Legends of the Patriarchs and Prophets – Eve, by Sabine Baring-Gould

detail of a stained glass window of Adam and Eve; date and artist unknown; All Saints Church, Middleton Cheney, Northamptonshire, England; photographed on 9 June 2001 by John Salmon; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsChapter

That man was created double, i.e. both male and female, is and has been a common opinion. One Rabbinical interpretation of the text, “And God created man in His own image, male-female created He them,” is that Adam and Eve were formed back to back, united at the shoulders, and were hewn asunder with a hatchet; but of this more presently. The Rabbis say that when Eve had to be drawn out of the side of Adam she was not extracted by the head, lest she should be vain; nor by the eyes, lest they should be wanton; nor by the mouth, lest she should be given to gossiping; nor by the ears, lest she should be an eavesdropper; nor by the hands, lest she should be meddlesome; nor by the feet, lest she should be a gadabout; nor by the heart, lest she should be jealous; but she was drawn forth by the side: yet, notwithstanding all these precautions, she has every fault specially guarded against.

They also say that, for the marriage-feast of Adam and Eve, God made a table of precious stone, and each gem was a hundred ells long and sixty ells wide, and the table was covered with costly dishes.

The Mussulman tradition is, that Adam having eaten the bunch of grapes given him as a reward for having preached to the angels, fell asleep; and whilst he slept, God took from his left side a woman whom He called Hava, because she was extracted from one living (Hai), and He laid her beside Adam. She resembled him exactly, except that her features were more delicate, her hair longer and divided into seven hundred locks, her form more slender, her eyes softer, and her voice sweeter than Adam’s. In the mean time Adam had been dreaming that a wife had been given to him; and when he woke, great was his delight to find his dream turned into a reality. He put forth his hand to take that of Hava, but she withdrew hers, answering his words of love with, “God is my master, and I cannot give my hand to thee without His permission; and, moreover, it is not proper for a man to take a wife without making her a wedding present.”

Adam thereupon sent the angel Gabriel to ask God’s permission to take to him Hava as his wife. Gabriel returned with the answer that she had been created to be his helpmate, and that he was to treat her with gentleness and love. For a present he must pray twenty times for Mohammed and for the prophets, who, in due season, were to be born of him. Ridhwan, the porter of Paradise, then brought to Adam the winged horse Meimun, and to Eve a light-footed she-camel. Gabriel helped them to mount and led them into Paradise, where they were greeted by all the angels and beasts with the words: “Hail, father and mother of Mohammed!”

In the midst of Paradise was a green silk tent spread for them, supported on gold pillars, and in the tent was a throne upon which Adam and Hava were seated. Then they were bathed in one of the rivers of Paradise and brought before the presence of God, who bade them dwell in Paradise. “I have prepared you this garden for your home; in it you shall be protected from cold and heat, from hunger and thirst. Enjoy all that meets your eye, only of one fruit taste not. Beware how you break my command, and arm yourself against the subtlety of your foe, Eblis; he envies you, and stands by you seeking to destroy you, for through you was he cast out.”

Tabari says that Adam was brought single into Paradise, through which he roamed eating from the fruit trees, and a deep sleep fell upon him, during which Eve was created from his left side. And when Adam opened his eyes, he saw her, and asked her who she was, and she replied, “I am thy wife; God created me out of thee and for thee, that thy heart might find repose.” The angels said to Adam: “What thing is this? What is her name? Why is she made?” Adam replied, “This is Eve.” Adam remained five hundred years in Paradise. It was on a Friday that Adam entered Eden.

The inhabitants of Madagascar have a strange myth touching the origin of woman. They say that the first man was created of the dust of the earth, and was placed in a garden, where he was subject to none of the ills which now affect mortality; he was also free from all bodily appetites, and though surrounded by delicious fruit and limpid streams, yet felt no desire to taste of the fruit or to quaff the water. The Creator had, moreover, strictly forbidden him either to eat or to drink. The great enemy, however, came to him, and painted to him in glowing colors the sweetness of the apple, the lusciousness of the date, and the succulence of the orange.

