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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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Paperbackpages. Published September 19th by Vintage first published LuciferEve Bible. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
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Lists with This Book. Jan 03, Howard rated it it was amazing. It is a truth, occasionally stated, and rarely ajd, that before one adopts a faith, joins a religion, or becomes a member of an organized body of worshippers, one ought to understand, intimately, that faith and its implications.
One ought also to learn and understand how the faith started and how it came to be as it is when one finds it. I encounter from time to time people, good souls usually, who try to convince me to be born again. Listening to their statements, which generally begin, “T It is a truth, occasionally stated, and rarely followed, that before one adopts a faith, joins a religion, or becomes a member of an organized body of worshippers, one ought to understand, intimately, that faith and its implications.
Listening to their statements, which generally begin, “The Bible says I am not a profound scholar in these matters, but Seprent know enough to suspect that it may not have happened in quite that way. This book looks at some of the ideas at the core of Christian belief and practice and helps to sort out for the reader how they came to be as they are stated today.
Along the way, we learn some of the history of the early Christian church and how it changed. Initially, it was a small, esoteric sect, an outgrowth of the Jewish faith. It was wrapped up in beliefs about the immanent end of the world and a single all-powerful God. It opposed most of the customs and serpentt of the Roman world in which it found itself.
As time went on, it attracted the notice of the authorities who frequently persecuted its members. There is a famous statement by Gibbon to the effect that all religions were viewed by the masses as equally valid, by the philosopher as equally false, and by the magistrate as equally useful.
ADAM, EVE, AND THE SERPENT by Elaine Pagels | Kirkus Reviews
In the first couple of centuries A. As qnd went on, the membership of the Christian sect grew. Persecution was stepped up, serprnt to little permanent effect. As the numbers grew, so did its influence. Eventually, Constantine “converted” and made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. It is not clear that he, personally, believed, but he had considerable political and practical reasons and justifications for his policy.
The Church now found itself flooded with members whose theological motivations were slight. It was intimately bound up with a society and a government which it had previously viewed as corrupt and wicked.
Bishops were now powerful elainw. It was also becoming clear that while the vision of Revelation might some day become real, it wasn’t going to happen in the immediately foreseeable future. The outlook of the organized church changed.
It became increasingly concerned with structure, discipline, obedience, and corporate purity. As outsiders, believers could grasp and express free will by cheerful martyrdom and by leading personally pure lives. As part of the government, and the Patriarch of Constantinople was to be, in effect, the imperial minister of state for religion, believers were inevitably co-opted into and made part of the corruption they had always seen in the world around them.
The outlook darkened and theology shifted.
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent – Elaine H. Pagels – Google Books
The concept of liberty and the idea of a good and virtuous government shifted. The Fall in Genesis 3 came to be perceived as dooming man to loss of free will. Man was sinful and evr not, in any way avoid it, thanks to Serpejt. Virginity came to be emphasized, perhaps as a way to differentiate true believers from the sinful world.
Death was no longer natural to man as an animal but was a punishment visited on man for his sin. Adam, had he not sinned, would have been immortal, pure, and it was argued a virgin. Since he did sin, his descendants were doomed in perpetuity to sin as well. It may be that Augustine and his supporters have a great deal to oagels for. Pagels has managed in tye brief space of or so pages to tell the tale with remarkable clarity and understanding. She does not give a complete history nor does she cover all the points of controversy between the developing Orthodox and the others increasingly thought of as heretics, Gnostics for example.
She has written other books to cover other aspects of the early Christian world. This one, however, gives a coherent picture of what they will never teach in confirmation class but which nonetheless has formed and directed what is taught in confirmation class.
The set of beliefs and understanding of man and the world Weltanschaung is the wonderful German word for it that largely informs the Christian church to this day was defined and crystallized in those first four or five centuries. This is a history one should understand before committing to the creed that derives from it. It’s clear from reading this early work by Elaine Pagels why she has become such a prominent scholar of Christian history. Her ability to synthesize the often complex thoughts of a host of biblical and early church voices on topics ranging from free will to human nature to original sin to celibacy is impressive.
In Adam, Eve, and the SerpentPagels traces the interpretation of Genesis from the Second Temple period through Augustine’s battles with the Pelagians — the time period that saw the It’s clear from reading this early work by Elaine Pagels why she has become such a prominent scholar of Christian history.
In Adam, Eve, and the SerpentPagels traces the interpretation of Genesis from the Second Temple period through Augustine’s battles with the Pelagians — the time period that saw the emergence and eventual triumph of Christianity. She does it extremely well, and anyone reading this will have a much better grasp on several key points of controversy within the Christian world during its first four centuries. If I were to make any critiques, it would be that she all but ignores the church’s split between the Greek East and the Latin West, which — although still informal at the time of Augustine — was far more important in understanding why Eastern fathers like John Chrysostom differed so strongly from Augustine on issues like human nature than Pagels gives it credit for.
That nitpick aside, this book holds up well for being nearly 30 years old, and the description of the debate between Augustine and Julian of Eclanum is worth whatever price you pay for it — unless you get lucky like I did, and your library leaves it on its giveaway cart!
View all 4 comments. Mar 11, Shaun rated it it was amazing. Saint Augustine was a dick Studying classics and religion as an undergraduate, I read a lot of Pagels.
Gnostic Gospels was a textbook for a class, and I read many of her articles about the Nag Hammadi texts, etc. Reading Adam, Eve, and the Serpenta book that has been on my shelf for about 16 years, transported me back to those days of pouring over the texts.
It also reminded me of how entire belief systems – institutions – and civilizations are built on the interpretation of a few words. And those few words in this case Studying classics and religion as an undergraduate, I read a lot of Pagels. And those few words in this case are the early chapters of Genesis.
You know the ones: The book is not an introductory text, and it gets pretty dense.
It is frustrating to read, because the realization comes that so much of this discussion and infighting formed ideologies that are clung to today, thousands of years later. Chapter 4 “The Paradise of Virginity” Regained was the strongest and most readable chapter.
It set the stage for the later chapters with the debates with Augustine and John Chrysostom, and later between Augustine and Julian. In the end, Pagels states it flat out: Simply put, it bolstered the Church. How can people govern themselves if they’re innately sinful?
Only the Church can govern them. Because they are clearly without sin Aug 04, Lee Harmon rated it really liked it. 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.
Human beings are incapable of self rule, not in any genuinely good way. Christ alone is born without this sin, this libido. My roommate and friend at the time was one of her students at Barnard College, so we got to know her and her husband personally, being invited to at least one party at their apartment. As in her class, Pagels is clear and accessible to non-specialists.
Amd most of her books, except her doctoral dissertation, this one, while confined to the first centuries of the Church, d Pagels was working on the material for this book when I took her course on Genesis at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Like most of her books, except her doctoral dissertation, this one, while confined to the first centuries of the Church, deals with matters which, while ancient, are still relevant.
As usual, she shows how many common assumptions about Christian belief are sdrpent too narrow, given the history of the Church and its debates, serpenf simply wrongheaded and she manages to do so without becoming shrill.
Nov 21, David Metting rated it really liked it. How did Christianity change from serpnet movement proclaiming freedom and liberation to a movement announcing human enslavement to sin? And how was the story of Adam and Eve, interpreted widely and differently, influential to that end?