The one aspect of this study I cannot emphasize enough is the fact that we have to view what we are reading with a different set of lenses than what we often use, and that would entail reading Scripture as the original audience understood it. What we often dismiss as mere allegory or symbol in many cases was in fact a reality to many ancient readers, and much of what we read about in ancient mythologies, for instance, is clarified in understanding by the Scriptural record. What this means is that at the root of many myths is a core of fact which has been corrupted by generations of people straying from the worship of the true God, something we will see more when we look at Genesis 11. This is a view which is known as euhemerism, and it is a view I feel has a lot of merit. Many secular scholars (as well as many liberal theologians) have tried to make the argument for instance that Genesis "borrowed" the Flood narrative from The Epic of Gilgamesh or some other source, and they base it on the fact that Genesis was supposedly written much later than Gilgamesh. However, there are several problems with that argument. For instance, being the Flood narrative was a worldwide phenomenon, a lot of people were talking about it, hence oral tradition. Therefore, to base the argument of Genesis being later than Gilgamesh as the argument for discrediting Scripture is not even relevant. What I believe about Genesis is this - Moses was taught much of the oral tradition by his own mother, Jochebed, and when the time came for him to encounter God face-to-face and receive the Torah, I think it is far more logical that God utilized the oral tradition Moses already knew by clarifying it with His own narrative, and that is why Genesis is reliable as Scripture and history - Moses spent a lot of time on that mountain, so he and God had a lot of time to talk, in other words! If anything, although chronologically Gilgamesh may date older, it is also reasonable to conclude that it is Gilgamesh that corrupted the divine narrative and not the other way around. This will be something which will be talked about more in detail later, but it relates to the last lesson in that the "seed of the serpent" is not other human beings (namely, descendants of Cain), but rather the literal seed of Satan and his angelic cohorts who rebelled with him, and as the narrative of Scripture unfolds, we see this conflict being played out. That is the reason why I included the Guadalupe story, in that it illustrates a manifestation of the "seed of the serpent" that even now seeks to torment mankind, and many of the "serpent's seed" can be found in the demonic entities behind so many false gods. As mentioned, we will see how that all unfolds later.
In the judgement God pronounces on Eve, there are two aspects. First, God tells Eve that from this point she will have travail in childbirth, which means procreation will be something that will be a sacrifice and painful. The word "sorrows" in the passage, as St. Lawrence of Brindisi points out in his commentary, is a translation of the Hebrew word ikhuvon, which denotes sadness, pain, grief, confusion, and toil. Likewise, the word "conception" is translated from the Hebrew word herayon, which St. Lawrence literally translates as "toilsome pregnancy," which later in the Septuagint was trnslated from a Greek word denoting "groaning" (Craig Toth and Victor Warkulwicz, ed. St. Lawrence of Brindisi on the Creation and the Fall. Mt. Jackson, VA: The Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009. p. 183). Looking at it this way, what was originally a joyful vocation became a sorrowful chore.
The second aspect of this judgement was that now the husband was to be head over the woman. I want to spend a little time on this, as there have been some very serious misinterpretations of this over the years which need to be clarified. Many years ago, my eldest cousin was married to a man who was a fundamentalist Baptist, and to be quite honest he was a chauvinist pig of a man who abused my cousin in many ways based on this passage. By the grace of God, my cousin was able to escape that situation and today she is happily married to a godly man who treats her like royalty, and I cannot express how happy I really am for her. The point is, many like my cousin's ex have a tendency to take what was pronounced as a judgment here in Genesis 3:16 as divine decree, but it really wasn't. If you look more closely at the context of the passage, it actually implies that because of sin, a disorder in the marital relationship evolves as a consequence, but it is not anything God decrees by divine command at all; as a matter of fact, such dehumanizing behavior is actually contrary to His divine order as He intended. This is why also we as Catholic Christians do not really hold to this whole idea of Sola Scriptura, because what often happens is that the whim and interpretation of the reader often is the real "authority," and this can be at variance with what the Church has historically taught. Originally, as we have seen earlier, the woman was created by God to be a sort of "helper called alongside" of the man (note the Greek term parakleo) and she was to assist in his dominion of Creation rather than being in subjection to that dominion. However, as sin corrupted man, disorder reigned, and that is how abuse, chauvinism, and other ills corrupted the marriage covenant in many cases later, sometimes with the sanction of misinformed pastors and church leaders who failed to read this the way it was intended to be read. However, it was as if God foresaw this happening, and in some cases the man's mistrust of the wife's judgment leads to this disorder. A whole study could actually be initiated just on this area alone, but for sake of time this is just a summary observation I wanted to include here.
