The Gospel According to Eve: A History of Women’s Interpretation (Part 1)

Thursday, June 8, 2021

Rebecca S. Blackburn

The Gospel According to Eve: A History of Women’s Interpretation

Written by Amanda W. Benckhuysen

Paperback: 978-0-8308-5227-7

pub: 2019-10-29


eBook : 978-0-8308-7365-4

Purchase eBook $22.49

(For Part 2 Click here)

In The Gospel According to Eve: A History of Women’s Interpretation, Dr. Amanda W. Benckhuysen presents a compendium of women’s interpretations of Eve, representing voices from the fourth century into the top of the twenty-first century. She argues that these women’s hermeneutical advances constitute sufficient evidence to re-open the Church’s conversation about women. Noting “the gospel tends to come to women with strings attached,”[1] often through doctrine, policy, and implicit ideals, Benckhuysen affirms the need for these testimonies of women interpreters, who saw in scripture clear teachings about women’s dignity and humanity.

The numerous examples drawn from premodern times demonstrate that these women did not write “out of a pressure to be politically correct nor as an accommodation to a secular feminist movement.”[2] Benckhuysen also wants to show how their careful, devoted attention to the biblical text did not lead to singular or univocal conclusions about the nature and roles of women. Rather, multiple interpretive possibilities arose from these women’s work, many of which substantiated arguments for women’s full equality.

Benckhuysen hopes her survey:

…means female biblical interpreters no longer need to do it alone or reinvent the wheel. We can stand on the shoulders of the great cloud of women interpreters who have gone before…and hopefully see farther because of their bold and brave forays into biblical interpretation and their attempts to enlarge our understanding of Scripture.[3]

Benckhuysen approaches her project thematically, drawing different women interpreters into conversation with one another from across time and space. She begins with an overview of the dominant and denigrating interpretations of Eve which were propagated by early Christian interpreters and church authorities; usually these were male, though many women accepted these traditions as well. Benckhuysen proceeds with an exploration of the following topics: defending women’s worth, promoting women’s education, supporting women as wives and mothers, empowering women to preach and teach, forming the character of children, advocating for social reform, and influencing gender ideology. Each chapter is briefly framed by a correlating contemporary expression. For example, chapter four begins with research citing the decline of young people entering marriages in the United States and a speculation by David Brooks that young people lack a vision for healthy, life-giving marriages.[4] The chapter proceeds with a host of women’s interpretations speaking to God’s design for companionship and intimacy in marriage and affirming women’s agency in caregiving. Benckhuysen’s organization of the material and clear summaries of each interpreter’s work make the book both accessible and enjoyable. (Continued here)

[1] Amanda Benckhuysen, The Gospel According to Eve: A History of Women's Interpretation (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019), 1.

[2] Benckhuysen, The Gospel, 2.

[3] Benckhuysen, The Gospel, 5.

[4] Benckhuysen, The Gospel, 81-82.