Thursday, December 8, 2016

Know Your Bible: Biblical Power Couples - Episode One: Adam and Eve

Introduction 

In this series of posts I will outline examples in biblical literature of famous couples. But this will not comprise only simple tales in which they all live happily ever after. The various couples of the Bible are a window into triumphs and tragedies of the human condition.

Episode One: Adam and Eve

Of course we have to start with the Primordial Parents. According to the Genesis 2:18, after Adam had named all the animals God said, "It is not good for the Man to be alone. I will make a helpmate suitable for him" ( לא־טוב היות האדם לבדו אעשה־לו עזר כנגדו׃ ).

He caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, "took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place" (ויקח אחת מצלעתיו ויסגר בשר תחתנה; Genesis 2:21)

It should be noted that this verse would seem to imply some knowledge of rudimentary surgery at time of composition. Archaeology in fact corroborates the fact that humans were performing things such as trephination in pre-literate times.

God made a woman out of the rib and Adam was more than pleased with the result. He proclaims:

"This is now bone of my bones, 
And flesh of my flesh; 
She shall be called Woman('ishshah), 
Because she was taken out of Man ('ish)." (Gen 2:23)

The author engages here in some folk etymology that is not linguistically sound. In fact, the Hebrew word for woman is better derived from the pan-Semitic root cognate to Arabic mu'annath, 'female'.

And the Primordial Parents live in the Garden of Eden where they are "naked but not ashamed" (ויהיו שניהם ערומים האדם ואשתו ולא יתבששו; Genesis 2:25)

In another post I recount the details of how Adam and Eve ate the fateful fruit and fell from Grace. In this post I will focus on what further is known about them as a couple. After the fall, all that remains of them as characters is simply references to them having intercourse and conceiving and bearing children (Gen 4:1, Cain; Gen 4:2, Abel; Gen 4:25, Seth; Gen 5:4, other sons and daughters).

Eve's death is unrecorded, we learn that Adam dies at age nine hundred and thirty (Gen 5:5).

The depiction of Adam and Eve in art range between imaginations of their primordial nude state, as well as facets of the fall itself. There is a tendency to avoid overt sexuality, perhaps since by definition every artist taking them on as subject matter is, as it were, depicting their Mom and Dad with all the awkwardness that would accompany accidentally walking in on them. Here are some distinctive examples.

Eve Tempting Adam, Johann Carl Loth

Adam and Eve, Lucas Cranach

The First Kiss of Adam and Eve, Salvador Viniegra y Lasso de la Vega
Adam and Eve in Paradise, David Teniers

The Fall of Man, Peter Paul Rubens

Adam and Eve, Jan Brueghel

Adam and Eve, Gustave-Claude-Etienne Courtois

The Rebuke of Adam and Eve, Domenichino

Adam and Eve with Cain and Abel, Giacinto Gimignani


The First Mourning, William-Adolphe Bouguereau



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