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The New Eve Paradigm - A Clarification
By Rev. Charles Dickson, Ph.D.


Dr Dickson is a college chemistry instructor, Lutheran pastor and author of the book, "A Protestant Pastor Looks at Mary"


One of the issues which has been raised in past ecumenical discussions and is certain to come up in future ones, is the concept of the Mother of our Lord as the Second Eve. Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ, shall all be made alive." (1 Cor 15:22) The apostle is making the obvious contrast between Adam, the bearer of death, with Christ the bringer of life. The paradigm of Mary as the New Eve follows the same train of thought with the exception that it is not meant to imply that she possesses divinity but rather that she is the willing human bearer of divinity, viz., Christ, the Incarnate Word.

 

 

 

 

 



Such a distinction is vital if the world Christian community is to be convinced of the reasonable basis for addressing the Blessed Virgin Mary as the New Eve.

While the overwhelming amount of biblical material relating to Mary is in the New Testament, the original references to her go back deep into the Old. The first reference is contained in Genesis 3:15 and sets the tone for the entire canonical period and beyond: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise thy heel." (KJV)

For Old Testament writers Eve had a definite essential position in the First Covenant. In the primeval events surrounding the fall and the entrance of sin into the world, Eve played an integral part. By cooperating not as an irresponsible instrument but actively, intimately and personally, she brought about the events surrounding the fall. As Cardinal Newman describes it, "As history stands she was a sine-qua-non, a positive cause of it."

If humanity were to be rescued from the consequences of the first transgression, there must be a second Adam and a second Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam. The seed of the woman is the Word Incarnate and the woman whose seed or son He is, is His Mother, Mary.
On this basis the Church has historically viewed the Virgin Mary as the Second Eve recognizing that by the position and office of Eve in our fall, we are able to determine the position and office of Mary in our restoration.

The writings of the early Church Fathers provide ample evidence that the perspective of Mary as the New Eve has roots in antiquity. St Justin Martyr (120-165) contrasted the transgression of Eve with the obedience of Mary; and Tertullian (160-240) wrote, "For unto Eve, as yet a virgin, had crept the word which was the framer of death; equally into a virgin was to be introduced the Word of God which was the builder-up of life."

And St Irenaeus (120-200) continued the paradigm by noting, "And so the knot of Eve's disobedience received its unloosing through the obedience of Mary; for what Eve, a virgin bound by incredulity, that Mary, a virgin, unloosed by faith."

What is notable in these and other early writings which continue to influence contemporary theology on this subject is that they do not speak of Mary merely as the physical instrument of the Incarnation , but as an intelligent responsible cause of it.

In the late fourth century, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (315-336) contrasted the first women of the Old and New Testaments respectively in these words: "Since through Eve, a virgin, or rather from a virgin, should life appear; that as the serpent had deceived the one, so to the other, Gabriel might bring good tidings." And St Ephrem Syrus (300?-378) wrote to his Syrian and neighboring oriental community, ":Though Eve, the beautiful and desirable glory of men was extinguished; but it was revived through Mary."

By the time of Saint Jerome (331-420), the contrast between Eve and Mary had almost evolved into a proverb, often characterized by phrases like, "Death by Eve, life by Mary."

It is evident from these and many other writers, who were both their contemporaries and their successors for centuries to come, that the paradigm of Mary as the New Eve has deep roots in Christian antiquity.

The aversion in some sectors of the Christian world in recognizing this unique position of Mary should not deter responsible scholars and church leaders from presenting its sound historical, biblical, and theological basis at the tables of ecumenical dialogue. Understanding Mary as the New Eve is an important part of the Church's experience down through the centuries, an experience that continues to be articulated as a reasonable ingredient of its faith and practice.

Amidst the present day theological scene, the church can ill afford to abandon this ancient theme, not merely because it is ancient, but because it is vital to our understanding of Christology. The heart and soul of the Christian message remains the same at the end of the 20th century as it was in the first. Mary, the New Eve, is the willing, obedient instrument of the Incarnation; and the Incarnation, as both mystery and fact, remains the hope of the human race.

From the bi-monthly Marian review "Queen of All Hearts" published by
the Montfort Missionaries, Bay Shore, NY, July-August '98, pp 10-11.

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