What Adam and Eve Can Teach You About Modern Relationships

Back in 2014, best-selling author and PBS host Bruce Feiler was visiting the Sistine Chapel with his eight-year-old twin daughters when the girls made a shrewd observation about Michelangelo’s famed fresco ceiling. As they stared up at the panel depicting God reaching toward Adam, giving him life, one of his daughters said, “That’s just men. Where am I in this picture?” His other daughter followed up, asking if the woman under God’s arm was Eve—a question Feiler had never previously considered. From these two seemingly off-the-cuff remarks, a larger concern suddenly dawned on Feiler: The story of Adam and Eve has been at the heart of every conversation about men and women—and how they relate to one another and to the world—for more than 3,000 years. But what, Feiler wondered, could they tell us about relationships today?

Enter The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us, Feiler’s latest work, out Tuesday, which addresses that matter exactly. Feiler entered into the project expecting to write a book about Adam and Even; instead, he wrote a book about love. Though the story of Adam and Eve is one that has, for the most part, been synonymous with the introduction of sin, death, and deception into human existence, Feiler argues that the “first couple” should instead be looked at as an example of a healthy relationship built on understanding and resilience. Ahead of The First Love Story’s release, Glamour chatted with Feiler about the book, what advice Adam and Even can provide to modern couples (as well as singles), and why he thinks Eve suffered the “greatest character assassination” the world has ever known.

Glamour: In your research you saw the varied ways that both religious and secular institutions view the relationship between Adam and Eve. What did you find most surprising about the way Adam and Eve have been used, historically, to shape the conversation about relationships?

Bruce Feiler: The most surprising thing is the difference between what’s in the story and what organized religion has done to the story. It begins with equality. It has a back-and-forth, a give-and-take, that’s very contemporary to modern relationships. It’s all about resilience and forgiveness. Yet that’s not what organized religion has said about the story. They’ve used it essentially to dump on Eve. Adam and Eve—and especially Eve—are victims of the greatest character assassination the world has ever known. But what’s actually in the text proves Eve is not secondary. Eve, if anything, is the great initiator in the story. She’s the first independent woman. For me, rediscovering that Eve was the greatest badass women of all time was a revelation.