I recently wrote extensively about God’s actual names and titles
, and during that time, I noted another Biblical name was not translated correctly. Like Jesus, Eve, is actually not a good translation of the first woman’s Hebrew name. Adam, on the other hand, is mostly correct because the phonetics of Greek have the appropriate sounds for his Hebrew name, though a Hebrew and English speaker pronounce Adam slightly differently.
Eve’s actual name ( חוה ), the Hebrew letters chet-vav-hey, is actually pronounced [“hkah-vah”], which is very much like Havah to English speakers except the first letter (chet) has a ‘k’ sound with the ‘h’ sound. Some Hebrew speakers spell it as Chavah, however, ‘ch’ for English speakers is like ‘ch’ in ‘chew’, which is incorrect. Havah is the better translation if you remember to pronounce it with a ‘k’ at the beginning.
Havah’s name means “life and living,” which is stated in Genesis 3 where Adam named her, “Now the man proclaimed his wife’s name, Havah, because she was the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).
There are two other, havah, words in scripture which use the exact same letters as Havah’s name. They sound nearly identical and only have minor inflection differences. The first havah (emphasis on last syllable) means “to tell, declare, show, make known; to breathe.” This is one reason why people also believe Havah’s name means “breathe or breath of life,” which is an obvious link to God’s life-giving powers and breath, for like God, she brings life into the world.
The other havah means “village, town, tent village, living place.” It obviously retains the meaning of Havah’s name related to “life and living” as a “havah place” is where a person, family, or tribe live and make their life.
How did Havah become Eve then? If you read about God’s Names
, then you probably already guessed the answer - When Hebrew was translated into Greek, the dominate language in the centuries before Christ, it did not have the phonetics to preserve her name correctly. Greek does not have ‘h’ or ‘v’ sounds, so when translators of the Septuagint translated Havah’s name, they used two versions.
The Greek word, “ζωή” (zoe), was used in the first instance of Genesis 3:20. Zoe means “life, lifetime, property”[1.1], however, the notion of “property” may irk some people with this translation. I also have not known anyone in the church or believing communities to use the name Zoe for Havah/Eve.
Another translator of the Septuagint, like with Yeshua’s name, tried to transliterate the next occurrence of Havah in Genesis 4:1. He came up with Εὔα or Ευα, which sounds like [“ee’oo-ah”] or [“yoo-ah”] to English speakers. Then, when scripture was Latinized, Εὔα, became Eva, which became Eve after Latin was translated into English, so Havah’s name ended up very much like Christ’s name in that translation across multiple languages made Jesus come from Yeshua.
Now, the church has often maligned Eve or Havah, and women in general, with chauvinistic teaching that points them out as the reason for the original sin, but I place blame on both Adam and Havah because Adam was God’s gardener of Eden, and obviously, he should’ve known what the fruit of the forbidden trees looked like, yet he ate anyways.
Some might think that the linguistic link of the name Eve to the English word eve, meaning evening or night-time, goes with “death” or “downfall,” that perfectly aligns with the original sin, but that meaning of “eve” does not appear first in history.
The first meaning of English “eve” came from the notion of “even” meaning "balanced, level, or equal" about 100 years before the evening definition came about[1.2, 1.3]. Was there cultural and patriarchal bias that brought about the evening and “death” (original sin) notion to eve and Eve? Very likely considering what I know of the church’s history.
So instead of this night and death notion, let’s remember the original meaning of English “eve” meant “equal and level,”[1.2, 1.3] which goes with man and wife being equal partners in life, for God intended them to be one flesh (one in spirit) from the beginning (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:31), even though the husband is to act as head of the family, both husband and wife must be together and harmonious in spirit, for “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise the wife also to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise the husband also does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).
This scripture specifically goes with sexual authority over one another, but no reasonable person would say it does not extend to all other parts of a marriage. This mentality is proven with these verses, "Husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies... [not hate, but nourish and cherish her] just as Christ does the church" (Ephesians 5:28-29), and "Husbands, show your wife honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7).
Remember too, that Eve’s true name is Havah, which also means “life, breath, life-giver, and place of life,” which has obvious links to God’s own life-giving attributes, so in Havah, God gave His own attributes. Remember this too, and honor the place of women in the world and home. The chauvinist views of much of the church and other religions that subjugate women into roles of subordinate slaves must come to an end.
[1.1] "ζωή" (ZOE). WordSense Dictionary. Retrieved 2023 Mar. 8.
[1.2] "eve". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2023 Mar. 8.
[1.3] "eve". WordSense Dictionary. Retrieved 2023 Mar. 8.