In archaeological excavations, female figurines have turned up. They could depict mother goddesses. The most famous one is the Venus of Willendorf from around 23,000 BC. In ancient cultures, mother goddesses represented fertility. Women give birth, and early humans may not have known fatherhood. They may have believed that women create life. The ability of women to produce offspring could have been the essence of mother goddess worship. One of the best-known mother goddesses was Isis in ancient Egypt.
Women can be sure that their children are their own, but for men, this is different. When the fathers of children are unknown, families are matrilineal, which means that family lines depend on motherhood. The worship of mother goddesses may have disappeared because men desired to control women and their sexuality. The transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture may have played a role in this development.
Hunter-gatherers were wanderers, so territorial conflicts were less likely to occur. They could always move on.1 That changed with the advent of agriculture. Farmers had to defend their property and family. Men may be more willing to defend women and children they consider their own. Men can also walk out when they doubt their fatherhood. That may have given them a position of power so that patriarchy emerged.
The tale of Eve and Adam is an ancient Mesopotamian myth that Jewish priests have tailored to their theological agenda. They may have inserted their deity into the story. In the original tale, Eve may have been the mother of Adam as she is named Mother of All the Living. That makes more sense than Eve coming from Adam’s rib. Eve is the mythical mother of humanity. Scientific evidence indicates that all humans descend from one woman, Mitochondrial Eve.
The Fall could reflect the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. The life of hunter-gatherers was more agreeable than the plight of farmers who came later on. The Garden of Eden provided for everything. Hunter-gatherers were practically naked, while farmers wore clothing. Adam was banished from the garden to work the ground and a life of toil. And women had to obey their husbands from then on. The Agricultural Revolution could have been a curse to humanity.1
In Paradise, a man left his father and mother and became united with his wife. In patriarchal societies, women usually join the family of their husbands. After the Fall, God announced that there would be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). That is remarkable because elsewhere in the Bible, a child is referred to as the seed of the father. As this verse refers to Eve, it implies that all of humanity comes from Eve and that there was no fatherhood.
Any explanation of the Fall is speculative, but the following elucidates the main elements of the myth plausibly. In ancient cultures, people worshipped serpents for their knowledge, strength, and renewal. The tree of knowledge relates to the sacred tree, which may explain why it was forbidden to eat from it. The prominent role of Eve may reflect the part women played in shifting from gathering in favour of planting crops. Women may have led the shift to agriculture that condemned men to a life of property and warfare. And so, the next event is Cain murdering Abel. The serpent may have given council to Eve, who appears to have been the leading figure in the original story. Knowledge of agriculture and animal husbandry did not work out well. And so, Paradise was lost.
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The title Mother of all the Living relates to the mother goddess,2 but the story in Genesis does not indicate that Eve was a goddess. That leaves the possibility that Mary Magdalene convinced Jesus that Eve was God and that She was Eve reincarnated.
The Jewish deity Yahweh and the Arabian deity Allah were male, even though many people now speculate that God has no gender. Yahweh and Allah had a wife and children before monotheism took over. Allah was at first the supreme deity of Mecca, but the owner of the universe appropriated this title. Jews and Muslims do not see God as a Father as Christians do. There are, however, a few references to God as a father and a mother in the Hebrew Bible. Christianity explicitly attributes gender to God because God’s relationship with Jesus made it explicit. Christians are born of God. Hence, God could be a Mother. There is no Father in the Hebrew Bible, but Eve is the Mother of All the Living.
The Quran mentions the creation of Adam extensively but says little about how Eve came into existence. At one point, it states that God created Eve out of Adam’s soul. The Quran further claims that Jesus was created like Adam from dust. The Quran corroborates the virgin birth story of Jesus. It opens up the possibility that the Virgin Eve gave birth to Adam. The account of the Fall in the Quran differs from Genesis. In the Quran, there is no serpent, and Eve did not make Adam eat from the tree. The Quran claims that Adam listened to the voice of Satan. It further tells that Adam and Eve repented and that God forgave them. The historical context of the original story, the curse of the Agricultural Revolution caused by women, is lost in the Quran. On the other hand, casting the blame on Adam rather than Eve may have been early Christian teaching.
The first Christians may have believed that Eve was God and the Mother of all the Living, that Mary Magdalene was Eve, and that Jesus was Adam. They may have thought that Eve did not come from Adam’s rib but that Adam was born as Eve’s son so that Adam, and, therefore, Jesus were a Son of God. And because all of humanity descends from Eve, Christians are God’s children. Tribes exist by the idea that they share common ancestors. Usually, these ancestors are mythical people who lived long ago. The myth of Eve and Adam has the potential to turn all of humanity into a single tribe. And, God’s plan may work like so. Paul of Tarsus may have realised that this message was meant for humankind rather than Jews alone.
Latest revision: 1 April 2022
Featured image: Eve in the Garden Of Eden. Henri Rousseau (1906-1910). Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.
Other images: Venus of Willendorf. Don Hitchcock (2008). Wikimedia Commons.
1. A Brief History Of Humankind. Yuval Noah Harari (2014). Harvil Secker.
2. Asherah – Wikipedia [link]: Some scholars have found an early link between Asherah and Eve, based upon the coincidence of their common title as “the mother of all living” in Genesis 3:20 through the identification with the Hurrian mother goddess Hebat. Asherah was also given the title Chawat from which the name Hawwah in Aramaic and the biblical name Eve are derived.