As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

It's always a woman...

I don't want this to become a discussion about Mary ... yet. However, these quotes will show that the early Church Fathers believed that Eve was just as much a cause of the Fall as Adam. It was not just by man, but by man AND woman that sin came into the world.

The first insight regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given by the Church Fathers was the vision of Mary as the New Eve. The earliest patristic texts regarding the Eve-Mary parallel begin in the later half of the Second Century. St. Justin, the Martyr, (+165) in his work, Dialogue with Trypho, states that,

Christ became a man by a virgin to overcome the disobedience caused by the serpent ...in the same way it had originated.

The name Eve is taken from the Hebrew word, HAWAH, a verb which means "to live." "The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living" (Gen. 3:20). Eve, the first woman, was a virgin at the time that she was tempted by the serpent in the garden. Thus, Eve, a virgin, conceived disobedience and death, whereas, Mary, a virgin, conceived the Word in obedience and brought forth Life.

St. Ireneus, Bishop of Lyons, (+202) is considered the first theologian of the Virgin Mary. He took up St. Justin's Mary-Eve theme and further integrated it into his theology. Therein, Mary is treated as the New or Second Eve who is the beginning of the second Creation or re-creation of humanity through the Redemption.

The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosened by Mary's obedience. The bonds fastened by the virgin Eve through disbelief were untied by the virgin Mary through faith.
(Adv. haereses,3:22)

Jesus Christ is the New Adam, the Lord of the New Creation (I Cor. 15:45-49) and Mary the New Eve who undid what the first Eve had done. The first Eve disobeyed God and thereby brought sin and death into the world. The New Eve, Mary, obeyed and believed God's message which was given to her at the Annunciation (Lk. 1 :26-38), and brought salvation and life to the world in her son, Jesus, who crushes the head of the serpent. Mary, like us, shares in this victory .

Tertullian (+220), another Church Father, used the Eve-Mary parallel as a secondary argument in favor of the virginal conception of Jesus Christ and emphasizes the act of faith involved. Building on the insights of Justin, Ireneus and Tertullian, the theme of the Eve-Mary parallel was expanded upon after the Council of Nicaea in the year 325.

St. Ambrose of Milan (+397) writes, "it was through a man and woman that flesh was cast from paradise; it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God." St. Jerome (+420) succinctly stated, "Death through Eve, Life through Mary." (Epist. 22,2 I). St. Peter Chrysologus (+450) picked up on this theme in his writings,

Christ was born of a woman so that just as death came through a woman, so through Mary, life might return.

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