The thesis “Eve is Adam’s helper” has long been a pretext for gender inequality. Doubts that it might not be so, arose only several hundred years later, when technological developments and the course of history freed women from the shackles of everyday life. However, no one doubts that there are differences between a man and a woman. But what is the spiritual significance of these differences? Does inequality really come down to a woman being a servant to her husband? Isn’t there a mistake in the biblical text and was the woman created by God only to help Adam?
A woman in her husband’s “service” or inaccuracy in translation?
According to the Bible, the division of man into two sexes is a kind of call for even greater unity. But what does this unity consist of and how is it realized, what is the ideal relationship between two people of different sexes?
It is not easy to find direct answers to such questions in the Bible text, because the author of the Bible does not have to face the task of providing a detailed guide to family happiness or a textbook on the psychology of relationships. But for all biblical religions, the book of books is the coordinate system of all life, the highest revelation, and the indisputable testimony of the world and man. It is the “art” of human relationships, and the meaning of these relationships can be found in the pages of this book.
So what does the Bible say about the meaning of “separation of sexes”?
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; we will make him a helper to him (Gen. 2:18).
The God of the Bible creates a woman to help a man. There is probably no more important word in the Bible than just “helper” to describe the mystery of the relationship between Adam and Eve. However, it is this substantive passage that has caused, and still causes, many questions and confusion. Not to mention how erroneously and absurdly this passage has been interpreted.
Blessed Augustine was also surprised: “Well, what helper could Eve be? What do you mean? What a strange name! Why did this helper have to show up at all? There is no answer other than the birth of children… ”And continuing to meditate, remaining extremely blunt, Augustine rhetorically asks, “If not the birth of children, then why? If, in order to cultivate the land then a man would be a better helper… Assuming that a man was bored to be alone then for the sake of conversation it would be more appropriate for friends to live together than a man and a woman. “
But in the 5th century, when women were not yet known in politics, business, and school, Augustine’s question “for what?” was as specific as possible. Moreover, St. Augustine did not only knew Hebrew, but also he did not know the Greek text of the Bible. He was supported by Thomas Aquinas and the whole of Western theology, which had only the Latin Vulgate at its disposal.
This “concrete” understanding of one of the words of the Bible has also determined the attitude towards women in Western culture.
Indeed, what other help can Eve offer Adam because she is inferior to her in strength?
Therefore, Western theologians found the only explanation for the word “helper” in the principle of procreation. And what else was Eve created for, if not for the birth of children? The woman was not created other than to be dominated by the man and to have a servant relationship with the man, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas added.
Let’s go back to the Bible text to understand what we’re really talking about. The Hebrew original of Genesis does not mean a “helper.” The word “etzer” used here is much deeper in content than it seems at first glance. Thus, Sergei Troitsky (1878-1972), an Orthodox theologian and professor of history, proposed translating the Semitic “etzer” as “complementary being.” Eve is not just a helper, but “she stands with him, face to face with Adam.”
The idea is very spacious: a man and a woman can stand face to face, as if weighing each other, penetrating each other’s depths and filling with new content. They see in each other the image of the God of all beauty. It is eternity itself that, through love, unites the two into one whole. That is why, as the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel wrote, to say to a man, “I love you,” is to say to him, “You will live forever, you will never die.” For, according to the Apostle Paul, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13: 8).
In other words, it is not so much a question of aiding labor and childbirth, but of supplementing one’s own being. Assistance at work and the birth of offspring are likely to be a consequence of this complement. A man has what a woman lacks, and a woman has what a man’s nature lacks. It is the woman through whom the man becomes something more. It is the man through whom the woman grows to the fullest. This difference is not mutually exclusive, but complementary and mutually enriching. They are together just because they are different.
As the theologian St. Gregory wrote in the 4th century, “God performed a truly great miracle by dividing the root and seed of multifaceted life into two parts, pouring love into the depths of both and motivating them to strive for one another.”
