Eve’s Sin, Woman’s Fault: A Medieval View
By Pierre Payer
Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice, Vol.2:2 (1977)
Introduction: The fall of Adam and Eve has been a favourite theme in literary and religious literature down through the ages both with Christian and non-Christian authors. The literary development reached a high point in Milton’s Paradise Lost which apparently incorporates many of the literary and religious themes of its predecessors. The theological development of the theme will probably continue as long as religious thinkers believe the subject of original sin worthy of their consideration.
Except in very fundamentalist circles, the theological discussion of the persons of Adam and Eve came to an end among sophisticated theologians in the wake of modern Biblical criticism. It is more common today to discuss the Genesis account of the fall in terms of the mythology of parallel Near Eastern accounts. However, in pre-critical days questions concerning the persons of Adam and Eve as historical persons were very pertinent to the theological discussions.
In all of these discussions Eve is a most complex figure—archetypal woman, type of the Church born from the side of Christ and anti-type of Mary the sinless mother of Jesus. As archetypal woman Eve suggests the female as devious temptress, laying snares for unsuspecting males, an image expressed in both the literary and theological traditions.
Top Image: Eve in stained glass from c. 1450-1460, – Museum Schnütgen – Cologne, Germany. Photo by Daderot / Wikimedia Commons