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The Seduction of Eve and the Exegetical Politics of Gender

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image of Biblical Interpretation

This reading of the Eve and Adam story focuses on the consequential role of the woman and her linkage to the serpent. Her rapid switch from defender to transgressor of the divine command shows that the idea of disobeying God was not instigated exclusively by the serpent. Since the serpent does not get her to act out of character, he does not function outside of her, but provides a rationale for her to extend previous inklings. This function of the serpent is based on the differences between the original divine command and her rendering. It is supported by the reader's awareness that her Hebrew name Havva sounds like its cognates hivyah and hivvah which mean serpent and speech, respectively. The talking serpent becomes the inner Eve. Thus, the story is not one of humanity coming of age but a parable of the human condition. Our heroine is nothing less than Every(wo)man. Her representative status explains why the story features both woman and serpent, why the serpent talks specifically to woman, why of all the ancient epics of origins Genesis alone gives the creation of woman separate billing, and why Genesis underscores the commonality between man and woman. By highlighting the significance of the woman, this reading makes for the remarkable combination of authoritarian theology and egalitarian anthropology.


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