EVE, the English transcription, through Lat. Eva and Gr. Εὔα, of the Hebrew name חַוָּה Ḥavvah, given by Adam to his wife because she was “mother of all living,” or perhaps more strictly, “of every group of those connected by female kinship” (see W. R. Smith, Kinship, 2nd ed., p. 208), as if Eve were the personification of mother-kinship, just as Adam (“man”) is the personification of mankind.

[The abstract meaning “life” (LXX. Ζωή), once favoured by Robertson Smith, is at any rate unsuitable in a popular story. Wellhausen and Nöldeke would compare the Ar. ḥayyatun, “serpent,” and the former remarks that, if this is right, the Israelites received their first ancestress from the Ḥivvites (Hivites), who were originally the serpent-tribe (Composition des Hexateuchs, p. 343; cf. Reste arabischen Heidentums, 2nd ed., p. 154). Cheyne, too, assumes a common origin for Ḥavvah and the Ḥivvites.]

[The account of the origin of Eve (Gen. iii. 21-23) runs thus: “And Yahweh-Elohim caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept. And he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its stead, and the rib which Yahweh-Elohim had taken from the man he built up into a Creation
of Eve.
woman, and he brought her to the man.” Enchanted at the sight, the man now burst out into elevated, rhythmic speech: “This one,” he said, “at length is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” &c.; to which the narrator adds the comment, “Therefore doth a man forsake his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they become one flesh (body).” Whether this comment implies the existence of the custom of beena, marriage (W. R. Smith, Kinship, 2nd ed., p. 208), seems doubtful. It is at least equally possible that the expression “his wife” simply reflects the fact that among ordinary Israelites circumstances had quite naturally brought about the prevalence of monogamy.[1] What the narrator gives is not a doctrine of marriage, much less a precept, but an explanation of a simple and natural phenomenon. How is it, he asks, that a man is so irresistibly drawn towards a woman? And he answers: Because the first woman was built up out of a rib of the first man. At the same time it is plain that the already existing tendency towards monogamy must have been powerfully assisted by this presentation of Eve’s story as well as by the prophetic descriptions of Yahweh’s relation to Israel under the figure of a monogamous union.]

[The narrator is no rhetorician, and spares us a description of the ideal woman. But we know that, for Adam, his strangely produced wife was a “help (or helper) matching or corresponding to him”; or, as the Authorized Version puts it, “a help meet for him” (ii. 18b). This does New Testament application.not, of course, exclude subordination on the part of the woman; what is excluded is that exaggeration of natural subordination which the narrator may have found both in his own and in the neighbouring countries, and which he may have regarded as (together with the pains of parturition) the punishment of the woman’s transgression (Gen. iii. 16). His own ideal of woman seems to have made its way in Palestine by slow degrees. An apocryphal book (Tobit viii. 6, 7) seems to contain the only reference to the section till we come to the time of Christ, to whom the comment in Gen. ii. 24 supplies the text for an authoritative prohibition of divorce, which presupposes and sanctifies monogamy (Matt. x. 7, 8; Matt. xix. 5). For other New Testament applications of the story of Eve see 1 Cor. xi. 8, 9 (especially); 2 Cor. xi. 3; 1 Tim. ii. 13, 14; and in general cf. Adam, and Ency. Biblica, “Adam and Eve.”]

[The seeming omissions in the Biblical narrative have been filled up by imaginative Jewish writers.] The earliest source which remains to us is the Book of Jubilees, or Leptogenesis, a Palestinian work (referred by R. H. Charles to the century immediately preceding the Christian era; Imaginative or legendary developments. see Apocalyptic Literature). In this book, which was largely used by Christian writers, we find a chronology of the lives of Adam and Eve and the names of their daughters—Avan and Azura.[2] The Targum of Jonathan informs us that Eve was created from the thirteenth rib of Adam’s right side, thus taking the view that Adam had a rib more than his descendants. Some of the Jewish legends show clear marks of foreign influence. Thus the notion that the first man was a double being, afterwards separated into the two persons of Adam and Eve (Berachot, 61; Erubin, 18), may be traced back to Philo (De mundi opif. §53; cf. Quaest. in Gen. lib. i. §25), who borrows the idea, and almost the words, of the myth related by Aristophanes in the Platonic Symposium (189 D, 190 A), which, in extravagant form, explains the passion of love by the legend that male and female originally formed one body.

[A recent critic[3] (F. Schwally) even holds that this notion was originally expressed in the account of the creation of man in Gen. i. 27. This involves a textual emendation, and one must at least admit that the present text is not without difficulty, and that Berossus refers to the existence of primeval monstrous androgynous beings according to Babylonian mythology.] There is an analogous Iranian legend of the true man, which parted into man and woman in the Bundahish[4] (the Parsí Genesis), and an Indian legend, which, according to Spiegel, has presumably an Iranian source.[5]

[It has been remarked elsewhere (Adam, §16) that though the later Jews gathered material for thought very widely, such guidance as they required in theological reflection was mainly derived from Greek culture. What, for instance, was to be made of such a story as that in Gen. Course of Jewish and Christian interpretation. ii.-iv.? To “minds trained under the influence of the Jewish Haggada, in which the whole Biblical history is freely intermixed with legendary and parabolic matter,” the question as to the literal truth of that story could hardly be formulated. It is otherwise when the Greek leaven begins to work.]

