No other text has affected women in the western world as much as the story of Eve and Adam. This remarkable anthology, which includes both classic religious texts as well as pieces written especially for this volume, surveys more than 2,000 years of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim commentary and debate on the biblical story that continues to raise fundamental questions about what it means to be a man or a woman.
In western culture and religion, the Genesis story of Eve and Adam has established and dominated views about gender roles. A long history of interpretation of Genesis 1-3 exists in all three of the great monotheistic religions. In this anthology, the editors have gathered primary documents from each of these traditions to examine this history of interpretation. Each section contains a brief historical essay that sets the readings in context, and the editors briefly introduce the individual writings. Chapter 1 offers selections from Genesis 1-5. Chapter 2 provides documents of Jewish post-biblical interpretation, including apocryphal texts like Sirach and pseudepigraphical texts like the Life of Adam and Eve. Chapter 3 contains rabbinic interpretations of Genesis 1-3, including midrashim like the one attributed to Rabbi Joshua ben Karhah: "It teaches you through what sin that wicked creature inveigled them, because he saw them engaged in their natural function, he [the serpent] conceived a passion for her." Chapter 4 contains early Christian interpretations ranging from biblical texts (1 Corinthians 15:21-22) to the theological writings of Tertullian and Augustine. Chapter 5 collects readings of the story from the Middle Ages, including various readings from the Qur'an and commentaries by Islamic theologians. The writings of Martin Luther and other Protestant reformers on Eve and the role of woman are gathered in Chapter 6. The writings in Chapter 7 demonstrate the ways that various 19th-century American social movements, like abolition and women's suffrage, and new religious groups, like the Shakers and the Christian Scientists, interpreted the Genesis story. The final chapter includes writings from 20th-century Christians, Jews and Muslims demonstrating that the debate about the meanings of Genesis 1-3 is far from over. The editors have performed a great service in making widely available a documentary history of the interpretation of the Eve and Adam story. (Mar.)