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  • An Alternative Eve in Johann Hübner's Children's Bible
  • Ruth B. Bottigheimer (bio)

The first three chapters of the canonical Scriptures provide two narratives of Creation and the Fall from Grace, the second of which has served as the basis for printed rewritings and reworkings for children for over five hundred years.1 In a great many of these children's Bibles, Eve functions as a Judaeo-Christian Pandora, a figure whose curiosity loosed evil and introduced death into the world. This view continued a misogynistic medieval tradition, examples of which can be found in all European literatures, and which reappeared in nineteenth-century adult literature in the form of a pervasive image of the deadly femme fatale (for children, the witch).

The canonical Scriptures, however, admit multiple interpretations of the events of Genesis 3.2 Consequently, different generations, different national traditions, and different social, educational, and economic classes have used this text to express the values that inhere in their own milieus to teach children about the relationships between God and humanity, women and men, good and evil, life and death, knowledge and innocence. One particularly influential children's Bible was that of Johann Hübner (1668-1731). First published in 17143 and intended for children's use in school and at home, it remained in print for over two hundred years, was revised more than twenty times, and was translated into at least fifteen European languages. Composed by a Lutheran, it was used by Protestants all over Europe, and in Austria under Joseph II, possibly by Catholics. Largely forgotten until recently, it defines the term longseller.4 This little book's title page provides its own introduction.

Twice fifty-twochosenBibleHistoriesfrom theOld and the NewTestamentsdrawn up for the greatest benefit to the youthfulbyJohann Hübnerrector of the Johann-School in Hamburg

From the frontispiece, Johann Hübner himself, wearing a massive periwig, gazes out at the little reader. He is, it says underneath, "Johann Hübner, olim Gymnasä Martisburg. Scholae Hamburg Rector," that is, formerly of the Merseburg gymnasium and now the rector of a Hamburg school.

The fourth little "history" from Hübner's Bible stories is entitled, "About the Fall from Grace of the first parents," and it consists of just 26 numbered sentences.

  1. 1. In Paradise stood the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

  2. 2. On it grew fruit, which were delightful to behold.

  3. 3. But Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat from it,

  4. 4. for God had expressly forbidden it and had said:

  5. 5. On whatever day you (thou, du) eat of it, you will die.

  6. 6. But our first parents closed their eyes to God's commandment and ate from the forbidden tree on the sly (naschten).

  7. 7. The devil enticed them to this sin;

  8. 8. he had hidden himself inside a serpent.

  9. 9. This serpent spoke to the woman:

  10. 10. You (lhr=pl.) won't die at all, but when you eat from it, then you'll be like God.

  11. 11. The woman thought it must necessarily be good to eat from the tree, because it made one wise.

  12. 12. Therefore she did not eat alone from the fruit of the tree, but she also gave him some to eat.

  13. 13. Towards evening the Creator came into the garden and called, Adam, where are you?

  14. 14. But Adam and Eve had hidden themselves among the trees in the garden

  15. 15. and they made themselves coverings of fig leaves,

  16. 16. for they were now ashamed, that they were naked.

  17. 17. Since they were now supposed to speak and answer for why they had transgressed God's command, each pushed the guilt onto the other. Namely, Adam said:

  18. 18. the woman enticed me;

  19. 19. And Eve spoke on the other hand: the serpent deceived me.

  20. 20. But the Creator was not satisfied with that, and he drove them both out of Paradise.

  21. 21. Yes, more than that, each also received an individual punishment.

  22. 22. To Eve God spoke: you shall bear children with pains and your will shall be subject to your husband.

  23. 23. To Adam God spoke...


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