Image: Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve, in the Bible, the first man and woman, progenitors of the human race. The biblical account of the creation of human beings occurs twice: in Genesis 1:26-27 and in Genesis 2:18-24. Marked differences in vocabulary, thought, and style between these accounts have led to the scholarly consensus that these creation stories reflect two distinct sources ( "see "Bible: "The Development of the Old Testament"). In the first account, the Hebrew common noun "adam" is used as a generic term for all human beings, regardless of gender; Eve is not mentioned at all. In the second account, Adam is created from the dust of the earth, whereas Eve is created from Adam`s rib and given to him by God to be his wife.

Before the beginning of the 19th century

Before the beginning of the 19th century, it was commonly assumed that every species of life, human beings included, had descended from a pair of aboriginal ancestors created directly by God. In this respect the biblical story of Adam and Eve differs only in details from many other myths of the ancient Middle East and elsewhere. Similar motifs also appear in such ancient Mesopotamian sources as the Gilgamesh epic from about 2000 bc, for example.

In some respects

In some respects, however, the story of Adam and Eve is unique. The early chapters of the Book of Genesis underwent considerable editorial work, and what began as a straightforward narrative of the beginning of the human species in general was converted into a more sophisticated exploration of the situation of men and women in relation to one another and to their environment. This is evident in the introduction of the theme of a separate creation of woman in Genesis 2:18-24, which, among other things, argues for the complementarity of the two sexes. The impulse to provide explanations can also be seen in the way the story is used to attribute the imperfections of the world to human error: It is a consequence of primordial disobedience that the earth yields its fruits grudgingly (Genesis 3:17-19) and that woman`s social position is inferior to that of man (3:16). Christian interpreters have traditionally associated this dimension of the story with the doctrine of original sin.

It is the ethical concern pervading the

It is the ethical concern pervading the biblical story of human origins that constitutes the story`s primary claim to consideration as a religious classic. Before the emergence of higher criticism in biblical criticism in the 19th century, it was taken for granted that the story was nothing less than sober history. This is the position still maintained by some religious conservatives who view the divine influence (inspiration) on the production of the biblical narratives as a guarantee that everything in them must be accepted as literal fact ( "see "Fundamentalism). Most present-day biblical scholars, however, accept the story of Adam and Eve for what it appears to be: a Hebrew story of human origins having much in common with the myths of other ancient peoples as well as a good deal that is distinctive. Far from diminishing the value of the biblical story, this realization serves to underscore the unique elements in ancient Hebrew religion.

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