Friday, June 1, 2018
The Adam-Christ Parallel in Saint Paul as the Basis for the Eve-Mary Parallel in Saints Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons
In Sacred Tradition an early Marian teaching that the Fathers of the Church proclaimed concerning Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, was the belief that she was the Second Eve. This Marian title involved an Eve and Mary parallel. In fact, Saint Justin Martyr, a second-century apologist (A.D. 100-165), was the first Church Father to develop this parallel in his Dialogue (A.D. 161) after reading the related parallel of Adam and Christ that Saint Paul had developed in the first century, beginning in his First Letter to the Corinthians (A.D. 56), and later in Romans (A.D. 57 or 58). In this Eve and Mary parallel that Justin develops from Paul in his Dialogue, he considers their relationship only briefly at the end of Chapter 100, but he is the first Father of the Church to do this. As such, his brief parallel here still represents a meaningful development in Mariology in the second century. This is really a development in the understanding of the received revelation of God concerning the person and mission of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Accordingly, before considering the Eve and Mary parallel in Justin’s Dialogue, I will first consider Paul’s parallel of Adam and Christ. For Justin uses Paul’s as a basis for his. This will help people more fully understand and appreciate the Eve and Mary parallel that Justin develops in his Dialogue, including his Pauline influence there.
In Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians in about the year 56, he first develops an Adam and Christ parallel. In doing so, he compares Adam and Christ to one another as originators or progenitors for the human race. On the one hand, he calls Adam the origin of death for all human beings. For they incur death through the human being, Adam. This is, first of all, a spiritual or interior death for them, but also a bodily death. On the other hand, Paul also calls Christ the origin of the resurrection of the dead for all human beings. For they receive resurrection to life through Christ. According to Paul, this is a spiritual resurrection in Baptism that prepares them for a bodily resurrection from the dead on the Last Day. As such, for Paul, Adam is the cause of death, and Christ, the cause of the resurrection. For this reason, as all human beings die in Adam, the man of death, all human beings will also be raised to life in Christ, the man of resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Accordingly, Paul calls Adam “the first man”; and Christ, “second man” or “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47). In this sense, the first Adam, he says, became a natural living being as man through his creation, but the last or second Adam, became a spirit, a supernatural spiritual being, the source of life for all others, as man, through His resurrection. As a result, the first man lived for himself, the second lived for others. For as a spiritual person, a person of the spirit, Christ Himself was conceived and born to communicate spiritual life to others as the second Adam. On this basis, Paul completes this first “Adam and Christ parallel” in his first letter to the Corinthians by proclaiming that the first man, Adam, is earthly, for he is from the earth; and the second man, Christ, is heavenly, for He is from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:46-48).
Furthermore, Paul develops a second feature to his Adam and Christ parallel in his Letter to the Romans about the year 57 or 58 (Romans 5:12-21). Justin will use this parallel as a second basis for his Eve and Mary parallel. Specifically, Paul develops a parallel of Adam and Christ in Romans by comparing the judgment Adam received for his disobedience and the gift Christ received for His obedience. For as the first Adam received a judgment of condemnation to death for his disobedience, Christ, the second Adam, the righteous Son of God, merited the gift of justification for His obedience. Consequently, as the heads or fathers of their natural and spiritual descendants, Paul says both the first Adam and the second Adam communicated to their people the consequences or fruits of their actions. On the one hand, this means that the natural descendants of the first Adam, all human beings, received the judgment of condemnation he received for his act of disobedience. This was a condemnation to death for all people. As such, by the disobedience of the first Adam, he fathered them to spiritual death, the loss of original grace, from their conception in their mother’s womb. This death was fulfilled in bodily death. On the other hand, the second Adam communicated to His spiritual descendants, members of His Body, the gift of justification He merited for Himself and for them by His act of obedience. As such, they became righteous. This was their salvation in Christ. Accordingly, this is the second feature of the Adam and Christ parallel from Paul’s Letter to the Romans that Justin develops as the second basis for his Eve and Mary parallel.
In Justin’s Dialogue, he develops this Eve and Mary parallel by comparing the obedience of the Virgin Mary to the disobedience of the virgin Eve. In particular, he says that the Son of God became man through the obedience of the Virgin Mary to destroy the disobedience of the virgin Eve. For as Eve destroyed her obedience to God’s Word by obeying the word of the serpent, Mary destroyed Eve’s obedience to the serpent’s word by obeying the Word of God as announced through the angel Gabriel. Consequently, on the one hand, by conceiving the word of the serpent through disobedience, Eve became the origin or mother of death. On the other hand, by conceiving the Word of God in faith through obedience, Mary became the origin or mother of divine life through the Holy Spirit. For she faithfully obeyed the Word of God she received through the angel Gabriel by saying: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). As a result, at the Visitation her cousin Elizabeth proclaimed to her: “Blessed are you who believed that what was revealed to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). In this sense, through her faithful fiat or yes, Mary conceived and bore the Word of God as man to save all human beings. For Justin, this salvation of human beings through Mary’s faithful obedience to the Word of God involved destroying the serpent, the fallen angels and unrepentant sinners. For in this act, the Person of the Son of God, the Word of God, becomes man to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. On this basis, Justin develops this Eve and Mary parallel to proclaim that Eve, the helpmate of Adam, was the origin of the death of human beings through her disobedience to God, but Mary, the helpmate of Christ, was the origin of the life of human beings, through her obedience to God (Dialogue, Chapter 100).
