wecould also see how the consequences of her actions are not so negative after all. To begin analyzing the motives and the consequences, however, I first put attention to thealready referred to notion of Eve’s deception. According to traditional interpretations, Eve isblamed for being deceived by the serpent. Yet, even if Eve was deceived, should she really beblamed for it? According to Nancy Coker, Eve ate before differentiating good from evil, so howcould she possibly know “what it meant to sin?” (Coker). To put this interpretationmetaphorically, Eve is a baby who crawls to the edge of the bed and falls down (“The Fall ofMan”), should she be blamed for her crawling? If she really is “naïve” as tradition has held her tobe, then she should also be faultless for her naïve exploring. Nevertheless, according to othermodern interpretations (in which I agree), this notion of a “naïve” and “deceived” Eve isquestionable in the first place. If one re-reads Genesis 3:6, Eve does not seem to be the “easy
  6. 6.     Rojas 6prey for a seducing demon,” but rather an active character that consciously chooses her actions(Niditch). She might not be able to differentiate right from wrong yet, but she had enoughintellectual capacity to see that the fruit was good for food and for the eye, but most of all, it wasa good source for wisdom. In other words, Eve is no longer the deceived or the naïve one, butbecomes the “more intelligent one, the more aggressive one, and the one with greatersensibilities” (Trible). Before taking in the forbidden fruit, she had already evaluated theprohibition, interpreted it, and decided to take the risk. Hence, instead of condemning Eve’s actions, she could be praised for her strongmotivation (the promise of knowledge) and for taking seriously the “pursuit of experience andinsight” (Drucker). After all, who really knows what Eve’s situation was? According to somesources, Adam’s portrayal indicates he was “passive, brutish, and inept,” “was blinded by hisself-centerness and lack of ambition,” and had “an underdeveloped capacity for fun” (Trible;Cornell; Drucker). If such is true then, perhaps Eve was utterly tired of the simplicity of Adamand her surroundings. Furthermore, as Eleanor Wilner suggests in her poem “Candied,” theblame for Eve’s actions could also be placed on the limitations of Eden itself, for it was tooperfect: “how things had got so soft is hard to say” (Cornell). Thus, Eve’s desire ofenlightenment due to simplicity makes her take an active role in defining the world she lived in.She knows there is something beyond the plainness of her life, and yearns to find out what it is. Which she does: she learns what is good and what is bad. In other words, Eve risks herlife for the divine insight of God. Yet, traditional interpretations have failed to notice her courageand labeled her “The one who brought death” (if it were not for the “Original Sin,” life would beeternal). Nevertheless, immorality is not necessarily as idealistic as its been glorified. In TheNakedness of the Fathers, Alicia Ostriker urges the reader to re-analyze death: “Reader you may
  7. 7.     Rojas 7thank God for death, without which there’s no story. Reader imagine yourself imprisoned inparadise, dying of wholesomeness, dying of heath, dying for a grain of poison” (Cornell). Inother words, Ostriker reclaims death more positively. Death is not a terrible consequence: it isthe cork of a torturous everlasting perfection. Furthermore (and what is more importantly), traditional interpretations have completelyignored the most significant contribution Eve has given to humankind: intellect. According toJohanna Drucker, the stigmatization of Eve’s wisdom with “harsh punishment utterly negates thepower of embodied knowledge in women and men alike” (Drucker). Hence, shouldn’t weappreciate the defining moment when the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened? Their act ofdisobedience brought realization to life as the notion of ethical discernment was born. Accordingto Judith McKinlay, when Adam and Eve covered their nakedness, in their ashamedness, theyalso reclaimed “their self-identity as human not animal” (McKinlay). That is to say, their newlyheld ethics became a form of identity. (Ironically, the traditional interpretations that denounceEve are based on ethical grounds, grounds that were brought by Eve.) To put this analysis at theother end of the coin, what if Eve had said no to the serpent? Perhaps it would have been agreater offence. As Coker put it, humanity would have been static, “settling for an eternalyesterday” when it was time to move forward, when it was time to wake up (Coker). Re-evaluating Poor Adam Although some traditional interpretations have blamed Adam for eating the fruit from thetree of knowledge, the stigmatization attributed to him is much less severe than Eve’s. In somecases, some interpreters have shown pity to him. In others, Adam has even been portrayed ascompassionate. For example, in the YouTube video called “Bible Stories for Children (2-20)
