The Gospel According to Eve: Professor Benckhuysen’s New Book Explores Untold Perspectives on the Biblical Account of Eve
Published by Calvin Seminary
Christians have been reading and studying Scripture for centuries, but in her new book The Gospel According to Eve (InterVarsity Press, 2019), Professor Amanda Benckhuysen contends that along the way there have been missing pieces and missing voices.
For much of Church history, interpreting the Bible has been done by men. Benckhuysen’s book recovers several significant female writers from relative obscurity to celebrate their contributions and hear their perspectives, especially on the stories in Genesis of creation and original sin.
Benckhuysen researched over 60 women from the 4th through 20th centuries, such as Eudocia, wife of a Byzantine emperor in the 5th century, 13th-century French author Christine de Pizan, and 18th-century U.S. abolitionist Sarah Grimke. Most were educated and published, but almost all experienced resistance to their work due to social values about the roles of women.
Their interpretation of Scripture started with their understanding of Eve. “One of the exciting things about writing the book was to discover that women were pushing back against a dominant interpretation of the story of Eve, one that cast her quite negatively, from very early on in Christian history,” Benckhuysen says. “These women saw different things, and to listen to them is to hear the text afresh through other people’s ears and eyes.”
Many women, she says, emphasized that Eve’s story begins in Genesis 1, when both men and women are given a privileged place in creation over the animals, and males and females receive the same call from God. This led them to scrutinize the notion that Eve’s status as a “helper” in Genesis 2 is inferior, since the same Hebrew word for “helper” is elsewhere used for God.
“For women in the 14th and 15th centuries to be noting these things that I had never read in my seminary career was just fascinating,” Benckhuysen says.
In the story of the fall into sin in Genesis 3, many women questioned the common assumption that Eve bore more responsibility than Adam, and contended that the resulting pronouncement of conflict between males and females should be heard not as God’s wish but rather God’s warning about disorder brought about by sin.
Benckhuysen’s book arrives in the midst of larger cultural conversations about the marginalization of women. She says that while the book does not advocate any particular political or cultural agenda, it does enrich Christians’ reading of Scripture and how men and women hear God’s call today.
“One of the things I’m doing in the book is just asking the question, ‘What can we learn from this alternative reading throughout history?’” she says. “It’s inviting us to listen to how other people in history heard this text.”
By Nathan Bierma
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