What I learned from the story of Eve

Hello, Internet, today is Monday, November 26th – programming & levels day at the LSPU Hall. It’s also the day that we’re going to talk about Eve.

John Dickson Batten Eve and the serpent

Eve and the Serpent, by John Dickson Batten, 1895

I grew up in Christianity. I went to Church every Sunday. I sang in the choir from age 9 to age 19. I grew up with an illustrated children’s bible, which I loved and scoured regularly for stories.

In that book, there was a picture of Eve and Adam, running from the walled Garden of Eden, looking dejected as the gates slammed behind them. Eve was carrying an apple core, and they were both covering their nudity because eating the apple had made them ashamed of it. There was an angel with a sword of fire guarding the gates.

Here are the things I learned from that story:

  1. God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. That was a lie. Sometimes parents lie to their kids to keep them safe and that’s a totally reasonable thing to do.
  2. When the serpent told Eve that she wouldn’t die, but would, in fact, gain wisdom by eating the fruit from that tree, she ate it. She trusted the snake over God, and that was the wrong thing.
  3. Even though it wasn’t Adam’s idea to eat the fruit, he still got punished for it. Adam and Eve and the snake all got in trouble together, like you and your friends would if you decided to, say, hypothetically, have a water-balloon fight in the living room, regardless of whose idea it was.
  4. Eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil makes you notice that you’re naked. And being naked is bad and embarrassing.

For my developing brain, none of this was too problematic. God = parent was an easy jump for me and being punished for disobeying parents is a pretty normal part of life at the time. I didn’t think about any of the gendered stuff at all.

But now that I am an adult, I have some observations:

  1. God lied.
  2. The snake told the truth.
  3. Everyone got punished but Eve got it WAY WORSE than Adam: she got pain in childbirth and also Adam will “rule over” her; and meanwhile, Adam… got farming. He has to farm for his food, because he’s kicked out of the garden… Eve, of course, also kicked out of the garden. (PS: the snake actually got it the worst of the three – check your Gideon if you don’t believe me.)
  4. Being naked – in a climate that is a reasonable temperature, devoid of poisonous brambles and biting creatures, in the presence of several animals and one other human who happens to be your sexual partner – is EXCELLENT. Prove me wrong.

So I’m happy to be reimagining Eve’s story. I’m not the first artist to do that by a long shot, and I won’t be the last. But she’s so compelling that it’s worth exploring this story again.

In my defense – and the snake’s – it was a really good apple. Red. Shining. Hanging low enough that you could smell it from the ground… and juicy? Like a flood in your mouth, every bite. Adam thought so too, at the time. He’ll deny that now, of course. He’ll say “it tasted like betrayal.” And you know what? It did taste like betrayal… just not ours.

-Eve, Original. Running at the LSPU Hall November 28-December 2. Tickets available here.