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Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity (1988)
de Elaine Pagels
No hi ha cap discussió a Converses sobre aquesta obra.
different interpretation of Genesis by early and later Xians
ADÁN, EVA Y LA SERPIENTE
Pocas revoluciones de este siglo han tenido un efecto tan profundo sobre la humanidad como el cambio en las actitudes hacia el sexo, el matrimonio, el divorcio, la homosexualidad, el aborto, o las prácticas anticonceptivas. Y, sin embargo, los comportamientos de hoy hunden sus raíces en una vieja cultura.
Elaine Pagels, profesora de la Universidad de Princeton (autora del célebre libro Los evangelios gnósticos), explora esas raíces para explicarnos cómo se establecieron los patrones de La sexualidad tradicional occidental y cómo la idea del pecado original ayudó al nacimiento de la idea misma del Estado, qué se hacía necesario para regular con sus mecanismos los desordenados impulsos sexuales del hombre. Las actitudes sexuales de la civilización occidental cristiana, machistas y teñidas de culpa, se forjaron durante los cuatro primeros siglos del cristianismo, especialmente a través de san Agustin, el obispo torturado por sus propios demonios sexuales que fijó una ideología del cristianismo sobre el sexo totalmente opuesta a las creencias de los primeros cristianos, para quienes el relato del Génesis sobre Adán y Eva era una afirmación de la libertad humana, de su capacidad de elegir entre el bien y el mal que llega, prácticamente incólume, hasta Juan Pablo II.
Contraportada de esta Edición:
This virtuoso study may disquiet some readers and refresh others the debate it opens is not likely to leave any reader unmoved
-The New Yorker
How did the early Christians come to believe that sex was inherently sinful? When did the Fall of Adam Ibecome synonymous with the fall of all humanity?
What turned Christianity from a dissident sect that championed the integrity of the individual and the idea of free will into the bulwark of a new imperial order-with the central belief that human beings cannot choose not to sin? 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.
"Ms. Pagels has taken a complex and seemingly arcane subject and made it fascinating and accessibl....Any scholarly author who has ever tried to do that will recognize the brilliance of her achievement."
-Wall Street Journal
ADÁN, EVA Y LA SERPIENTE
Pocas revoluciones de este
siglo han tenido un efecto tan profundo sobre la
bumanidad como el cambio en las actitudes hacia el
sexo, el matrimonio, el divorcio, la homosexualidad,
elaborto, o lasprácticas anticonceptivas. Y, sin
embargo, los comportamientos de hoy hunden sus
raices en una viejá cultura. Elaine Pagels, profesora
de la Universidad de Princeton (autora del célebre
libro Los eyangelios gnósticos), explora esas raices
ara explicarnos cómose establecieron los patrones de
La sexualidad tradicional occidentaly cómo la idea del
pecado origiñalayudó al nacimiento de la idea misma
del Estado, qué se hacía necesario para regular con sus
mecánismos los desordenados impusos sexuales del
hombre. Las actitudessexuales de la civilización
occidental cristiana, machistas y teñidas de culpa, se
forjaron durante los cuatro primeros siglos del
cristianismo, especialmente a través de san Agustin, el
obispo torturado por sus propios demonios sexuales
que fijó una ideología del cristidnismo sobre el sexo
totalmente opuesta a las creencias de los primeros
cristianos, para quienes el relato del Génesis sobre
Adán y Eva erauna afirmación de la libertad
humana, de su capacidad de elegir
entre el bien yelmal-que llega,
prácticamente incólume, hastaJuan
In The Simpsons, Ned Flanders, the annoying goody-goody neighbor, notes at one point that he’s tried to be a good Christian by following the Bible – even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! Similarly, the great poet William Blake comments – “Both read the Bible day and night; but you read black where I read white!” Pagels illustrates some of this in her book Adam, Eve and the Serpent – wildly different interpretations of passages from Genesis, the fight over the meaning of Jesus’ and Paul’s sayings, the early message of Christianity as a religion of moral freedom vs Augustine’s view of the world as unavoidably sinful. Although ostensibly the subject is the story of Adam and Even and how it was interpreted, the title doesn’t seem entirely correct as there’s a lot about the history of the early Christians who were persecuted under the Romans. However, the overall point is to examine the various interpretations of the Genesis story during the first centuries of Christianity and how Augustine’s reading came to be the dominant interpretation even today. Sometimes the structure was a little rambling. Although Pagels is great at making close interpretation of Biblical passages and writings of various Christians and pagans very interesting, her discussion of straight history and feuds of different Christian sects was somewhat dry. I’m also unfamiliar with modern views of Augustine so didn’t have too much to compare this to. Still, even her tangents are interesting and I’d be happy to read Pagels rambling on about the whole Bible.
