Eve in the New Testament by Linda S. Schearing

The “first woman” of Gen 2-4 has a history of interpretation matched by few biblical characters. Yet for such a well-known biblical character, Eve is mentioned remarkably infrequently in the New Testament. While key passages that refer to Adam are found in Rom 5:12–21, 1Cor 15:21–22, 1Cor 15:45–49, and 1Tim 2:13–14, Eve is mentioned by name only twice: in 2Cor 11:3 and 1Tim 2:13.

Paul uses Eve’s action in Gen 3:13 to warn his audience: “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2Cor 11:3). Elsewhere in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of Satan, likely understanding him and the serpent to be one and the same. This connection is never made in Gen 3, but it appeared in other writings by the intertestamental period (Sir 21:27). Several aspects of the snake’s “deception” of Eve have puzzled readers. Why did the serpent speak to Eve first? Some readers hypothesize that she was somehow flawed and thus an easier target. But neither the writer of Genesis nor Paul makes that assumption in this verse (though the writer of 1 Timothy hints at it). Readers also suspect that Adam might have had a hand in the deception of Eve. According to Gen 2, Eve was not present when the prohibition was given— she could only have known of it through Adam. But when Eve recites the prohibition (Gen 3:2), it is not the same as one as was given to Adam. Did the man give the woman incorrect information? Or did she simply misunderstand it?

1Tim 2:11-15 is generally thought to be influenced by Paul, but not written by Paul. This passage ostensibly deals with the appropriate activities of women: they are to “learn in silence” and may not “have authority over” men. These injunctions are justified in two ways by an appeal to Gen 3. First, it is implied that the order of creation somehow privileges males (1Tim 2:13). Second, it is pointed out that Eve, not Adam, was deceived (1Tim 2:14). A close reading of Genesis, however, does not substantiate either of these assumptions. It gives no reason why Eve was addressed first, nor does it imply that Eve is weak or provide any argument for the men’s natural dominance over women. Nor does Genesis absolve Adam from his actions: in Gen 3, Eve deliberates carefully before eating, while Adam simply eats what he is given.

In spite of its sparse literary development in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the figure of Eve later underwent a frenzy of interpretation. It is not difficult to see why. Origin stories are never simply about the past—they hold clues about life, human nature, and God. Readers scrutinize Eve, the first woman, to learn about the purpose and essential nature of all women. Over more than two millennia and across three world religions, the meaning of Eve’s story has continue to puzzle readers, spark theological debates, and inspire poets, writers, and artists. 

Linda S. Schearing, "Eve in the New Testament", n.p. [cited 23 Oct 2017]. Online: http://bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/eve-in-the-new-testament

Contributors

Linda S. Schearing

Linda S. Schearing
Professor, Gonzaga University

Linda S. Schearing is a professor in Gonzaga University’s Religious Studies Department. She has co-edited/authored three books, Enticed by Eden (Baylor University Press 2013), Eve & Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender (Indiana University Press, 1999) and Those Elusive Deuteronomists: The Phenomenon of Pan-Deuteronomism (No. 268 in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Series, 1999.) Her research interests are Hebrew Scriptures, biblical interpretation, the Bible and popular cultures, and gender studies.

A collection of first-century Jewish and early Christian writings that, along with the Old Testament, makes up the Christian Bible.

A West Semitic language, in which most of the Hebrew Bible is written except for parts of Daniel and Ezra. Hebrew is regarded as the spoken language of ancient Israel but is largely replaced by Aramaic in the Persian period.

Of or related to the written word, especially that which is considered literature; literary criticism is a interpretative method that has been adapted to biblical analysis.

A rule commanding someone not to do something.

Relating to thought about the nature and behavior of God.

The third division of the Jewish canon, also called by the Hebrew name Ketuvim. The other two divisions are the Torah (Pentateuch) and Nevi'im (Prophets); together the three divisions create the acronym Tanakh, the Jewish term for the Hebrew Bible.

Gen 2-4

1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seve ... View more

Rom 5:12–21

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1Cor 15:21–22

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1Cor 15:45–49

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1Tim 2:13–14

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2Cor 11:3

3But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

1Tim 2:13

13For Adam was formed first, then Eve;

Gen 3:13

13Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”

2Cor 11:3

3But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Gen 3

The First Sin and Its Punishment
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘Yo ... View more

Sir 21:27

27When an ungodly person curses an adversary,
he curses himself.

Gen 2

1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seve ... View more

Gen 3:2

2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;

1Tim 2:11-15

11Let a woman learn in silence with full submission.12I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.13For Adam was formed fi ... View more

Gen 3

The First Sin and Its Punishment
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘Yo ... View more

1Tim 2:13

13For Adam was formed first, then Eve;

1Tim 2:14

14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

Gen 3

The First Sin and Its Punishment
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘Yo ... View more

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