Sunday, December 18, 2005

Why Is She Called "Eve", Anyway?

Curiosity question: why is Eve called "Eve"? I read Genesis 2-10 this morning, and it just kinda hit me... we're not pronouncing Eve's name right. Why not?

Yes, studying Hebrew has reinterested me in reading the Hebrew Bible. And aside from being nerdy, why do I care what we call Eve? Did you know that devout Jews will not utter the name of God out loud for fear of mispronouncing it? All those times the KJV refers to "the LORD" are actually God's Name (which is not vowel-pointed in Hebrew, either since you're not supposed to pronounce it).

In my many translation excercises, I came across Genesis 3:20
And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
This one actually threw me for a loop, because chav-vah looked like a pronominal form of "to live"... like "her life". I realized from the rest of the sentence (Adam's wife... hmm...) what the word must be, but just pronouncing it, it would sound more like 'khav-vah'.

It seems that the Hebrew would be closer to Kavah rather than Eve, so why "eve"? I emailed my Hebrew professor about it, but did a little digging myself.

Eve is only mentioned by name four times in the Bible (five times if you're Catholic). Since the Hebrew is nothing like Eve, I thought the blame must lie with Greek. Well, the Septuagint (LXX) has "Zoe" in Genesis. The Greek in the New Testment is closer to "eve" but even doesn't sound right.

So, I wondered if Latin was to blame? I looked up the Vulgate and it has "Hava" in Genesis and "Eva" in the New Testament.

Genesis 3:20
Latin - hava
Hebrew - chavvah
Greek - zωη

1 Timothy 2:13
Latin - eva
Greek - ευα

My conclusion, tentatively, is that we call Adam's wife "Eve" instead of "Khava" because of the Latin Vulgate's rendition of her name in 1 Timothy 2:13 and 2 Corinthians 11:3. Perhaps the New Testament was favored during the time English translations were written, and the tradition of the Latin name determined how we refer to the mother of all the living.


  1. The anonymous comment reminded me of this post. I have not discovered anything new regarding this topic. Perhaps if I ever take Latin, I'll know more.