In part ‘0,’ I addressed the history of the term “second Eve” with respect to Rachel Jankovic’s post at the Desiring God blog titled “The Second Eve: How Christian Women Undo the Curse.” My own research found a few previously claimed examples of second Eve: Mary Magdalene; Mary, mother of Jesus; Martha and Mary of Bethany together; and the church. The latter example would certainly appear to be the soundest of the bunch but ultimately not necessary.
The part of Jankovic’s post that most people seem confused about reads:
Let’s not play the role of the first Eve to the first Adam, but instead take up the part of the second Eve to the second Adam.
To evaluate it fairly, we must strive to answer at least these questions:
- Who according to Jankovic is “second Eve”? The obvious answer would be Christian women because that’s what the title of the post says. But in what sense? Are Christian women second Eve by divine decree, or must Christian women do something in order to be the second Eve? Is this referring to Christian women as a whole or to individual Christian women?
- How doctrinally serious is this assertion? Is Jankovic merely making a devotional allegory, stating that the Bible really teaches this about a second Eve, or is she asserting something in between?
- Should we be negatively concerned? Should this lead Christian women to stay clear and encourage the same of their friends?
Before I go further, I should note that regular critics of Jankovic who follow the Federal Vision controversy much more closely than I do have come out strongly against Jankovic’s article. I’ve personally become much more aware of it in just the past week after reviewing a generous portion of the URCNA’s “Report of the Synodical Study Committee on the Federal Vision and Justification.” That alone has been enough for me to pull my previous recommendation of Jankovic’s book, You Who, until I can learn more. However, because I’m just a dumb dispy who only just now became a five-minute Federal Vision expert, I’m just going to call the shots as I see them without imputing Federal Vision into Jankovic’s article or attempting to find it in every nook and cranny.
Who is/are Jankovic’s “second Eve”?
Jankovic’s article in the Desiring God blog uses “second Eve” in terms of a Christian women’s obedience. Rather than heeding modern-day, serpent-like questions to women like:
“Did God really say that you can’t preach?”
“God doesn’t want you to do anything important, does he?”
“God is trying to keep you from the great good that would come if your voice were heard from the pulpit.”
Jankovic exhorts readers:
Did Eve understand all of God’s intention in the garden? No, she didn’t, and that is why she could be deceived. Do you understand perfectly why God calls you to glorify him through acting like a Christian woman who is in submission to his word? The moment is similar, and we too are vulnerable. Let’s not play the role of the first Eve to the first Adam, but instead take up the part of the second Eve to the second Adam.
If Jankovic had stopped at the end of this paragraph, we might conclude that the second Eve is Christian women rightly obeying biblical commands of obedience and submission to husbands. It would still be a little confusing if we try to drill down farther into the illustration because Christian women are individually married to their husbands, not the second Adam. But there is some validity to the illustration.
Then the following paragraph immediately follows, and the reader probably gets confused again.
That second Adam laid down his life for his deceived bride. He took our penalty, and through his death and resurrection has brought us life. Choose to remember what God has said, and to joyfully obey it. Trust his plan. Because through this mysterious gift of our obedience to our husbands, our glad embracing of our roles, we will be used in the remaking of the new garden. There is nothing little about our obedience now, just as there was nothing little about Eve’s disobedience then.
“That second Adam laid down his life for his deceived bride.” But wait, the bride of Christ is the church, right? Should we then impute the deception of Eve upon the entire bride, i.e. the entire church, or just its women, or upon anyone? Any such imputation or persistent situation upon women that follows from Genesis 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:12–14 applies to all women, not just Christian women, and not to Christian and non-Christian men. There really isn’t a one-to-one correspondence to be found here.
At best, Jankovic’s use of “second Eve” is unhelpful for a couple of reasons. First, we should use biblical language as much as possible. We know from Scripture that the church is the Bride of Christ. Individuals who are in Christ are adopted as children of God, and we should seek to please our Father. Much exhortation to obedience can be accomplished through these truths without invoking a vague “second Eve” concept.
Second, if there is a “second Eve,” it’s the Church catholic, not any individual Christian. Calling individual Christian women “second Eve” is unnecessarily individualistic and, dare I sound like a social justice warrior, gendered. Would we tell a man to “take up the part of the second Eve?” If Jankovic had said that the church is the second Eve and then pointed out the particular ways in which women should “take up the part of second Eve” by obeying biblical instructions, it wouldn’t be as confusing.
Jankovic’s “second Eve” is problematic
First, Jankovic’s second Eve is problematic because it imitates the term “second Adam” in such a way that it claims equal surety and importance. Let me rephrase that. All of us agree on who second Adam* is because the language is so close to direct biblical teaching. Few of us put any significant stock in second Eve partly because it takes such a long thought process to be inferred. Feminists have a strong incentive to make Mary Magdalene second Eve due to (1) the tradition of inserting her into Luke 7:36–50, and (2) the claim that her telling the disciples of the resurrection in John 20 is the same thing as preaching behind a pulpit on Sunday. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox want Mary, mother of Jesus. Protestants have little to gain by fighting over a term that has been ill-defined by orthodox (small ‘o’) Christians historically, and its importance is nowhere near the identity and finished work of the second — more accurately, last — Adam.
The second reason this is bad is federal headship (not to be confused with Federal Vision). Adam is our federal head, not Eve. Eve is not the federal head of women or Christian women. When Scripture speaks of second Adam, it’s because the redeemed have been transferred from the federal headship of Adam to the federal headship of Christ. Eve still matters to the extent that Paul brings her up in 1 Timothy 2:12–14 as to the reasons why women are not permitted to teach or exercise authority. Clearly, she is relevant, but the term “second Eve” implies to many that Eve is some kind of federal head, and that’s not a conflation we want to make.
But as a matter of charity, it’s possible that Jankovic is not asserting a theology of “second Eve” as much as she is just making a really, really bad allegory. This depends upon whether “second Eve” is critical to the other point Jankovic is making, namely the progressive reversal of the curse of Genesis 3.
Who reverses the curse?
Concerning this progressive reversal of the Genesis 3 curse, Jankovic writes initially:
Ultimately, the curse is broken in the person of Christ Jesus. In his death we see what we deserved; in his resurrection we see what we have been given in him. We have a final answer to the curse. But God did not undo the curse in one moment — rather, it is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour (Matthew 13:33). It works its way out slowly, constantly, without ceasing.
Later, in reference to the two reasons for 1 Tim. 2:12–14, she writes:
They are relevant to our lives now because our lives now are all about undoing the curse in Christ. We cannot go back to the garden as Eve and choose not to listen to the serpent in the first place. We can’t go back to that moment and be undeceived. We can’t go back to that first great leadership moment of womankind and make it a success. Men can’t go back there and refuse to follow a deceived Eve. They can’t go back and cry out to God to take them instead of their wife. They can’t go back and refuse to usher death into the world. Instead, we are here, after the fact.
This question is going to take another post to process through. See you in part 2.