Notes on Genesis (xxiii) Adam and the Woman

‘Then the Lord God built the rib he took from Adam into a woman, and brought her to him.’ (Gen 2:22)

The creation of the woman from the side of the man suggested to the Fathers the creation of the Church. ‘Adam’s sleep was a mystical foreshadowing of Christ’s death, and when his dead body on the cross was pierced by the lance it was from his side that there issued forth that blood and water that, as we know, signifies the sacraments by which the church is built up. “Built” is the very word the Scripture uses in connection with Eve: “He built the rib into a woman.” So too St Paul speaks of “building up the body of Christ”, which is his church.’ (Augustine) ‘”There came forth [from the side of Christ] blood and water”, which is his church, and it is built on him, just as [in the case of] Adam. Adam’s rib is his wife, and the blood of our Lord is his church.’ (Ephrem the Syrian)

Shortly afterwards we read ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ (Gen 2:24, words John Chrysostom attributes to Adam.) These words are quoted by Christ when discussing divorce (Matt 19:5, Mark 10:8), and St Paul in a discussion of marriage (Eph 5:31). His interpretation of these words as concerning Christ and the church (Eph 5:32) fits nicely with the patristic understanding of the significance of the first woman.

The Septuagint differs slightly from the Hebrew at Gen 2:24, adding ‘the two’  (hoi duo), and it is in this expanded form that Christ and the Apostle quote the text. The difference is of course very slight, but here and elsewhere the form in which the Old Testament appears in the New Testament reveals that the Bible of Christ and the Apostles is not the Old Testament in Hebrew, but in its Greek form. For the Orthodox, who see themselves as standing in the tradition of Christ and the Apostles, it is natural to continue in this way; others, among them Jerome in his search for ‘Hebrew truth’, seek to get behind church tradition to scriptural purity. Doubtless there are deep issues here about the relationship between the Bible and the church.

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