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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Curse of Eve - a bedtime story

By The Special Correspondent

(This awesome piece was written by The Special Correspondent, a very special personal friend of mine, for the magazine Homme, which in turn published it some time back. I would like to share this with all of you. Many thanks to The Special Correspondent for his consent for the republication of this story here. For the record, The Special Correspondent is part man part computer chip who owes his life to the chip more than anything else. He is currently at the tail end of his mid-life crisis but is fast sliding into an old life crisis. He can only count up to one.)

Our story begins thus, as do all bedtime stories …

Once upon a time, far, far away, there lived a poor sod called Adam. God made him from dust. He was immortal. Our hero lived in a beautiful garden called Eden. In the garden there was a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If Adam ate its fruit, he would know the difference between … yes, good and evil. And that would be bad, or must have been, because God told Adam that if he ate from it, he would surely die (Genesis 2:16). Our hero got lonely. So God created Woman from his rib to be his ‘helper’. God loved them. He made them in his image, perfect and sinless. They would never be ill, never be harmed and never die. And God was a real sport when he said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:27).

And how could they not live happily ever after? …

I must pause here. There is a tiny dispute of fact. This tale in Genesis of the Christian God, his Adam and Eve, suggests that Eve was the first woman. However, a Jewish book called The Alphabet of Ben Sira (circa 8th Century A.D.) tells the story of Lilith; that she and not Eve, was Adam's first wife, created at the same time and from the same dust. Claiming to be thus created equal, Lilith refused to sleep “under him”. This was a problem for our hero who, ever the ladies man, insisted,

I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.

Lilith freaked. She flew away into the air where she ‘knew’ many demons, spawning hundreds of baby demons a day. And thus was coined the oath “I wouldn’t sleep with you if you were the only man in the whole universe”. Adam sobbed to God, “O Sovereign of the Universe, the woman you gave me has run away”. Oh boo hoo. But God was good to Adam, so he sent three angels after her. They threatened to drown her if she refused to return to him. “O piss off” she must have said, because they did. So God, perhaps regretting Free Will a little, made Eve, but this time from Adam’s rib to prevent her from leaving him.[1]

I readily accept this version as Genesis 1:27 suggests a woman before Eve, but more so because Lilith sounds really hot. Despite Lilith, the consensus is that Eve represents Woman and that She did not come into existence in her own right but only to fulfill man’s needs. This is significant, as we shall see.

Where was I?

Ah yes. There was a serpent in the garden who was actually Satan (Revelations 12:9). Before he lost the War in Heaven, he was called Lucifer, God’s first and most beautiful angel, the Angel of Light. The Morning Star. He felt that although Adam and Eve would be eternally happy in paradise, they would also be eternally ignorant. So he persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit for then her eyes would be opened, and like God, she would have knowledge. She ate. The now wicked Eve then seduced poor Adam into taking a bite himself. Immediately his eyes were opened. With all this knowledge, he realised he was butt naked and so put on an apron (Genesis 3:7).

But then he heard God walking in Eden in the cool of the day. ‘O bummer’, he must have thought and he hid. But God called for him and Adam said, “I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10). (What happened to the apron?).

God figured it out (well, of course He would) and asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Adam blamed Eve, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12). Eve blamed the snake, “The serpent beguiled me, and I ate (Genesis 3:13).

God didn’t buy it. The serpent got off lightly though, probably because it was Satan and he was only doing his job. But it was off on its belly for the rest of its life. And to be hated by Eve and her children (oh that must have hurt).

Adam was cursed (for listening to evil wifey, of course), (Genesis 3:17-19):

And to Adam he said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

But Eve’s curse was worse (Genesis 3:16):

To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

And God banished them from Heaven, to the East of Eden. And Death did come to Adam and Eve.

The Christians, in another one of their cool euphemisms like ‘the Rapture’, call it ‘the Fall’. I think ‘the Almighty Cock-Up’ would be more appropriate. But I don’t get what’s so awful about knowledge. Certain Gnostic sects actually honour the snake for bringing knowledge to Adam and Eve. But it is the treatment of Eve that is truly baffling.