Josephus, in the prologue to his Archaeology, reserves the problem of the true meaning of the Mosaic narrative, but does not regard everything as strictly literal. Philo, the great representative of Alexandrian allegory, expressly argues that in the nature of things the trees of life and knowledge cannot be taken otherwise than symbolically. His interpretation of the creation of Eve is, as has been already observed, plainly suggested by a Platonic myth. The longing for reunion which love implants in the divided halves of the original dual man is the source of sensual pleasure (symbolized by the serpent), which in turn is the beginning of all transgression. Eve represents the sensuous or perceptive part of man’s nature, Adam the reason. The serpent, therefore, does not venture to attack Adam directly. It is sense which yields to pleasure, and in turn enslaves the reason and destroys its immortal virtue. This exposition, in which the elements of the Bible narrative become mere symbols of the abstract notions of Greek philosophy, and are adapted to Greek conceptions of the origin of evil in the material and sensuous part of man, was adopted into Christian theology by Clement and Origen, notwithstanding its obvious inconsistency with the Pauline anthropology, and the difficulty which its supporters felt in reconciling it with the Christian doctrine of the excellence of the married state (Clemens Alex. Stromata, p. 174). These difficulties had more weight with the Western church, which, less devoted to speculative abstractions and more deeply influenced by the Pauline anthropology, refused, especially since Augustine, to reduce Paradise and the fall to the region of pure intelligibilia; though a spiritual sense was admitted along with the literal (Aug. Civ. Dei, xiii. 21).[6]

The history of Adam and Eve became the basis of anthropological discussions which acquired more than speculative importance from their connexion with the doctrine of original sin and the meaning of the sacrament of baptism. One or two points in Augustinian teaching may be here mentioned as having to do particularly with Eve. The question whether the soul of Eve was derived from Adam or directly infused by the Creator is raised as an element in the great problem of traducianism and creationism (De Gen. ad lit. lib. x.). And it is from Augustine that Milton derives the idea that Adam sinned, not from desire for the forbidden fruit, but because love forbade him to dissociate his fate from Eve’s (ibid. lib. xi. sub fin.). Medieval discussion moved mainly in the lines laid down by Augustine. A sufficient sample of the way in which the subject was treated by the schoolmen may be found in the Summa of Thomas, pars i. qu. xcii. De productione mulieris.

The Reformers, always hostile to allegory, and in this matter especially influenced by the Augustinian anthropology, adhered strictly to the literal interpretation of the history of the Protoplasts, which has continued to be generally identified with Protestant orthodoxy. The disintegration of the confessional doctrine of sin in last century was naturally associated with new theories of the meaning of the biblical narrative; but neither renewed forms of the allegorical interpretation, in which everything is reduced to abstract ideas about reason and sensuality, nor the attempts of Eichhorn and others to extract a kernel of simple history by allowing largely for the influence of poetical form in so early a narrative, have found lasting acceptance. On the other hand, the strict historical interpretation is beset with difficulties which modern interpreters have felt with increasing force, and which there is a growing disposition to solve by adopting in one or other form what is called the mythical theory of the narrative. But interpretations pass under this now popular title which have no real claim to be so designated. What is common to the “mythical” interpretations is to find the real value of the narrative, not in the form of the story, but in the thoughts which it embodies. But the story cannot be called a myth in the strict sense of the word, unless we are prepared to place it on one line with the myths of heathenism, produced by the unconscious play of plastic fancy, giving shape to the impressions of natural phenomena on primitive observers. Such a theory does no justice to a narrative which embodies profound truths peculiar to the religion of revelation. Other forms of the so-called mythical interpretation are little more than abstract allegory in a new guise, ignoring the fact that the biblical story does not teach general truths which repeat themselves in every individual, but gives a view of the purpose of man’s creation, and of the origin of sin, in connexion with the divine plan of redemption. Among his other services in refutation of the unhistorical rationalism of last century, Kant has the merit of having forcibly recalled attention to the fact that the narrative of Genesis, even if we do not take it literally, must be regarded as presenting a view of the beginnings of the history of the human race (Muthmasslicher Anfang der Menschengeschichte, 1786) Those who recognize this fact ought not to call themselves or be called by others adherents of the mythical theory, although they also recognize that in the nature of things the divine truths brought out in the history of the creation and fall could not have been expressed either in the form of literal history or in the shape of abstract metaphysical doctrine; or even although they may hold—as is done by many who accept the narrative as a part of supernatural revelation—that the specific biblical truths which the narrative conveys are presented through the vehicle of a story which, at least in some of its parts, may possibly be shaped by the influence of legends common to the Hebrews with their heathen neighbours.  (W. R. S.; [T. K. C.]) 

  1. That polygamy had not become morally objectionable is shown by the stories of Lamech, Abraham and Jacob.
  2. See West’s authoritative translation in Pahlavi Texts (Sacred Books of the East).
  3. “Die bibl. Schöpfungsberichte” (Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, ix. 171 ff.).
  4. Spiegel, Erânische Alterthumskunde, i. 511.
  5. Muir, Sanscrit Texts, vol. i. p. 25; cf. Spiegel, vol. i. p. 458.
  6. Thus in medieval theology Eve is a type of the church, and her formation from the rib has a mystic reason, inasmuch as blood and water (the sacraments of the church) flowed from the side of Christ on the cross (Thomas, Summa, par. i. qu. xcii.).