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How Adam and Eve Became Victims of the Greatest Character Assassination Ever

Three thousand years before The Happiness Movement told us relationships matter, the Bible had already done it with Adam and Eve.

Bruce Feiler, author of the new book The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us, joined Glenn in studio on Thursday, revealing how a visit to the Sistine Chapel with this daughters inspired him.

"They're complaining. My feet hurt. This boring. I'm like, get into the Sistine Chapel, girls. I'm going to blow your mind. They look up, and one of my girls looks at Adam and God --- the fingers, right? Across the sky --- and says, 'That's only men. Where am I in that picture?' And her identical sister looks up and sees . . . under God's arm is a woman," Feiler recalled.

The woman, of course, was Eve.

"That's when I realized . . . this story has been at the heart of every conversation about men, women and sexuality for 3,000 years. And as crazy as it sounds, maybe it has something to teach us," Feiler said.

Enjoy the complimentary clip or read the transcript for details.

GLENN: Hello, America. Welcome. And welcome to Bruce Feiler. How are you, Bruce?

BRUCE: It's great to with you, Glenn. Just happy to be here. And nice to see you looking so great. This wonderful room. So thank you for having me.

GLENN: Thank you.

We were -- the first time we met, you were riddled with cancer. Didn't know if you were going to make it. And you wrote one of the most honest books. It just -- just grabbed me by the heart and the throat. I don't remember the name of it.

BRUCE: The Council of Dads.

GLENN: Council of Dads. And you were putting together a council in case you died. Here are the -- I pick this guy because of these values. I pick this guy because of these values.

BRUCE: Yeah.

GLENN: It was a fascinating study.

First of all, how are you doing?

BRUCE: I'm well. Cancer-free. And -- you know, they say cured. I'm not sure I like that language. But healthy. Walking around.

GLENN: Good. And then you wrote America's Prophet. Which was another book that just riveted me because it really told our American story and put it into real context. Important context. Now you're a big star and you're on PBS. And you write all kinds of, you know, number one best-sellers. And this one is about Adam and Eve.

And I'm fascinated, especially since you're here in week, because I thought a lot about Adam and Eve. And my relationship with my wife. Just last week, I was pondering Adam and Eve for some reason and how much that story has to teach us. And then, you know, I start reading your book, and, you know, you've taken a little pondering. And taken it the full hundred yards.

Let's start with the Sistine Chapel.

BRUCE: So this journey in some ways begins in the Sistine Chapel. My process really begins at my kitchen table. I have a working wife. I have children. As you know, my kids are almost exactly the age of your children.

And we talk a lot about the changing ways that men and women are relating to each other. Right? This moment of sort of tectonic change. And most -- and I write a lot about this in my last two books, New York Times columns. And mostly it's about technology or the latest app. We're going to do it differently. I care a lot about the ancient world and the Bible. Spent a lot of time in the Middle East. And I can't help, but wondering, is there nothing from the past that's not worth preserving?

GLENN: Uh-huh.

BRUCE: We go to the Sistine Chapel, day one. It's a business trip for my wife. And I'm like, okay. I'm going to take my sleep-deprived daughters to the Vatican. It doesn't go well. They're complaining. My feet hurt. This boring.

I'm like, get into the Sistine Chapel, girls. I'm going to blow your mind. They look up, and one of my girls looks at Adam and God, the fingers, right? Across the sky. And says, "That's only men. Where am I in that picture?" And her identical sister looks up and sees -- by the way, my mother is an art teacher. I never noticed this. Under God's arm is a woman.

She says, "Is that Eve?" And that's when I realized -- I had one of those moments that you know -- you've gone on these journeys writing these things out of nowhere. This story has been at the heart of every conversation about men, women, and sexuality for 3,000 years. And as crazy as it sounds, maybe it has something to teach us.

And you mention Walking the Bible earlier in the lead-up to this in the last hour. So I'm an experientialist. I like to go to places. I climb Mount Ararat and cross the Red Sea. But where am I going to go. Right? I mean, you can go to the Garden of Eden in Iraq.

But what happens is I start tugging on strings, Glenn. And this whole opportunity -- every generation we've looked at this story, right? So Michelangelo and John Milton and Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain and Beyonce and Bob Dylan and Pope Francis -- so I get to go on like this incredible scavenger hunt, all over the world, trying to look at how people have explored this story and try to figure out what lessons it can hold --

GLENN: So let's -- I'm going to have you on for an hour tonight on television. And I invite you to watch. It will be a fascinating -- trust me, Bruce is a fascinating guy. And I want to talk about your journeys and the different things that you found as you went on these journeys and the way that everybody looks at it.

But help me out with, why does it matter? What can it teach us today? Because right now, I think we are living the Kipling poem. And if you don't know it, look it up. The gods of the copybook headings. We are living those times right now, where everything that is known to be true is just thrown out.

BRUCE: Right. Right.

GLENN: And we're just making it up and saying, "This is true." We have no idea if that's true.

So we throw things out like Adam and Eve.

