Genesis ii. 21-24.

June 25, 2010

21-24. The creation of Eve.

Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep, he took one of his ribs, and filled up flesh for it.  And the Lord God built the rib which he took from Adam into a woman, and brought her to Adam.  And Adam said: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.  Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.

21a. “Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam”

St. Jerome: “For ἔκστασι,[1] that is, departure from the mind, the Hebrew has thardema, which Aquila has translated καταφορὰν, and Symmachus κάρον; that is, ‘a profound, deep sleep’” (LHQG).

Cf. infra, {23-24}.

21b. Concerning the mode of Eve’s creation.

St. Thomas: “It was fitting for the woman, in the first institution of things, to be formed from the man, more than in the other animals.  First, so that a certain dignity of the first man might be preserved, in order that, as the likeness of God, he might be the principle of his whole species, as God is the principle of the whole world.  Whence Paul says that God made of one, all mankind.[2] Second, so that the man might love the woman more, and more inseparably cling to her, knowing that she was made from him.  Whence it is said, she was taken out of man, wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife.[3] And this was extremely necessary in the human species, in which male and female live together for their whole life, which does not happen with other animals.  Third, because, as the Philosopher says in VIII Ethic., male and female are joined together among men, not only because of the necessity of generation, as in other animals, but also because of the life of the home, in which there are tasks specific to man and to woman, and in which the husband is the head of the wife.[4] Whence it was fitting that the woman was formed from the man, as from her principle.  The fourth reason is mystical: for by this is prefigured the Church taking her beginning from Christ.  Whence the Apostle says, This is a great sacrament, but I speak in Christ and in the Church[5] (ST. Ia q. xcii. a. ii.).

“[Obj:] The woman was made to be a help to man in generation.  But too close a relation renders one unfitting for this, whence closely related persons are prevented from marrying, as Lev. xviii. 7-18 makes clear.  Therefore the woman ought not to have been made from the man … I reply that it it is to be said that it is from natural generation that the close relation impeding marriage is contracted.  But the woman was not made from the man by natural generation, but solely by divine power; whence Eve is not said to be Adam’s daughter.  And because of this the objection does not follow” (ibid., obj. 3, ad 3.).

“It was fitting for the woman to be formed from the man’s rib.  First, to signify that there ought to be a social union between man and woman.  Woman ought not to have dominion over man, and therefore she was not formed from his head.  Nor ought she to be despised by man, as though servilely subject to him, and therefore she was not formed from his feet.  Second, because of the mystery, for from the side of Christ sleeping on the cross flowed the sacraments, that is blood and water, by which the Church was instituted” (ibid., a. ii.).

“The rib belonged to Adam’s body, not as something inseparable from it, but as the principle of the species, just as semen belongs to the body of the generating man, and is released with delight in a natural operation.  Whence all the more was the body of woman able to be formed through divine power from the man’s rib without causing him any pain” (ibid., ad 2.).

21c. Mystical; the replacement of the rib with flesh.

St. Isidore: “Adam sleeps, and the woman is made from his side.  Christ suffers on the cross, his side is pierced with the lance, and the sacraments of blood flow out, so that from them the Church may be formed.  The Prophet sings of this sleep when he says: I have slept and taken my rest: and I have risen up, because the Lord hath protected me[6] (Quæstiones in VT, iii. 8.).

St. Bede: “Now what was done while Adam was asleep, that a bone was removed and flesh filled up in its place, was done as the grace of a higher mystery.  For it signified that the sacraments of salvation were to come forth from the side of Christ sleeping in death on the cross; that is, the sacraments of blood and water, from which his spouse the Church might be created; for if the creation of the woman was not a foreshadowing of this mystery, what need was there for Adam to have slept so that God might take from him a rib from which to make the woman, when He was able to do the same thing, without suffering, even if Adam were awake?  And why was it necessary that when the bone from which the woman was formed was taken from the man’s side, in place of the bone, not a bone, but flesh was filled up, unless this was prefiguring that Christ would become weak for the sake of the Church, and the Church would be strong through Him?” (In Principium Genesis I col. 51.).

St. Peter Damian: “Thus God formed the fragile from the strong: and so the man Adam was made weak, so that Eve might be made strong.  Christ became weak, so that the Church might be strengthened; for His weakness is our strength, and its was for this that He carried our infirmity,[7] that he might establish us in his strength.  The weakness of God, as the Apostle says, is stronger than men;[8] and elsewhere: For although Christ was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God.[9] For even if we are weak in Him, we live with Him by the power of God” (Opusc. lx. viii.).

