Listers, Mother Mary is the New Eve. Through St. Paul, Holy Scripture tells us that Christ is the New Adam, and where all died in Adam, all may be made alive in Christ. The comparison between Adam and Christ revealed a parallel in salvation history between the story of humanity’s first parents and the story of humanity’s salvation. Within this parallel, the Virgin Mary plays a role that rightfully entitles her the New Eve.
An SPL Introduction: The Necessity of a New Adam & New Eve
The New Adam and the New Eve are not poetic titles given to express a certain biblical view. They are necessary roles in salvation history that speak to the recreation of mankind and offering of salvation to all men.
Why did the sin of the First Parents affect humanity? Many often ask why the seemingly simple sin of eating of a tree has condemned humanity to suffering in a fallen world. The truth is that humanity is one body, and Adam is the head of that body - and as the head goes, the body must follow. In being one body, all humans share the same human nature, and that human nature has been suffering a privation ushered in by the First Parents. Sin is nothing more than a privation of the good: it is a corruption, a lacking, a malformation of God’s good creation - and since the First Parents’ betrayal, humanity has had to deal with this privation in all human nature, this Original Sin.
What is recapitulation? Here we arrive at St. Anselm’s Dilema: humanity is responsible to repay and satisfy the debt of sin, however, only God, as the Creator, has the power to pay the debt. In this light, the Incarnation of God as fully man and fully God was the perfect answer: Christ as a man was a valid sacrifice for the sin debt owed, and Christ as God granted him the perfection, power, and authority to do so. Still, the Incarnation of God did not immediately solve everything. What humanity needed was a “new head” or a recapitulation. Humanity needed to be brought out from under the original sin of Adam and placed under a new head with a new body. Here we see the “body of Christ” and Christ as the “New Adam.” Christ’s death offers forgiveness to humanity, satisfies the debt owed, allows humanity to become “new creatures,” baptism removes the stain/guilt of Original Sin, and the Church becomes the Body of Christ.
A simple comparison of Adam and Christ is incomplete. What is needed is a holistic comparison between the original creation and the recreation: Adam to Christ, Eve to Mary, Fall to Salvation, and Tree to Cross. The following list explores the role of Eve in the Fall to the role of Mother Mary - the New Eve - in the Salvation of the World.
1. An Intimate Relationship
Eve From Adam / New Adam from New Eve
In the story of Creation, Eve is pulled from the flesh of Adam.1
“So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”
In the story of the Recreation, the New Adam comes from the New Eve.2
“And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
Why is the order reversed? The most logical answer is that it follows the natural progenitorial method of human reproduction. However, it is also noted that in the Jewish tradition women were often mistrusted due to the belief that Eve had sinned first and had tempted Adam to sin as well. Allowing Mary to come first and be the virgin vessel of God’s Incarnation removes that traditional mistrust. The Early Church thinker Tertullian (c. 160) comments on how Eve - a female - sinned and brought about the Fall; thus, there is a certain justice in God’s providence allowing someone of the same sex - Mary - usher in the salvation of humanity. In his own words:
Into a virgin’s soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex might be the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation.
Moreover, Mother Mary did not simply undo the sin of Eve. In a full understanding of her biblical roles in salvation history - the New Eve, the New Ark of the Covenant, and the Queen of the Eternal Davidic Kingdom - Mary is seen as the highest created being. She was the pure and perfect vessel for Christ’s Incarnation, i.e., the Theotokos, the Mother of God. No other created human being will ever have such an elevated role.3
Why the difference in relations? Another notable difference beside the progenitorial order is the difference in relation between Adam and Eve and Christ and Mary. A quick answer would be that Adam and Eve’s romantic/sexual relationship had nothing to do with the Fall. Most all Early Church commentators hold that sexual relations occurred after the Fall, and the biblical tradition - at least as far as bearing children - supports this claim; thus, the need for a recapitulation focuses the roles played in the overall context of the Fall and Recreation.
2. Recipients of Supernatural Messengers
A Virgin Listens to the Serpent / A Virgin Listen to the Angel
Leading up to the Fall of Mankind, Eve listens to the sordid words of the serpent.4
“But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So 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 of its fruit and ate.”
