Adam and Eve, Book of the Life of

views updated


ADAM AND EVE, BOOK OF THE LIFE OF , apocryphal work dealing with Adam's life and death. It has been preserved in Greek, Latin, and Slavonic versions differing considerably from one another. General considerations point to composition in Palestine between 100 b.c.e. and 200 c.e.

The Greek version, known erroneously as the Apocalypsis Moysis, begins with the expulsion from Paradise, and relates the story of the death of Abel, the birth of Seth, Adam's illness, and the journey of Eve and Seth to Paradise in search of oil from the tree of life to ease Adam's suffering. Adam dies and he is buried in the third heaven by the angels. Six days later Eve dies and Seth is instructed regarding burial and mourning.

The Latin version is known as the Vita Adae et Evae. Its main part roughly corresponds to the Greek text, but there are some omissions and additions. The most extensive and important addition precedes the material found in the Greek version. It tells how Adam and Eve, finding life outside Paradise difficult, decide to entreat God for nourishment and propose to do penance by standing in water; Eve in the Tigris for 37 days and Adam in the Jordan for 40. By a trick, the Devil induces Eve to end her penance before the designated time.

The Slavonic version follows the Greek closely, although it shortens some passages. It also includes the main addition of the Latin in a different form and not at the beginning of the book, but as a part of Eve's account of the Fall. According to the Slavonic version, Adam and Eve, expelled from Paradise, beg God for nourishment and are given the seventh part of Paradise. Adam begins plowing, but the Devil prevents him from continuing until Adam acknowledges his lordship over Adam and the earth. To trick the Devil, Adam writes: "I and my children belong to whoever is Lord of the earth." There follows the story of the penance of Adam and Eve, as found in the Latin, but with the significant difference that Eve withstands the Devil's blandishments and completes her penance. The rest of the addition is missing.

The religious spirit expressed in the Book of Adam and Eve is somber and somewhat pessimistic. It illuminates many minor points of theological interest, but presents no clear and central doctrine. Only the resurrection and final judgment are taught repeatedly and emphatically. Angels are represented as important, but there is no speculation about them and none about the End of Days. The simpler Greek version, which is mildly dualistic, also teaches a distinction of body and soul. There is no doctrine of original sin in the Christian (or Qumranic) sense. Adam is considered perfect; Eve is morally weak, but not wicked. She loves and obeys Adam and repeatedly deplores her own shortcomings. There is also a mild halakhic interest in the matter of burial. The additional material contained in the Latin version stresses Eve's weakness and the wickedness of the Devil, and actually teaches that there was a second temptation, which Adam withstood. This part is more speculative, and is concerned with man's struggle against the Devil and with the origin of evil. The penance by water shows a marked tendency toward asceticism, which might be a modification of an earlier tendency, emphasizing the importance of purity.

The work cannot be assigned to any known or definable sector or movement in Judaism. There are similarities both with apocalyptic writing (Enoch, Jubilees) and with the rabbinic aggadah, but none of these is sufficiently close or precise to indicate identity of teaching. The simpler Greek version is closer to the mainstream of Judaism. The story of Adam and Eve's penance and second temptation displays a unique development of ancient Jewish thought. A book of Adam (Sifra de-Adam ha-Rishon) is mentioned in Bava Meẓia 85b; but this work must have been different from the Book of Adam and Eve.


Charles, Apocrypha, 2 (1913), 123–54; for further bibliography see O. Eissfeldt, Old Testament, An Introduction (1965), 636.

[Jacob Licht]