22a. “Built”

St. Chrysostom: “Observe the diligence of Scripture.  For here it does not say, ‘formed,’ but built: because God took a part from the man already formed, and, one might say, gave what was missing.  Therefore it says, And he built: he did not make another form, but took a small portion from what was already formed, and built this part up, and made a perfect creature” (Homiliæ in Genesi, xv. 3.).

St Ambrose: “Scripture spoke well in using the word built when speaking of the creation of woman, because man and woman together seem to be a sort of house, full of perfection” (De Paradiso, xi. 50.).

St. Bede: “In the grace of the mystery of the Church Scripture also used a figurative word, so that it did not say, ‘made,’ or ‘formed,’ or ‘created,’ as in all the previous works, but built: not as of a human body, but as of a house; and we are that house, if we retain our faith and the glory of hope up to the end” (In Principium Genesis I col. 51.).

St. Thomas: “Some say that the woman’s body was formed by the increasing of the pre-existing matter without the addition of other matter, and that the Lord multiplied the five loaves in the same way.  But this is completely impossible.  For in no way can it be understood that matter is increased without addition, except by taking on larger dimensions.  And this is to become rarified, or thinner in density; that is, for the same thing to take on larger dimensions.  Therefore to say that matter is increased without this rarefaction is to put contradictory things together; it is a definition without a definition.  Whence, since rarefaction does not appear in these increases, it is necessary to posit the addition of matter, either by creation, or, what is more likely, by conversion.  So whether in the feeding of the crowds with the five loaves, or in the formation of the woman from the rib, there was an addition made to the pre-existing matter of the rib or of the bread” (ST. Ia q. xcii. a. iii. ad 1.).

22b. “And he brought her to Adam”

St. Chrysostom: “God brought her to Adam, showing that He had made her for his sake.  ‘Because,’ He says, ‘no helper like you was found among all the others, look: that which I promised (for I promised I would make you a helper like yourself), I now hand over, perfectly made, to you” (Homiliæ in Genesi, xv. 3.).

23a. “Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”

St. Bede: “Because Adam had found no help similar to him among the animals of the earth and all the birds when they were led to them, rightly now, when he saw that the help like him had been made and was being led to him, he recognized her, and cried out: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.  Now, that is, because he had not seen one like him among the other animals, he says Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, because he knew that the other animals having bone and flesh, which he had seen and distinguished by name, were not of his substance, but had been made from earth or from water” (Hexæmeron col. 51.).

23b. “She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man”

St. Jerome: “The origin of the name woman, that she was taken out of man, does not seem to make sense in Greek or Latin;[10] but the etymology is kept in the Hebrew language.  For in it man is called is,[11] and woman issa.  Rightly, therefore, is woman called issa from is.  Whence Symmachus beautifully wished to keep this etymology even in Greek, saying: She shall be called ἀνδρὶς, ὅτι ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς ἐλήφθη.  Which we might say in Latin, She shall be called Virago, quia ex viro sumpta est.[12] Further, Theodotion has supposed another etymology, saying: She shall be called taking out [assumptio], because she was taken [sumpta] out of man. For issa with a change of accent can also be translated taking out” (LHQG.  Cf. St. Augustine, De Genesi contra Manichæos, II. xiii. 18.; St. Bede, In Principium Genesis I col. 52.).

St. Isidore: “In the same way Christ gave to the Church taken from His side the name Christian.  Therefore all these things happened in a figure of what was to come forth in the Church” (Quæstiones in VT, iii. 10.; cf. St. Bede, In Principium Genesis I col. 52; In Pentateuchum, col. 210.).

ST. PAUL, Eph. v. 28-32: So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth his wife, loveth himself.  For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the Church: because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.  This is a great sacrament, but I speak in Christ and the Church.

23-24. Adam speaks as a prophet under divine inspiration.

St. Chrysostom: “Previously the blessed prophet taught us that Adam had been caught up in sleep and ecstasy,[13] in such a way that none of his senses perceived what was being done; as you now learn that he saw the woman and described in detail what had occurred, you may be certain that he received a prophetic grace, and spoke these words inspired by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.  For although he knew nothing of what had been done, when God led the woman to him, he said, This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Homiliæ in Genesi, xv. 3.).