Her curse is two-fold. The first was increased pain[2] during childbirth and in raising children.[3] There is also the post natal extra fat, wider hips, stretch marks and of course, the sag. And children will always find ways to break a mother’s heart. Coincidence? Perhaps not. Women have more pain in childbirth than any other creature.

God 1, Woman 0.

And the Puritans took the Curse very seriously. In 16th and 17th century Europe, midwives were tried and burned at the stake as witches for administering any form of pain relief. There was an outcry from the Church when chloroform was discovered and used in childbirth by Sir James Simpson in the early 19th century. It was seen as an unholy attempt to rebel against God’s curse on Eve. Even Queen Victoria was heavily criticized for having used anaesthesia with the birth of her 8th child.

But Eve’s second curse is the real cracker: “… yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” I confess I am thoroughly enjoying the very suggestion of a man’s divine right to rule over his wife. After all, Adam did name her Woman because she was created of man (Genesis 2:18-23). This is no slip of the quill; Genesis earlier recognised the headship of man before the Fall (Genesis 2:18 and 2:22). This means that God’s later ruling ‘he shall rule over you’ cannot be a punishment in itself and is accordingly, simply the way things are. So to obey God’s edict the wife must submit to her husband, I surmise with glee. What’s worse is ‘desire’ is interpreted as Woman’s need to ‘control’[4] her husband. This is a curse because her need can never be fulfilled, as man’s headship is an edict of God that cannot be usurped.

God 2, Woman 0.

St. Paul himself did not accept Woman’s control over man. He said (I Timothy 2:11-15), “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”

The Twentieth Century New Testament provides a truly brave translation of this clause, “But women will find their salvation in motherhood”. Try telling Liz Taylor that childbearing and submission to her husband (singular) are her salvation.

But the puritans condemn Eve for the consequence of her deeds. This is what they say. She disobeyed God and seduced Adam to follow suit. Adam was then punished because he ‘listened’ to her over God. Consequently, God cursed the Earth. Their sin, which had not been forgiven by God, was bequeathed to all their descendants. To absolve Man of this ‘original sin’, God sacrificed Jesus, his son in Christian dogma. (Umm, why God did not simply forgive us all without crucifying Jesus is not for me to ask.)

So Eve caused Adam’s sin, the original sin of all Man, the death of Christ and the end of the world. It’s like blaming the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil for a tornado in Texas.[5] All butterflies should have their wings removed and like Woman, find salvation in raising larvae.

The reality, however, is that women are attributed with the qualities of the Biblical Eve, unworthy, manipulative and filled with deception and guile.[6] As an example, see Ecclesiastes 7:26-28: “I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare ... while I was still searching but not finding, I found one upright man among a thousand but not one upright woman among them all”.

Orthodox Jewish men in their morning prayers recite the following benediction to Yahweh, “Blessed be [God] King of the universe that Thou has not made me a woman.[7] And another: “Praised be [God] that he has not created me a gentile. Praised be [God] that he has not created me a woman. Praised be [God] that he has not created me an ignoramus.” Equating Woman with gentiles is a little harsh.

But there are limits to this sexist Biblical nonsense. The joke ends with the original Protestant, Martin Luther, if he actually[8] said: “If they become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there”.

Ironically, there is no Quranic condemnation of the Muslim Eve and her purdah practicing daughters. In the Islamic version of our story (2:31-36), (7:19-25), (20:115-123), Allah never blamed Eve for Adam’s sin and neither Eve nor her daughters were cursed with the misery depicted in the Bible. The Hadiths may say otherwise, but not the Quran.

The real disappointment is Adam, or at least the Genesis/Ben Sira version. He is a wuss. He was given Lilith but went whinging to God when she left him for demons. He was then given Eve. But he could not even say ‘No’ to her for God’s sake. He hid behind aprons and even blamed Eve for disobeying God. Clearly, he was no match for Woman. He was conned by Eve and bollocked by Lillith; but in her defence, Lilith cannot be blamed for refusing to spend eternity with a poof like Adam.

