The Book of Eden: Genesis 2–3 by Bruce C. E. Fleming (based on the work of Joy Fleming, PhD, PsyD), is an excellent addition to the field of biblical gender studies. Accustomed to 300+ page, in-depth works on the subject, I was happily surprised to see that a work that is just over one hundred pages can perfectly balance readability with a focused look at the original Hebrew. The Book of Eden goes far beyond an overview of what egalitarians already believe; it gives unique insights into aspects of Genesis 3:16 (the other life-changing 3:16 passage! [ John 3:16]) that I had not encountered before this work. One of the book’s greatest strengths is that it welcomes readers from different backgrounds and ties to the complementarian/egalitarian conversation. Firmly egalitarian, Bruce (and Joy) refrain from attacking those who hold the complementarian view. Yet they never shy away from their belief that gender equality in the Church and Christian marriage is a correct understanding of the Bible’s original language. In their words, mistranslations are “word-pollution” that needs to be cleared away, in the same way that muddy water must be purified for life to flow again. This was as refreshing as actual water, as I loved their direct views (held with compassion) and clear presentation of ideas.
The Book of Eden is organized into eight chapters with a few pages of study guide at the end of each. These serve as excellent summaries of each chapter and give the chance to answer a few self-reflective questions. The familiar argument of what ‘ezer kengdo really means is presented alongside other far less-common discussions, such as God’s mixture of curses and blessings in Genesis 2–3 (what exactly were his curses and who was exempt from them). I found no weaknesses in the book’s narrative, other than wishing it was a longer work that included the seven key Bible passages on male-female relationships that the Flemings have highlighted. However, the 123 pages of The Book of Eden made it a quick, impactful, and easily accessible read without the multi-hour commitment of a longer work (something difficult to do during this landmark COVID-19 year). Below are sample passages from The Book of Eden:
To summarize, God tells the woman, I will greatly multiply two things—a bad thing and a good thing. First, the bad thing is you will have sorrowful toil in cultivating with your hands the ground which is about to be cursed. Second, the good thing is you’re going to have heron, multiplied pregnancies.
Mistranslations! But, if you look in your Bible you likely won’t read about these two things God tells the woman. Instead you’ll come across a very different thing, a single idea that sounds almost like a curse! And a lot of people take it that way. (19–20, italics and bold copied from original)
Satan was an equal opportunity tempter. He tempted both the woman and the man. The Hebrew text in Genesis 3:1–5 shows him using plural pronouns each time he says “you.” In other words, he wasn’t aiming his words at just the woman. He was saying you-two, y’all, you-both. And the man was right there listening to all he said. (57)
I highly recommend The Book of Eden to any interested reader. Its non-combative tone is perfectly balanced with an obviously uncompromising search for the truth, so it can equally serve as a foundational work to share with your staunch complementarian family member or your adamantly egalitarian friend. The Flemings are well-qualified with years of experience in the fields of gender studies, theology, and Old Testament, and their approach to more academic topics (sentence structure in Genesis) parallels their conversational tone. I came away from The Book of Eden with fresh insight into God’s plan for female-male equality and partnership, and above all, the height and depth of his redeeming love for our very first ancestors—both Adam and Eve.
This book is based on the episodes of Season One of The Eden Podcast.