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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
On Marriage and Concupiscence.: Chapter 12

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 12.—Eve’s Name Means Life, and is a Great Sacrament of the Church.

Now, observe the rest of the passage in which he thinks he finds, to our prejudice, what is consonant with the above-quoted title. “God,” says he, “who had framed Adam out of the dust of the ground, formed Eve out of his rib, 2218 and said, She shall be called Life, because she is the mother of all who live.” Well now, it is not so written. But what matters that to us? For it constantly happens that our memory fails in verbal accuracy, while the sense is still maintained. Nor was it God, but her husband, who gave Eve her name, which should signify Life; for thus it is written: “And Adam called his wife’s name Life, because she is the mother of all living.” 2219 But very likely he might have understood the Scripture as testifying that God gave Eve this name through Adam, as His prophet. For in that she was called Life, and the mother of all living, there lies a great sacrament of the Church, of which it would detain us long to speak, and which is unnecessary to our present undertaking. The very same thing which the apostle says, “This is a great sacrament: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church,” was also spoken by Adam when he said, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh.” 2220 The Lord Jesus, however, in the Gospel mentions God as having said this of Eve; and the reason, no doubt, is, that God declared through the man what the man, in fact, uttered as a prophecy. Now, observe what follows in the paper of extracts: “By that primitive name,” says he, “He showed for what labour the woman had been provided; and He said accordingly, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.’” 2221 Now, who amongst ourselves denies that the woman was provided for the work of child-bearing by the Lord God, the beneficent Creator of all good? See further what he goes on to say: “God, therefore, who created them male and female, 2222 furnished them with members suitable for procreation, and ordained that bodies should be produced from bodies; and yet is security for their capacity for effecting the work, executing all that exists with that power which He used in creation.” 2223 Well, even this we acknowledge to be catholic doctrine, as we also do with regard to the passage which he immediately subjoins: “If, then, offspring comes only through sex, and sex only through the body, and the body through God, who can hesitate to allow that fecundity is rightly attributed to God?”



Gen. 2:22, 23.


Gen. iii. 20, margin.


Compare Eph. 5:32, Gen. 2:24.


Gen. i. 28.


Gen. i. 27.


For once a difficulty occurs (for which, however, St. Augustin is not responsible) in the construction of the original. The obscure passage is here translated in accordance with a suggestion in some of the editions. It stands in the original thus: “Quorum tamen efficientiæ potentiâ operationis intervenit omne quod est eâ administrans virtute quâ condidit.” Some editors suggest “potentia” (nominative) “Dei operationis intervenit;” but there is no ms. authority for the Dei.

Next: Chapter 13

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