In vain: the first man remembered the command laid upon him by his Maker. Then the fiend assumed the appearance of an effulgent spirit, and pretended to be a messenger from Heaven commanding him to eat and drink. The man at once obeyed. Shortly after, a pimple appeared on his leg; the spot enlarged to a tumor, which increased in size and caused him considerable annoyance. At the end of six months it burst, and there emerged from the limb a beautiful girl.

The father of all living was sorely perplexed what to make of his acquisition, when a messenger from heaven appeared, and told him to let her run about the garden till she was of a marriageable age, and then to take her to himself as his wife. He obeyed. He called her Bahouna, and she became the mother of all races of men.

The notion of the first man having been of both sexes till the separation, was very common. He was said to have been male on the right side and female on the left, and that one half of him was removed to constitute Eve, but that the complete man consists of both sexes.

Eugubinus among Christian commentators, the Rabbis Samuel, Manasseh Ben-Israel, and Maimonides among the Jews, have given the weight of their opinion to support this interpretation. The Rabbi Jeremiah Ben-Eleazer, on the authority of the text “Thou hast fashioned me behind and before” (Psalm 134:4), argued that Adam had two faces, one male and the other female, and that he was of both sexes.

The Rabbi Samuel Ben-Nahaman held that the first man was created double, with a woman at his back, and that God cut them apart. “Adam,” said other Rabbis, “had two faces and one tail, and from the beginning he was both male and female, male on one side, female on the other; but afterwards the parts were separated.”

The Talmudists assert that God cut off Adam’s tail and thereof formed Eve.

With this latter fable agrees the ludicrous myth of the Kikapoo Indians, related in my “Curiosities of Olden Times.”

In Aristophanes’ speech in the Symposium of Plato, a myth is given, that in the beginning there was a race of men of which every member was double, having two heads, four legs and four arms, and each of both sexes. This race, says he, was filled with pride, and it attempted to scale heaven. The Gods desired at once to reduce their might and punish their temerity, but did not wish to destroy the human race; consequently at the advice of Zeus, each androgyne was hewn assunder, so as to leave to each half two arms and a pair of legs, one head and a single sex.

An Indian tradition is to this effect. Whilst Brahma the creator was engaged in the production of beings, he saw Kaya (body) divide itself into two parts, of which each part was of a different sex, and thence sprang the whole human race.

According to another much more explicit version, Viradi, the first man, finding his solitude intolerable, fell into the deepest sorrow; and, yearning for a companion, his nature developed into two sexes united in one. Then he separated into two individuals, but found in that separation unhappiness, for he was conscious of his imperfection; then he reunited the existence of the two portions and was happy, and from that reunion the world was peopled.

In Persia, Meschia and Meschiane, the first man and the first woman, were said to have formed originally but one body; but they were cut apart, and from this voluntary reunion all men are sprung.

The idea so prevalent that man without woman, or woman without man, is an imperfect being, was the cause of the great repugnance with which the Jews and other nations of the East regarded celibacy. The Rabbi Eliezer, commenting on the text “He called their name Adam” (Genesis 5:2), laid down that he who has not a wife is not a man, for man is the recomposition of male and female into one.

Bramah, says an Indian legend, being charged with the production of the human race, felt himself a prey to violent pains, till his sides opened, and from one flank emerged a boy and from the other a girl. In China, the story is told that the Goddess Amida sweated male children out of her right arm-pit, and female children from her left arm-pit, and these children peopled the earth.

Vishnu, according to an Indian fable, gave birth to Dharma by his right side, and to Adharma by his left side, and through Adharma death entered the world. Another story is to the effect, that the right arm of Vena gave birth to Pritu, the master of the earth, and the left arm to the Virgin Archis, who became the bride of Pritu.

Pygmalion, says the classic story, which is really a Phoenician myth of creation, made woman of marble or ivory, and Aphrodite, in answer to his prayers, endowed the statue with life. “Often does Pygmalion apply his hands to the work. One while he addresses it in soft terms, at another he brings it presents that are agreeable to maidens, as shells and smooth pebbles, and little birds, and flowers of a thousand hues, and lilies, and painted balls, and tears of the Heliades, that have distilled from the trees. He decks her limbs, too, with clothing, and puts a long necklace on her neck. Smooth pendants hang from her ears, and bows from her breast. All things are becoming to her.”

