Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mary: The Answer to Eve

The importance of Mary’s virginity for the four doctrinal writers of the week is based off of not only fighting off of heresy about Jesus’ humanity but also about those who doubt the actually answering of the prophecies in her. Ireneus spoke clearly against Jews who questioned not only the translation but the belief, the one which breached Christians from their Judaic fathers. He said that those who wished to revise the virginal emphasis of the Septuagint must “also alter the form of the promise which was given to David, when God promised him to raise up, from the fruit of his belly, the horn of Christ the King”. Though this speaks louder to the issue of translation, it does emphasize the importance of the actual birth of Jesus and through this can also disparage gnostic tendencies that were rampant during Ireneus’ lifetime.

Though modern thinkers would not immediately link virginal Mary with Eve, the parallels are undeniable in the minds of the early medieval and late antiquity Christian writers who had to answer heresy and doubt. It was not because there was a need for a woman in the new founded Christian movement but rather that just as Trinitarian teachings work in a cyclical pattern, all parts answering the one and vice versus, to create a call and response forum. This forum shows that though Eve was born without original sin, all who came from her did suffer from this stain on humanity until Mary. Her Immaculate Conception allowed her to be the first to be in a state of purity and thus to be able to bear what never had been brought down from heaven before: God himself.

Eve was mother of humanity but Mary was mother of God and one who gave of himself to expunge the effects of original sin. It was as Epiphanius of Salamis wrote “since death had entered into the world through a woman, the Master and Savior of all… came down and was himself born of a virgin woman to bar death out, complete what was missing, and perfect what was lacking” to essentially revive the world through Mary. She, like Eve, is not a goddess or divine but she alters all of humanity around her through her progeny which is but one more of countless ideas that appears strong within the readings.

Tertullian was right in making the parallel of the Old Testament to the new, to the first mother and the most revered mother of humanity. “As Eve had believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel” is Tertullian’s way of showing that one forgot God and the other did not. Two women of such importance to the faith are naturally compared but Eve and Mary are quite exceptional circumstances. One wipes away the others crimes, one was the first to be delivered into motherhood.

However it attaches her in the mind of early Christians to Eve, this motherhood is not so simple for Mary. She not only is passing onto the world the Son of God but the Son of David. This is an immutably important fact when reading Ephrem the Syrian. His second hymn emphasizes Mary’s multifaceted relationship because of her roles as daughter of David, wife of David, and mother of David. This trifold correlation leads to not only a robust dynamic for her and her child but also for how she fits into the overwhelming plan of salvation through Jesus. She not only passes on this royal line through her blood but the blood of her father and of her husband to culminate in the child a heritage abounding in kingly tradition. And just as David’s son was given the rite to reign through Bathsheba, Mary gave her son the throne of this world, though he already held that of heaven as Creator. Through her blood she gives Jesus not only noble rights but also Judaic blood and from this, the heritage to fulfill the prophecies as well as the faith itself.

In addition to these traditions, she gave him his physical form and did so while remaining virginal, something Eve never accomplished. Not only did Eve find her own form from Adam but neither she nor her husband could resist turning from God. Jesus came from Mary and became the new Adam, the new father of humanity in a sense. Ireneus agreed with this sentiment as Jesus remade humanity in his image and that “He who is the Word, recapitulating Adam in Himself, rightly receive a birth, enabling Him to gather up Adam [into Himself], from Mary, who was as yet a virgin”. This new Adam, this new Eve were flesh and blood but they were not equals.

Jesus is both Mary’s son and her savior. Adam may have named the animals but he did not create them, he was not omnipotent and so, though he was the first man, he was no longer the pinnacle because of Jesus’ birth. Just so, Eve no longer was the apex of woman or motherhood. Mary’s purity, virginity, and faith resulted in the promised savior, a fact that doctrinal works emphasized and protected from heresy and from unbelief. 

- A. Graff

1 comment:

  1. I like the image of a "call and response forum": could you say more about the specific "calls" to which our authors are responding? You hint at some of them, but it would have been good to hear more about some of the specifics involved, especially in the different interpretations of Scripture. This would help make clear why the descriptions of Mary and Eve that each author gives have the emphases that they do. RLFB