Adam and Eve
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
As a theme in art
Adam and Eve were used by early Renaissance artists as a theme to represent female and male nudes. Later, the nudity was objected to by more modest elements, and fig leaves were added to the older pictures and sculptures, covering their genitals (see Depictions of nudity). The choice of the fig was a result of Mediterranean traditions identifying the unnamed Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as a fig tree, and since fig leaves were actually mentioned in Genesis as being used to cover Adam and Eve's nudity.
Treating the concept of Adam and Eve as the historical truth introduces some logical dilemmas. One such dilemma is whether they should be depicted with navels (The Omphalos theory). Since they were created fully grown, and did not develop in a uterus, they would not have been connected to an umbilical chord as were all born humans. Paintings without navels looked unnatural and some artists obscure that area of their bodies, sometimes by depicting them covering up that area of their body with their hand or some other intervening object.
Lucas Cranach the Elder depicts a nude Eve on a panel painting housed at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts. Hans Baldung Grien has a very sensual rendition of the subject. The rendition of the Van Eycks in the Ghent Altarpiece is purely in the alternative convention of gothic body shape.
As a theme in literature
The biblical story of Adam and Eve is told in the book of Genesis, chapters 1, 2 and 3, with some additional elements in chapters 4 and 5.
Genesis 2 opens with God fashioning a man from the dust and blowing life into his nostrils. God plants a garden (the Garden of Eden) and sets the man there, "to work it and watch over it," permitting him to eat of all the trees in the garden except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, "for on the day you eat of it you shall surely die." Then God creates the animals, attempting to find a help-mate for the man; but none of the animals are satisfactory, and so God causes the man to sleep, and creates a woman from his rib. The man names her "Woman" (Heb. ishshah), "for this one was taken from a man" (Heb. ish). "On account of this a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his woman." Genesis 2 ends with the note that the man and woman were naked, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 3 introduces the Serpent, "slier than every beast of the field." The serpent tempts the woman to eat from the tree of knowledge, telling her that it will not lead to death; she succumbs, and gives the fruit to the man, who eats also, "and the eyes of the two of them were opened." Aware now of their nakedness, they make coverings of fig leaves, and hide from the sight of God. God, perceiving that they have broken His command, curses them with hard labour and with pain in childbirth, and banishes them from His garden, setting a cherub at the gate to bar their way to the Tree of Life, "lest he put out his hand ... and eat, and live forever."
Genesis 4 and 5 give the story of Adam and Eve's family after they leave the garden: they have three children, Cain, Abel and Seth, as well as other sons and daughters, and Adam's lifespan is 930 years. ("The woman" is given the name Eve in the closing verses of Genesis 3, "because she was the mother of all living"; Adam gets his name when the initial definite article is dropped, changing "ha-adam", "the man", to "Adam".)
Eve as the original temptress
Because Eve tempted Adam to eat of the fatal fruit, some early Fathers of the Church held her and all subsequent women to be the first sinners, and especially responsible for the Fall. "You are the devil's gateway," Tertullian told his female listeners in the early 2nd century, and went on to explain that they were responsible for the death of Christ: "On account of your desert (i.e. punishment for sin) - that is, death - even the Son of God had to die." In 1486 the Dominicans Kramer and Sprengler used similar tracts in Malleus Maleficarum ("Hammer of Witches") to justify the persecution of "witches".
Over the centuries, a system of uniquely Christian beliefs has developed from the Adam and Eve story. Baptism has become understood as a washing away of the stain of hereditary sin in many churches, although its original symbolism was apparently rebirth. Additionally, the serpent that tempted Eve was interpreted to have been Satan, or that Satan was using a serpent as a mouthpiece, although there is no mention of this identification in the Torah and it is not held in Judaism.
- Adam and Eve (LDS Church)
- Ask and Embla
- Balbira & Kalmana
- Biblical narratives and the Qur'an
- Christian naturism
- Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan
- Generations of Adam
- Mashya and Mashyana