  8. 8.     Rojas 8Adam and Eve,” when Adam learns that Eve ate from the forbidden tree, he becomes verydisappointed. However, because he couldn’t “bear to be separated from her,” he ended up eatingthe fruit as well with her. Hence, according to this interpretation, Adam wanted to do what was“right” as conscious character, but loved Eve too much, so decided to disobeyed God instead. However, if this interpretation of Adam is analyzed, it does not fit the text of the Bible.To begin with, when Eve offers Adam the fruit in Genesis 3:6, his actions were “He ate.” Inother words, he is “silent, passive, and a bland recipient” (Trible). He does not show anyreluctance towards the fruit, unlike the video would like to portray. There is no hint of hesitation,nor does he theologize, contemplates, or “evision[s] the full possibilities of the occasion”(Trible). As Susan Niditch’s commentary points out, when Eve gave Adam the fruit, “he [ate it]as if he were a baby” (Niditch). Furthermore, as his character develops later on, he continues tohave childlike manners when he defends himself in Genesis 3:12 (“The woman whom you gaveto be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate”). In here, he tries to evade hisresponsibility by directly blaming Eve and indirectly accusing God. Hence, through his answer,he almost seems like a “comical man” (Niditch).Reevaluating the “Diabolical” Serpent Genesis 2-3 has generally been held as the story of Adam and Eve. Yet its intriguing plotwouldn’t have taken place if it were not for its third character: the serpent. According totraditional interpretations, the serpent is a disguised Satan who tempted Eve: He was thetrickster, the deceiver who knew how to get his way. Nevertheless, such interpretation isquestionable. To begin with, at no point in Genesis 2-3 suggest that Satan was present.Furthermore, if the definition of “trickster” is defined as Susan Niditch suggests, “a character
  9. 9.     Rojas 9having the capacity to transform situations and overturn the status quo,” then the serpent is atrickster (Niditch). Nevertheless, if the term “trickster” is defined as a character that uses lies as adevice to trick, the serpent is not. In other words, when the serpent approaches Eve, he speaksnothing but the truth when he suggests that “the consequence of eating from the forbidden tree isgaining the [godlike] capacity to distinguish good from evil” (Niditch). Furthermore, the serpentalso speaks the truth when it claims that Eve would not die by eating the fruit. In fact, accordingto Genesis 3:22, God recognized that man could “reach out his hand and take also from the treeof life, to eat, and live forever.” Hence, it was not the fruit that cause death, it was God’sdecision to kick Adam and Eve out of Eden that did.Genesis 2-3 in Popular Culture Whatever the interpretations of Adam and Eve (and by extension the serpent) are, it isundeniable that they have greatly affected and are continuously affecting the particularities in ourpopular culture, thus affecting our everyday lives. As Theresa Sanders claims in her bookApproaching Eden, one doesn’t have to be religious to know the story of Adam and Eve(Sanders). In fact, nearly everyone has heard about the tale, or at least become familiarized withit through its symbolism. That being said, a particular interest of mine is to see how popular culture has legitimizedor revoked traditional interpretations. For example, according to Sanders, it is no accident thatHarry Potter’s villain, Lord Voldemort, has a snake mascot; “after Eden, we all know that snakescannot be trusted” (Sanders). Additionally, in the movie series, the demonic Lord Voldermorthimself is given snake-like features. The way this terrifying character is portrayed seems to
