Sep 25 2009

1- EVE : GENESIS Ch. 2, 3

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1- EVE

Eve was created, just like Adam, in God’s own image (Gen 1:27, 5:2),, and with him she was given dominion over every living thing (Gen 1:28-30).

Whereas Adam was formed of dust from the ground, Eve was formed from Adam’s body when the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, then took one of his ribs and made it into a woman. When Adam awoke and saw the woman beside him, he explained, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh…Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen 2:23,24). We know that these were the same words used by the Lord Jesus when He answered those who asked Him about divorce, stressing the unity of matrimony in Christianity (Mat 19:4, 5) .

The mystery of matrimony: Eve, the example of the church

This mystery refers to a greater one, and to a deeper spiritual meaning which St. Paul explained saying, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church…For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church“.(Eph 5:23-33).

The church, the bride of Christ, came into being out of the side of His Divine body. This is explained in the sermon (memre) of St. Jacob al-Serougi, which is usually read at the ninth hour of Good Friday in Coptic Churches.

“The heavenly second Adam came from the dwelling place of His Father, and died through the cross. Out of Him baptism came. The bridegroom lay down and slept. His side opened and the bride was born as was Eve from Adam. The serenity of the sleep of death came upon him through the cross, and out of Him came out the mother of all spirits. Through His death, the master of Adam begat the new Eve to be the parent of all men in lieu of the Eve that was bitten by the serpent.”

The above quotation can be paraphrased as follows: “The flowing out of water and blood from the side of the Savior when pierced by a spear on the cross is a symbolic expression of the mystery of baptism through which the Church gives birth to her children, and the mystery of communion through which the Church becomes the body of Christ and every faithful soul becomes a bride.

The fall of Eve

It seems that this first wedding in the garden of Eden did not last long. Some church fathers believe the duration was for only a few hours, and that Eve was like a small child in the view of Satan, the old serpent. Eve was deceived and she ate of the fruit of the tree of which they were commanded not to eat. Consequently, death had dominion over all mankind and sin ruled over the human race, with Eve changing from the mother of every living soul to the mother of every dead person. The early fathers of the church saw that here also, the love, righteousness and economy of God, for the salvation of mankind were revealed. God cursed the earth and the serpent but not man. In this respect, St. Athanasius explains:

“It is not agreeable (compatible) with God’s righteousness that His creation perishes because of Satan’s seduction of humans. It was not proper that God’s human creation perishes because of their negligence or because of their seduction by evil spirits. What is the benefit of their creation from the beginning? It was preferable for them not to be created than to be neglected and to perish. Negligence would not mean God’s righteousness but His weakness, if He lets His creation perish after it has been created. It would have been preferable not to create man at all.” “Therefore, God’s promise was pronounced that the Savior who would come from the offspring of woman will crush the serpent’s head.”(Gen 3:15)

Eve and The Virgin

Eve was again a symbol of another one of her offspring: St. Mary, the mother of God. The early fathers of the church found it interesting to compare Eve and St. Mary, such as currently reflected in the daily praise (in Coptic Liturgical prayers) wherein St. Mary is called the second Eve and the mother of every living soul.

One of the second century Fathers of the Church, St. Justin Martyr wrote:

“Eve was a virgin when she gave in to the serpent’s temptation which resulted in disobedience and death, but Mary accepted the angel Gabriel’s message in faith and rejoicing.”

St. Irenaeus, bishop of Leon, says,

“The virgin Eve, who was already espoused to a man, brought death upon herself and the human race through her disobedience, Mary, too, was betrothed when , because of her obedience, she brought salvation for herself and all men. The problem caused by Eve’s disobedience was solved by Mary’s obedience.”

Tertullian, the well known scholar of the third century, wrote:

“The word of Satan set up a death trap in Eve while still a virgin. Therefore, the Word of God came upon a virgin to establish a new life. Whatever we lost through a female we were given back through the same gender”.

Origen of Alexandria (3rd century) wrote,

“St. Mary regained for women the dignity that was lost because of the sin of Eve”.

Along the same lines, we often hear in the Psalmody of the Coptic Church,

“The glory of all virgins is Mary the mother of God for whose sake the bond of the first curse that came upon our human race through the sin of the woman who ate of the tree, was loosened. Because of Eve, the gate of paradise was closed, but through Virgin Mary it was opened for us again.”(Thursday Theotokia)

“It was through the counsel of Eve, our first mother, Adam ate of the fruit of the tree bringing death and corruption upon our race and all creation. Through Mary, the mother of God, Adam was brought back to his principality once again.”(Monday Lubsh)

“Hail Mary, (who are) the salvation of all earth, that we, for your sake were relieved of Eve’s curse. (Saturday Lubsh Batos)

Eve’s punishment: Did Eve belittle the status of women?

The sin of Eve was not without immediate punishment; God subjected her to the pains of conception and submission to her husband (Gen 3:16). Was Eve’s sin behind man’s supremacy and rule over woman?

This line of thought has its advocates who base their view on certain verses in the epistles of St. Paul to a number of churches on special occasions (1Co 11:3-10; 14:34,35; Eph 5:22-24; 1Ti 2:8-15), ,,. The proponents base their argument on the actual status of woman in the church after the third century and on the views expressed by a number of the church fathers such as John Chrysostom and St. Augustine, who saw that in the creation of woman after the creation of man, her having been a “helpmate” for him, and her responsibility for man’s fall, a justification for keeping her away from the leading roles in the church , including teaching, while confining her participation to issues of secondary importance and modest activities.

This view, however, is in conflict with fundamental teachings of Christianity in certain aspects. Christ has saved us from sin and its penalty, thereby elevating the status of woman and putting her on equal footing with man (Gal 3:26-28; 1 Co 11:11,12),. The curse departed after the Virgin’s conception and the birth of Christ, according to St. Jerome and the Coptic Psalmody (as detailed above).

Indeed, the selection of individual verses from the Bible, and interpreting them in a manner which is inconsistent with the spirit of the Bible in its totality, is not a correct procedure. From the holy Bible and the tradition of the church during the first three centuries, we learn that:

* Jesus Christ had some women followers (Luk 8:1-3) who are now addressed in the church Praise of glorification as “the female disciples of the Lord”.

* The apostle Paul, whose words are often quoted as demising women’s position, had female helpers in his ministry (Ro 16:6,15),whose task was teaching and preaching (Acts 18:26); he allowed women to prophesy in the church (1 Co 11:5) and conferred on female servants the same title of deacon(ess) (Ro 16:1).

* Some fathers tried to justify the secondary role of women in their days, and made biblical errors as they denied the creation of woman in the image of God; interpreted the word “helpmate” as indicating a lower status (although the same word in Hebrew as used in the Old Testament describes God’s help extended to us); and they ignored the many references which attribute the fall of man and the judgment of death passed on mankind to Adam (Ro 5:12-15).

* Belittling the value of women renders us inferior to the Jewish culture where prominent women appeared such as Mary (Moses’ and Aaron’s sister) and Huldah the prophetesses and Esther and Deborah.

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