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Kvam, Kristen E et al. Eve And Adam. Indiana University Press, 1999. (Selected Chapters)

Citation: Kvam, Kristen E et al. Eve And Adam. Indiana University Press, 1999.

Summary by: Lisa Bozarth Ozaeta

CHAPTER FOUR Early Christian Interpretations (50–450 CE)

[page 127]: The creation account in Genesis was central to that egalitarian understanding of gender.

  • In Galatians 3:27–28, Paul wrote: “As many of you as were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (NRSV; emphasis added).

  • Paul’s reference in verse 28 to the creation account of Genesis 1:275 indicated that early Christians construed baptism (‘‘as many of you as were baptized into Christ”) as a reunification ritual.

[page 127]: Galatians 3:28 suggested, as Meeks explained, “that somehow the act of Christian initiation reverses the fateful division of Genesis 2:21–22.

  • Where the image of God is restored, there, it seems, man [sic] is no longer divided—not even by the most fundamental division of all, male and female.”6

  • [page 127]: Christian baptism, according to this view, was a dramatic ritual. Initiates disrobed and were immersed in water.

  • They then donned new clothing symbolic of putting on Christ and becoming new creations conformed to the image of the Creator, in whom there were no gender distinctions.

  • [page 127]: Divided among themselves no longer by social discriminations, early Christian converts heard the pronouncement of their unity in Christ as a statement of objective reality.

  • The dishonorable clothing of animal skins that Eve and Adam had worn after the first sin had been replaced by the clothing of Christ, the redeemer who remade believers in the divine image

  • [page 127]: Such symbolism had the power (and was intended) to create among believers new attitudes and behaviors.

Hierarchical social roles had no place in the new order of being.7

CHAPTER SIX Interpretations from the Protestant Reformation (1517–1700 CE) INTRODUCTION

[page 270]: With the Fall, however, the relationship between man and woman changed forever.

  • Luther: In the original creation, Luther explained, government was unnecessary; human beings by nature could know, love, and obey God.

  • With the fall into sin, however, humanity lost its knowledge of God and no longer cared to know and do God’s will.

  • In listening to the serpent rather than to God’s commands, Eve was not, as some interpreters had argued, inflamed with desire for the fruit.

  • Rather, Luther explained, Eve chose to listen to a word other than God’s Word, and as a result she, and Adam after her, fell into unbelief. T

  • he loss of the knowledge and love of God was so complete that, “to this sin,” Luther concluded, “our entire nature has succumbed.”4

  • [page 270]: Once corrupted by sin, people could not obey God. God therefore instituted government as a ‘‘remedy” for sin.

For Luther, government was not a part of God’s original plan for the creation. Rather, government was an order of preservation, falling short of the ethical perfection both of the original creation and of the gospel delivered by Christ.

  • [page 270]: Just as God had responded to the Fall by establishing the state to govern people in the political sphere, Luther contended, so God had instituted patriarchal marriage to govern fallen people in their households.

  • God punished Eve, and thus all women, for the original sin especially harshly, subjecting them to pain in childbirth as well as to the rule of their husbands.

  • [page 270]: Like Augustine, Luther believed that prior to the Fall, sexual intercourse would have been a passionless activity. In humanity’s sinful state, however, sexual activity was marked by lust.

  • In the same way, then, that God had instituted the state as a “remedy” for sin, so God also instituted marriage as a “remedy” for lust.5

  • [page 270]: Once “in no respect the inferior of her husband,” woman was now, Luther argued, “compelled to obey him by God’s command.”

  • It was irrelevant, Luther explained, that, had Eve never fallen into sin, women would “have been a partner in the rule which is now entirely the concern of males.”

  • Eve did sin; and God did subject her to her husband’s authority.

The husband, Luther noted, ruled the home and the state. He waged wars, defended his possessions, and was responsible for planting and harvesting crops. But “the woman, on the other hand, is like a nail driven into the wall. She sits at home….” [page 271]

CHAPTER SEVEN Social Applications in the United States (1800s CE)

[page 333]: publication of the Woman’s Bible in the 1890s marked the emergence of a distinctly feminist hermeneutical method

[page 333]: Shaker readings of Genesis 1–3 were unique in Christian history. They interpreted Genesis 1:26 (“Let us make humankind in our image’’) as a sign of God’s plural nature, and noted that Genesis 1:27 described the image of God as “male and female.”

  • Shakers concluded from this reference that God was both male and female, both Father and Mother.

  • Since God had first become incarnate in male form (Jesus), the Shakers assumed that, at the second coming, God would be incarnated in female form.

  • Indeed, her followers affirmed that Mother Ann was the second coming of the Christ spirit

CHAPTER EIGHT Twentieth-Century Readings: The Debates Continue

[page 390]: fundamentalists composed such books as John R. Rice’s Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers—a trio that Rice blamed for most of the ills of modern culture.

  • As he put it, “to be a good Christian, it is clear that a citizen must be subject to his rulers, a child subject to his parents, a servant subject to his masters, a Christian subject to his pastor. God gives authority to some over others….

Rebellion against authority is the sin of bobbed hair, bossy wives, and women preachers.”

[page 390]: More recently, liberal Protestants have tended to find egalitarian readings of Genesis 1–3 more congenial to their democratic sensibilities, but the question of just how God intended men and women to relate to one another has stimulated considerable controversy among theologically conservative Protestants.