God, of course, is far more formidable. So after more than 3,000 years, Christian puritans must be appalled at Woman’s late charge in the 21st century in meeting her Curse.

The epidural has all but rendered pain in childbirth obsolete. God 2, Woman 1. And in the modern home, her control over her domesticated husband (inexplicably called a pussy) is all but complete. God 2, Woman 2. And even without a Hilary win, we have women prime ministers and presidents who, despite St. Paul, rule over nations of men. God 2, Woman 3. Oh ... and what was that Curse again?

Thus endeth the story. Oh, I almost forgot. … And Woman lived happily ever after.


[1] This is the version of the Armenian writer Avetik Isahakyan.

[2] There has been some argument about the translation: the word translated as ‘pain’ is the Hebrew etzev. The Christian apologist will argue that to ensure consistency, etzev means ‘toil’ as is used in relation to Adam in Genesis 3:17 and not ‘pain’. This remains a minority view. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible to translate etzev in Genesis 3:16 made by 70 scholars in 300 B.C. uses the Greek word lupê, meaning also pain of body.

[3] The curse could not have been of actually having children as the earlier command was “be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:27).

[4] In the same sense as in Genesis 4:7: “[Sin's] desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

[5] See Edward Lorenz’s lecture in 1972 for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

[6] The following quotes are taken from the controversial article Women in Islam Versus Women in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition, The Myth and The Reality by Sherif Abdel Azim, Ph.D. But see the rebuttal in A Response to Sherif Abdel Azeem's Eve's Fault and Eve's Legacy by Anthony Wales.

[7] Daily Prayer Book. (Phillip Birnbaum translator) (NewYork: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1977) pg. 18.

[8] See The Gospel According to Woman by Karen Armstrong for the source of this quote.

13 comments:

Kris said...

ROFL!!! Brilliant piece!!! Loved this

Rachel Loo said...

Me Too !!! Will put it up on my blog :0)

Hobbes Lim said...

I usually do not comment on articles written by bloggers but this one is exceptional in its wit, originality and wry humour. Perhaps something on other major religious books?

Bobby said...

Another great piece of humor, Art!

Umar Rentaka said...

Truly, I had a good laugh, being a Hindu who believe that God is a Plural... Sri Radha and Krishna.

Wonder how it would all have ended if the Christian God was a Woman and not a Man..

Fi-sha said...

Dear Encik Art Harun
This story of battle of sexes is so hilariously sexy..

Thanks for allowing me to 'kick the men's butts' hehehhe

Take care!

sambal muncha said...

Hehe, loved it mate!

Anonymous said...

No need to be so smug. Wipe off that smirk. And might as well stop gloating bro.

Just ask any Muslim woman how they have been treated from forever until today (still living in the 1st century perhaps?)...as compared to the modern Christian woman, or a Buddhist woman or any woman with or without a religion.

How is it like, for a Muslim woman, to share her 1 husband with the other legal 3 wives for a start..?

Still happy ever after for a Muslim woman? Still 2 - 3?

Antares said...

This is what happens when a legally trained mind goes through the fine print in the Scriptures and spots more than a couple of loopholes. Seems we've both been pondering parallel issues, Art! Thanks for a very pleasant chuckle :-)

Jeffrey Matisa said...

"And you, Gandalf, for all your wit, have not wisdom."

Anyone who takes the Genesis in its literal form will never a picnic be.

It was not knowledge per se that God was trying to spare us, but the knowledge of good and evil. Looking upon the very depravity of evil manifest in man, you would still see this knowledge and its weilding thereof as providentially beneficial?

But please carry on. It's good for a few cynical smirks, and therein endures its value.

As said Anonymous, try it on the other foot and watch the cinders in the aftermath of religious demonstrations.

Patricia said...

Thank you for this one, Art. It was brilliant!

Nanda said...

Cool one. Haha.

Antares, sir.
Pondering on parallel issues?

I'm doing that as well.Interesting where this shall lead

cahaya said...

i am a muslim woman and i am happy.