  10. 10.     Rojas 10whispers Lucifer’s characteristics (he is wicked snake). Thus, in this subtle allusion to Genesis 3,the traditional interpretations of the serpent are reinforced. Nevertheless, other references in popular culture donot reinforce nor deny traditional interpretations, as can beseen in the cartoon to the right. In this reference to Genesis3, the roles of Adam and Eve are put into a comicalcontemporary “phenomenon.” Eve, taking the role as awoman who is sensibly concerned with her body image,asks Adam whether she looks fat. However, it is not Eve’spreoccupation that is mocked, but Adam’s intellectualcapacity. Hence, as many modern interpretations haveportrayed Adam, this caricature makes Adam look like a fool for admitting that Eve does indeedlook fat: it was his “second BIG mistake. Nevertheless, unlike modern interpretations, Adam andEve actions are referred to as mistakes, taking the middle ground between traditional and moderninterpretations. Yet, a third category of popular culture references actually objects to traditional interpretations, sometimes subtly and at other times, quite frankly. For example, many advertisements have been made were its advertisers claim their products to be as good as the “forbidden fruit.” In an 1943 advertisement (shown to the left), the product (liquor) is actually named “Forbidden Fruit” and is claimed to be “Incomparable as a ‘Gift of the Gods’—delicious and delightful.” Such description is then rejecting the traditional notion
  11. 11.     Rojas 11that casts the fruit eaten by Eve negatively. Instead of trying to stop customers (which are Eve),this advertisement wants to seduce them, thus indirectly celebrating the moment Eve finallydecides to eat from the tree of knowledge.Ending Thoughts… Though Genesis 2-3 has traditionally been interpreted negatively throughout centuriesnow, a closer view into the Bible reveals a much more complex story were a multitude ofinterpretations can be seen. According to contemporary interpretations, the actions that Adam,Eve, and the serpent committed did not necessarily bring calamity to humankind. Instead, theybrought possibilities. Furthermore, because of the variety of interpretations that Genesis 2-3offers, references in popular culture are mixed. Some references support traditionalinterpretations, others stay somewhere in between, and yet a third challenges them.
  12. 12.     Rojas 12 Works Cited"Bible Stories for Children (2-20) Adam and Eve." YouTube. 8 May 2011. Online Video Clip.Coker, Nancy. “Images of Eden: Sacred Apples or Forbidden Fruit?” Sunrise Magazine. Theosophical University Press, April/May 1995. Web. 30 Oct. 2011Cornell, M. Doretta. “Mother of all the Living: Reinterpretations of Eve in Contemporary Literature.” Cross Currents 54.4 (2005): 91-107. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.Drucker, Johanna. "Resident Artist (Guest) TESTAMENT OF WOMEN." Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Womens Studies & Gender Issues 15 (2008): 202-211. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 30 Oct. 2011."Gramophone Scene 1943 Ad for Forbidden Fruit Liqueur." JPG.Huckle, Jon. "Mans Second BIG Mistake." DaySpring, 2008. JPG.McKinlay, Judith E. "Eve and the Bad Girls Club." Hecate 33.2 (2007): 31-42. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 28 Oct. 2011.Molloy, Michael. “Judaism: Women in Hebrew Scriptures.” Experiencing the World Religions: Tradition, Challenge, and Change. 5th ed. McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.Murphy, Cullen. The Word According to Eve: Women and the Bible in Ancient Times and Our Own. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Print.Niditch, Susan. “Genesis.” Women’s Bible Commentary-Expanded Edition. Ed. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe. Louisville, KY: Westminister John Knox Press, 1998. 13- 29. Print.Sanders, Theresa. Approaching Eden: Adam and Eve in Popular Culture. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. Print.
  13. 13.     Rojas 13Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. “The Woman’s Bible.” 1898. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 4th Ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.Trible, Phyllis. “Eve and Adam: Genesis 2-3 Reread.” W05/RG4.htm. 18 July 2011. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.Wijnaard, John. “Women were Considered to be sinful.” Web. 21 Nov. 2011.