Marriage Imagery: Adam, Christ and the Church

AdamEveForest“If we turn to the second creation account, in the second chapter of Genesis, we can now see new depth in its narrative. Taken from the side of the man is the woman, who is led to the man as his bride, with these words:

For this reason shall a man leave his father and mother and join himself to his wife’ (Gen. 2:24).

Intriguingly, these words have scarcely, if ever, been practiced in human history: in most cultures, from the earliest times into modern times, it is the bride who is brought into the husband’s home and family, and bears his name.

Not surprisingly, then, this passage was taken by the Apostle Paul as referring to Christ and the Church, the Son who leaves his Father’s side in heaven to join his spouse (Eph. 5:31-2). Tertullian develops this insight, saying: ‘As Adam was a figure of Christ, Adam’s sleep provided a shadow of the death of Christ, who was to sleep a mortal slumber, that from the wound inflicted on his side might be figured the true Mother of the living, the Church.’  The Church which came from the side of the crucified Christ – pouring out as the blood and water when he pierced (cf. Jn 19:34)  – is foreshadowed by the formation of Eve from the side of Adam when he was asleep, the sleep which foreshadowed Christ’s own sleep in death.” (John Behr, Becoming Human, pp 86-87)