Before I go into Carolyn Custis James’ perspective on who Eve was, let’s get a dose of some early church fathers’ view of her(and all women who came after):
Tertullian (c. 155/160-220 CE):
Do you not believe that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives on even in our times and so it is necessary that the guilt should live on, also. You are the one who opened the door to the Devil, you are the one who first plucked the fruit of the forbidden tree, you are the first who deserted the divine law; you are the one who persuaded him whom the Devil was not strong enough to attack. All too easily you destroyed the image of God, man. Because of your desert, that is, death, even the Son of God had to die.
(The Apparel of Women, Book I, Chapt. 1)
Tertullian (160?-220?): “Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil’s doorway. You led astray one whom the devil would not dare attack directly. It was your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags.”
“God created Adam master and lord of living creatures, but Eve spoilt all, when she persuaded him to set himself above God’s will. ‘Tis you women, with your tricks and artifices, that lead men into error.” —Luther
“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”
— Saint Augustine of Hippo, Church Father, Bishop of Hippo Regius, 354 – 430
Ambrose (339-97): “Adam was deceived by Eve, not Eve by Adam… it is right that he whom that woman induced to sin should assume the role of guide lest he fall again through feminine instability.”
These quotes demonstrate the not-so-nice perspective Christians historically had of Eve, and therefore women. I’m so glad there’s more to Eve than her sin of disobedience to God. Let’s see what James says about Eve in Lost Women of the Bible. She begins by acknowledging that we have lost sight of who Eve really was ~
“The original Eve was lost in Paradise. Sadly, instead of remembering her in those earlier days, the world’s memory of her was frozen in time at the worst possible moment – back in the Garden of Eden just as she swallowed a piece of forbidden fruit and served some to her husband.”
“A bite of fruit, and everyone forgot God’s stunning sixth-day assessment: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone'(Genesis 2:18). We forget the woman he created as the perfect remedy for man’s lack.”
It rings true that Eve has been viewed as a temptress who is responsible for bringing sin into the world. This view has been over-emphasized and is unquestionably bad for women. James goes on ~
“On the downside, we’re left with the impression of Eve as a temptress, which leads to the belief that women are morally weak and, if given the chance, will bring men down or seize control. This is a fallen view of women. On a more positive note, Eve is remembered as a wife and mother. Yet even this poses something of a problem. It means little girls must grow up before becoming what God created them to be. Moreover, it excludes women without husbands or children.”
So being a “real” woman of God cannot consist of the definitions that have been popular recently; that you must be a wife, mother, and homemaker to be a biblical woman. So how can we know the true Eve? We have to start at the beginning with the reason the woman was created.
“If we want to recover Eve’s true legacy, we must begin where the Bible does – with her creation. ”
God created Eve to be His image-bearer. He also created her to be the man’s ezer – his strong helper. She also shared the cultural mandate to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. The dominion of the earth was given to her and the man together(Genesis 1:26-28) ~
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
I love reading these verses. There’s no question about it; God made men and women to work together. Men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus; we’re from earth, created in God’s image. There’s nothing in these verses about the woman being easily deceived, more emotional, or more suited to childcare and housework. What is clear is that men and women were created to work together in what James calls, the “Blessed Alliance”. James comments on this in her blog post, The Blessed Alliance ~
“At creation, God created his image bearers—male and female—to serve Him together as a Blessed Alliance in every sphere of life. The scope of their mission encompassed ‘all the earth’ (Genesis 1:26). Therefore God’s special blessing rests uniquely on this male/female partnership both in marriage and everywhere else (Genesis 1:28).
This divine mission is much deeper than deciding which view we hold on the role of women in ministry. It goes beyond logistical issues or efforts to figure out better ways of dividing the workload and getting along. The mission is bound up in how well we represent God to our fractured world.”
Eve was made because “It is not good for the man to be alone.”(Genesis 2:18). The woman is the ezer kenegdo to the man, as in an ezer – strong helper/protector kenegdo – corresponding to/counterpart to.
There’s more to come about Eve in Part Two.