What does it mean to be male and female? Do women and men have different intellectual, spiritual, moral, or emotional capacities? Are women especially suited for serving and men for leading? Are women and men equal?
While these may seem like relatively recent questions, they have been a topic of conversation throughout Christian history. At the center of this conversation is the biblical character Eve, the archetypal woman of Genesis 1-3. Not simply one woman among many, Eve comes to represent all women, defining the very essence of what it is to be female. As Eve was a woman, so all women were Eve, the conditions of her creation and her involvement in the Fall often serving as a justification for limitations placed on women and for their subordination to men.
Over the centuries, women themselves have read and interpreted the story of Eve, scrutinizing the details of the text to discern God’s word for them. Often their investigations led them to insights and interpretations that differed from dominant views, shaped as they were by men. The Gospel According to Eve traces the history of women’s interpretation of Genesis 1-3, readings of Scripture that affirmed women’s full humanity and equal worth. Biblical scholar Amanda Benckhuysen allows the voices of women from the past to speak of Eve’s story and its implications for marriage, motherhood, preaching, ministry, education, work, voting, and more.
“Nogarola’s intention here is less about conceding to women’s inferiority and more about highlighting the logical inconsistency of prevailing views about women. Women, she contends, cannot be both the weaker sex by divine design and more culpable for original sin, for ‘where there is less intellect and less constancy, there is less [blame for] sin.’31 In other words, if the woman is truly the weaker sex, then she cannot be held more responsible for original sin than Adam who, though superior, also participated in sin. To claim Eve as more culpable than Adam is to imply that she had the equivalent moral and intellectual capacity to that of a man, which is akin to saying that men and women are equal.” (Page 31)
“First, women interpreters teach us the importance of interpreting a text within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts. Women interpreters noted again and again the common habit of turning to Genesis 2 or even Genesis 3 to discern God’s will for women without considering Genesis 1. As a result, Eve came to be characterized primarily as a ‘helper’ and a sinner before she was known as an image bearer of God who had been commissioned with Adam to have dominion over the earth.” (Page 230)
“God determined that it should be the husband who would leave his family and join himself to his wife and her family. Bushnell notes that while this law is often ignored, while the wife often joins the husband’s family, the practice of the husband joining the wife’s family would relieve the oppression of women around the world. By staying with her family, she would be protected from abuses that arise when a woman is not surrounded by a safe, protective, and supportive community,47 and if her husband dies, she would have a natural and ready support system that would keep her from a life of poverty.48 Bushnell suggests that God sets this law in place, anticipating the vulnerability of women in a patriarchal society and working to protect women against some of its worst abuses and effects.” (Pages 213–214)
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