The first chapter looks at Jesus’ radical message and how later gospels and interpreters tried to soften it. Talk of marriage as indissoluble was contradictory to the customs of the Romans and the Jews, where promiscuity (for men), divorce and multiple wives were common. His message to his followers to leave their families was also an uncomfortable one. Paul’s sayings, which also were included in the New Testament, promoted an ascetic message of celibacy and renunciation. Pagels identifies books that today are no longer believed to have been written by Paul and finds a less harsh, pro-family message in them. The interpretations of early Christians pitted the message of asceticism against one of family, marriage and children, with both sides pointing to their analyses of Genesis. Pagels does a good job conveying how weird Jesus’ sayings would have been and describing the profusion of views and arguments. This section certainly was interesting and set up the rest of the book but mentions of Genesis were fleeting.
Next, she analyzes how Christians portrayed their religion when they were a persecuted minority – as a religion of freedom, equality and justice. Her choice of quotes is again enlightening but sometimes I wondered if the people that were described were real or apocryphal. In many cases, it was probably irrelevant – the message of brave Christian martyrs calmly sticking to their beliefs was the important one. Pagels clearly finds Marcus Aurelius a fascinating and admirable character; as in The Origin of Satan, she spends several paragraphs ruminating on his life. It’s not a tangent as his sense of duty is contrasted to the Christians’ but it does seem to be a running theme, as is the examination of the gnostic interpretations of the Genesis story. Some of them are out-and-out bizarre, many take an allegorical or psychological view of the story and some are almost close to Adam & Eve fanfiction. The split between the Gnostics and more orthodox Christians was another fight in the battle over who controlled the interpretation of Christianity.
A chapter on the emphasis on virginity and chastity also seems to be a bit off topic, but relates to how Christians differentiated themselves from the Romans and Jews and also used it as a measure of moral superiority.
The last two chapters examine how Augustine came to define the Genesis story for years to come. Earlier, Pagels emphasizes how Christians defined their religion of one of freedom and justice – citing the Adam story as one of the moral freedom that every person had. As Christianity became a widespread religion, infighting between Christians – rather than Christians defining themselves against other societies – became a source of conflict. John Chrysostom’s interpretations continue the idea of Christianity as a source of freedom and the Genesis story as one of a moral choice but that contrasted with the reality of the religion as the large, corrupt state religion. He believed the earlier Christian view of human nature as one that could choose good and that baptism washed away previous sins. Augustine’s interpretation is compared to that of Chrysostom and is largely negative about human nature in general. The Adam and Eve story to him was one of original sin that forever corrupted mankind. While earlier Christians had deplored the compulsion and violence used by the Romans, Augustine later came to approve of those methods. Pagels’ section on his conflict with Julian has quotes from both that rather make Augustine look bad. Pagels somehow makes theological debates very interesting but oddly the pages of straight history were dry and uninvolving. There were tangents but I didn’t mind them. Another good Pagels.
Augustine, arguably Christianity’s greatest teacher, often stressed the sinful nature of sexual desire. Adam’s sin corrupted the whole of nature itself, and infants are infected from the moment of conception with the disease of original sin. When did this idea come about that sex is inherently sinful? When did the fall become the Fall?
In Genesis 1, God gifted the power of earthly rule to Adam. Yet, in the late fourth and fifth centuries, this message began to change. Adam’s prideful desire for self-government led to the fall—I mean, the Fall—of mankind, and ever since, humanity has been sick, helpless, irreparably damaged. Human beings are incapable of self rule, not in any genuinely good way.
Says Augustine, “even the nature of the semen from which we were to be propagated” is “shackled by the bond of death.” Every being conceived through semen is born contaminated with sin. Christ alone is born without this sin, this libido. Because of Adam’s disobedience, “the sexual desire of our disobedient members arose in those first human beings.” These members are rightly called pudenda [parts of shame] because they “excite themselves just as they like, in opposition to the mind which is their master, as if they were their own masters.”
Okay, perhaps I have overemphasized Augustine and his hangup about sex. There’s more to the book, and Pagels is a good writer who manages to turn even this dubious topic into a fascinating read.
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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? What turned Christianity from a dissident sect that championed the integrity of the individual and the idea of free will into the bulwark of a new imperial order--with the central belief that human beings cannot not choose to sin? 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.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)241.6609015Religions Christian Devotional Literature and Practical Theology Christian Ethics Christian ethics not otherwise covered Christian sexual ethics
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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