LESSON 11 (excerpts)
EVE AND HER TRADUCERS.
85. In our next Lesson we will show that the N. T. teaches that Adam, rather than Eve, was the one who brought sin into the world, and death through sin. But how, then, can we account for this slandering of Eve’s character? Where did it take its source? We think the answer to these questions is simple enough. Historically speaking, the earliest definite accusation against woman as the source of all evil is the pagan Greek myth of Pandora. According to Hesiod, who lived about 800 B.C., Jupiter was angry because Prometheus (“Forethought”) had stolen fire from heaven, and in revenge ordered Vulcan to make a beautiful woman. Minerva adorned her with all gifts, and she was named Pandora (“All-gifted”),—but Mercury gave her a deceitful mind. She was brought to Epimetheus (“Afterthought”), who received her, contrary to warnings, in the absence of Prometheus. When admitted among men, Pandora opened a casket and allowed to escape all the evils of mankind, excepting delusive hope. There are many variations of this myth, but they all teach the one view,—that woman is the source of human ills.
86. The time between the O. T. and the N. T. story has been called in Jewish history “the days of mingling,” because of the effort, on the part of the Jews, to reconcile the teachings of the O. T., and the customs of the Jews, with Greek paganism. Archdeacon Farrar tells us that at this time, “Palestine was surrounded by a cordon of Greek cities in which many Jews mingled freely with the heathen population. In Jerusalem itself we witness the growth of a wealthy and powerful party, in close alliance, alternately, with the Greek kings of Syria and of Egypt. Fascinated by the attractions of Greek life and literature, they wished to adopt Hiellenistic ideals, and to obliterate the most essential distinctions of Jewish life and religion. This semi-faithless epoch was described as ‘the days of mingling.'”
87. It is nothing strange, then, that during this time the attempt should have been made to reconcile the story of Pandora and the account of Eve in Genesis; and the most ancient extant reference to Eve as the source of evil is to be found in that book of the Apocrypha which is known as Ecclesiasticus, or The Wisdom of Ben Sira. This, a Palestinian production of uncertain date, was originally written in Hebrew, probably about 250 B. C., but early translated into Greek, in Egypt, and it contains these words: “From woman a beginning of sin; and because of her all die” (25:24). Tennant tells us that “Ben Sira was the precursor of the Talmudic teaching as to the Fall.” We shall presently show what some of that Talmudic teaching was as regards Eve,—so please do not forget this point.
Other Jewish writers, of later date, enlarge upon this culpability of Eve. At Alexandria, particularly, was the effort carried forward of reconciling the Scriptures with Greek pagan teachings. Unfortunately for Christian theology, after the Greek version of the O. T. was made at Alexandria (B. C. 285 saw its beginning), these Jewish, uninspired writings, called The Apocrypha, all written in Greek, not Hebrew, were incorporated with that version, which was used, to the exclusion of the Hebrew Scriptures by the Church; and many of the church fathers quoted the Apocrypha as authoritative; and all were influenced by its teachings. Thus it easily happens that the character of the mythological Pandora is ascribed to Eve. No saying that reflects upon Eve’s character can be traced further back than “the days of mingling.”
88. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in 177 A. D., following the teaching of Ben Sira and other Jews, says of Eve: “Having become disobedient, she was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race.” But Tertullian of Carthage, a few years later, is particularly severe, and visits Eve’s sin on all Christian women, in the following language: “Do you not know that you are an Eve? God’s verdict on the sex still holds good, and the sex’s guilt must still hold also. YOU ARE THE DEVIL’S GATEWAY, you are the avenue to the forbidden tree. You are the first deserter from the law divine. It was you who persuaded him [Adam] whom the devil himself had not strength to assail. So lightly did you esteem God’s image. For your deceit, for death, the very Son of God had to perish.” But, except for woman, would humanity have ever afforded any entrance of the Son of God into the world, to perish, or for men to preach?
89. Many of the theological views of the present day show the shaping of Tertullian’s hand upon them, for, to use the concise statement of Lippincott’s Biographical Dictionary, “He acquired great influence among the Christians of his time.” Not a few of his literary works remain to this day. With such a view of woman, to start with (shut out by perpetual “guilt” from participation in the merits of Christ’s atonement), it is small wonder that the next Scripture verse that we shall consider (Genesis 3:16), has been construed, in accordance with the teaching of the Talmud and Tertullian, as God’s perpetual curse upon the entire female sex.