Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. Elaine Pagels. Reviewed by Frank Thomas Smith. In The Gnostic Gospels, reviewed in Number 2 of Southern Cross Review. It’s clear from reading this early work by Elaine Pagels why she has become In Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, Pagels traces the interpretation of Genesis In this provocative masterpiece of historical scholarship Elaine Pagels re-creates the controversies that racked Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, Part 36, Page

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This virtuoso study may disquiet some readers and refresh others; the debate it opens is not likely to leave and reader unmoved. Her book is continuously rewarding and illuminating. Pagels has taken a complex and seemingly arcane subject and made it fascinating and accessible. Any scholarly author who has ever tried to do that will recognize the brilliance of her achievement. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

Deepens and refreshes our view of early Christianity while casting a disturbing light on the evolution of the attitudes passed down to us. How did the early Christians come to believe that sex was inherently sinful? When did the Fall of Adam become synonymous with the fall of humanity?

In this provocative masterpiece of historical scholarship Elaine Pagels re-creates the controversies that racked the early church as it confronted the riddles of sexuality, freedom, and sin as embodied in the story of Genesis. And she shows how what was once heresy came to shape our own attitudes toward the body and the soul. Read more Read less.

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Adam, Eve, and the Serpent – Elaine H. Pagels – Google Books

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ADAM, EVE, AND THE SERPENT by Elaine Pagels | Kirkus Reviews

The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. From The New Yorker This elsine study may disquiet some readers and refresh others; the debate it opens is not likely to leave and reader unmoved.

Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition September 19, Language: Start reading Adam, Eve, and the Serpent on your Kindle in under a minute. Don’t have a Kindle? Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features: Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention original sin adam and eve elaine axam eve and the serpent early christian roman empire human nature garden of eden church fathers catholic church early church jewish culture human beings forbidden fruit john chrysostom good and evil human freedom sinful nature doctrine of original men are created.

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There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. This book nails the topic I think is most important to the way I and many others are living life whether you know it or not: Is human nature mostly good or mostly bad? It is not very readable unless you are mildly familiar with the names of church fathers and some academic biblical studies. Its been a challenge typing this review and grasping it all in my head!

In this book Elaine Pagels serpeny a history of the interpretation of Genesis for the first years of Christianity. About half the book deals with Augustine’s interpretations and the other half is the people he argued against.

The first chapter is kind of foundational talking about Jesus and Paul and first century Judaism. I would absolutely agree we see the impact of it every day in western culture. According to Pagels, this was also the opposite of the first years of christian interpretation of Genesis !! In those opening chapters the first christians saw God blessing humanity with the freedom to self-govern.


God blessed humanity with a will that can choose moral freedom, thats what being made in the image of God was about. The emphasis was not on any kind of ‘original sin’ until Augustine. According to Pagels “the whole point of the story of Adam, most Christians assumed, was to warn everyone who heard it not to misuse that divinely given capacity for free choice. There’s some pretty big hitters there.

Serpeny also some who were considered heretics. Lengthy serprnt and summaries are provided of each of them.

The church fathers who identified with Augustine were Jerome, Ambrose and Pope Siricius of Rome who was the one who decided who was a heretic and who wasn’t.

It was better for the pope and for the roman empire if people were considered bad, that way they could justify their desire for more control over people.

Elaine Pagels’s book, “Adam and Eve and the Serpent” probably is one of the best books to explain how western civilization became totally incapable of understanding nature for at least 1, years and how it was only with the rise of the humanists in the Renaissance that western man began the long journey back to the understanding of rational though, nature, freedom and sexuality that was commonplace in the classical period. Every great story must have a villain and while some might assume in a work of this nature, dealing with views of freedom and sexuality in the early Christian church, that this would have to be the serpent in the title.

However the real villain is zerpent other than Saint Augustine, the serpebt landmark author of the Confessions and City of God, by his insistence on the doctrine of original sin and his ability to have all of his opponents branded as heretics set in motion a series of doctrinal innovations that have ensured that sexuality and human freedom are viewed with some suspicion if not hostility in the western tradition.

Pagels is an acknowledged expert on the early Christian church and her strength in this book and others is to demonstrate the range and adma of opinions that existed during the period up to the Fifth Century. It is clear in the case of the subject at hand that the “good guys” did not win.

Augustine’s opponents, the Pelagians were probably pageos rational and provide a doctrine adak is more consistent not only with Bibilical scholarship, but also more intellectually honest. The same is true of Augustine’s last opponent, Julian of Eclanum. Augustine and indeed Saint Jerome who was not above tampering with the text of the Bible in order to further his belief system were, as Pagels demonstrates, able to seize the high road in their attempts to create a more highly codified Catholic church due in in large part to the stance that they took on human freedom with differed markedly with the Christian church that existed prior to the conversion of Constantine.

As an outlawed organization with different perspectives on all aspects of doctrine, the church was a recruiting ground for martyrs who went out of their way to achieve martyrdom other members did not and successfully hid their beliefs, at least officially.

This course of setting oneself in opposition to civic authorities, would be in marked contrast to the beliefs that were advocated by Augustine which proved so very useful in promoting and insisting on an orthodoxy that would calcify and impede the western imagination for the next 1, years. Sexuality was a problematic aspect of the Christian tradition, with many, no less than Christ and St Paul taking a dismissive attitude towards it to it.

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This was because a sexual life was held to distract from matters spiritual. However, marriage and its endorsement by both the founder of Christian and his Apostle did not resolve questions for people longing for a vision of humanity that was devoid of all human experience. Augustine went even further and insisted that sexuality was a reflection of original sin and that passion or as Augustine would have put it, “the sin of lust” was a sign of how the sin of Adam and Eve continued to be conveyed to each succeeding generation.

This was done at conception and that all those people who were conceived through the normal process were somehow infected. The ideas of Augustine continue to plague modern society and a continuation of these ideas are likely to provide further problems. As was noted by Julian of Eclanum, that man is very much a part of nature and that things that occur in nature are probably the natural order of things.

The picture of man as a person eager to obey church authorities, no matter what nonsense they were spouting, who was also eager to be more free by refraining from sexual activity strikes the modern reader as somewhat unnatural and more reflective of the kinks in Augustine’s world view. Strictly speaking, the adjectives “perversion” and “unnatural” could be most readily applied to the beliefs advocated successfully by the author of “City of God” than the most debased libertine.

It is interesting to see the work and the mendacity that went into the establishment of many of these doctrinal questions associated with human freedom and sexuality. Pagels shows just how painful these arguments are framed.

Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity

Augustine even takes the step of arguing that freedom is slavery anticipating the dystopian vision of George Orwell in The relevancy of these positions arrived at before the scientific revolution is therefore questionable.

Probably the most backward student in an elementary health class has a better understanding of the mechanics of human sexuality than did the most learned person cited by Pagels. That people would and still do insist on these positions demonstrates both a fear of the true nature of man and an insistence of preserving an intellectually bankrupt approach to central facets of the human condition. This book should be required reading since it is part of the ege body of work that has enabled the West to overcome the treacheries of its Dark Age past and to move it closer to a humanist vision for society.

A humanist is, as a wit once observed, anyone who believes that there is more to life than chastity, dying of plague and being repressed by unscrupulous church authorities.

Augustine would surely be horrified by the wve. See all 55 reviews. Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more about Amazon Giveaway. Sex and Politics in Early Christianity.

Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

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