BRUCE: Yeah. So I think -- look, there's -- I was interviewed in TIME magazine this week on the last page. Eight questions with Bruce Feiler, and one of the questions they asked me was coding class or Bible study? Okay? And what I said was, you know, for my daughters, they like math. And they believe like all kids, that every bit of knowledge is behind that screen. If they look long enough into that computer, they're going to know everything. I was like, you know what, it's rare, and it's kind of counterculture and it's almost outrageous today to say, you can learn something from the past.

So I said Bible study. You know, to me, in some ways, this book is about -- the first love story -- is about, let's remember that there's wisdom in the past.

You mentioned this in the lead-up to this conversation, Glenn. Positive psychology. The happiness movement. What has it said to us? Relationships matter, okay?

You and I have been connected. We don't see each other all the time. We are connected. We have that connection. Happiness is other people.

The big threat is loneliness. Young people, middle-aged people, the opioid crisis, suicide crisis -- what's the first thing God says about human beings in the Bible? Upon looking at Adam, it's not right for humans to be alone.

The Bible gets there 3,000 years before social science. And if you're one of those people who thinks, science, who needs the Bible? Here's a beautiful example where that's not true.

And, by the way, if you're the kind of person that says the Bible has everything, not science. Also, not true. You put the two in dialogue with each other.

So I actually think that the story itself is a beautiful story about resilience, forgiveness, togetherness. They make missteps. They have problems. You can call it sin, if you want to. But they stay together, right? They start together. They leave Eden. They stay together. They have two children. One of them murders the other. They reconcile. They come back together. Right? We know. What's the key to a relationship?

You've been married a long time, as I have. Going on 15 years, in my case. Being able to mend a rupture, right? Heal a broken heart. Get over our mistakes. Admit mistakes. That's key.

Boy, do Adam and Eve do that, and, boy, their mistakes were a lot bigger than ours are. Okay?

Also, there's a kind of balance between independence and interdependence. Like, you need to be together, but you also need to be yourself. Right? I think of this Kahlil Gibran quote that you may know, right? Love is the antidote to loneliness, as long as there's aloneness within it. Right? We have to be ourselves, but be connected. And then to me, the number one thing that I've learned -- and as I've been out there in the country and talking about this book and people responding to it, is that love is a story we tell with another person.

It's co-creation through narration. The storyteller in you can really relate to this. You and I are in a relationship. We have to tell a story together. We hit a bump in the road or we have a downturn, we have to write a new chapter in our story together. And that's what I think is powerful about the Adam and Eve story. Is that, think of all the other figures in the Bible, by the way -- Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus, Paul, what do they have in common? They're all singles.

Adam and Eve, they're a couple, right? Not Adam. Not Eve. Adam and Eve. They're reminding us that that connection is at the start of the human line. It's very powerful. And this especially matters to women and to the men who along with women are rewriting the story. Because this story was weaponized against women for centuries.

GLENN: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. Because I think that's an important thing to get to, is at least in my faith, we don't look at Eve as, you know, the evil one.

BRUCE: Right.

GLENN: Or the weak one. So -- but a lot of people do. And they're still carrying around original sin.

I mean, it had to be.

BRUCE: Right.

GLENN: How did you -- what did you find on the weaponization of Eve?

BRUCE: Yeah, so when you go back to the original story that created in Genesis 1, both in God's image. What's true for the man is true for the woman. And, you know, there's this kind of seesawing of power, but what happened was organized religion got a hold of the story. They used it. They essentially weaponized it. I think that Adam and Eve were victims of the greatest character assassination the world has ever known. And then -- but what's happened is. I mean, we now live in a world where women are kind of dominating religion. They're propping it up. They care more. They're involved more. They take the responsibility for passing on values, and they weren't going to do it if this story was going to put them down.

I mean, I don't know if you know this story. As you know, it's in the back of my book. Maybe you knew it before. I didn't.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, at the birth of women's movement in the 1840s, she's out there with Susan B. Anthony, fighting for property rights and voting rights for women. And they kept hitting a stumble. Why? Because someone would say, the Bible says, you know, Eve was created second. Or the Bible says, you can't vote because Eve was created from Adam's rib.

And she realizes her biggest problem is not politicians -- it's preachers. So if women are going to have equality in this country, she's got to rewrite the Bible. And she does. In 1895, she writes a book called The Woman's Bible. It goes back to the Adam and Eve story, back to Genesis 1. And says, look, our Creator has us formed at the same time. Don't tell me women are not equal. The book is a landmark. It's a best-seller. It's a disaster.

Okay? The organization that she started with Susan B. Anthony gets together and they kick her out, okay?

So the reason that we all know Susan B. Anthony and she's on our coinage is because Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the most famous woman in America at the time, takes on the most famous couple in the world and gets flattened. Absolutely destroyed. It was not for a century until this story was told again because that's how powerful this -- I think of it as the negative branding of Adam and Eve. You have 3,000 years of negative branding.

GLENN: Yeah, yeah.

BRUCE: But the reason this matters is because today, can anybody deny that men and women stand equally before God?

GLENN: No.

BRUCE: No. It was a 30-century battle to reclaim this story. And why does it matter? Because that's what we want to tell our daughters, that you can stand before God, that you deserve to have a loving relationship, that you can overcome it. We owe this to Adam --

STU: It does make me a little nervous about rewriting the Bible though. Doesn't it sound like that --

GLENN: No.

