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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In particular she argues that Augustine’s reading of this text was such an idiosyncratic and radical break with Christian precedent that it amounted to a dismissal of more than three hundred years of unanimous tradition. As such, despite her closing disclaimer that there is no “pure Christianity” p.

The first four chapters present a view of pre-Augustinian Christian readings of Gen. Except for the gnostics, Pagels argues that the Genesis text was almost universally read as “the story of human freedom” p.


Christians from Paul to Jerome proclaimed their freedom from the Roman social fabric by their espousal of celibacy, and, until Constantinewere prepared to demonstrate their liberty from demonically inspired imperial persecution by their own deaths. Pagels claims that because of their defiant attitude tye the Roman social and esrpent order, these Christians read the first three chapters of Genesis as a charter of liberty for all humans: But there are no citations of readings of Genesis hy Justin or Irenaeus or Tertullian or Origen at all.


Pagels draws the term autexousia seemingly at random from an unspecified text in Clement p. Pagels makes the additional claim that the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent was not seen by pre-Augustinian theologians as the story of a moral fall which extended to all humanity: Yet Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement also agreed that Adam’s transgression did not encroach upon our own individual freedom: One wonders in any event whether it is begging the question to say that people in a world characterized by ” pain, labor, and death ” have a freedom to choose good or evil as perfect as Adam’s was.

Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: The Touchstone Archives

Certainly for Irenaeus the whole of creation had to be ” redone ” by Christ because of Adam’s sin, and while this may not be a doctrine of original sin in the Augustinian sense, there is clearly much more room for continuity than Pagels’ formulation of the earlier literature suggests. Thus what Pagels presents in chapter 5 as an almost monolithic foil for Augustine’s reading of Genesis is actually tied to pre-Augustinian readings of Genesis by two slender threads widely separated in the course of the first four chapters, and these are treated only summarily.


But even this picture of consensus is given an additional twist, apart Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a serpwnt part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.

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