As part of the fascinating 2,000-year-old narrative, the book also asks and answers one of the most basic human questions: "Why is my life like this?" And it explores the nature of suffering and fallenness.
And more generally, the Life of Adam and Eve suggests that we, like the first humans, live our lives primarily in various kinds of exile.
Additionally, the book features intriguing expositions by Adam, Eve, and even Satan himself.
The various versions are not entirely consistent with each other, making it difficult to pin down exactly what the original text was, when it was written, and in which language. Still, by carefully combining the different versions, we can get a pretty good sense of the text. And we can date it with reasonable confidence approximately to the days of Jesus. It was probably written in Hebrew or Aramaic.
In other words, the "Life of Adam and Eve" is the second half of the Bible's Adam and Eve story, and it dates to the days when the content of the Bible was still in flux.
As it happens, the first part of the Adam and Eve story was included in Genesis, while this second part was relegated to the obscurity of the cutting room floor, which is a shame, because in many ways it's the post-Eden drama that speaks most directly to the human condition.
For example, Adam asks what he did to deserve his agony. His immediate point is that he used to have a perfect life in the Garden of Eden, while now he has to work for a living, deal with difficult family dynamics, endure illness, and generally suffer in the ways that humans do. The book's more general point is that we all suffer in unexpected ways. The book asks why.
And the book offers an answer: Human suffering is the inevitable consequence of being little less than divine, as humans are. While this strikes some modern readers as a non-answer answer to why people suffer (and contrasts with the answer in the Book of Enoch), its power lies in what it rejects: People don't suffer because God wants them to. They don't suffer for anything they did wrong (unlike in the Apocalypse of Abraham). And they don't suffer because their suffering is actually good for them.
A second aspect of the Life of Adam and Eve deals more broadly with the human condition. Adam and Eve find themselves longing for what was — as we all do to some degree. And Adam and Eve — again like all of us — are emotionally torn between looking back and looking forward, between trying to recover what was and building for what will be.
For instance, one of the first things they do after getting kicked out of the garden is realize that they need food. But rather than try to find or cook food, they instead try to get back into the garden where they had food.
At times we all do the same thing, says this ancient text. We cling to old patterns that don't work any more instead of trying to find new, more productive paths.
Bravely optimistic, this ancient masterpiece offers a bold framework for understanding our own lives.