Reviewed by Carol J. DEMPSEY, University of Portland, PORTLAND, OR 97203
This impressive and detailed study of Genesis 1-3 examines the ways that various interpreters have used the first three chapters of Genesis not only to define and enforce gender roles but also to support positions regarding slavery and women's rights in the United States. The text takes into account readings and interpretations from three faith and three theological perspectives: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.
Comprised of a General Introduction, eight chapters, and appendix, and an index, the work spans 2500 years of interpretation in a single volume. Chapter 1 examines Genesis 1-3 for the purpose of presenting contradictory visions of women and gender. representative scholarly voices and their respective positiuons include Anne Gardner, Phyllis Bird, Robert Alter, and Raymond Ortlund. Kvan, Schearing, and Ziegler also take seriously the work of Carol Meyers. Meyers cautions theologians and feminists against drawing conclusions about women solely from the biblical text. The remainder of the chapter focuses on Genesis 4-5 and its relation to Genesis 1-3.
Chapter 2 considers those Jewish interpretations, i.e., Philo's Eve and chaps. 15-30 of the Apocalypse of Moses, that emerge around 200 BCE to 200 CE. The chapter also looks at how Josephus and various apocrypha and pseudepigrapha portray Eve.
Chapter 3 presents the multi-faceted picture of Eve as she appears in midrashic, talmudic, and targumic material from around 200 CE to 600 CE. When considering the midrashic and talmudic works, Kvam, Schearing, and Ziegler organize their discussion around three specific themes: humankind's creation, disobedience, and Adam and Eve after Eden. Next, Kvam, Schearing, and Ziegler examine and comment upon how the Targum Onqelos to Genesis and Pseudo-Jonathan depict Eve. They conclude that the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan "contains a wealth of haggadic expansions on the Genesis account of Adam and Eve," and that "many of the story elements found in this Targum are similar to those midrashic and talmudic themes discussed earlier...." (p. 103).
Chapter 4 evaluates how the subordinate position of women as reflected in the NT is carried over into early Christian writings from around 50 CE to 450 CE. Kvam, Schearing, and Ziegler note that during this time period, there are both hierarchical and egalitarian interpretations of Genesis 1-3. This chapter looks at these two types of interpretation in relation to such extracanonical sources as the Gospels of Thomas and Philip, and the Acts of both Paul and Thecla. Also included is a discussion of selected works by several Church Fathers, namely, Theophilus, Anastasius Sinaita, Tertullian, Origen, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, and Augustine, who comment on Genesis 1-3.
Chapter 5 offers readers a wide variety of portrayals of Adam and Eve found in the literature of te Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions from around 600-1500 CE. This chapter includes selections from the Qur'an as well as four types of Jewish writings, namely, compilations, commentaries, philosophical treatises, and mystical works, that represent four types of approaches to Eve's characterization in this period. Christian writings take into account Thomas Aquinas' hierarchical view of Genesis 1-3, along with the works of such mystics as Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) who herald the notion of women's bodies as a source of redemption. The chapter closes with a translation of and comment upon Christine de Pizan's poem, "Letter of the God of Love" (1399 CE).
Chapter 6 concludes Kvam's, Schearing's, and Ziegler's examination of postmodern Christian readings (1517-1700 CE). An introduction to the Protestant Reformation opens the chapter, followed by an explanation of how the Protestants used Scripture during this time, and a description of the three major Protestant groups and their works that emerged during the reformation: the "magisterial" reformers (Martin Luther and John Calvin), the Anabaptists (Balthasar Hubmaier), and the English Protestants (John Milton and Margaret Fell).
Chapter 7 and chapter 8 discuss Genesis 1-3 in relation to highly contested contemporary issues such as slavery, women's rights, free love, the genders of God, and the various debates about Adam and Eve that persist today. These two chapters include a rich and wide array of works by such authors as Josiah Priest, Rev. Charles Elliot, Sarah Grimke, Elisabeth Cady Stanton, Susan T. Foh, samuel H. Dresner, Sun Ai Lee Park, Judith Plaskow, Phyllis Trible, Jouette M. Bassler, Riffat Hassan, among others. Attention is also drawn to the Shakers and the Oneida Community. The study closes with a brief appendix which revisits the issue of Genesis 1-3, race, and hierarchy in relation to white supremacist voices from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Following the appendix is a substantive index.
This study is an extraordinary work both in concept and content. It brings together the thought and scholarship of three great traditions, and challenges contemporary readers of the biblkical text to recognize the lon tradition of Genesis 1-3 that must be seen and understood from multiple perspectives and faith traditions. Kvam, Schearing, and Ziegler have made a remarkable contribution to te field of biblical studies. I highly recommend their work not only to biblical scholars but also to anyone engaged in the serious study of the Bible and biblical interpretation.