Paving the way for the Recreation and Salvation of Mankind, the New Eve is visited by the Angel Gabriel.5
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greetings this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”
Mary Untied the Knot of Eve’s Disobedience: The Early Church Father and Bishop of Lyon, France, Irenaeus (d. 202) wrote the following famous phrase:
The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot of which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary opened by her belief.
The Virgin Mary is the Advocate of the Virgin Eve: It was Bishop Irenaeus who more fully developed St. Paul’s concept of recapitulation. He goes on to say:
If the former [Eve] disobeyed God, the latter [Mary] was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin.
An Edifice of Death / An Edifice of Believing: Further exploring the Early Church, the western thinker of North Africa, Tertullian (c. 160) states:
For it was while Eve was yet a virgin that the ensnaring word had crept into her ear which was to build the edifice of death. Into a virgin’s soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex might be the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation. As Eve believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel. The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other effaced by believing.
3. Bearers of Universal Change
Eve Gives Birth to Sin & Death / New Eve Gives Birth to Grace & Salvation
Eve listens the words of the serpent and sins against God: sin and death enter the world. It should be noted here that Eve’s sin did not immediately cause the Fall, but rather she was able to find Adam - who had presumably not been standing there the entire time - and offer him the fruit as well.
Mother Mary, the New Eve, literally gives birth to the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, who is the grace and salvation of humanity. Again, the point of interest here is that Christ’s Incarnation did not immediately resolve the problem of a fallen humanity. Humanity was under the sinful head of Adam, and a recapitulation was needed to usher in grace and the New Creation.
The Words of a Serpent & of an Angel: In AD 135, the Early Church Father Justin Martyr said the following in a diloague with a rabbi in Ephesus.6
For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the world of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God.
4. Together They Change Creation
Eve & Adam Together Cause the Fall / New Eve and New Adam Together Cause Salvation
Creation does not fall until both Adam and Eve have taken of the fruit. Here, under the shadow of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Creation falls.7
“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they know that they were naked.”
The Recreation of the world, the recapitulation of mankind, also did not happen immediately, but rather happened when the New Eve, the New Adam, and the Tree - the Cross - were together. Though all the disciples eventually abandoned Christ, the New Eve did not. She remained at his side as he offered forgiveness and satisfaction for humanity. Christ, being the New Adam, became the head of a new humanity of a redeemed and recreated world.
Was Mary necessary? Still, Mary’s partnership in salvation goes beyond simply remaining by Christ’s side. As shown by Anselm’s dilema, the Savior of Mankind needed to be fully human and fully divine. Christ being born of a woman was a necessary step in his Incarnation and validity in being the Savior; thus, Mary, as the New Eve, as the Theotokos, the Mother of God, the Mater Dei, was the necessary perfect and pure vessel of Christ’s Incarnation. Just as the Ark of the Covenant was where God came down in the Old Testament to speak to his people, so too was Mother Mary the Ark of the New Convenant where God came down to his people.
5. Universal Maternity
Eve Becomes the “Mother of All the Living” / New Eve Becomes the “Mother of All Who Live in Christ”
Before the Fall, Adam simply referred to Eve as Woman. However, after the Fall, Adam names his wife Eve, because she is the “mother of all living.”8
It follows that if Mary is the New Eve, then she would be the “Mother of All Who Live in Christ,” or the “Mother of All Who Truly Live.” There are however several biblical traits to support this logical assumption. The first is that like Adam, Christ does not refer to Mary as “Mary” or even “Mother,” but refers to her as “Woman.”9 The most important circumstance in which this title “Woman” was used was when Christ was on the Cross.
