September 27, 2022

Adam And Eve Story From The Bible – The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve Review by Stephen Greenblatt – How the Myth Was Revealed

This fascinating work, from Augustine to Milton to Darwin, represents the slow process that made the Genesis story no longer viable.

Adam And Eve Story From The Bible

Adam And Eve Story From The Bible

The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man (1615) by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens. Photo: Almee

The First Man, A Bible Story About Adam And Eve As Told By Barbara Wilmerton Haas

When they were little, my children thought about where they came from. At different stages of their lives, they responded in three different ways. Their first answer was biographical: “I come from Mimi.” No, mom and dad. And they consist of grandparents, and grandparents. The second was geographical: “I come from Exeter. But I was born in Cambridge. And I live in Yorkshire. and Oxford. The third was more advanced and came after several years of science: “I am descended from African hominids. Or fish if it’s too far for you.

One of the earliest lessons children take to heart is that they are not always there. It was “before me” time. Trying to understand what it was, what it meant, requires a lot of intellectual work from childhood. And as the above example shows, there is no simple answer: everything comes from someone else. The existential fear of infinite regression comes early in life.

Perspectives on the big questions of human culture – What is the purpose of storytelling, art and religion? – were not primarily created by children. The professors to whom we owe our great ideas are generally less concerned with the question, “Where do I come from?” “Where am I going?” Most modern theories of human civilization basically talk about the need to face death. Stephen Greenblatt’s fascinating new book, however, on passages from the story of Adam and Eve – the world’s most influential attempt to stop the endless regression of creation – shows how much the question of human origins has to do with prescientific concepts of humanity. were central. .

This is not a comprehensive account of the reception of the biblical story: there is little on Rabbinic Judaism and nothing on Islam. Greenblatt is an expert on the culture of early modern England, and the story is set west from the deserts of Israel to Europe and finally to the New World. The main character is the North African Christian bishop Augustine, who turns the story into sex and sin. the painter Albrecht Dürer, whose etchings and engravings on this subject revolutionized European art; John Milton, who translated the entire biblical story of creation into an emotionally complex picture of human values ​​(including his reflections on the tragic, incompetent and callous treatment of his wife); Isaac La Peyrère, a French theologian, whose ideas about the Native American inhabitants of America led him to the conclusion that mankind existed before Adam and Eve; French Enlightenment philosopher Pierre Baillie, who could not accept the Genesis account as literally accurate. and Charles Darwin.

Free Bible Coloring Pages Of Adam And Eve

It is, therefore, a book about the historical formation of the attitude of the Christian West towards human origins. It is also an example for the modern Christian West, in an age when creativity seems to be on the rise. When Greenblatt refers to the “fall” of Adam and Eve in his title, he is not referring to the fall from grace of fictional characters, but to the rapid decline in the authority of biblical stories that began in the 18th century. Greenblatt leaves the reader in no doubt that science has won the intellectual debate. He is an educated realist: the steady accumulation of philosophical, anthropological, biological and geological knowledge has made the story of Genesis worth nothing more than a story.

Augustine became the most ardent defender of the literal truth of the biblical story in history: he even suggested that Eve’s rebellion consisted mainly of her not taking God’s commandments literally (so woe to you if you follow!). But even then he could not reconcile all his ambiguities: “Even if one tried, not every word could be taken literally, and Augustine could not find a simple, reliable rule for the right degree of literalness.” Was Adam really made of clay? When we are told that God spoke to Adam, do we imagine that He used human language that emanated from physical vocal cords? When the Bible says that eating the fruit means that the eyes of the two primitive people were opened, do we imagine that they were closed until now?

Greenblatt has many such stories of devout readers who try and fail to come to terms with the implications of fully accepting the authority of the Bible. Perhaps the most fascinating is the case of preacher and naturalist Philip Goss, who (among other things) built the world’s first seawater aquarium. Like many others in Victorian Britain, Goss was disturbed by the findings of the geologist Charles Lyell, whose pioneering work in rock stratigraphy showed that the world was several million years old. So Goss combined the biblical evidence with the physical world and presented a clever theory. The world, he argued, is truly fresh; But it was created by God with a geological background. The argument for his theory was as cleverly inventive as it was absurdly contrived. Goss invited his readers to consider the analogy with Adam himself: the Bible says he was created as a fully formed adult, (Goss estimates) about 25 to 30 years old. Like the Earth, Adam became mature. And again like Earth, he must have carried with him traces of his previous youth, even if he never lived through that period. Goss specifically points to the navel of Adam – of course he must have, the ideal model of humanity – a sign of a birth that never happened. If Adam was created as an adult with a navel, why wasn’t the Earth, by the same token, created from complicated layers of rock that bear witness to a past that never happened?

Adam And Eve Story From The Bible

However, for so long the success of the story of Adam and Eve was more than a reflection of devotion to the womb. First of all, it is a story rich in resonant motifs: utopia, order and purpose, duty and autonomy, gender and sexuality, paradise and exile. It is precisely this narrative power that explains its enduring appeal as an embodiment of literary, artistic and philosophical creativity. Greenblatt is clearly drawn to bold creative responses that challenge dominant views. One memorable figure – the most striking in a largely male-centric narrative – is the name of the 17th-century Italian nun Archangela Tarabotti, author of the uncompromisingly anti-Catholic priest The Tyranny of the Father. According to Tarabotti, Eden was free from discrimination between the sexes, and Eve was indeed a nobler substance than the dust of Adam; Women were only exposed to Eve’s stigma. Another highlight is John Ball’s famous slogan for the English Peasants’ Revolt (later taken up by the Duggars of the 17th century): “When Adam acted and Eve died, who was lord?” For Ball, heaven was defined by the absence of class structure.

Adam Eve Bible Story Scene First Stock Vector (royalty Free) 1998452744

It is a study of Western indifference, intellectual development – but it is also a model of human creativity.

It is Milton who represents the pinnacle of this creation: Milton, the naïve, pious, purely literary genius who, in Greenblatt’s phrase, made Adam and Eve “real.” As a young man, Milton suffered from a strange aversion to sexuality, which he was happy to display in front of his contemporaries. At one point he described male ejaculation as “the quintessence of ejaculation.” His marriage was doomed almost from the start: not least because Mary Powell was a sophisticated, young Oxford royal to whom Milton gave money, and thus an unlikely Member of Parliament. When the relationship ended and Mary returned to her family home, Milton responded by joking that the divorce was morally justified. A crime of insolence, which resulted in a brilliant barrage of insults from Milton’s pen, including “brainworm”, “lawyer with the mind of a cook” and “proud Loiselle”. But when the civil war turned to the Cromwells, Mary returned to John in apparent repentance. Milton, whose sight was beginning to fail him, saw her heart melt: he took her back and they had four children before her untimely death from her last job.

It was after this time of personal, financial and political trauma that Milton wrote Paradise Lost. He envisioned heaven, Greenblatt argues, as a heaven of complete human freedom from political and social constraints. It was a utopian model of an attainable state in which people were free from both literal (kingship) and metaphorical (social convention) tyranny. But this Edenic state quickly disintegrated: he was not only blind, but with the restoration of the kingdom.

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