Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

Elaine Pagels, Author
Elaine Pagels, Author Random House (NY) $17.95 (189p) ISBN 978-0-394-52140-4
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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)
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