Well, you should be. Yeah, Eve. She just might be the most courageous person in all the Bible even if she is a fictional character. This is if you deem intellectual courage as a form of courage; although, it was also a form of physical courage because of the sentence of death that was held over her head by god if she did eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
To set the stage or as prelude to further remarks I will give what seems to me the most pertinent passages of the biblical story below, following the King James Version.
“And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. . . . And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” (Gen. 2:15-18, 21, 22)
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God call unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. . . . And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also if the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.” (Gen. 3:1-12, 22-23)
One of the first things I will bring to your attention is where did Eve get her information on not eating the fruit of the tree in question? We are not told if Adam shared this information with Eve or not, and we have no direct relating of a conversation of god telling Eve of it either, but in her conversation with the serpent she appears to know about it as coming from god. But, it is not told that Eve knew that it had anything to do with the knowledge of good and evil; this she learned from the serpent apparently. She does have some information that god apparently did not tell Adam. This was that she was not even to touch it, which could bring the death sentence into effect all by itself.
Now the serpent is claimed as being “more subtil than any beast of the field.” Subtil here I belief is what the modern word subtle is taken to mean. Going to dictionary.com for some definitions we can find “characterized by mental acuteness or penetration.” In other words pretty smart. Of course, I think what was meant by the use of this word was not the serpent’s intelligence, but of his ability to deceive as in the sixth definition of “cunning, wily, or crafty.” In other words a good liar.
But, the serpent does not lie. God threatened death on the day that they would eat the fruit of the tree. But, this did not happen. Neither is it a long term death sentence as in some day they would die. This is because they were mortal at this time, so death was going to be their natural end, unless they could eat of the tree of life also. But, god fixed this by evicting them from the garden before this could happen.
So, you could say that Eve was surly tempted. But, why? It was good for food (it was edible). It was pleasant to look at (beautiful†). And, it would make her wise (as smart as god?). But, the things for which she would become wise was of the knowledge of good and evil, not knowledge in general. She must have had some ability to know what the fruit was good for. However, why is the knowledge of good and evil different from the general kind, needing the eating of a special fruit. Plus, all they seem to have gained was knowledge of their nakedness (was it good or evil?). No matter what the result it was still a brave act to eat the forbidden fruit.
In eating of the fruit I claim that Eve exhibited a considerable amount of courage. First, to stand up to god. Although, at this point in the Bible god is not claimed as being all-powerful, one could definitely say that his being all-knowing is problematic. Why would he need to ask where Adam was? Of course, one could always fall back on this being a rhetorical statement. Being all-good is not addressed at this point either. All one can say for sure is god had the knowledge of good and evil. Or maybe not, based on what he did later on in the Bible. Maybe he did not bother to eat the fruit from the tree that would give him this type of knowledge.
Next, Eve had the courage to face an unknown. How did she know the serpent was telling the truth? How did she know he was not just up to some mischief? What would life be like knowing good and evil? Will it be worth giving up her innocence? It seems to me that it takes a lot of courage to face these unknowns. She was willing to face these and live with what the knowledge gained would mean for her life.
Eve also had the courage to deal with the consequences of holding the knowledge of good and evil. This would mean a life of making choices on how to behave. She would have to enter the challenging arena of ethics. She would have to think harder about these things than she ever had to think about anything before. Her relationships would change. How should she treat Adam? What about any future children? Although, if she did not know that she was naked, she probably did not know of sex and mating and what its results would be.
Eve needed the courage to trust another with her life, too. She had to trust the serpent, that he was dealing with her on the up and up. Without knowing good and evil, might not trust be an alien concept to her. She also had to trust her desires. The fruit was good to eat and beautiful. And above all, she needed to trust her desires for the knowledge of good and evil.
Finally, she had to have the courage to face death. But again, without knowing what made life between the sexes she may not have had a proper understanding of death. She did appear to have some knowledge from somewhere, or was the knowledge of good and evil the beginning of all knowledge. Anyway, somehow she knew that god said she would die the day she ate of the fruit of that tree in the middle of the garden of Eden, or that is what god declared. But, the serpent was saying something different. She would not die that day if she partook of the fruit and ate it. But, how could she be certained who to trust? God or the serpent. Adam was not around, so she could not even consult with the only other human being she knew at that time.
So many questions were there to answer. Maybe the fruit would make known to Eve how to deal with all these things, but she had yet to eat of it. Whatever questions came to her mind, and whatever the answers she might have had for them, she needed to make a choice. And, the choice she made was to pluck up the courage and take a bite of the fruit. The serpent had it right; she did not die. So pleased with her decision she even offered the fruit to Adam.
In my mind Eve was a very courageous woman. She had both intellectual and physical courage, and if there was a thing called spiritual courage, she would have had this, too. In particular she had the courage to stand up to god, to face the unknown, to face the consequences of her actions, to face trusting another being, and to face the possibility of death.
And, what about Adam? He showed no responsibility for eating the forbidden fruit, but blamed shamelessly on Eve. What a sniveling coward.
† Beauty has a connection to knowledge if you pay attention to some mathematicians (how many apples did they have to eat) and physicists. Beauty according to these people is an indication that a theorem or theory is true. Of course, proof is still needed, but they strive to make these beautiful. Dictionary.com’s first definition for beauty contains notions of something that “gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind,” which could be connected with its “pattern.” Pattern is important here because some claim that mathematics is the science of patterns. And, this is also why patterns in the physical world are best described by mathematics under this understanding of mathematics.