Our Lady of the Rib
Having used the Bride of Christ metaphor to revisit the Pactum Salutis in Introducing the Princess Bride and the creation of Adam in Prototype of an Ideal Husband, we now turn to a different kind of Creation.
Genesis 2:20-25 recounts an act of what we call Creatio Passiva or Creatio Secunda, wherein God creates something out of something, as opposed to the first part of creation where he created out of nothing (Adam’s creation falls into this category as well). After the type of Christ in Adam is made flesh and blood from the dust of the earth, the type of the church in Eve is formed from Adam’s side. While tradition has translated this as “one of his ribs,” the most literal rendering is just that she is taken from out of his side. There is no other ancient Near-Eastern creation narrative that parallels this. In and of itself, the rib-woman is a phenomenon holds many facets of application in its metaphorical application to the church.
Eve created from a rib taken from Adam teaches of gain from loss. He loses a rib to gain a wife. As Adam’s bride was gain from loss, so was Christ’s bride gain from loss. Christ descended from the glory of heaven, endured the wrath if God, and even surrendered his spirit in order to gain for himself a people to call his bride.
Eve from a rib showed much being made from little. Certainly this is a small matter for the God who spoke and created from nothing, but it is impossible for man to create a hundred-pound anything from something that is only a few ounces. Yet we see that Christ took Adam and Eve and produced from the whole human race. From Abraham he produce all of Israel. From the disciples and a murdering Pharisee he produced a church that would span the globe. He made his beloved bride from worthless sinners.
Eve from a rib taught Adam that his completion was outside himself. The world is filled with people seeking to discover happiness within themselves. They seek wisdom within themselves. They think that through self-confidence and ego they can become complete in and of themselves. There are even “religious” people who believe that they are capable of saving themselves. Yet, the scriptures teach that salvation, joy, and peace that surpasses understanding are found in God who is completely other than us.
Eve from a rib points to Eve’s identity deriving from Adam. Calvin writes, “In this manner Adam was taught to recognize himself in his wife, as in a mirror…” (Calvin’s Commentary Vol. I, p. 132) and in the same way, Eve saw Herself in Adam. Likewise, it is essential that the Church derive her identity from Christ from whom she is derived. There are many assemblies calling themselves churches that derive identity from philanthropic interests, human heritage, or even race. A true church should have an identity founded solely upon her savior and husband, Christ. Her understanding of him in terms of who he is, how he saved her, and how he labors in and through her should shape her identity. The identity of the church is in the very gospel that created her.
When the Eve-rib was taken from Adam’s side, he was under divine general anesthesia of sleep. Adam felt nothing as God took the rib from his side. It was a painless creation of the bride in a world into which sin had not yet entered. In the pre-fall world, the creation of Adam’s bride required no pain. This contrasts drastically with the identity of the Bride of Christ formed after the fall. For that bride, the bridegroom did not lose a rib during sleep, but was crushed in the body. Adam’s account would serve a more peaceful foreshadowing of Christ’s passion with a surprising number of correlations. As Claude Chavasse states, “Christ’s Death and Passion would thus be prefigured by Adam’s sleep, and the opening of his side to take out the rib; his Resurrection, by Adam’s waking again. Round the Rib was built up the new Bride, who may thus be said to have slept and woken again with the new Adam.”
Finally, Eve was taken from life to perpetuate life. This woman would be the mother of all living men and women. This is why Adam would call her Eve in chapter three. Her life would produce life, which ties in to a subject I will deal with in a later article regarding the meeting of the husband and wife producing life, but it serves well to briefly address some aspects here. God chose not to create Eve in the same way as Adam. She was not formed from dust to have life breathed into her. Adam was formed in an event unique to only him, but Eve was created from the first Adam.
Christ was born of Mary as a virgin. Scripture gives us a limited account in the prophecy by angel in Luke 1:35. His birth was as unique to history as Adam’s was. From Christ’s life, his bride’s life would be produced. His side would be opened by a Roman spear following his real death, paralleling Adam’s figurative death. Her life would be the source of life of children beyond count or measure. In the world we know, and all of history excluding Adam and Christ, life follows a consistent pattern. Cells are formed by mitosis (where a parent cell gives of itself to produce a new one), and people are formed from an already present and living mother.
While it is important to emphasize the nature of salvation as by God alone, he uses the church as an instrument in his hands to bring about new life. We are born again by Christ through the church. This is why Scripture emphasizes evangelism and preaching. If you look back to your own conversion, it was not by God speaking in an audible voice, calling you to repent and believe. After the Apostles and Paul, Christ always used human servants to spread the Gospel. Whether by the proper preaching of the Word or by the testimony of a believer, every Christian comes to new life through the church.
Chris J. Marley is the Senior Pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona. He holds an M. Div. from Westminster Seminary California (2009).