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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






01 August 2005

Lilith


Q: Did Adam have a first wife named Lillith? If so, can I find out about her in the Bible?

John Collier's LilithA: Lilith (or Lillith) is a mixture of Babylonian mythology, the non-Biblical writings of certain rabbis, certain people’s crude sexual fantasies, and much else having nothing at all to do with the Scriptures. She is especially featured in kabbalistic (magical or sorcerous) Jewish writings of the medieval period.

Sometimes she was said to be made from Adam, as was Eve — or even two different Eves! Others assigned her to an independent creation by God. Some writers claimed that Adam rejected her because she was too sexually domineering and that God made a more passive model the second time. Others said that she was demonic almost from the beginning and one branch of kabbalistic literature made her out to be a slayer of children — even her own, if she could find no others. From this understanding came a common artistic representation: Lilith is often represented either with a serpent or as being part serpent herself.

She has become inspiration for such varied things as lesbian vampire stories, portions of the feminist movement (e.g., Lilith Magazine), and the tour of various women’s rock acts staging daylong concerts under the banner of Lilith Fair.

If we let Scripture speak for itself, we must dismiss these psycho - sexual - demonic stories as trashy fables of yesteryear. We might also wonder about those who struggle so hard to keep the name of Lilith alive and who try to push her even more into popular culture. Instead, we are better off returning to God’s own story of creating Adam and Eve and the two becoming one flesh.

We note that in Scripture, the only cognate of the word appears is Isaiah 34:14, where it is variously translated by terms such as “night bird” (ESV) or “screech owl” (AV).

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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