Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Synchroblog: all about Eve

All About Eve, March synchroblog.
March is Women's History Month; 08 March was International Women's Day. "Anything concerning women in general, women and the church, balancing women's rights with religious freedoms, the differences between men and women … these are all good topics for blog posts."
I'm happy to be participating after a couple months off and I'll go with the "all about Eve" suggestion. This is a lightly updated version of an old piece I haven't previously published on this blog. I did it for peeps who weren't necessarily highly biblically or theologically literate, and I think for the most part they got what I was saying.

Where Can We Go from There?

Parts of scripture contain pericopes - literally "stories," some of which have achieved an iconic, sacred status and truly contain a Word of Life to us and for us. In some times and some places, some narratives in the Holy Scriptures to which we often defer as a norm for everyday existence have been used to legitimate a way of life that makes women second-class, inferior beings—or if not quite second-class and inferior, definitely not first-class and superior or anything approaching equality or parity with the male creature. Also, we need to realize "legitimate" doesn't mean it's just okay for things to be that way; "legitimate" means things should be, are supposed to be that way!

Genesis 2:15 - 3:20

Let's begin with a quick look at a well-known story from Genesis 2 – "Then the Lord God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; then God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils and the man began to live."

To continue: after God had planted all kinds of fruits and veggies, filled the air with birds and the land with animals – in the process appointing the guy human as steward or caretaker of creation – after this, the stage was set "just right" for the human woman to appear on the scene...and for that woman-enterprise the bible relates how God formed a woman out of the rib of the man and because of her substantial connection to him, the man named her wo-man.

After the Genesis 2 passage comes the start of chapter 3: the human couple are biding their time in the garden of earthly delights when one of the creatures entices the woman to eat the lusciously tempting forbidden fruit – which she does – and then she shares it with the man. With a stroke of the intimacy between Creator and creature we often find in the Yahwist Hebrew Bible source, God comes into the garden, challenges the humans, chastises them for not exactly following the role-models outlined for them…and then expels them from the garden, which is similar to being kicked out of school since it means then they’d encounter "real life," or the oppressive and sometimes painful struggles of day-to-day nitty-gritty.
Triple aside:

• last Sunday for Lent 4 year B, we heard in Numbers 21:4-9 "...Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live."

• And the gospel was John 3:14-21, "And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."

• Harvey Cox wrote a book called, On not leaving it to the snake.
Looking a little more closely at these events, much of what is recorded about Eve, whose name means "life," is positive and encouraging. A-dam - named for the color of the earth from which he came - is incomplete without Eve/Ava; she definitely is the chronological crown of creation, as she is the last living thing in creation's entire order. And she seems to have a Queen Complex, or at very least a Princess Complex, in her supremely confident interaction with the snake-in-the-dust and with her own Creator.

"Supremely confident interaction?!" That interaction takes the form of sounds...speech...words! Verbal communication is a major indicator of humanity and it may be the way we're different from the rest of creation. The power of words is a primary aspect of humanity's co-creativeness with the God who creates by the Word—particularly in the creation of new and renewed community; here Eve shares creative speech with God!

But some of what we observe is neither positive or encouraging: Eve clearly is derivative from A-dam—made out of the physical substance of his body, the man also names her and with wo-man, referring back to himself; although man is incomplete without woman, this woman has no existence whatsoever without that man.

Theologian Phyllis Trible describes the woman as "the more intelligent, inquisitive and aggressive of the two..." Maybe so, but the Creator God challenges Eve about the forbidden fruit only after questioning Adam. Although this corresponds to the creation order, it also implicitly puts the man in a position of social primacy, if not a situation of moral primacy.

However, Eve's creation out of Adam's rib establishes human interdependence and therefore rudimentary human community, which simultaneous creation could not institute. In other words, in order to affirm the social, interpersonal nature of the covenant, either man or woman had to be derived from the other, and that the woman rather than the guy is derivative possibly is not quite as unsettling as it sounds...

However again, since these texts originated within Israel, a patriarchal society, most likely the Yahwist – the name scholars have given to the scribe or scribes who wrote down Genesis 2 and 3 – was a guy, and information described and conveyed by anyone inevitably carries with it a gender-bias reflecting the social patterns and thought patterns that go along with being that gender in that particular culture. In that place and time the male viewpoint not only was dominant but also the legitimate view, since that's what got passed on, written down and preserved. We've even got it now!

There is a high possibility of there being "women's versions" of these stories, particularly since the male Yahwist didn't shortchange the woman to any great extent. If we defer to Scripture as a norm for our everyday existence, and if the man comes out a little ahead of the woman in these stories, that's just where it all needs to stay, right? Wrong!

Most churches run with the closed canon of Hebrew Bible and New Covenant scriptures, but in no way is Genesis 2 and 3 a final word as to what gender participation and roles "should be!" But in a profound sense these texts are "last words," in that they're about people who have moved far away from near-total domination and insubordination of woman by man, surprisingly close to a way of life that accords full humanity to the woman and to women. Narrative accounts in books like Genesis 1 and 2 as well as exhortations from the apostle Paul and the deutero-Pauline epistles provide models – and legitimation – for us to move even further, and there's that Jesus of Nazareth dude mightily to consider, but you already knew that!

Postscript: Just as Genesis 2 and Genesis 3 do not represent the actual beginning of God's involvement in creation, but reflect a specific stage along the way, so we as God’s people today can concede that new and re-newed social and cultural forms may be developing now as I write and as you read this blog and may be gaining legitimation as they are perceived as a result of the intervention of the God of Life and Justice and therefore...

The word of life—Amen!

other participants:

• Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
• Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
• Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
• Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
• Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
• Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
• Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
• Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
• kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
• Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
• Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
• Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
• Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
• Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
• Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
• Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women
• Christine Sine – It All Begins With Love
• K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
• Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
• Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor

3 comments:

Jeremy Myers said...

Welcome back to the synchroblog posts!

This post truly was all about Eve! Packed full of information I never knew. Thank you for including it all!

Liz said...

always glad when you share your voice. Thanks for the informative and interesting post. It has definitely whet my appetite to do a little more research!

Anonymous said...

Is this what Jesus meant when he said the first would be last and the last would be first?