Photo by Nippon Television Network Corp./Great Women of the Bible

A reptilian temptress snakes her two tails (one extends from each thigh) around the tree of knowledge in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco of the Fall (left) and Expulsion of Adam and Eve (right). The anthropomorphic serpent may represent Lilith, identified in midrash as Adam’s first wife, as a means of accounting for the disparity between Genesis 1:27, in which God creates man and woman (some argue Adam and Lilith) simultaneously, and Genesis 2:21–22, in which God fashions Eve from the rib or side of Adam, who was created earlier. The long-haired Lilith, according to the tradition, considers Adam her equal because they were created together from the same material, dust. When Adam claims superiority, Lilith flees. In Renaissance paintings, Lilith returns to take revenge on Eve by offering her fruit from the tree of knowledge.

In the accompanying review, Jo Milgrom deems Dorothée Sölle’s Great Women of the Bible a basic reference for studying the Bible, midrash, art and feminism—as much for what it lacks as for what it includes.