Gary A. Anderson. (2001) The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. (Amazon.com)
In The Genesis of Perfection Gary A. Anderson gives attention to the reception history of the Adam and Eve narrative in Jewish and Christian thought. He writes that, “Genesis is not only about the origins of sin; it is also about the foundations of human perfection.” (p. 8, italics author’s) Yes, Adam and Eve’s “fall” in the early chapters of the Book of Genesis explain why the world is the way that it is now, but it also provides an ideal humanity toward which the readers should seek to return or even surpass.
Anderson reads Jewish and Christian sacred texts, later comments, and even art. He examines what works of art like the Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve by Michaelangelo in the Sistine Chapel or Anastasis in St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church in Toranto say about the story. He spends some time commenting on John Milton’s Paradise Lost. He gives attention to the writings of the apostolic church and early church fathers, as well as their theological gleanings from the Adam and Eve story. The reader will come away seeing how much influence the characters of Adam and Eve have had on the human imagination.
Some important subjects that Anderson covers include the serpent/Satan figure; views of early human sexuality (if the Garden of Eden was God’s temple, and Adam and Eve his priest, how could they have had sex before the “fall”?; Mary’s relation to Eve; what it means to be embodied; and the eschatological destiny of humanity based on the beginning of humanity.
If you are searching for a solid book on the Adam and Eve story, the use of the Book of Genesis in other Jewish and Christian literature, an example of hermeneutics and reception history, or just an awareness of what stories have grown from the biblical text that may influence your own thinking without your knowledge, this is a fantastic read. It is an easy read at one hundred and eighty-eight pages excluding the preface and the appendixes (plus it has a fair amount of pictures). I recommend it.