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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

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All four passages in the Bible that contain the name "Eve" refer to the wife of the original man, Adam (Gen 3:20; 4:1; 2 Col 11:3; 1 Tim 2:13). Her creation takes place after God's assertion that "it is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen 2:18), his announcement that he will make the man a helper who corresponds to him (ezer kenegdo), his peer and complement, and the observation that no other creature yet formed is suitable (vv. 18-20). All this illustrates the innate human need for community. Indeed, the marriage relationship involving these first two humans (vv. 24-25) typifies all forms of human coexistence designed to satisfy the primal yearning for fellowship.

Subordination is not inherent in the use of the term, ezer [עָזַר], "helper" (2:18, 20), as is clear from the fact that it is frequently used of God in relation to humans (e.g., Exod 18:4; Deut 33:7; Psalm 33:20; 70:5; [6] 115:9, 10, 11; 146:5). The description of the woman being created from the man's rib (Gen 2:21-22) highlights the kind of affinity between man and woman that is not possible between humans and other creatures. That fact is emphasized in the man's joyful cry of recognition when God presents the woman to him: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (v. 23). Some detect evidence of male headship in the prefall narrative (e.g., the man's prior creation, the woman's derivation from the man, his designation of her as woman, and the focus on a man's initiative in the establishment of a marriage relationship [2:7, 21-24]). Others suggest the idea of man's subjugation of woman is introduced only after the fall when God describes the various forms of humiliation, enmity, pain, and drudgery that result from human rebellion against him (3:14-19).

The woman's role in the narrative about the fall is significant, not least because it is she who has the exchange with the serpent, the agent of temptation. The focus on the conversation is the covenant that God initially establishes with the man (2:15-17). Although that covenant subsequently includes her (3:2-3), she is not an original party to it. Some commentators suggest that this makes her more vulnerable than the man to the serpent's intrigue in this regard, and that he addresses her specifically for this reason. In the course of the conversation she does, in fact, misrepresent the terms of the covenant by diminishing the generosity of the Creator's provision (3:2; "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden"; cf. 2:16: "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden"), adding to the covenantal prohibition (3:3: "You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it"; cf. 2:17: "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil") and weakening the statement about the consequences of disobedience (3:3: "or you will die"; cf. 2:17: "you will surely die"). In the final analysis, however, both she and her husband challenge the Creator's prerogative to establish moral absolutes of right and wrong by eating the forbidden fruit (3:6; cf. 2:17) and both are held equally accountable (3:9-19).

The only positive prospect mentioned by God as he spells out the fall's consequences is that, in the context of the ongoing enmity between the woman and her offspring, on the one hand, and the serpent and his offspring, on the other, the woman's offspring will dominate the serpent's (3:15). In the immediate setting this statement is probably intended to represent humanity's continuing struggle with evil and to anticipate the eventual vanquishment of evil. From the perspective of the New Testament the ultimate realization of that hope is to be found in the triumph of God and his kingdom over evil and the evil one (Luke 10:17-19; Rom 16:20; Heb 2:14; Rev 12).

Genesis 3:20 describes Adam assigning his wife the name, Eve, "because she would become the mother of all the living." The original Hebrew form of the name, hawwa [חַוָּה], is apparently a derivative of, or a paronomasia on, the verb haya [חֲיָה], which means "live." Adam's comment reinforces the idea that all of humanity constitutes a family, a family for which the unsavory consequences of human transgression and the possibility of human redemption are a common heritage.

When Eve is next mentioned by name it is in relation to her conception and delivery of Cain (qayin [קַיִן]), after which she says that she has produced (qana [קָנָא]) a man with Yahweh's help (4:1). Thus she who was derived from man now demonstrates her creative capacity in partnership with her Creator (cf. 1 Cor 11:8-9, 11-12). Incidentally, she also has the distinction of being the first individual portrayed in the Genesis narrative as pronouncing that name by which God typically reveals himself to people with whom he binds himself in covenant.

In the New Testament, Eve is remembered for being created after Adam and for being deceived. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:3, expresses his fear that, as the serpent cunningly deceived Eve, the thoughts of the Corinthians "may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." The theme of Eve's deception is also present in 1 Timothy 2:14 following the mention of her creation after Adam (v. 13) in the statement which, by means of analogy, provides the rationale for the prohibition against a woman teaching or having authority over a man (v. 12). This injunction must be seen against the backdrop of the situation in Ephesus, Timothy's location (1:3), where certain women in the church were creating problems (see 5:11-15). It cannot be used to support the idea that no woman may ever teach or exercise leadership in the church (see Acts 18:26; Rom 16:1, 7).

Robert J. V. Hiebert

See also Adam; Fall, the; Head, Headship; Woman

Bibliography. H. Blocher, In the Beginning; W. Brueggemann, Genesis; C. Brown, NIDNTT, I, pp. 87-88; U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis; I. M. Kikawada, JBL91 (1972): 33-37; W. E. Phipps, Theology Today33 (1976): 263-73; M. L. Ronzenweig, Judaism 139 (1986): 227-80; A. P. Ross, Creation and Blessing; G. von Rad, Genesis; G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15; C. Westermann, Genesis: A Practical Commentary.

 


Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell Copyright 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Eve'". "Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology".
<http://classic.studylight.org/dic/bed/view.cgi?number=T237>. 1897.

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