Eve in the Garden Of Eden

Mother Goddess Eve

In archaeological excavations, female figurines have turned up that 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 understood fatherhood and believed that women create life. The ability of women to produce offspring could have been the essence of mother goddess worship. Men had no reproductive use. The mother goddess can give birth as a virgin. One of the best-known mother goddesses was Isis in ancient Egypt.

Venus of Willendorf

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. They had fewer territorial conflicts than farmers because population density was low, and their disputes were less intense because hunter-gatherers had no property and could move on.1 That changed with the advent of agriculture. Farmers had to defend their property and family. Otherwise, they would starve and lose their offspring. Men are willing to protect 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 patriarchy emerged.

In her book, When God Was a Woman, historian Merlin Stone claims that Goddess worship was the earliest religion in the Near and Middle East. In other words, the Creator was a woman before men rewrote history. Stone bases her claim solely on the female figurines in archaeological findings. Hunter-gatherers left no writings, so we know little about their beliefs and family structures.

The Garden of Eden comes from an ancient Mesopotamian myth, the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Garden of Eden was near the rivers Tigris and the Euphrates. Jewish scribes tailored the story to their agenda. The Jews lived in exile in Babylon when their priests compiled their holy scriptures. That might explain why the first chapters of Genesis took place in Mesopotamia, but the Jewish deity Yahweh originates in Canaan. Jewish history in the Tanakh began when Abraham left Ur in Mesopotamia and headed for Canaan.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods created man from clay, just like in Genesis, but it does not mention the creation of the woman. The tale in Genesis suggests that Eve could have been Adam’s mother in the original story. It makes more sense than Eve coming from Adam’s rib. She is the Mother of All the Living (Genesis 3:20), and we are the woman’s offspring (Genesis 3:15). That is most remarkable, for elsewhere in the Bible, a child is called the father’s offspring. So did Eve give birth without a man?

The Bible claims that God created the woman as a mate for the man (Genesis 2:18). The Jewish scribes may have changed the roles of woman and man but likely kept the purpose of the companion as it was. If Eve gave birth as a virgin, she did not need Adam to procreate. The tale further mentions the woman’s desire for her husband (Genesis 3:16). The purpose of Adam thus might have been being a husband to Eve, to please her and fulfil her desires. Eve probably was the leading character in the original story. She discussed eating the fruit with the serpent and made Adam eat from it (Genesis 3:1-6).

A man left his father and mother to be with his wife (Genesis 2:24). Women usually join their husbands’ families in patrilineal and patriarchal societies. And so, Paradise might have been matrilineal or even matriarchal. The title Mother of All the Living refers to the mother goddess.2 Eve thus resembles Namma, the primaeval mother in the ancient Sumerian story Enki and Ninmah, who kneaded clay, placed it in her womb, and gave birth to the first humans. A good reason to change the narrative was the lewd suggestion of a mother taking her son as her husband.

The story of The Fall reflects 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 Agricultural Revolution was a curse for humanity. The Garden of Eden provided for everything. Eve and Adam were naked (Genesis 2:25) like hunter-gatherers in the jungle today. Adam was banished from the garden to work the ground and condemned to a life of toil (Genesis 3:17-19). And perhaps it is the downfall of the woman rather than the man. Women had to obey their husbands from then on (Genesis 3:16).

Any explanation of The Fall is speculative, but the following plausibly elucidates the main elements. In ancient cultures, people worshipped snakes for their wisdom or knowledge. Hence, the serpent may have given counsel to Eve. The tree of knowledge relates to the sacred tree, which may explain why it was forbidden to eat from it. Eve’s deed may reflect the role of women in shifting from gathering to planting crops that condemned men to a life of property and warfare.

Farmers have to protect their crops from thieves. Otherwise, they face starvation. Perhaps, Cain murdered Abel because Abel’s flocks ate Cain’s crops, so he had only meagre offerings for the gods, while Abel could please the gods by offering well-nourished animals. The first murder happened just after the Fall and was a conflict between a cattle herder and a crop planter. Knowledge of agriculture and animal husbandry became a curse for humans. And so, Paradise was lost.

To understand the following paragraphs, you may read the following:

The identity of God

The Gospels state that Jesus had a personal and intimate relationship with God. Scholars agree that the Gospels have been edited.

The Jewish deity Yahweh and the Arabian deity Allah were male, even though many people now think God has no gender. Yahweh and Allah had a wife and children before monotheism took over. Allah was the supreme deity of Mecca. Later the owner of the universe appropriated this title. Unlike Christians, Jews and Muslims do not see God as a Father. Christianity explicitly attributes gender to God because God’s relationship with Jesus made it explicit. Christians are born of God, and there is no Father in the Hebrew Bible, but Eve is the Mother of All the Living. Early Christians may have believed Eve was God and Mary Magdalene was Her reincarnation. As Jesus was Adam’s reincarnation, he was the Son of God and the Bridegroom.

The Quran extensively mentions the creation of Adam but says little about how Eve came into existence. The Quran does not claim that Eve came from Adam’s rib but that men and women come from one soul (Quran 4:1, 7:189). It does not give detail, but Muslims believe this soul is Adam. The Quran further claims that God created Jesus like Adam from dust (Quran 3:59). The Quran corroborates the virgin birth story of Jesus (Quran 3:47, 66:12). 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 blames Eve and Adam for the Fall (Quran 7:19-23).

In another fragment, the Quran blames Adam. Adam listened to the voice of Satan. Then both ate from the tree (Quran 20:117-121). It further tells that Adam and Eve repented, and God forgave them (Quran 20:122). 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 may have been early Christian teaching.

The first Christians may have believed Eve was God and the Mother of all the Living, Mary Magdalene was Eve, and Jesus was Adam. And Eve did not come from Adam’s rib, but Adam was born as Eve’s son. So Adam, and therefore, Jesus were the Son of God. Humanity descends from Eve, so we are God’s children (John 1:13). Tribes exist by believing they share common ancestors. Usually, these ancestors are mythical people who lived long ago. The myth of Eve and Adam can turn humanity into a single tribe. And God’s plan may work like so. Paul of Tarsus may have realised that this message concerns humankind rather than Jews alone.

Latest revision: 6 May 2023

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.

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