By Luke Lancaster
St. Paul in the earliest centuries of the Church called Jesus the “New Adam” in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. The reason is because Adam brought sin and death, yet Jesus brought obedience and life. One of the first sinless creation that fell from grace, the other was the new sinless creation that restored us to grace. Immediately after Paul said this, St. John portrayed both Jesus and Mary as the new Adam and the New Eve, mimicking Genesis 1 & 2. Notice the striking parallels between Genesis and St. John:
•"In the Beginning..." (Gen. 1:1)
•"God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness" (Gen. 1:5)
•"And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (Gen. 1:2)
•7 days of creation (Genesis 1)
•On the 7th day, Adam calls Eve "woman" (Genesis 2:23)
St. John's Gospel
•"In the Beginning..." (John 1:1)
•"The light shines in the darkness" (John 1:5)
•"I saw the Spirit come down from Heaven...the one who sent me to baptize with water" (John 1:32-33)
•7 days of creation (John 1-2)
•On the 7th day, Jesus calls Mary "woman" (John 2:4)
Notice also the other parallels we could make. Eve was Adam’s “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,” just as Jesus was Mary's "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh." The one was formed from the other. Eve listened to an evil angel, Mary listened to a good angel. Eve was disobedient to God and brought sin and death, Mary was obedient to God and brought grace and life. The first creation was centered around the tree of knowledge, the new creation centered around the tree of the cross (Gal. 3:13). Adam and Eve were together at the fall of mankind, Jesus and Mary were together at the restoration of mankind (on Calvary). The former began in the Garden of Eden, the latter began in the Garden of Gathsemane. Eve offered to man the forbidden fruit, Mary offered to man the True Fruit (Jesus). Adam and Eve were created as sinless virgins, the new Adam and the new Eve were created as sinless virgins.
The earliest Christians immediately picked up on this.
Consider St. Justin Martyr in 155 AD, who said, “He [Jesus] became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God” (Dialogue with Trypho, 100).
See St. Irenaeus of Lyons in 180 AD, who said, “Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin…having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race...”
“Wherefore also Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith” (Against Heresies, 3:22).
Notice Tertullian in 212 AD, who said, “For it was while Eve was yet a virgin, that the ensnaring word had crept into her ear which was to build the edifice of death. Into a virgin’s soul [Mary], in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex, might by the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation. As Eve had believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel. The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other by believing effaced. But (it will be said) Eve did not at the devil’s word conceive in her womb. Well, she at all events conceived; for the devil’s word afterwards became as seed to her that she should conceive as an outcast, and bring forth in sorrow. Indeed she gave birth to a fratricidal devil; whilst Mary, on the contrary, bare one who was one day to secure salvation to Israel, His own brother after the flesh, and the murderer of Himself. God therefore sent down into the virgin’s womb His Word, as the good Brother, who should blot out the memory of the evil brother. Hence it was necessary that Christ should come forth for the salvation of man, in that condition of flesh into which man had entered ever since his condemnation” (Flesh of Christ, 17).
The fact that from literally the earliest Christians we see Mary being portrayed as the new creation counterpart to Eve is startling. If the first creation of woman was perfect, how much more so would the second creation of woman be, who was much more glorious than the first?
Anglican scholar John Henry Newman noted of this phenomena, “First, then, St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 120-165), St. Irenaeus (120-200), and Tertullian (160-240). Of these Tertullian represents Africa and Rome; St. Justin represents Palestine; and St. Irenaeus Asia Minor and Gaul;—or rather he represents St. John the Evangelist, for he had been taught by the Martyr St. Polycarp, who was the intimate associate as of St. John, so of the other Apostles (Mary-The Second Eve, 1982, p. 3).
As we have seen, the earliest Christians identified Mary as the new, pure creation of God that fixed what Eve broke. Not only that, but practically every Christian continued this parallelism. St. Gregory the Wonderworker (3rd century), St. Cyril of Jerusalem (4th century), St. Epiphanius(4th century), St. Jerome (4th century), St. Ephrem (4th century), St. John Chrysostom (4th century), St. Augustine (5th century), and St. Proclus (5th century) are just a few others that made the parallel.
Scripture portrayed a truth that all of the earliest Christians saw, and this hints at the sinlessness of Mary. For God's perfect creation, Adam, was connected to Christ, so God's other perfect creation, Eve, was connected to Mary. Adam and Eve were created perfect, but lost their perfection. Jesus and Mary, on the other hand, were created perfect and never lost their perfection. This hints at Mary's Immaculate Conception.