What's Eve Got to Do With It?Oct 17, 2021
Yesterday, March 8, 2021, marked International Women’s Day (IWD), with the theme “Choose to Challenge.”
Covid caused many events to be virtual, cancelled, or scaled down. Amsterdam hosted a Tech Fest for girls. Dubai showcased international women artists. An Atlanta organization sponsored a virtual “happy hour.” Clearly, event planners held different interpretations of the day. I’d hardly compare hoisting wine glasses from home to raising placards from a refugee camp.
In the United States, March is “Women’s History Month (WHM).” Viewing the IWD theme and the WHM’s objective of promoting the role of women in history through my lens of Christianity, I’ve pondered common statements, if not actual teachings, from Christians over time and am "Choosing to Challenge" the following traditional thought.
Did Eve take the first bite?
Scripture is clear it was Eve who first picked the forbidden fruit from the infamous “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” It’s not clear she was the first one who bit into it. Huh?! Yep, check out Genesis 3:6-7. She gave some to Adam, who was right there with her, and they both ate. It is entirely possible a Hebrew scholar has dissected tenses, participles, and other grammatical components and has shown “she took of its fruit and ate” preceded “and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” But it’s not clear in the text, and I haven’t been able to locate such information. Perhaps Eve picked one for her, one for Adam, and said, “On the count of three, bite!” After all, verse 7 says, “Then the eyes of both were opened.” It’s not, “Eve ate and her eyes were opened, and then she gave some to Adam, and he ate, and his eyes were opened.”
Think about this for a minute. If Eve had eaten the first bite all by herself, wouldn’t her eyes have been immediately opened, perhaps resulting in her feeling shame and wanting to run away from Adam? Was she so cruel that, upon recognition of the shame she felt, she wanted Adam to feel this, too? Of course, this is possible. Sin does have a “join me” proclivity. If Eve ate first all by herself why doesn’t Scripture record “Then Eve’s eyes were opened” and then “Adam ate and his eyes were opened?” The absence of a first “then” – as in “Eve ate, then Adam ate” – is perhaps as significant as the presence of a second “then” – as in “Then the eyes of both were opened.”
The timing of who ate when isn’t a theological hill I’m going to die on. But maybe while capturing the flag that's been planted on it.
If I’ve heard it once -- or its innumerable variations -- I’ve heard it a thousand times. “Well, Eve was the one who ate first.”
The attitude exhaled with this “factual” proclamation isn’t typically one of sympathy or grace but of condescension or contempt from men and irritation or embarrassment from women.
And then someone:
- makes a “joke," and everyone laughs politely.
- attempts to clear the now-rancid atmosphere with the reminder, "Adam ate too!"
- reminds everyone that it was Adam, not Eve, that Scripture records having received the "Do not eat" directives from God himself.
- tries to soothe the implied guilt-by-association for females by pointing out that at least Eve was deceived.
Sin separates and divides. The fruit-tasting experience exploded unity and launched an agonizing tension whereby each person, both male and female, simultaneously longs to be known and yet greatly fears it.
Earth's greatest tragedy -- the Fall -- is a story so sad, so consequential, so sobering, surely we shouldn't employ it -- even in the smallest of ways -- as fig leaves to hide our own pain or insecurities behind.
A person doesn't have to launch into a frontal verbal assault on women to wound them. A pastor doesn't need to preach a "women-are-the-root-of-all-evil" series to inflict pain. A teacher doesn't need to present a lesson declaring women are "lesser than" men to bury their dreams.
Sometimes it's the tiniest of splinters that are the hardest to remove and hurt the most.
The comments declaring women as being "too emotional." The innuendos that women are to blame for tempting men into sin. (How many degrees of separation are there, really, between the radical Islamic beliefs requiring women to keep their entire body hidden so gullible men won't fall into lust and those intimated in mainstream churches?) The absence of challenging women to aspire to excellence in every capacity?
Perhaps it's easier to focus on the first bite instead of the teachings, ideas, and attitudes which have spawned from the "Eve's to blame" belief.
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