There is an important demonstration of God's mercy in this verse that can be easily overlooked if one doesn't read in context of the entire passage, and it is pretty important. Although Adam and Eve sinned, and although conception and childbirth would be difficult for the woman from this point, at the same time God exercises mercy by keeping an important part of His original plan intact - that is, for man to be fruitful and multiply the earth. God could have revoked Eve's fertility for good over this sin, but in Eve's case He exercised a mercy which bound Himself to the covenant He made with Adam in the previous chapter. Sterility would indeed be a greater sorrow than fertility, for in sterility the whole human race could have been doomed. Yet, God still honors His word, as He always does. That fact is a very important element of the story, for it is the reason many of us are here now. Additionally, it is a fact which affirms the sanctity of human life and the value God gives the human person, and this is why sexual deviancy, abortion, racism, and chauvinism are all sins that no person professing belief in God or His word can condone.
Another important dimension to this is Eve's contrast with Mary - as we have seen, Mary is the first "seed of the woman" it alludes to as crushing the "seed of the serpent," and as such Mary served to circumvent much of the evil Eve allowed to enter creation. Mary, as a "second Eve," is not as imprudent at all as the original Eve was, and that is why Genesis 3:15 points to Mary in a profound way as a fulfillment of the Protoevangelium. A saying of St. Jerome's summarizes this - "Per Evam mors, vitam per Mariam (through Eve death (but) life through Mary)." Mary is, starting in Genesis 3:15, presented as being associated with the entire redemptive work of Jesus, and in traditional Catholic thought, this is one of the first Scriptural references to Mary in her role as a Co-Redemptrix. By that term, the prefix "Co" does not mean "equal to," but rather "working with." Mary is a vessel used as a dispenser of graces as well as through which the plan of salvation was carried out in its climax. Also, unlike Eve, Mary gave birth as a virgin without the curse, as she was restored to what Eve was intended to be. It is all this which affirms that although Eve willfully sinned, God would use her "seed" to provide redemption from that sin. This is why here, as well as in passages like Isaiah 7, the word used for Mary is the Greek word parqenos, which literally translates "virgin." It gives the reader therefore a new appreciation for Mary's role in salvation history, without diminishing or detracting from her Son, who is the focus of our adoration and worship as He is God incarnate. (Information in this paragraph referenced from Mark Miravalle, ed. Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons. Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 2007. pp.5-7).
To leave some concluding thoughts for this study, there are two facts we need to understand. First, it is evident Eve sinned, as we have seen. When she sinned, she brought a judgment on her female offspring which we see in the painful and laborous childbirth process, as well as in the disordered family structure which leaves the opportunity and risk for abuse and depersonalization of the wife by a husband. However, the good news is that in Christ, this order is restored, for to understand marriage as the sacramental union it truly is, one must also realize that the marriage covenant consists of two equal yet distinct parts becoming one flesh, with Christ as their sacramental head. This means then that abusive behavior by a husband against his wife is a sin against the divine order, and likewise a wife who dishonors her husband in any way is likewise guilty of sin. The marriage consists of a covenant in which mutual respect, sacrificial love on the part of both the husband and wife, and a preservation of personal dignity play a part in sanctifying the union and making it as God intended.
To wrap this all up, even though Eve sinned God in His mercy nonetheless would use one of her descendants to play a part in the redemption of humanity, and therefore while it may be easy to harshly judge Eve, at the same time we cannot consign her to hell for her sin, as she is still our biological mother as a race and she also was used to bring a Messiah into the world Who would break the bondage of sin and death over us. And, for this we should all be thankful.