When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold you son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
It is extremely important to observe that when Christ refers to his relationship with Mary he says “Woman,” which invokes Adam’s pre-Fall title for Eve, but when he refers to the disciple’s relationship with Mary he uses the title “Mother.” Tradition tells us that St. John took Mother Mary into his home in Ephesus and cared for her until the Assumption. Christ called the disciples “brothers,” he told them that God was their “Father,” and he gave Mary to them as their “Mother.” Though popular, it is absurd to believe that Christ gave us a Father, gave himself as the Son or our Brother, and completely left out any maternal figure.10
Enmity Between Eve & the Serpent / Enmity between the New Eve and Satan
After the Fall, the first messianic promise is given to humanity:11
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
The latter part of the verse is certainly referring to the penultimate bruising of Christ upon the cross, and then the ultimate bruising of Satan and his roaming spirits by the Harrowing of Hell and the Resurrection. As the New Eve, Mary gains enmity between her and the serpent even more so than Eve, because she is the very vessel by which the victorious “seed” becomes Incarnate. While the enmity between Mary and Satan is certainly not an outrageous claim, it should be noted that Scripture is much clearer about the enmity between her “seed” and Satan. However in St. John’s book of Revelation12, a certain pericope grasps speaks to this special:
The Woman Bears a Son:
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Traditionally the “ark of the covenant” and the “woman” are considered the same portent. During Christ’s time on the earth, the Ark of the Covenant was not in the Temple; in fact, it had been missing for a few hundred years. As aforementioned, Mary was seen as the New Ark of the Covenant, because like the old ark, she was the vessel wherein heaven and earth met. The “woman” is obviously Mary, as she gives birth to the “male child” that is hostile to the “red dragon,” and that child “is to rule all nations with a rod of iron” - which is a allusion to King David who ruled with a “rod of iron.” At the end of this passage, the woman, Mary, is safeguarded from the dragon by God.13
Enmity Between the Woman and the Dragon: The next passage describes a war in heaven between the Archangel Michael and the Dragon.14 The passage invokes the notion of Satan being thrown from heaven. However, it is the following passage that returns to the aforesaid woman:
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
After failing to conquer her son, the dragon then turns to the woman, Mary. The specifics of the hostility between Mary and Satan have always been a point of intrigue for biblical scholars, but it is clear the woman is protected by God. Foiled by God’s protection of Mary, the dragon then turns to her “offspring,” i.e., Christians.
Mother to All Christians: Why Mary Is Important to All Believers in Christ
Every single unique grace and role given to Mother Mary is anchored in Jesus Christ. All her honor and due veneration rests on understanding Jesus Christ as the Savior of Mankind. Due to this connection, the Marian doctrines of the Church help articulate the truths of Christ, e.g., the Theotokos or Mater Dei shows Christ to be God and Man, the New Eve shows Christ to be the New Adam, the New Ark of the Covenant proclaims Christ’s divinity, the Queen of Heaven title calls to mind Christ as the Son of David and his eternal Davidic throne, and much more. As the scholar and popular author Scott Hahn has intimates, Mary, like all good mothers, continually points to her Son.
Gen 2:21, 22 ↩︎
Luke 2:6, 7 ↩︎
Christ not the “highest created being”? - Christ’s human nature was created, but Christ the person, the second person of the Trinity, certainly existed before the creation of his human nature; thus, his mother, Mary, the Mater Dei, is considered the highest created being. ↩︎
Gen 3:4-6a ↩︎
Luke 1:28-31 ↩︎
Dialogue with Trypho; For further reading on this document, Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn, 40. ↩︎
Gen 3:7a ↩︎
Gen 3:20 ↩︎
Mary as Woman: cf. the Wedding at Cana & Christ on the Cross, St. John 2:1, 19:26, 27 ↩︎
Protestant Error on “Woman” - The fact that Christ calls his own mother “woman” is not common. In fact, it can be considered rude. However, it is beyond comprehension that Christ would dishonor his own mother while telling others to honor theirs. Protestant scholarship has attempt to use the title “woman” as a way of Christ belittling his own mother and thus belittling her role. Again, to assert Christ would diminish his own mother’s role in salvation history by criticizing her is absurd. In the greater context, the term “woman” is referring to her role as the “New Eve” in salvation history. ↩︎
Gen 3:15 ↩︎
Rev 11:19; 12 ↩︎
The Woman as Israel: Interpreting the “woman” as a generic Israel is not necessarily wrong, but it is a more ambiguous interpretation that does not itself exclude a more specific reading of the woman as Mary; especially considering the dragon then goes after “her children” which are not the Jews, but the followers of her child, Christ. ↩︎
The War of the Child and the Dragon: Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” ↩︎