BRUCE: I'm not saying rewriting the Bible. I'm saying reread the story. Go back to the Bible. Go behind.

STU: Right.

BRUCE: Go behind the layers of tradition. This is what -- I mean, the great -- look --

GLENN: Here. Explain this. Because this will really help. By the way, we're talking about the new book The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us. Bruce Feiler is the author.

Explain this. Because is -- just little things like this that you point out in your book, I think are so important. How was Eve made? From a rib, right?

BRUCE: Not correct.

GLENN: No. Not correct. Go ahead.

BRUCE: It's a tsela. Okay? So the Bible, it says, she's created from the tsela. By the way, the ultimate Hollywood meet cute. Okay? So what you have is Adam -- you have the animals are there and Adam. So Adam -- God creates the animals before. And you have this like swipe left, swipe left, swipe left. He doesn't want a hippopotamus. And he looks up. And God says, you know what, it's not right for you to be alone. I'm going to create one of you. So he falls asleep. And he wakes up, and there's a girl, by the way, and he's happy. This is the one. Right? Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, he's like ready to go.

(chuckling)

And, by the way, very positive. The two of them are naked and know no shame. Sex positive. They're having a good time. It's almost like the honeymoon moment.

But what is she created from? It's not the rib. It's the tsela in Hebrew. Thirty-eight times that word is used in the Hebrew Bible. It means side or side rib. So they stand side by side.

Why do they pick the rib? Because they said a rib is small and insignificant and given to putrefaction. I'm talking church fathers. I'm talking the rabbis. Because women are small and insignificant and given to putrefaction. I mean, even if you put dirt by a side of Adam, Adam is created by the dirt. Right? Put dirt by the side of the road. It doesn't smell. Put a rib, it starts to stink. That's why women have to wear perfume. I mean, you cannot believe what is there.

STU: Wow.

BRUCE: Even if you know there was patriarchy, you just cannot believe. But when you look at the story, Adam is into her. Even when they're kicked out of Eden, God blesses them. Protects them.

GLENN: Yeah.

BRUCE: Remember, what's the first commandment God says? Be fruitful and multiply.

He needs them to succeed, and they do succeed. It is a success story. Even with the misstep, even with this, we can't let that overshadow that this has got to get the Biblical story.

But to your point, Stu, this is why I want to say -- you know, who has done more to popularize American history than you, Glenn? I'm serious. I know how you responded to America's prophet. We just heard a session on Calvin Coolidge before we came on here. The reason we can have this conversation about religion today in this country is because of the rewriting of religion. Because we are -- our forefathers, our Founding Fathers said there's going to be a expression of church and state. What did that mean?

That means there was not going to be a state-sponsored religion. So all the places where there's state-sponsored religion in the world, except where there are dictators like Iran, but all -- and like in Europe, those religions have all died. Our religion is still here. Why? Because it adapted. Because it was able to meet people where they were and change and say, religion was going to be relevant to their lives.

GLENN: And become enlightened. I mean, so many of these stories were written this way or spun this way for control. And you --

STU: Because you're talking more about religion than -- because I -- there's a separation maybe between religion as it stands, as an organization, people what they've done with these -- with this original truth.

GLENN: Yes.

STU: And the original truth.

BRUCE: Exactly.

GLENN: You study the Torah, which I would love to actually really study like Jewish people do.

Christians are so far behind the eight ball. They have no concept of what the Old Testament really says. You read it outside of its original language, you lose 80 percent of it. You really do. Do you think I'm exaggerating, Bruce?

BRUCE: Well, I think -- look, when you actually go back and read it -- I mean, first of all, where are people today? Religion is very fluid in this country. Half of Americans change faith in the course of their lives, right? Four in ten Americans are in an interfaith marriage.

We live in a time of fluidity, where you kind of make your own faith. It's harder, but ultimately, it can be more fulfilling. You mentioned the Sistine Chapel at the outset of this conversation. What's the center of the Sistine Chapel?

Not God and Adam, okay? That's the fourth panel. The fifth panel, the one in the center, it's not the creation of Adam. It's the creation of Eve. You have Adam lying to the left, God to the right, and Eve occupies the center of the Sistine Chapel. So Michelangelo did more than anybody to elevate Eve and to kind of fight back against this tradition of downplaying Eve.

And when you go back and you look at the story, you see that they're basically over the 30 centuries this story has been told, it was used to downplay women and elevate women. And now men and women, we're all struggling with it, this story is the road map --

GLENN: I cannot wait to have a long conversation with you today. 5 o'clock on TheBlaze TV. Bruce Feiler. The name of the book is The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us.

Really, really worth it. And join us for this conversation because you're always fascinating. And I've got something that I don't know if you know, but you'll be very excited about to -- to learn if you don't. But if you do, we're going to have even a greater conversation.

Bruce Feiler, thanks for being with us. Now, here's our sponsor this half-hour. Delta Defense. The United States Concealed Carry Association is doing something right now. They want to buy ten people the gun of their dreams.

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