Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve (earth man and woman, wife, or the mother of all living?) In Jewish, Christian, and Islamic mythology, the first man and woman.

In Genesis (2:4–4:26) Yahweh Elohim, one of the names of God, forms Adam (man) from the earth and gives him life by breathing into him the breath of life. Yahweh forms Eve from the rib of the sleeping Adam. Both are placed in the Garden of Eden and told not to eat fruit from the Forbidden Tree. The couple do so and are cast out of the Garden of Eden. Suffering and death enter the world as a result of their sin. Medieval Christian belief held Adam to be a prefiguration of Christ, Jesus being the first spiritual man as Adam had been the first physical man. According to medieval Christian belief, Eve, the first mother, foreshadowed the Virgin Mary or the Church. The Temptation and Fall were seen by Christians as the foreshadowing of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus.

In Islamic mythology Allah sent the angels Gabriel, Michael, and Israfel, one after the other, to fetch seven handfuls of earth from different depths and of different colors for the creation of Adam. The angels returned emptyhanded because Earth foresaw that the new creature would rebel against Allah and draw down a curse on Earth. Allah then sent a fourth angel, Azrael, who accomplished the mission. Thereafter Azrael was appointed to separate the souls of men from their bodies at death. The earth taken by Azrael was carried to Arabia to a place between Mecca and Tayef, where it was kneaded by the angels and fashioned into human form by Allah. The clay was left to dry for either 40 days or 40 years; then Adam was born. (Forty is a mystical number in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic belief.)

Adam’s apple is a folk name for the laryngeal cartilage because, according to folk tradition, the Forbidden Fruit got stuck in Adam’s throat. Adam’s ale is water, and Old Adam means man in sin without redemption, according to Christian belief.

Adam and Eve, with the serpent who tempted them, frequently appear in Western art. Dürer’s Adam and Eve is one of the bestknown works.

In Africa the original pair is called Abuk and Garang; in Norse mythology they are called Ask and Embla; and in Slavic they are called Khadau and Mamaldi.

Taken from the Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante