Eve: Humankind’s First Revolutionary (1851) | Daniel Stern

This short essay, which argues that Eve in the Bible was humankind’s first revolutionary, was originally written anonymously in the French language, and later translated by Daniel Stern and afterwards published in George Julian Harney’s left-wing Friend of the People magazine.[1]

It is certainly one of the more ‘novel’ interpretations of the Genesis story (what modern people might call ‘a take’ and I’m not sure how much modern theologians would agree with this article). It has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo for this website.

Eve: A Fragment

The first of all the revolutions affecting the human race, that revolution, symbolic and sacred, from which was born in the course of time all the progress of man and society, we behold apparent in the Scriptures, under the name and under the image of a female.

The All-powerful had said to the human pair, feeble and ignorant,

“Thou shalt not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, or truly thou shalt die.”

The man resigned himself to this inactive and insensible felicity; but the woman, listening to the voice of the spirit of liberty which spoke within herself, accepted the peril. She preferred grief to ignorance, death to slavery. She seized with a bold hand the guarded fruit, and moved the man to participate in her act of daring. The All-powerful chastised both, banished them, and fixed a period to their lives. The mother of man is condemned to bring forth in tears. Eve remains for ever to her afflicted yet noble posterity, the personification, glorious though cursed, of the enfranchisement of the human mind.

This Genesis is the history of all the revolutions.

The powers of the earth, under whatever name they rule, theocracy, aristocracy, or monarchy, have said always to the feeble whom they would retain in slavery:

“If thou seek knowledge, thou shalt find death.”

And when the spirit of liberty has spoken to the oppressed, inciting them to cast off the double bondage of slavery and ignorance, they have said,

“This that speaks to thee, it is the serpent,—it is the tempter, it is the demon—it is philosophy, it is democracy, it is the spirit of evil,—listen not to it.”

But the Spirit of Liberty is immortal, and revolution, that Eve perpetually renewed prefers still to this hour, as in the first days of the world, banishment, anathema, grief and death—to the shameful peace of ignorance and slavery.

People, people, respect more than over, honour, cherish, venerate this Eve, always young, and always brave, who guards in her heart, the two most noble gifts of terrestrial life: the inspiration of liberty, and the virtue of self-sacrifice.

[1] Daniel Stern, ‘A Fragment’, Friend of the People, 15 February 1851, 78.