Adam, Eve, and the Serpent - Elaine H. PagelsLondon: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988, Hardback in Dust Wrapper.
Condition: Very Good — in Very Good Dust Wrapper. Price Clipped. Previous owners' name & date to the first blank. Pages lightly age-tanned.
From the cover: “How did it happen that Christian tradition came to find sexual desire sinful and to claim that infants, from the moment of conception, are infected with original sin, that Adam’s sin corrupted the whole of nature which until then had known neither death nor labour nor suffering? How did it happen that the Christian Church, which proclaims the infinite value and moral freedom of each individual, came to insist that humankind — made in God’s image — cannot choose not to sin? This great paradox at the heart of Christian, and therefore Western, tradition is the subject of Elaine Pagels’s brilliant new book.
Within a century of Jesus and Paul, the Christian Churches, though widely divided on questions of practice and belief, agreed that Christians must reject the Roman gods and refuse to reverence the emperors who ruled in their name. For many of the leaders of the early Church, freedom was the practical message of the gospel; freedom from tyrannical government, freedom from prevailing social and sexual customs, freedom from sexual desire, and freedom of the will — that is, self-mastery as a means to spiritual renewal.
For almost 300 years, Christianity prospered as an illegal sect with an increasing diversity of members, until the emperor Constantine reversed the long-standing policy of persecution and himself became a Christian. In the fourth century, following these momentous conversions — of the emperor to Christianity and the Church to a respected imperial institution — Christian teaching underwent a revolutionary change, from a doctrine that celebrated human freedom to one that emphasized the universal bondage of original sin. A remarkable examination of the development of religious principle, Elaine Pagels’s Adam, Eve, and the Serpent will profoundly affect all future interpretations of the historical meaning of Christianity.”