Two Women

Explaining religious cosmogony, as to how the act of creation of the world was developed is common among many cultures.

Out of nowhere, or perhaps by way of the Big Bang, or by some all-powerful deity, or more likely through the inspired imagination of past scholars, two alternate universes are described in the ancient testament.

There are commonalities. In the beginning, there was nothing. From that, the omnipotent deity began to fashion all manner of life. In the first creation story, he commands and all things are formed, the last being man and woman. In the second creation story, he began by molding man first, from soil, then woman from his ribs and then continued for six days to complete the rest of creation.

Thus, on each of the alternate universes, two women were created. One known by a few; the other, known and accepted by many. What were their stories? Why were these written? Were they fact or fiction? Both their accounts were scribed too long ago for anyone to substantiate.

In the first of the alternate universes, she is not named.

“So God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created them male and female, and he blessed them.”

In the second alternate universe, the woman is named.

“Then the Lord God took some soil from the ground and formed a man… and while he was sleeping, he took out one of the man’s ribs… He formed a woman out of the rib and brought her to him. And Adam named his wife Eve.”

This second description is the more familiar story which goes on to elucidate the devastation Eve is said to have caused in the place called Eden. Given everything to enjoy by the creator, she was warned against not doing only one thing: never to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What did Eve do? She ate the fruit, and encouraged her mate to do likewise. For this transgression, they were both expelled from that garden. And what is more, they were both cursed by the creator. The man’s curse was toil and hardship. The woman’s was pain in giving birth and moreover:

“In spite of this, you will still have desire for your husband, yet you will be subject to him.”

From the perspective of the Patriarchs of the times, the over-arching matter that needed to be addressed, was to explain inconsistencies in the ancient testament, such as the two differing creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.  Consequently, an interpretive system of Jewish literature called the midrash was developed. In versions of Hebrew apocryphal ancient books, which were likely borrowings from Mesopotamia, the first woman  does have a name. Lilith. What happened to her? She asserted her carnal equality with the first man, and dared call the deity by his unspoken name. For these acts, she was cast out of the ideal garden. Not only was she exiled, but she was further demeaned by legends of her coupling with a demon and by being personified as licentiousness and lustful.

By adding this interpretation, the Patriarchs could rest more easily. The two alternate universe creation stories now were similar. The supreme deity created a world in which all creatures, including human kind could live in harmony for eternity. Both stories leave a sense that everything created was good within the confines of a garden, which was intended to provide contentment for its inhabitants.

And, the common thread that weaves through the alternate universes of the two women is that they were not content. Both Eve and Lilith caused human kind’s expulsion from what the deity defined as the perfect world, an echo of heaven. Living like obedient, repressed, unaware pets in imposed confinement ‒ why would they have been content?

As Eve thought: “How wonderful it would be, to be wise.”

Lilith too voiced an opinion. “I also was made from dust and am therefore your equal.”

The Patriarchs understood that they needed to convey through the two alternate universes a lesson, that would both relieve the almighty deity from blame and hence justify why human kind live a life of struggle, pain and suffering. These continue to be the most critical, inexplicable challenges for theologians to address.

Sadly, when all else fails, the simplest explanation seems to be to leave these ambiguities at the threshold of the creator’s failed attempts at perfection: with Lilith and Eve. Or, did the creator fail?

Katalin Kennedy

October, 2019

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Categories: Musings.

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