But Hesiod gives a widely different account of the creation of woman. According to him, she was sent in mockery by Zeus to be a scourge to man:

The Sire who rules the earth and sways the pole
Had spoken; laughter filled his secret soul:
He bade the crippled god his hest obey,
And mould with tempering water plastic clay;
With human nerve and human voice invest
The limbs elastic, and the breathing breast;
Fair as the blooming goddesses above,
A virgin likeness with the looks of love.
He bade Minerva teach the skill that sheds
A thousand colors in the glittering threads;
He called the magic of love’s golden queen
To breathe around a witchery of mien,
And eager passion’s never-sated flame,
And cares of dress that prey upon the frame;
Bade Hermes last endue, with craft refined
Of treacherous manners, and a shameless mind.

That Eve was Adam’s second wife was a common Rabbinic speculation; certain of the commentators on Genesis having adopted this view to account for the double account of the creation of woman in the sacred text, – first in Genesis 1:27, and secondly in Genesis 2:18; and they say that Adam’s first wife was named Lilith, but she was expelled from Eden, and after her expulsion Eve was created.

Abraham Ecchellensis gives the following account of Lilith, and her doings: “There are some who do not regard spectres as simple devils, but suppose them to be of a mixed nature, part demoniacal, part human, and to have had their origin from Lilith, Adam’s first wife, by Eblis, the prince of the devils. This fable has been transmitted to the Arabs from Jewish sources, by some converts of Mahomet from Cabbalism and Rabbinism, who have transferred all the Jewish fooleries to the Arabs. They gave to Adam a wife, formed of clay, along with Adam, and called her Lilith; resting on the Scripture, “male and female created He them”: but when this woman, on account of her simultaneous creation with him, became proud and a vexation to her husband, God expelled her from Paradise, and then said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him. And this they confirm by the words of Adam when he saw the woman fashioned from his rib, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh,” which is as much as to say, Now God has given me a wife and companion, suitable to me, taken from my bone and flesh, but the other wife he gave me was not of my bone and flesh, and therefore was not a suitable companion and wife for me.

“But Lilith, after she was expelled from Paradise, is said to have married the Devil, by whom she had children, who are called Jins. These were endued with six qualities, of which they share three with men, and three with devils. Like men, they generate in their own likeness, eat food, and die. Like devils, they are winged, and they fly where they list with great velocity; they are invisible, and they can pass through solid substances without injuring them. This race of Jins is supposed to be less noxious to men, and indeed to live in some familiarity and friendship with them, as in part sharers of their nature. The author of the history and acts of Alexander of Macedon relates, that in a certain region of India, on certain hours of the day, the young Jins assume a human form, and appear openly and play games with the native children of human parents quite familiarly.”

It must not be supposed that women, as they are now, are at all comparable to Eve in her pristine beauty; on this point the Talmud says: “All women in respect of Sarah are like monkeys in respect of men. But Sarah can no more be compared to Eve than can a monkey be compared with a man. In like manner it may be said, if any comparison could be drawn between Eve and Adam, she stood to him in the same relation of beauty as does a monkey to a man; but if you were to compare Adam with God, Adam would be the monkey, and God the man.”

Literary ladies may point to the primal mother as the first authoress; for a Gospel of Eve existed in the times of S. Epiphanius, who mentions it as being in repute among the Gnostics. And the Mussulmans attribute to her a volume of Prophecies which were written at her dictation by the Angel Raphael.

All ladies will be glad to learn that there is a tradition, Manichean, it is true, and anathematized by Saint Clement, which nevertheless contains a large element of truth; it is to this effect, that Adam, when made, was like a beast, coarse, rude, and inanimate, but that from Eve he received his upright position, his polish, and his spirituality.

MLA Citation

  • Sabine Baring-Gould. “Eve”. Legends of the Patriarchs and Prophets, 1881. CatholicSaints.Info. 20 April 2015. Web. 8 December 2016. <>