This Eve-Mary parallel in Justin’s Dialogue and Paul’s Adam-Christ parallel in First Corinthians and Romans helped Saint Irenaeus (A.D. 115-202), Bishop of Lyons, develop his teaching about Mary in his Against Heresies in about the year 180. He begins by saying that although Eve had Adam for a husband, she was still a virgin. By her disobedience, the virgin Eve became the cause of death for herself and for all human beings. Similarly, although Mary had a husband, she was still a virgin. Through her obedience, the Virgin Mary became the cause of salvation for herself and for all human beings. Accordingly, through Mary’s obedience, Mary untied Eve’s disobedience. Indeed, through her act of obedience, she freed human beings from a slavery to disobedience, including death. On the one hand, Irenaeus calls Mary’s obedience an act of faith. For she faithfully obeyed the Word of God. On the other hand, Irenaeus considers Eve’s disobedience an act of unbelief, because she unfaithfully disobeyed the Word of God. As a result, she became the mother of slavery, but Mary became the mother of freedom. Thus, what the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary untied by her faith.
Later in Against Heresies, Irenaeus says the Virgin Mary became the “advocate of Eve” through her obedience to God. For instructed by the Word of God, Mary was moved to obey God that she would free all human beings from death, including Eve. As such, Irenaeus proclaims that Mary has formally received from God a particular vocation of advocacy for people in God’s economy of salvation. Indeed, through her obedience to God, she became the maternal advocate as the Mother of the Son of God, the Savior, who would save the descendants of Eve, including Eve herself (Against Heresies, V, Chapter 19).
Finally, in his Proof of the Apostolic Preaching about the year 190, Irenaeus proclaims that just as Adam had to be recapitulated in Christ for death to be destroyed in immortality, Eve also had to be recapitulated in Mary for the disobedience of Eve to be destroyed by the obedience of Mary, her advocate (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 31-33). In Irenaeus, recapitulation means that God summed up His creation of the first Adam in Himself from the virgin soil of the Earth by, once again, gathering up another Adam, a second Adam, from the virginal soil of the humanity of a second Eve, the Virgin Mary. As God breathed life in the body of the first Adam created from the virgin Earth, He also breathed life in the body of the second Adam recreated from the Virgin Mary. Here Irenaeus briefly recalls in the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching what he had already developed earlier in Against Heresies concerning recapitulation (Against Heresies, III, Chapter 21, par. 10). In this act of recapitulation, God prepared another man, a second Adam, Jesus Christ, to complete or fulfill in Himself for human beings through His obedience what the first Adam lost for them through disobedience. As such, this second Adam became their second head to reconcile them to God. For Irenaeus, this involved a restoration process by Christ called recirculation. As the first Adam fell from God by ordering his actions contrary to God through his disobedience, the second Adam rose to God by ordering his actions to God through his obedience. In this sense, here the actions of Christ conformed to the actions of Adam’s fall, step by step, in reverse order. This is the process of restoration of the human race that Christ fulfilled by retracing the missteps of Adam to undo them by His obedience (Mary and the Fathers of the Church, pg. 55). All the same, for Irenaeus, the obedience of Christ depends upon the obedience of the Virgin Mary. For unless she obeys God first, Christ does not become man to fulfill His obedience to God. On this basis, Irenaeus proclaims in the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching that the second Eve, the Virgin Mary, participated in God’s economy of salvation as no other human being by becoming the Mother of the second Adam, the Savior (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 31-33; Against Heresies, V, Chapter 19).
In conclusion, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons would be the first Church Fathers to develop the Eve-Mary Parallel after reading the Adam-Christ parallel in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians and Romans. In doing so, they proclaimed God’s revelation that in becoming the Mother of God through her obedience to God, the Virgin Mary, the Second Eve, became the Mother of all God’s people, His Church. Indeed, she is the Mother of all human beings recreated in the image of her Son, the Second Adam.
In Christ, the Second Adam with the Virgin Mary, the Second Eve,
Friar Mariano D. Veliz, O.P.