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Havah: the Story of Eve
22 September 2013
Getting Back To The Garden, I recently read an amazing book called Havah: the Story of Eve by Tosca Lee. As I wrote then: As far as I can tell, there are not many people who have imagined the life of Adam and Eve and then written it down to share with others. This is such a book, told in first-person from Eve's (Havah's) point of view.
There's no way I could do justice to an excerpt from, or summary of, this book — you absolutely need to read it for yourself. But at the end of the book the author had a few pages which I think would be helpful to give you an idea of where she was coming from as she wrote the book. So I'll share that with you here:
I wrote Havah to revisit ideas so ingrained in our pop and religious cultures as to be cliché.There is also a deleted scenes PDF which gives you some extra tidbits. If you have the self-control, I highly recommend that you read it after you finish the book! To learn more about Tosca and her books, visit her Web site.
The problem, though, was that I simply had no idea the scope of the project I had undertaken or what I was getting myself into. In planning this book's writing, I found myself confronted by a growing list of questions. Among them:
Three resources I found to be invaluable: Amy-Jill Levine's Lectures on the Old Testament (The Teaching Company, 2001); Genesis, Robert Alter, ed. (Norton, 1996); and The Bible As It Was, James L. Kugel (Belknap, 1997).
Other sources that never left my desk: The Jewish Study Bible (Tanakh translation, Oxford University Press, 1999); Word Biblical Commentary: Vol. 1, Genesis 1-15, Gordon Wenham (Word, 1987); The Pentateuch as Narrative, John Sailhamer (Zondervan, 1992); The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, Victor Hamilton (Eerdmans, 1990).
References of additional interest: Biography: Adam and Eve (A&E Home Video, 2005); The Learning Channel's In Search Of Eden (2002); A&E's Mysteries of the Bible: Cain and Abel (1996); A Biblical Case for an Old Earth by David Snoke (Baker, 2006); Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphic texts, including The Apocalypse of Moses, The Book of Jubilees, The Books of Adam, and the Midrash.
In addition to the questions with which I plagued academic and theological thinkers alike ("If the no-death-before-the-fall thing applies to animals, wouldn't the earth have been overpopulated if Adam and Eve hadn't eaten the fruit?" "Uh, is it possible that the garden might have existed but in another dimension, and that's why we can't find it?"), were other questions of translation (Did God increase Eve's pain in childbirth or her pregnancies? Was she Adam's helper or his sustainer?), and even whether to include rain or meat-eating in the antediluvian world — a matter of significant theological importance to some.
If one assumes a literal garden and literal first couple, there are many things we simply cannot know.
There is also no way to determine the kind of language an adam might have spoken with his God. Some Midrashic sources assume it to be Hebrew, but the Torah was written in the vernacular of the Israelites. I did choose Hebrew names for my characters and nontransliterated names for the principals mentioned in Genesis, simply to help escape the felt-board Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. I wanted to examine them anew.
I used the adam for most of the book because, as Havah notes in the story, Adam was never properly named. Ha-Adam means merely "Man from the (red) earth," or "earthling." Additional sources reason that the adam became distinctly male (Ish) only after Isha was created from him. Dozens of great morsels like these — too many to list here — are within the footnotes of Alter's Genesis and the other sources listed above.
"Eden," or the "fertile plain," was the place within which the garden was situated — but not the garden itself. I have refrained from openly basing the garden of this book on any one location, but found Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation by David Rohl (Arrow, 2000) and investigation into the theories of American archaeologist and Middle East specialist Juris Zarins fascinating. Regardless of the compelling nature of these and other theories, if one believes in a literal Eden, we can safely assume that we know more about the terrain of Mars than we do about Eden's garden today.
It is my opinion that we have placed far too great a weight on English translations of the Scriptures. It is my personal belief that those of us who base our conduct on biblical principles even do ourselves and our relationships potential harm by not investigating the more complex subtleties of the Hebrew Scriptures. We also miss out on the delightful intricacies, poeticisms, and even puns of the text by going no deeper than our English versions.
Last, and from my heart, I think we are remiss if we do not examine the nature, meaning, and equality of genders as designed by God, recorded by the Genesis author, and influenced — for good or ill — by the world. Too many poorly applied translations of this story have fueled the subjugation and even abuse of women throughout history (and to this day). I do believe it is possible to seek the heart of God with the best of intentions and still grossly miss the mark — and injure ourselves or others in the process.
I was challenged and encouraged by Katherine Bushnell's God's Word to Women (Christians for Biblical Equality, 2003) and Susan Greiner's article "Did Eve Fall or Was She Pushed?" (Bible Review, August 1999).
Whether you subscribe to a literal or figurative Eve, a young or old earth, one thing remains unchanging: the aspects of our nature formed in the image of the One — the propensity to love, to create, to feel pain and joy.
In that way we are all the same.
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