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Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

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Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

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  • June 1, 2013
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Adam Eve and the Serpent Review

In Adam, Eve and the Serpent, Professor Elaine Pagels looks at traditional roles of gender and Sexual relationships as influenced by the Genesis creation story of Adam and Eve during the first four centuries. In Adam, Eve, and the Serpent the issues on religion within the book all boils down to a goal of eventual subscription to Christianity. Predictably, the matter of original sin is at the top of the list, being the turning point of the gist in the first book of the Bible. About 500 years AD, almost every interpretation imaginable was offered by theologists, some of which were very reasonable on the matter of Adam and Eve. But it was Augustine who came up with the idea of original sin and the fact that neither death nor sex are natural, but are punishments for Adam’s sin. Pagels contrasts how early Christians differentiated themselves from pagans and Gnostic Christians by following strict sexual practices. They prided themselves on sexual restraint and looked down on polygamy and divorce, which Jewish tradition allowed, particularly if the marriage hindered God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. Pagels explain how major figures of the early church interpreted the Genesis story of Adam and Eve- from the Apostle Paul to Augustine of Hippo. Early on, when Christians were persecuted within the Roman Empire, they were buoyed by Jesus's promise of redemption and freedom from man's fallen condition. But as early as the third century A.D., orthodox Christians shunned the Gnostics for their loose, allegorical interpretation of the creation. Increasingly Christians embraced the Apostle Paul’s teachings, that sexuality was the source of man's sinful state. Finally, during the century after Emperor Constantine’s conversion around 300 A.D., brought the understanding of Adam and Eve to a full circle: "Adam's sin not only caused our mortality, but cost our moral freedom", Pagels write. Augustine attributed man's often miserable fate to...