Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

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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.
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Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

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Overview

Deepens and refreshes our view of early Christianity while casting a disturbing light on the evolution of the attitudes passed down to us.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The disgust felt by early Christians for the flesh was a radical departure from both pagan and Jewish sexual attitudes. In fact, as Princeton professor Pagels (The Gnostic Gospels) demonstrates, the ascetic movement in Christianity met with great resistance in the first four centuries A.D. Sex became fully tainted, inextricably linked to sin under the teachings of Augustine. This troubled sinner invoked Adam and Eve to justify his idiosyncratic view of humanity as permanently scarred by the Fall. Instead of being dismissed as marginal, Augustine's grim outlook took hold, according to Pagels, because it was politically expedient. Now that Christianity had become the imperial religion, Rome wanted its imperfect subjects to obey a strong Christian state. This highly provocative history links the religious roots of Western sexual attitudes to women's inferior status through the centuries. (June)
Library Journal
Pagels explores the development of the ideas of human nature, moral freedom, and sexuality in the four centuries following Christ. Focusing on the various interpretations of the Genesis creation stories, she concludes that early Christians regarded their message to be one of moral freedom and human worth. In the 5th century, Augustine turned the tide with his view of human depravity and original sin (which he linked with sexuality). She argues that his interpretations, implying human incapacity for true political freedom, appealed to the interests of the emerging Christian state and forged the mainstream of ensuing Christian theology. In her analysis, Pagels does not convincingly deal with other foundational biblical material, although she does ably dismantle Augstine's identification of sexuality with original sin. Cynthia Widmer, Williamstown, Mass.
From the Publisher
"A stunning book...[that] refreshes our view of early Christianity." —Christian Science Monitor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517055694
  • Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/3/1990

Meet the Author

Elaine Pagels
Elaine Pagels
Elaine Pagels earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in classical studies at Stanford, and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She is the author of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent; The Origin of Satan; and The Gnostic Gospels, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. She is currently the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Pagels lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband and children.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 9, 2009

    Excellent book

    Elain is a skillful writer whose books are well-organized in topics and information presented in logical manner. Most importantly, her "adam, eve and the serpent" is well supported by rich historical records and research findings.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 30, 2013

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