St. Augustine: “The ecstasy that God sent upon Adam, causing him to fall asleep, may also rightly be understood by this: that it was sent upon him, so that his mind might be made, through his ecstasy, as it were a sharer in the court of the Angels, and that he might enter into the sanctuary of God and understand the last things.[14] And then, awaking as though filled with prophecy, when he saw the woman, his wife, being led to him, he immediately burst out, speaking of the great sacrament that the Apostle commends:[15] This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.  She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.  Wherefore a man will leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh.  And although Scripture itself testifies that these words were spoken by the first man, the Lord nevertheless declares in the Gospel that God said them.  For He says: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, made them male and female?  And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh:[16] so that by this we might understand that through the ecstasy which had overtaken Adam, he was able to speak these words under divine inspiration, just as a prophet” (De Genesi ad litteram, IX. xix.; cf. St. Bede, In Principium Genesis I col. 52.).

St. Bernard: “Indeed it seems to me certain that he fell asleep in the contemplation of immutable truth, and in the abyss of the divine wisdom, passing beyond his bodily senses; this can in fact be gathered from his words.  Returning, he shows without doubt where he had been, when, like a drunk man coming from the wine cellar, and proclaiming that great mystery which so long afterwards the Apostle commended in Christ and the Church, he says: This now is bone of my bones; and, Wherefore a man will leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh.  Does it seem to you that he who burst out in this excited voice had been asleep within?  Much rather could he have said: I sleep, and my heart watcheth[17] (Sermones de Tempore, In Septuagesima, II. 1.).

St. Thomas: “The first man did not see God in His essence; unless perhaps it be said that he saw Him in rapture, when God cast the deep sleep upon Adam” (ST. Ia q. xciv. a. i.).[18]

“Adam spoke this [ii. 24.] as inspired by God; God spoke it by inspiring and teaching Adam” (Super Eph. cap. 5. lect. 10).

24a. “A man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife”

St. Isidore: “What was fulfilled as history in Adam, is signified as prophecy in Christ, who left his Father, as He says: I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world.[19] He also left his mother, that is, the Synagogue of the Jews, which clung carnally to the Old Testament; the Synagogue, His mother of the seed of David according to the flesh”;[20] and He clung to His wife, that is, to holy Church, that they might be two in one flesh in the peace of the New Testament; for since He is God in the presence of the Father, by whom we were made, He became by the flesh a sharer with us, that we might be the body of His head” (Quæstiones in VT, iii. 11.; cf. St. Bede, In Principium Genesis I col. 52.).

24b. “And they shall be two in one flesh.”

ST. PAUL, 1 Cor vi. 15-16: Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ?  Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot?  God forbid.  Or know you not, that he who is joined to a harlot, is made one body?  For they shall be, saith he, two in one flesh.


[1] This is the LXX reading of soporem: καὶ ἐπέβαλεν ὁ Θεὸς ἔκστασιν ἐπὶ τὸν ᾿Αδάμ, καὶ ὕπνωσε.  The Vulgate has, Immisit ergo Dominus Deus soporem in Adam; cumque obdormisset …

[2] Act. xvii. 26.

[3] Gen. ii. 24.

[4] Eph. v. 23.

[5] Eph. v. 32.

[6] Ps. iii. 6.

[7] Is. liii. 4.

[8] 1 Cor. i. 25.

[9] 2 Cor. xiii. 4.

[10] Hæc vocabitur mulier, quoniam ex viro sumpta est. αὕτη κληθήσεται γυνή, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς αὐτῆς ἐλήφθη αὕτη.

[11] St. Bede: “That man is called is in Hebrew is shown even by the name Israel, which is translated “the man seeing God” (Hexæmeron, col. 52.).

[12] St. Jerome uses this name Virago in the Vulgate.

[13] The exegeses of SS. Chrysostom and Augustine are based on the LXX v. 21; cf 21a. supra.

[14] Cf. Ps. lxxii. 17: Until I go into the sanctuary of God, and understand concerning their last ends.

[15] supra, 23b.

[16] Matt. xix. 4-5.  Cf. Mark x. 7-8.

[17] Cant. v. 2.

[18] According to Bl. Anne Emmerich, “God sank sleep upon him and he was rapt in vision.”

[19] John xvi. 28.

[20] Rom. i. 3.

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