She also told how the Gnostics, though far from united in their beliefs, practiced and preached a far more esoteric Christianity than that of the Church; and how the Church suppressed and destroyed the Gnostic writings. The documents found in Egypt had obviously been hidden there to preserve them from destruction. In her later book , reviewed here, Pagels takes up the story again, this time investigating how the traditional patterns of gender and sexual relationship arose in our society. In the process she saw that the sexual attitudes we associate with Christian tradition evolved during the first four centuries of the Common Era, when the Christian movement, which had begun as a defiant sect, transformed itself into the religion of the Roman Empire.
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Buy at Amazon 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. She contrasts how early Christians differentiated themselves from pagans and Gnostic Christians by following strict sexual practices. To combat pagans, they took a strong stance against homosexuality a common part of male education , prostitution, and abortion.
Similarly, many of the early Church fathers such as Justin the Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian were extremely vocal in the Christian community and wrote passionately against what they considered corrupt Roman sexual practices including selling infants into slavery and grooming children for prostitution.
Through their teachings, the notion of religious freedom and the intrinsic value of each human being became popular. The Gnostics also relied heavily on the interpretation of the Adam and Eve story. Unlike the Church Fathers, who stressed a distinct gap between themselves and their Creator, many Gnostics emphasized that the divine being could be found deep within human nature. To them, it was the fall of Adam and Eve that distanced humanity from its Creator.
Instead of characterizing human psychodynamics, as Philo had, in terms of an interaction between mind and sensation, Gnostics pictured it in terms of the interaction of soul and spirit — that is, between the psyche ordinary consciousness, understood to include both mind and sensation and the spirit, the potential for a higher, spiritual consciousness.
Many Gnostics read the story of Adam and Eve, consequently, as an account of what takes place within a person who is engaged in the process of spiritual self-discovery.
Eventually another debate arose in the Christian community between Jerome and Jovinian concerning abstinence. Jovinian rejected the belief that celibate people or people who abstained from food or wine were holier than those who married or who enjoyed such foods. To him, so long as a person remained faithful to their baptismal vows, they could expect reward in heaven. Jerome argued bitterly against his opponent, describing the main conflict as such: He puts marriage on a level with virginity, while I make it inferior he declares that here is little or no difference between the two states I claim that there is a great deal.
Finally… he has dared to place marriage on an equal level with perpetual chastity. Letter 48, To Pammachius, 2 Finally, in the 4th century, Augustine developed what would become the foundation for modern Christianity — the concept of original sin which resulted from the fall of Adam and Eve.
Augustine converted to Christianity later in life and continued to struggle against his own sexual desires. Pagels writes with clarity, tackling difficult and complex arguments in a logical manner, and writing for the lay person rather than the academic. Many of her chapters deal directly with the ongoing debates during the time — Jerome vs. Jovinian, Augustine vs. John Chrysostom — showing the reader how passionate these debates were and how influential these ideas became to modern Christian beliefs.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested the development of modern Christian beliefs regarding gender and sexual practice, as well as those looking for a greater understanding of Adam and Eve. Primary Sidebar.
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, by Elaine Pagels
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. Random House. Elaine Pagels has devoted much of her career as a scholar of religion to a single proposition: that formative Christianity developed the way it did not because its doctrines best represented religious truth, but because those doctrines were the most expedient to the growing institutionalization of the Church. In The Gnostic Gospels , her first book to receive wide popular attention, Mrs. In Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, Mrs. Classical Christian ideas concerning the inherent sinfulness of sexual desire, the irremediable moral depravity of mankind, and the relationship between human guilt and human suffering, all developed at a specific time in history.
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent
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Adam, Eve, and the serpent