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(First in a series of columns)
After my series on the Old Testament, it seems appropriate to start another series, this one on the women in the Bible.
I can’t cover all of them, just the main characters. They’re interesting and intriguing and, like the men, sometimes ruthless and cruel. I hope my stories of these women will encourage you to read about them yourself.
The logical place to start is with Eve. It’s been said that she is the only woman who didn’t have a belly button since she was never a fetus. According to the second chapter of the Book of Genesis, “God built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man.” He then took her to Adam as a mature woman.
What does this story do to the theory of evolution? As I explained in my previous series, the Bible is not a scientific text, especially the first 11 chapters of Genesis.
As The Catholic Study Bible says, “As literature, Genesis 1-11 is defined as ‘myth,’ in which every story seems to describe some sort of model, for bad or for good, of the proper relations of God to the world of humans.”
And what do we learn from the story of Adam and Eve? First of all, we learn that man and woman are meant to complement and complete one another.
Genesis says of all the animals, “None proved to be the suitable partner for man.” Not so the woman. She is, Adam says, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” and the narrative says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” Conjugal union is willed by God.
But, unfortunately, Adam and Eve didn’t live happily ever after. Chapter 3 tells us of their fall after a serpent tempted Eve to disobey God’s order not to eat of the fruit of the “tree of knowledge of good and bad.”
She ate the fruit and then gave some to Adam, who also ate it. The immediate result was that they realized for the first time that they were naked, felt shame for that fact and made loincloths to cover their nakedness.
When God came to see what had happened, they hid from him, but to no avail. In punishment for their disobedience, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Their happy times were over. From then on, they had to work for their living and experience hardships. Eve was told, “I will intensify the pangs of your childrearing; in pain shall you bring forth children.”
She does bring forth children, of course—Cain, Abel and Seth, at least, for they are mentioned by name.
Chapter 5 says that Adam had other sons and daughters, but they aren’t mentioned by name and they would not necessarily have been Eve’s children. She also has to bear the anguish of learning that her son, Cain, murdered her son, Abel. †