Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender.
"Since Eve ate the apple," the saying goes, "much depends on dinner." Kvam, Schearing, and Ziegler have brought together a dazzling collection of nearly a hundred excerpts from more than two millennia showing just how thoroughly social, political, and religious debates over gender and power have depended upon the story about that fateful afternoon snack in the garden.
The anthology is divided into eight broadly chronological chapters: Hebrew Bible accounts; Jewish postbiblical interpretations (200 B.C.E.-200 C.E.); rabbinic interpretations (200-600s CE.); early Christian interpretations (50-450 C.E.); medieval readings: Muslim, Jewish, and Christian (600-1500 C.E.); interpretations from the Protestant Reformation (1517-1700 C.E.); social applications in the United States (1800s C E.); and twentieth-century readings. An appendix dedicated to the preadamite theory embraced by the white supremacist Christian Identity movement brings the book to a startling close. Each chapter includes a brief introductory essay.
The subdivisions of each chapter are guided by the contents of the excerpts included in them. Some chapters follow traditional generic divisions (New Testament, church fathers) while others are more evaluative ("hierarchical interpretations," "egalitarian interpretations"). As the book moves into the modern period in the United States, it begins to focus more specifically on issues that have inspired great social and theological debate in this national context: slavery, women's rights, free love, and the gender(s) of God. The editors are very aware of the methodological risks and opportunities that are present in a project of this sort, and they offer a brief explanation of their principles of selection and organization in a thoughtful general introduction.
A volume of this scope and orientation cannot be exhaustive, and different readers will feel different versions of the frustration that results from the inevitable selectivity. I, for example, wondered why the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip were the chosen representatives of gnostic literature while two other important Nag Hammadi texts, the Apocryphon of John and the Hypostasis of the Archons, were omitted. Another frustration lies in the fact that bibliography for further secondary :reading is scattered throughout the volume in notes to the introductory essays and to the excerpts themselves, making it a task for the reader to collect it all together.
These quibbles aside, the editors of this important anthology have produced a wonderful resource for teachers who want to introduce students to the rich history of interpretation of Genesis 1-3, and the volume is also very accessible to interested nonspecialists. Its fanciful cover art reminds us that the editors have limited themselves to textual interpretations of Genesis 1-3. One looks forward to a second volume that gathers together the artistic and visual interpretations of this foundational text.
Elizabeth A. Castelli Barnard College
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|Author:||Castelli, Elizabeth A.|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1999|
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