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And She Called His Name Seth . . . (Gen 4:25): The Birth of Critical Knowledge and the Unread End of Eve's Story

Kahl, Brigitte W.

Eve. For how many centuries now has she been frozen under the tree of knowledge with the deadly, sinful apple in her hand? We have seen the paintings, we know the quotations, some of them, like Timothy 2:8-15, in the New Testament, and many more in the church fathers and other texts and traditions. Throughout the ages the patriarchal Christian dis-course has bound her to the nakedness of her ageless body and to never-ending debates about femininity, sexuality, and sin. Turned into a pillar of salt she had to stand there under the tree, testifying that womanhood equals guilt, incapacity to think, fallibility—and the need of infallible male guidance. Since ever and forever.

In the meantime, we have started in manifold ways and voices to deconstruct this image of Eve as a male idol. The pressing question for a biblical scholar, however, is: To what extent is the biblical text itself involved in this kind of patriarchal idolatry—and/or resistant to it? What I want to share with you right here is a tiny piece of "resistant text" and a kind of discovery: the suppressed end of Eve's story. How it continued with her after—unnoticed by the dogmatic debates—she finally got rid of the tree and started to grow: to grow adult, to grow old, to grow wise.

Not that I have dug a new extracanonical document out of the sand—digging in the text can be at least as much exciting. And it has been there in the text all the time: two little verses at the end of Genesis 4, which rarely have been really read. Under the censorship of the dominant reading interests they were just seen as a more or less disconnected appendix, perhaps related to chapter 5. In fact, these two verses, as I read them, contain the very climax and reversal of the whole story of Eve.

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Union Seminary Quarterly Review

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Union Theological Seminary
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December 12, 2011
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