Eve, Hawwa, and Ishsha


This post deals with an editorial process of the stories of the creation of Eve and Fall of Man; and how the first woman’s name Hawwa became Eve in English.

From Ishsha to Eve

The first two chapters of Genesis tell the story of the creation. God created male and female altogether on the sixth day in chapter 1. However, according to chapter 2, God created a person (Adam) only when there was nothing but dry land (2:7): there are differences; first, the person was created before everything else; second, only “the person” (ha-adam) was created.

Creation of Eve, Michelangelo
Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The first “person” created in Genesis 2, commonly known as “Adam,” was the only human being until verse 21 in ch. 2. It is interesting to note that, from Gen 1 to 3, the term “adam” (person) almost always appears with the definite article “ha,” that is, “ha-adam” (the person) to denote a generic noun meaning “human” instead of a proper name Adam! Anyways, God made “the person” (ha-adam) (rather than Adam) fall asleep and took one of his ribs to create “woman” (Ishsha in Hebrew). When he (ha-adam) saw her, (the person) called her Ishsha, as she was made out of the rib taken from Ish, that is, man.

Adam did not name her “Eve” in ch. 2 yet, while he named everything else. Instead, he called her “Ishsha.” It was not until Gen 3:20–after they had heard God curse them and say they would return to the dust–Adam gave her the name “Eve.” From the formation of the woman to the end of “Fall of Man” account, Eve continues to be referred to as “Ishsha.” 

The story flows unnaturally. The part about Adam giving names to other creatures is given in chapter 2. After that, until 3:19, the account has been about the punishment or curse of the two; they will die and return to the dust. Therefore, the story of “the person” (ha-adam) naming the woman “Eve,” meaning “life” or “living,” does not fit here but better fit in chapter 2, in which the person (ha-adam) gives names to all creatures. Nevertheless, the person (ha-adam) does not name her “Eve” until 3:20. Why? There might have been an editorial process. Here is how.

If the name “Eve” appears in ch. 2 right after the first woman was made, then she should be called “Eve” in the account of “Fall of Man” in ch 3 as well. However, the chapter three editor had a version that referred to her only as Ishsha, not Eve. So the editor had to choose whether to move the “naming Eve” scene from ch. 2 to the ending part of ch. 3 or changing every occurrence of Ishsha in the “Fall of Man” to Eve. The editor chose the former.

"Hawwa" (=Havva) or Eve

The Hebrew word for the name “Eve” is commonly pronounced as “Havva” or “Hawwa.” Whether to use “v” or “w” depends on how you pronounce the Hebrew letter “ו” (“vav” or “waw”). But English Bible versions ordinarily have the word as “Eve.” Strange!

The name “Hawwa” is derived from the verb “ḥaya.” The English transliteration “Eve” is not directly from the Hebrew word “Hawwa” but from the Latinization of the Greek transliteration of it (Hebrew–>Greek–>Latin–>English). The Greek transliteration of “Hwwa” is “Eua” (Εὕα). Greek alphabet does not have a separate letter for “h.” To pronounce the sound “h” in Greek, you have to add a “rough breathing” mark called “spiritus asper” (a diacritical mark) on a vowel like this: . So “Εὕα” is pronounced as “hyoo-ah.”

When this Greek spelling is transliterated into Latin, which does not have the rough breathing mark, the “h” sound disappears. The Latin word “Alleluia” from the Hebrew “Halleluja” is the same case. So “Εὕα” became Eva in Latin. The letter “υ” in Greek is transliterated as “v” in the Latin alphabet, but the pronunciation is similar to the Greek upsilon

English speakers, however, often pronounce Latin as if it is English. So they started replacing the Latin “v” sound with the English “v” sound. Then, the “a” sound in “Eva” was dropped out later and eventually adopted as “Eve.”

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