  • [page 390]: In the past twenty years, as conservatives have debated the ordination of women, they have devoted considerable attention to Genesis 1–3. Writers such as Elisabeth Elliot have argued that God created women to be subordinate to men, noting that “every creature of God has his appointed place, from cherubim, seraphim, archangels, and angels down to the lowliest beast.”8

[page 390]: Others have echoed that sentiment, insisting, with Duane Litfin, “That the universe should be ordered around a series of over/under hierarchical relationships is His [God’s] idea, a part of His original design.
  • Far from being extraneous to the Word of God, a kind of excess baggage that can be jettisoned while retaining the essential truth of the Scriptures, these ideas are the essential truths of the Scriptures. To reject them is to reject the Bible.”9

[page 391]: Hierarchical interpretations of Genesis 1–3 have had far-reaching ramifications in the Southern Baptist Convention, where conservatives have successfully waged a campaign to wrest control of the denomination from more moderate Baptists.10

  • The conservatives made a hierarchical reading of Genesis 1–3 the foundation of their “battle for the Bible.” In 1984, they persuaded the Convention to adopt a nonbinding resolution claiming that the apostle Paul “excludes women from pastoral leadership to preserve a submission God requires because man was first in creation and the woman was first in the Edenic fall.”1

[page 395]: Feminist critiques, however, have not always resulted in depatriarchalizing sacred texts.

  • Many feminists have concluded that passages like Genesis 1–3 are by their nature so permeated by sexism that they can be interpreted in no liberating way

  • Other feminists have disagreed, arguing that new exegesis, done without a patriarchal bias, can free sacred texts to speak in ways that affirm the full equality of all persons.[page 395]

  • They address two issues:

  • how to interpret the story of Eve and Adam in ways that will affirm the value of women, and

  • how to rethink the ways that religions use that story in order to subordinate women to men.

Phyllis Trible

[page 395]: In the early 1970s, Phyllis Trible electrified biblical and theological scholars by offering an alternative interpretation to traditional hierarchical readings of Genesis 2–3.

  • [page 395]: Trible turned centuries of interpretation upside down, arguing that points traditionally understood to indicate man’s priority to woman were actually indications of woman’s equality—perhaps even superiority—to man.

  • [page 395]: Trible found, for example, that Genesis’s depiction of God creating Eve out of Adam’s side at worst established a parallelism between Adam and Eve, since both owed their being to God, who created each out of raw materials.

  • That God created Eve last, after establishing all other things, suggested to Trible not that Eve was the second sex, but that she was the crowning glory of creation.

  • [page 395]: Similarly, Trible found that God’s description of Eve as Adam’s “helper” (’ezer) was not, as traditionally assumed, a sign of her inferiority to Adam, but rather proof of her equality with him.

  • The text described animals as “helpers” who were inferior to humanity, God as a “helper” who was superior to humanity, and Eve as a “helper” who was Adam’s counterpart.

[page 395]: God had saved the best for last.
  • [page 396]: Trible proceeded to dispute numerous aspects of the text that interpreters had typically understood as subordinating Eve to Adam, arguing among other things that God did not create man before woman, but rather created an androgynous human creature (ha-’adam) that became male only when God separated out that which was female to create Eve.

  • [page 396]: Trible ended with the argument that, contrary to the history of interpretation, Genesis 3:16 did not license male superiority but condemned it.

[page 396]: entirely new article in which Trible considers the question of how her mind has changed (or stayed the same) since beginning her study of the opening chapters of Genesis.

  • Here she offers a new and more detailed analysis of ha-’adam, while proclaiming that her overall conclusions have changed “not a jot, not a tittle.’’


[page 397]: Plaskow differentiated between the “yes, but” form of traditional theology, which she described as “inherently nondialogical and out of touch with its own basis in experience,” and the “yeah, yeah experience’’ that she had discovered in the women’s movement.

  • “Yeah, yeah,” she argued, was “the process through which we come to be sisters.” It meant committing one’s self “to speak and to really hear” in dialogue with others who were likewise involved in the consciousness-raising process

  • [page 397]: In an attempt to produce constructive theology from this basis, Plaskow wrote a myth describing the experience of women joining together to do theology.

  • [page 397]: The myth retold the story of Lilith, casting her as a woman so aware of her own value and worth that she refused to become Adam’s servant. Lilith preferred banishment from the garden to subordinating herself to Adam; and Adam convinced God to create a more docile partner for him in Eve.

  • [page 397]: Adam then devoted himself to building walls around the garden so Lilith could not meet and corrupt Eve. As males, God and Adam were naturally closer to one another than were God and the women, but eventually God began to worry that Adam devoted too much energy to excluding Lilith from human society.

  • [page 397]: In the end, all of Adam’s labor was for naught. Eve climbed the wall Adam had built, determined to exceed the limited life he had prescribed for her. Eve and Lilith met one another and grew close.

  • They then returned to the garden, bursting with plans to rebuild it, as God and Adam, simultaneously expectant and fearful, waited to see what would become of them.

Hierarchalist interpretations

  • [page 398]: Like the proslavery interpreters of the nineteenth century, contemporary hierarchalists insist that the proper model for human society can be found in the household codes and in Genesis 1–3. That model, in this reading, depicts a great chain of being or a divine chain of command.

  • [page 398]: Most importantly, hierarchalists assert that nothing about redemption in Christ can abrogate that hierarchical order

  • [page 398]: Whether fallen in sin or saved in Christ, men and women belong in the social stations that God designed for them at the beginning, with men as women’s head

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