The Triumph of Eve: &  Other Subversive Bible Tales


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Engaging retellings of Biblical stories—witty, hilarious and always profound—will invite you to grapple with questions and issues that are often hidden in the original text.

Matt Biers-Ariel

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5½ x 8½, 192 pp | 978-1-59473-176-1
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Take a new journey through the Bible you thought you knew.

They may not be quite as you remember them, but each story in this ingenious collection—some whimsical, some serious—finds its roots in a close reading of the Bible and interpretations of it that originated centuries ago.

Take a look through God’s telescope and see how it all really happened: What was it like to be in Joseph’s sandals as his brothers sold him into Egyptian slavery? How did Esther use her pretty face as a tool to save the Hebrew people? And what in the name of … well, you know who … happened to the unicorns included on the ark’s original passenger manifest?

Your guide will be a sassy angel named Gabriella. The territory you cover will be familiar. But the questions and insights that these clever, profound stories will prompt you to grapple with—may surprise you.

Biblical characters explored include:

Adam • Eve • Cain • Abel • Noah • Sarah • Abraham • Isaac Jacob • Esau • Joseph • Moses • Jonah • Mordechai • Haman • Esther Ahasuerus • Naomi •  Ruth •Samson • Delilah • David

"Matt Biers-Ariel’s The Triumph of Eve and Other Subversive Bible Tales resonates with theological mischief, moral depth, and literary joie de vivre. Each retelling opens a new dimension of religious teaching. In the ancient Jewish tradition of midrash, (it) reminds us that the Bible opens her arms to us all again and again and again."

Lawrence Kushner, author of Filling Words with Light: Hasidic and Mystical Reflections on Jewish Prayer and Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary

"These fresh and delightful stories encourage us to reconsider our assumptions about the nature of God and, in so doing, to look again at ourselves. Biers-Ariel’s language is both quirky and brimming with imagery. A fun read!"

Mary Cronk Farrell, coauthor of Daughters of the Desert: Stories of Remarkable Women from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Traditions

"Matt Biers-Ariel invites us to explore life’s big questions through his innovative and entertaining retelling of biblical stories. He will make you laugh and make you think!"

Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, author of Adam & Eve’s First Sunset: God’s New Day

“Matt Biers-Ariel is of a new generation of storytellers. Desiring to make the personalities and lessons of the Bible more accessible, Biers-Ariel’s renderings of the conversations between God and God’s partners are humorous, irreverent, unpredictable, maddening, and enlightening—all at once. He bends our minds this way and that into places the Bible never took us before. Some will be offended. Others will see new beauty and understanding. None will be unaffected. Welcome to the world of a great new storyteller, and biblical stories the likes of which you have never encountered.”

Larry S. Moses, president, the Wexner Foundation

 

Do all of the stories in the book come from the Bible?

All of the stories begin with a close reading of the biblical story in the original Hebrew because the Hebrew language has nuances that many translations miss. For example, most English translations tell us that Eve was created from Adam’s rib. The Hebrew word for “rib” is actually the same word for “side.” In fact, there is a rabbinic tradition that claims the first human was both male and female. Instead of taking a rib out of Adam and making Eve, God divided the first human into Adam and Eve. This translation gives Eve a higher status than the more common version, but both are supported by the original text.

So your stories are simply just close readings of the original Hebrew?

A midrash is a story about a biblical story. It seeks to expound on a truth from the story, clear up any inconsistency, or fill in any gaps that the biblical story might have missed since the Bible’s descriptions are sparse. For example, Abraham, the first Jew, is seventy-five-years-old when he is introduced in the Bible. Midrash writers want to know what his childhood was like. I may use some of the midrashim (plural of midrash) whole-cloth, or use them for background material. After I read the original, I read the midrashim associated with the story. The argument Cain and Abel have in “Cain’s Co-Defendant” is from a 1,500-year-old midrash. By the way, the stories about Abraham’s youth are so fantastic, I could never use them. There is one story where he discovers monotheism as a ten-day-old baby!

You claim to respect the Bible and the tradition of midrash, yet you make Eve the heroine which completely changes the story.

Guilty as charged with extenuating circumstances. My goal is to either recover or compliment the original intent of the biblical text. I think 95 percent of the book is true to this goal. However, there are rare times when I go against the biblical text if the story is abhorrent to my understanding of human nature and the world. To blame Eve for bringing moral knowledge to the world is akin to blaming Prometheus for bringing humans fire. I think Eve does the right thing. In my mind, there is no braver man or woman than Eve.

What about David and your implication of a homosexual relationship with Jonathan?

In this case I am in good company with many biblical scholars. Of course there are many who disagree. No one knows for certain if David was homosexual or bisexual because the Bible does not tell us. But the Bible does give us fascinating circumstantial evidence. For example, many biblical characters love David. But David claims to love no one except for Jonathan. In fact, he says he loves Jonathan more than the love for a woman. Of course this could simply be brotherly love, but it doesn’t sound like it to me.

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  • Which stories give you a different perspective on the Bible? Has this different perspective enriched your understanding of the biblical text or helped you gain new insight? How so?
  • Explore any common threads that can be found throughout the stories.
  • In “The Triumph of Eve,” Eve is portrayed as the heroine rather than villain. How has this change added or detracted from your understanding of the original biblical account?
  • The character of God is portrayed with both a human personality and human foibles. By Godˇs own account, God is not omnipotent but “a little rough around the edges.” What do you think of the character God? If you were to create such a character, what would be Godˇs chief character traits?
  • About half of the stories have a comic element to them. In what ways does this humor help or hinder the attempt to tackle the substantial issues inherent in the Bible stories? How has the use of humor altered your understanding or interpretation of a particular story or stories?
  • “Reasonable Faith” posits that a balance of reason and faith is better than either pure faith or pure reason. What do you think?
  • Which stories from this book would you render differently? Are there any biblical tales not included in this book that you would like to write a midrash about? If yes, then write it! Share your story with your group and ask them their thoughts on it.

 

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