Unfortunately, the Latin and Greek translations of the Bible do not fully convey the amazing meaning of the word “etzer.” Eastern ideologues, however, disagreed with the narrow concept of femininity that St. Augustinus offers when talking about the birth of children. Patristic writings include opinions with a meaning close to the Hebrew original. Thus, the Greek Church Fathers called Eve not only a child carrier but Adam’s full companion in his life. She is the one in whom Adam looks at himself, that is, his reflection, the “alter ego.”
At some point, Augustine himself will doubt the correctness of his decision. Later, he talks about a kind of “sacred friendship” between a man and a woman.
So according to the Bible, in the common life of Adam and Eve, there is a complete change in man, an expansion of his personality. God seems to indirectly – first through the knowledge (naming) of the human world and then through the mutual knowledge of man and woman – leads to the perfection of human existence.
Shame is fear
But reality shows the opposite. And often when couples are asked why they split up, the answer is, “they were too different.” Why is this difference between people, which according to the Bible text was the intention of the Creator, understood as a tragedy by us? The answer is already found in the third chapter of Genesis, which deals with the Fall. Sin enters the lives of the first people and the world. Adam and his wife could not stand in God’s love and were deprived of Eternal One and eternity. It is here that we first learn the meaning of the name Eve. The human race is in danger of disappearing from the earth forever – immortality is lost. Death entered human nature. Adam is terrified, he and his whole family are doomed, and as a last resort he sees the secret of childbirth and gives his wife a name. From now on she is Eve (literally from the Hebrew language – life), because she became the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20).
She is no longer the “complementary being,” not just the “Isha,” but the one who gives birth to children and gives life to the human race. According to the Bible, sin not only changes the social relationship between a man and a woman – it also causes their alienation from each other, corrupts their nature, kills in Eve something through which Adam is called to grow. From now on, in Adam ceasees to be the one through whom Eve strives for perfection.
Now their task is to expand the family, that is, to begin to embody at least one aspect of their relationship. And true humanity becomes a difficult prospect, because from now on there will be alienation, fear and mistrust between a man and a woman. Their once blissful difference becomes a problem and the relationship loses its deep meaning.
In the past, they were both naked, Adam and his wife, and not ashamed (Gen. 2:25), but now their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves and made aprons (Gen. 3: 7). But shame only appears where there is no love, where there is alienation. We are ashamed of the very look we feel alienated. Adam and Eve, having fallen out of the mystery of mutual love, are destined for loneliness and mutual distrust. From now on, everything that happens in their world is a battle rather than a supplement to life. The “other” is now an enemy and alienated.
What to do now?
Is this terrible gap incurable, is it really a chronic disease? The gospel convincingly states the opposite. Just as in the Old Testament the greatest miracle, the crown, and the meaning of creation are the married couple, Adam and Eve, so in the New Testament, Christ performs His first miracle at a wedding (see John 2: 1–11).
Apparently, the language of Scripture favors parallels between these events. God did not turn away from people and leave them forever in mutual solitude. The Bible continues to prioritize this growth perspective, people’s return to the fullness of communication. After all, love is a gift from God. And it is love that must bridge the gap that has arisen between the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and the two shall be one. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Mis now God hath joined together, let not man put asunder ”(Matthew 19: 5-6).
Together and forever
In a world where separation and opposition are understood as the norm, marriage can indeed be called a miracle that transcends all natural states. Because being married is the only way to become fully one because of mutual love.
In the letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul calls the relationship between man and woman a great mystery, similar to the relationship between Christ and His church (see Ephesians 5: 21–33). The apostle compares married life to a communion with God! Such a strong parallel suggests that the lost love in marriage is absolutely restored.
Adam and Eve began to live together on earth, in paradise, together they were cast out of paradise, raised together, survived Abel’s death at the hands of Cain, and the other pains that befell them.
They even left together and both went to hell. Adam and Eve drank this bitter cup of losing their original love, of forsaking God without forsaking each other — this is their deepest repentance.