In the originally Hebrew story of cosmogony in the book of Genesis in the Bible, the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, their disobedience and their subsequent removal fromparadise takes a prominent place (Genesis 2:4-3:24). Even though they were forbidden by God to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Eve was the one who was deceivedby the serpent (Satan) to eat the fruit, by which act they changed and corrupted the nature of the universe. And it was Eve who convinced Adam to eat it as well. Hence, Eve is the reason why human beings were expelled from paradise and why they have to work hard to be able tosustain themselves in this tough world. Eve is also the reason why women have to go throughgreat pains at labour and are subordinated to their husbands
.Since the earliest beginnings of Christianity, theologians have blamed Eve for being deceived and seducing Adam and this had had an enormous effect on the conception of women in later Christianity. According to Christian theology, all human beings are burdened with this original sin, which originated in the actions of Eve and is passed on to herdescendants – a sin for which there was no possible cure until the advent of Christianity.Especially from the third century CE onwards, many Christians increasingly viewed womenas evil, even though baptism could redeem this original sin for them just as well as for men
.Combining this with the views on the dependent social situation of women in the Hellenisticperiod of antiquity
when Christianity first arose, the development of the Christian positionthat women should be subservient to men is understandable. The Catholic Church has been virtually unchallenged in being the single most importantauthority on ethics and morals for the people in Christian Europe from about 500 until 1500CE and has exerted much influence since. The position, as poetically expressed by the apostlePaul, is that,
, whence man is subject to Christ and woman to man. It isbecoming increasingly clear why, for instance, it took until the first decades of the 20
century CE for women to get equal rights to men in Western democratic countries
.But even as times and the Catholic Church are changing, it is still loyal to her heritage of inequality between the sexes. In 1987 ‘
Let us look once more at the example of marriage. In adopting her husband’s name, the wife at the same time surrenders her own name. She leaves behind what is hers and belongs henceforth no longer to herself. And this surrender of the old is, for both spouses, the condition of the new that is opening to them. Behind this more external act of renouncing one’s name, of losing one’s independence, is the deeper mystery of life and death that is love itself
.’ was written by Joseph Ratzinger,the same person who would a few years later be elected pope Benedict XVI, the currentleader of the Catholic Church.
This interpretation, however, turns out not to have been theonly alternative. There were different religious groups who could be defined as Christians orhad affinity with Jewish-Christian thought in a similar manner. They had different ideas aboutEve and the creation story and this thesis will examine some of them.
See Pagels (1989),
Adam, Eva en de Slang
, pp. 195-226, on the development of the idea of original sin and theacceptation thereof in the theology of the proto-orthodox Christian Church.
See for instance Tertullianus
De Cultu Feminarum
I.1.2. All references are quoted in the appendix.
This position is clearly stated by Aristoteles in his
1 Corinthians 11:3. All quotations from the New Testament are taken from Aland, Black, , Martini, Metzger, & Wikgren (1968),
The Greek New Testament
For the development of negative thought on women in early Christianity see Tavard (1973),
Woman in Christian Tradition
, pp. 72-96 and their influence on modern Christian traditions and traditional positions, pp. 125-225.
Principles of Catholic Theology
, p. 33.