The Medieval Popular Bible: Expansions of Genesis in the Middle Ages

By Brian Murdoch | Go to book overview

TWO

WHAT ADAM AND EVE DID NEXT

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER the expulsion from Paradise? The Bible does not tell us a great deal about the actual life of the first couple ― life, that is, in the temporal sense of an existence now bounded by death. All we get are some biological details: 'Adam vero cognovit uxorem suam Hevam, quae concepit et peperit Cain.... Rursumque peperit fratrem eius Abel' (Genesis 4, 1―2), and much later: 'genuit Seth ... genuitque filios et filias' (Genesis 4, 25 and 5, 4), 'And Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bare Cain ... And again she bare his brother Abel ... he begat Seth . . . and he begat sons and daughters'. We are told just after that last verse that Adam died at the age of 930, and we may also recall the earlier instructions given in Genesis 1, 26―8 that Adam and Eve should go forth and multiply and fill the earth. Clearly this leaves a lot of detail missing, and it is supplied in vernacular texts by way not of the exegetical tradition ― there is not very much to hang even a literal interpretation upon ― but through what are now called the apocryphal lives of Adam and Eve, the Latin versions of which typically begin, 'post expulsione Adae ...' or carry the title Vita Adae et Evae, implying their mortal, rather than their paradisiacal and potentially immortal lives. In the period from the first Christian centuries down to the Reformation, then, a wide range of texts, known as 'Adambooks', attested in a variety of Near- and Middle-Eastern and then Western-European languages, begin to fill in some of the gaps in the Genesis story. They may indeed be seen as the first steps towards a secularisation of the story of Adam and Eve. 1 They are reflected in the vernacular writings of Western Europe in the Middle Ages, so that what we may think of as the medieval Genesis depends for the Adam and Eve story just as greatly upon them as upon the Bible.

The so-called Adambooks ― the whole area is the object of increasing scholarly investigation ― are a loosely linked group of texts. 2 The Book of the Cave of Treasures, for example, preserved in Syriac with other Near-Eastern analogues, contains the idea that Adam and Eve would be saved after a fixed period of time, and an Ethiopic apocryphon tells how Adam and Eve undertook a penance whilst immersed in water. 3 The idea of penance,

____________________
1
See my Adam's Grace, pp. 21―49; the chapter in question examines the linking of the Fall specifically with the Redemption.
2
See Michael Stone, A History of the Literature of Adam and Eve (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992). See also Marinus de Jonge and Johannes Tromp, The Life of Adam and Eve and Related Literature (Sheffield: Academic Press, 1997) and Anderson, Stone and Tromp, Literature on Adam and Eve. See also Gary A. Anderson, The Genesis of Perfection (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2001).
3
The penance is even found, albeit somewhat awkwardly and hence very probably under

-42-

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The Medieval Popular Bible: Expansions of Genesis in the Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Medieval Popular Bible - Expansions of Genesis in the Middle Ages *
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction: the Popular Bible 1
  • One - Bedevilling Paradise 19
  • Two - What Adam and Eve Did Next 42
  • Three - Lamech and the Other Lamech 70
  • Four - Noah: Navigator and Vintner 96
  • Five - The Tower of Babel and the Courteous Vengeance 127
  • Six - Patriarchal Trickery: Jacob and Joseph 149
  • Conclusion 175
  • Bibliography 177
  • Biblical Index 203
  • General Index 205
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