Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

by Elaine Pagels


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780517055694
Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/03/1990

About the Author

Elaine Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University and the author of Reading Judas, The Gnostic Gospels-winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award- and the New York Times bestseller Beyond Belief. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Adam, Eve, and the Serpent 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
JonathankChicago More than 1 year ago
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.
StephenBarkley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent is a baptism into the various debates and controversies that swirled through the first three centuries of Christendom. It¿s obvious on every page that Pagels knows the players in the early church (both orthodox and heterodox) like the back of her hand. This book is a popular (but never dumbed-down) distillation of her scholarly work.The most fascinating aspect of this book was the relationships she drew between three apparently distinct fields: sexual ethics, free will, and politics. Genesis 1-3 was used and abused by theologians and heretic-hunters in their attempt to explain the world. Pagels frees branded heretics like Valentinus and Julian to speak to these fields in their own voice, rather than in the caricatured lampooning of orthodoxy.I do have problems with Pagels, specifically on her view of the Nag Hammadi documents. She seems to believe that they reflect a tradition as ancient as the canonical gospels. After reading documents like the Gospel of Thomas, I can¿t help but understand them as secondary spiritualizations of a life and teaching that were far more concrete. Scholars like N. T. Wright have situated Jesus so firmly in first century Judaism, it seems impossible to believe he was a wandering mystic offering enlightenment.That said, Pagels is a brilliant and honest historian who should be read by anyone with an interest in early Christianity.
Brasidas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For anyone who has yet to read Pagels I would suggest that they start with THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS. That is the foundation, it seems to me, on which all of her other works build. ADAM, EVE, AND THE SERPENT focuses on why early Christians came to believe sex was inherently sinful. It tells us, too, more of the fascinating story of the Valentinian gnostics, who were so troublesome to the early Church. The chapter on "Gnostic Improvisations on Genesis" is especially fascinating. Apparently, like earlier Talmudic scholars, the gnostics saw little usefulness in Scriptural readings that were not fresh and innovative. (Karen Armstrong goes into this subject at fascinating length in her THE CASE FOR GOD.) Such a spur to inventiveness naturally gave rise to widely variant readings. This was at a time when early Church father Irenaeus (died c. 202) was trying to standardize Scriptural interpretation. He was trying to establish an institution whose hierarchy was based on imperial Roman models. The gnostics believed that clerics were not needed for what was essentially an inward journey of spiritual discovery. God was within. And ritual such as baptism and the Mass they saw as preliminary to what was essentially an inward spiritual journey. The gnostics were anti-establishment, very much as Jesus was, as such they drove Irenaeus a little nuts. So consumed was he with them that he composed a multi-volume refutation of their divergent beliefs. ADAM, EVE, AND THE SERPENT is perhaps a little denser in terms of its scholarship than others Pagels' book I have read. I wouldn't start with it, but I would eventually get to it.
Devil_llama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A look at the history of the concept of original sin. Easy to read and authoritative, though at times there was a bit too much rehash of ground covered in her book on the Gnostic gospels, some of which wasn't particularly relevant to this topic.
wirkman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating book . . . but, once again, the author's apparent preference for Gnostic thought and traditions clouded her judgment on Orthodoxy. I didn't quite buy her rather dark reading of Augustine. Okay; okay: Sure, he was a dark thinker, deeply disturbed, and, in the end, one of the great Bad Guys of intellectual history, retreating to coercion and torture and murder to solidify an orthodoxy and an empire.But still, his take on Original Sin doesn't strike me as the imposition on Judeo-Christian source material as it does to Ms. Pagels. There's a lot of enormously interesting and entertaining material in this book, especially that Gnostic idea that the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was "obviously" the Good Guy, and Yahweh "obviously" the Bad Guy, a paranoid liar and jealous tyrant. I've had occasion to reference this book quite a few times over the years. Read it, and you will too.
Arctic-Stranger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pagels is a very competent scholar, and does right by this material. She takes the biblical material, which many have done before her, but then shows how it is used and misused.
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