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Adam and Eve and the Discovery of Sex In Memoriam James Dolan When the early church began to reflect on the work of Christ, it proclaimed that he offered all men and women redemption, or liberation. But the possibility of a universal liberation implied a universal captivity, and so it was that S. Paul, reflecting on Christ's saving work, found it necessary to go beyond the teachings of the Old Testament and Jesus. He assigned quite a new role to Adam and, as it were, invented the Fall: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15.22), and "Sin came into the world through one man" (Rom. 5.12). Hence the heavy weight Adam bears in Christian thought: the fallen nature of the human condition results from his choice in the Garden of Eden (and not, we may note in passing, that of Eve). Christian thinkers have often pondered on the nature of the change for the worse brought about by the Fall. Bernard of Clairvaux saw it as a change whereby man, created in the image and likeness of God, lost the likeness and so "went down from likeness to unlikeness". According to Gregory the Great the virtue of patience, difficult doctrinal knowledge, castigation of the body, persistence in prayer, the confession of faults and floods of tears were none of them necessary in Paradise. Discussions of this kind often have the air of existentialist laments, but other thinkers pondered the precise differences occasioned by the Fall. So, for example, Alexander Neckham: if man had not sinned he would now not be subject to illness, but enjoy continuous good health. All animals would be subject to his direction, and both men and animals would have remained vegetarian, although Alexander does not seem to regard meat-eating as an immediate consequence of the Fall, for following Genesis (Gen. 9.3, cf. 1.29 f.) he dates it to the period after the Flood. No animal would have experienced sorrow or sadness when life departed the body, and men would never have died. Alexander concludes this list of results of the Fall by pointing out that because of sin the brightness of the stars and planets has been diminished. In this paper I propose to consider the difference which patristic and medieval authors believed the Fall made in one area of human nature, that of sexuality. I shall suggest that such writers held that the Fall was bound up with a discovery of sex, but that beyond this there are important divergences , and that these divergences have interesting implications for the way the Christian tradition, in all its extraordinary richness and diversity, has developed in East and West. Let me begin by stressing a point which seems to have been accepted by all orthodox Christian writers of the patristic and medieval periods. Adam and Eve were virgins at the time of the Fall. That this was so was implied by the widespread description of Mary as second Eve. As early as the first half of the second century, Justin Martyr asserted: Eve, an undefiled virgin, conceived the word of the serpent, and 2 John Moorhead brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary, filled with faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced to her the good tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her... answered "Be it unto me according to thy word". Similarly, Irenaeus was able to contrast two virgins: one obeyed and brought about salvation, while the other disobeyed and brought about death. According to Tertullian, the word of the Devil came upon Eve "virginem... adhuc" in the same way as the Word of God came into the Virgin Mary, while Romanos Melodos noted that Adam, when expelled from Paradise, had known Eve no more than Joseph knew Mary. The same point could be made without reference to Mary, as can be seen from the traditional exegesis of Genesis 4.1, which states, with reference to the time after the expulsion from Eden, "Now Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain...." (R.S.V. trans.). To the theologically untrained...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 1-12
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
N

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