Note: Eve is this week’s highlighted woman in She Speaks: The 2012 Bible Women Project. For Eve’s specific words, click here.

Why does Eve matter?

Unlike many people, I’m seeing a compelling woman here. I’m not seeing the evil woman portrayed throughout history as the one who sent the human race on a downward spiral. I’m not seeing deception. She knew the rules. She broke them. She did blame the serpent. Certainly she should have been stronger. We know that. In her innocence, she allowed herself to be duped.

Toward Eve’s credit, she was the only person in the Bible besides Jesus to talk with both God and Satan.* Somehow the serpent broke through her defenses, if indeed she had any. The serpent’s relationship with Eve was a bit like that of a child molester to a victim. In many ways, she WAS a child: innocent, trusting, curious, rebellious.

But indeed she was a grown woman. Did she sin? Yes (although the term “sin” is never used in the Genesis story.) Should she have stayed away from the fruit, the serpent? Yes. But without her, we’d still be there, in the Garden. Actually, “we” probably wouldn’t be there at all — or at least we wouldn’t be “here.” Adam and Eve did not have children until they left the Garden, for they were children themselves. It was only after their exit that Eve became pregnant.

Were Adam and Eve real? Here’s where I believe. (And note that yes, I do believe in evolution; it is not a theological enemy.) Sometime, long ago, there existed a first man and a first woman who were really that — human beings, aware of being different — aware of their humanity and aware of God. But they had some growing to do, growing that wasn’t going to happen in the Garden. God most likely knew that. But God did not plant the tree to trick them. Otherwise, free will isn’t really free.

What about that serpent? What about Satan? Is Satan real? In the Episcopal Church we tend to ignore even the concept of Satan. We profess the baptismal covenant, but sometimes we pick the theologically easy parts — the parts about justice, seeking Christ in all persons, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Yet no one would deny that Jesus talked to Satan in the wilderness. And if we are godparents, we vow “to renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God.” And in Compline, there’s this: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Satan. God. Adam and Eve. Truths we need to come to terms with on our own, after we’ve left our own childhood Gardens, sorted out our own beliefs, reached maturity, come to know God. It’s not an easy thing to do. But like Eve, even if we take the fruit, even when we are confronted by the Evil One, even when we fall, God is there — seeking reconciliation, desiring straight talk and giving balm to our souls.

*Some would say that the serpent was an agent of Satan. I am working with the theory that they are one and the same being, as implied in Wisdom 2:24.)