Eve Disobeys. Mary of Magdala Obeys. A Reversal?
Genesis 3:6-7; Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 23:54-56 plus 24:1-12; John 20:1-18
We don’t want to make too much of this, but is there a deliberate undoing of the Genesis fall-via-a-woman’s-failure story in the gospels’ risen-Jesus-first-recognized-by-women accounts?
As you know, Eve is seduced by Satan the serpent into falling into a state of sin by disobeying an order from God. She then (all too easily) convinces her (slow-witted?) husband to follow that same disobedience. The weak-willed Adam-man follows Eve down the fallen path to the fruit of self-awareness and knowledge of moral good and evil. Adam is now like God, and suffers from the hubris of believing he is God. Adam takes mankind with him into the deadly fallen state.
As you surely have read, but may not have noticed, the four gospels read together show one or more women being not only first on the scene of the empty tomb of the risen Christ, but first to recognize Jesus outside the tomb, and first to recognize the saving power of the risen Jesus. The women then inform the men, the eleven, and others, of the saving power of this recognition and obedience.
Woman compels man to disobey. Woman compels man to obey. Fall. Unfall.
We see something to this.
Note that we are not looking at Mary the mother of Christ as the woman of interest here, but instead either at Mary of Magdala, or some conflation of various Mary’s and/or other women.
Mary the mother has her own claim of Second Eve.
At least two early Christian writers advance this view.
In a work we unfortunately cannot find online, and therefore cannot quote and share, Hippolytus (early 200’s AD) refers to Mary (of Magdala? Bethany? but not the mother of Christ) as being an Eve of reversal, owing to her recognition of the risen Christ outside the tomb, and her obedience to his command. If you can find Hippolytus’ surviving work on Canticle of Canticles (Song of Songs) in Greek, Latin, or English translation online, please let our readers know. (Commentary on Canticle of Canticles, 8.2.)
Gregory of Nyssa (late 300’s) shares the same idea 150 years after the elusive Hippolytus:
… even so, when we hear that the true God and Father has become the God and Father of our First-fruits, we no longer doubt that the same God has become our God and Father too, inasmuch as we have learnt that we shall come to the same place whither Christ has entered for us as our forerunner. And the fact too that this grace was revealed by means of a woman, itself agrees with the interpretation which we have given. For since, as the Apostle tells us, “the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression,” and was by her disobedience foremost in the revolt from God, for this cause she is the first witness of the resurrection, that she might retrieve by her faith in the resurrection the overthrow caused by her disobedience, and that as, by making herself at the beginning a minister and advocate to her husband of the counsels of the serpent, she brought into human life the beginning of evil, and its train of consequences, so, by ministering to His disciples the words of Him Who slew the rebel dragon, she might become to men the guide to faith, whereby with good reason the first proclamation of death is annulled. (Christian Classics Etheral Library, P. Schaff in “Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc.”)
We include now the four gospel accounts of women arriving at the empty tomb. See what you make of this idea. Are the women first to recognize the risen Christ? Are they first to believe? Are they first to obey our Lord? And then do they share the good news with the men?
Here are the relevant texts from Genesis 3, Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 23 into 24, and John 20, all from the King James Version:
Genesis 3:6-7 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took some of its fruit, and ate. Then she gave some to her husband with her, and he ate it, too. 7 Their eyes were opened, and they both knew that they were naked…. (KJV)
Matthew 28:1-10 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first [day] of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead [men]. 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. 8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. (KJV)
Mark 16:1-11 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the [mother] of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first [day] of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any [man]; for they were afraid. 9 Now when [Jesus] was risen early the first [day] of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 [And] she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
Luke 23:55-56 and 24:1-12 And the women also, which came with him [Joseph of Arimathea –B. Bits] from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. 24:1 Now upon the first [day] of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain [others] with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down [their] faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words, 9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary [the mother] of James, and other [women that were] with them, which told these things unto the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. 12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.
John 20:1-18 The first [day] of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. 4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 5 And he stooping down, [and looking in], saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. 11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, [and looked] into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God. 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and [that] he had spoken these things unto her.
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Is there substance to the Eve reversal idea? Does God write this into our scripture for this purpose, or is the sequence of events mere happenstance?
Does your favorite commentary speak to this? If so, please share and cite your source.
As always, include scripture in your response.
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We pray God’s blessings come upon you, and encourage you to read the actual Bible for yourself.