Mary, the New Eve
The Old Testament prefigures the New Testament and the life of Jesus. Typology is the study of this inter-Testament relationship. Old Testament figures from Adam to King David to the prophets are often considered as types of Christ. Just as a typewriter imprints a number or letter on a page, the Old Testament characters reveal in part what Jesus reveals in full. Jesus is the typewriter, they are the letters on the page.
Typology pertains also to New Testament Figures. We see striking similarities between the Joseph in Genesis and Joseph the earthly father of Jesus. God works powerfully through both men’s dreams, both men travel to Egypt, and God uses both men as instruments to protect and deliver others from danger.
What is true most eminently of Jesus concerning typology applies also to Mary. Jesus is called the New Adam by St. Paul (see 1 Corinthians 15:45-50 and Romans 5:12-20). A complete understanding of the New Adam begs the question of whether there is also a New Eve. In truth, it was Eve who dialogued with the Serpent in the Garden and who first ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. Only after Eve had eaten did she give the fruit to Adam to eat.
The New Eve can be no other person than Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother of Jesus. There are amazing connections between Mary and Eve:
- Eve was made from the rib of Adam, Jesus was given his human nature through Mary
- Eve did not obey and ate the forbidden fruit. Mary through obedience produced the fruit of everlasting life, Jesus Christ.
- Eve is referred to as Woman, Mary is referred to many times by Jesus as Woman (see John 2:3-4 and John 19:26). Mary is also understood as the Woman clothed in the sun in Revelation 12.
- The name Eve means “mother of all the living”. Mary is the mother of Jesus who is the Resurrection and the life (see John 11:25-26).
Eve’s Disobedience, Mary’s Obedience
The Fathers of the early Church, particularly St. Irenaeus, link Eve and Mary together just as St. Paul links Adam and Jesus together. In a commentary on the Incarnation of Jesus, St. Irenaeus writes:
“In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin. . . . .having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty. . . . .He having been made Himself the beginning of those that live, as Adam became the beginning of those who die. Wherefore also Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.” (St. Irenaeus Against Heresies, as found in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 455)
Whereas Eve disobeyed God, Mary obeyed God through her *fiat*, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Death entered the world through disobedience, but life in Jesus Christ was permitted to enter through Mary obediently yielding to the request of God. Eve took and ate the forbidden fruit, and death entered creation. Mary bore the fruit of everlasting life, Jesus Christ, of whom we must eat in order to have eternal life (See John 6). “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42)!
The Woman, Our Mother
Eve is not given her name until late in the Garden scene just prior to her and Adam being cast out of Paradise (Genesis 3:20). Prior to this she is referred to simply as Woman (11 times). The name Woman is used frequently by John the Apostle when he speaks of Mary and her presence in key moments in the life of Jesus. We see her named Woman in the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11), at the foot of the Cross on Calvary (John 19:25-27), and also in John’s apocalyptic vision in Revelation Chapter 12 (more about this passage in another post).
Jesus’ use of the name “Woman” links Mary with Eve in a profound theological way. Significantly, Jesus first refers to her this way at the Wedding Feast at Cana. In John’s Gospel, this is Jesus first miracle. Just as the Woman Eve invites Adam to commit the first sin, Mary under the title of Woman invites Jesus to perform his first miracle (Brant Pitre in Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary p 29).
The miracle occurring at a wedding feast harkens back to the first original union between Adam and Eve and takes up the covenantal implications of Jesus’ Incarnation. The matter of the miracle of water being turned to wine connects his action with his command at the Last Supper with the cup filled with wine. “Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'”(Matthew 26:27-28). The Last Supper leads directly to Jesus’ Passion, where upon the cross Jesus was crucified for our sins. It was in the final moments of this saving act that Jesus gives his mother to his beloved disciple. “‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26-27).
If the Woman Eve is the Mother of all the Living, then Mary is given directly by Jesus to his beloved disciple makes her the Mother of all the Redeemed. John’s use of the term “disciple” becomes a symbol for all those who are under the shadow of the cross of salvation.
In Genesis 3, the Serpent was pitted against the Woman and her offspring. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
In Revelation 12, a very similar scene is described:
“And a great sign 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 sign 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….And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child.
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” (Revelation 12:1-6,17).
Like many symbols within Sacred Scripture, they often carry many meanings to them, and are accurately applied differently to different aspects of truth and revelation. The “Woman” of Revelation can be understood as both our Mother the Church and Our Blessed Mother Mary. The battle raging between the serpent and the woman and her offspring continues to this day. We know that Jesus has won because of what he did upon the cross. We are now beloved sons and daughters of God and have been given charge to finish the fight against the evils wrought by the serpent.
The Catholic Church summarizes all this beautifully:
“The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son, so that just as a woman [Eve] contributed to death, so also a woman [Mary] should contribute to life. That is true in outstanding fashion of the mother of Jesus, who gave to the world Him who is Life itself and who renews all things, and who was enriched by God with the gifts which befit such a role….Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the radiance of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is greeted, on God’s command, by an angel messenger as ‘full of grace’, and to the heavenly messenger she replies: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word’. Thus Mary, a daughter of Adam, consenting to the divine Word, became the mother of Jesus, the one and only Mediator. Embracing God’s salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption. Rightly therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience….Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her ‘the Mother of the living,’ and still more often they say: ‘death through Eve, life through Mary'” (Lumen Gentium, No. 56).
God, in His infinite Wisdom, leaves no stone unturned when it comes to saving and redeeming creation. Divine providence is perfect, and God deemed it most fitting to bring about redemption in the same manner as our first parents committed the first sin. With poetic symmetry, He ends our story by taking us where we first began. For our part, we must receive our new beginning in Jesus Christ, obediently given to us through Mary the New Eve, with the same obedience to the Divine Plan that Mary demonstrates – “Let it be to me according to your word.”