In This Article Adam and Eve

  • Introduction
  • Dictionary and Encyclopedia Entries
  • Commentaries
  • Focused Volumes
  • Essay Collections
  • The Arts
  • Popular Culture

Biblical Studies Adam and Eve
by
Linda Schearing
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0104

Introduction

The figures of Adam and Eve are ubiquitous in Western civilization. Their story is a story of origins. But stories of origins are never just about the past. Readers and listeners mine them for clues about life, human nature, and God. From gender roles to genetic engineering—all have fallen under the purview of Genesis 2–3. Oddly, neither the Hebrew Bible nor the New Testament gives much space to Adam and Eve. The Hebrew term for “man” occurs with the definite article in Genesis 2:7 and means “the earthling,” for out of the “earth” he was taken. It is not really until Genesis 5 that the term signifies a proper name: “Adam.” Moreover, the female character in Genesis 2–3 is simply called “woman” until Genesis 3:20 where she is named “Eve” by the man. Outside of the narratives found in Genesis 2:4b–3:25, the birth of their sons in Genesis 4, and the genealogy in Genesis 5:1–5, the Hebrew Bible barely mentions this first couple. Key passages in the New Testament that refer to Adam are Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22, 45–49; and 1 Timothy 2:13–14. Key references to Eve can be found in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and 1 Timothy 2:11–15. Yet in spite of this lack of literary development in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, Adam and Eve’s story evoked a frenzy of interpretation. Over more than two thousand years and across three world religions, the “meaning” of their story has challenged readers, sparked debates among theologians, and inspired poets, writers, and artists.

Dictionary and Encyclopedia Entries

Dictionary and encyclopedia entries present readers with general overviews of Adam and Eve. The sources in this section represent some of the leading reference works of their kind, but their coverage varies. Of the “Adam” entries, Anderson 2006 and Wallace 1992a include Adam’s history of reception in Judaism and Christianity, while Wheeler 2008 focuses on Adam in Islamic materials. At least one entry, Pope, et al. 2007a, for example, also covers the arts. Of the “Eve” entries Pope, et al. 2007b; Trible 2007; and Wallace 1992b also include Adam and Eve (ANE) comparative materials, while Pope, et al. 2007b and Trible 2007 trace Eve’s reception in Jewish and Christian materials. Still others include issues of gender in their discussions of Eve (see Meyers 2009 and Trible 2007).

  • Anderson, Gary A. “Adam.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 1. Edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, 48–50. Nashville: Abingdon, 2006.

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    A very readable entry that emphasizes Adam’s status as a “special being among God’s other creatures” (p. 48). Anderson covers the creation of humankind in Genesis 1 as well as Genesis 2 and touches lightly on Rabbinic and Christian interpretations as they relate to the idea of humans being made in the “image of God.”

  • Meyers, Carol. “Eve: Bible.” In Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Edited by Gail Twersky Reimer. Brookline, MA: Jewish Women’s Archive, 2009.

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    A summary of Eve’s role in Genesis 2–3 that critiques the post-biblical image of Eve as both the originator of sin and the evidence of women’s “secondary” nature.

  • Pope, Marvin H., Elimelech Epstein Halevy, David Kadosh, Adela Wolfe, Bernard Heller and Helen Rosenau. “Adam.” In Encyclopedia Judaica. 2d ed. Vol. 1. Edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 371–376. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference, 2007a.

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    A multi-authored treatment that discusses the term “Adam” in the Hebrew Bible. The treatment then moves to Adam’s role in the Aggadah, medieval Jewish philosophy, Christian and Islamic traditions, illuminated manuscripts, and the arts.

  • Pope, Marvin H., David Sperling, and Haïm Z’ew Hirschberg. “Eve.” In Encyclopedia Judaica. 2d ed. Vol. 6. Edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 572–573. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference, 2007b.

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    An examination of Eve in light of ANE parallels and various Jewish and Christian traditions.

  • Trible, Phyllis. “Eve.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 2. Edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, 358–360. Nashville: Abingdon, 2007.

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    A summary of Eve’s role in Genesis 2–3 with attention to a feminist literary analysis (“The Life of Eve”), followed by a discussion of ANE goddess figures (“The Foreshadowing of Eve”), and concluding with a short discussion of Eve in the New Testament and apocryphal books (“The Afterlife of Eve”).

  • Wallace, Howard W. “Adam.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 1. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 62–64. New York: Doubleday, 1992a.

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    An examination of the etymology and use of the term “Adam” within the Old Testament, specifically within Genesis 1–11. The treatment concludes with an examination of the term’s use in intertestamental literature and the New Testament.

  • Wallace, Howard W. “Eve.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 2. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 676–677. New York: Doubleday, 1992b.

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    A treatment of the etymology of the term “Eve” with special attention given to theories of its connection to the serpent and the goddess Asherah. The entry concludes with a short discussion of the theological considerations associated with Eve.

  • Wheeler, Brannon. “Adam.” In The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia. Edited by Oliver Leaman, 11–12. London: Routledge, 2008.

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    Easily accessible source for undergraduates that does not presuppose any prior knowledge of Islam. Identifies passages in the Qurʾan that pertain to the creation of Adam, the Garden of Eden, Adam’s repentance, and Adam’s death.

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