Monday, November 26, 2007

Four Ways Adam And Eve May Have Misused Sex
Of those who interpret the sin of Adam and Eve as a sexual transgression, there are four views.

1. Adam and Eve Had Premarital Sex
Some interpreters believe the first couple had sex at the wrong time (premarital sex). Clement of Alexandria said:

"... the first man of our race did not await the appropriate time, desiring the favour of marriage before the proper hour and he fell into sin by not waiting the time of God's will...they [Adam and Eve] were impelled to do it before the normal time because they were still young and were persuaded by deception." - Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215, On Marriage XIV:94, XVII:102-103).
Theophilus of Antioch and St. Irenaeus also considered Adam to be in a premature age when he violated the precept of abstaining from a sexual union with Eve, his future wife. This was not because they necessarily believed it was a wrong action, but because it was inappropriate for their age. This notion that the fall occurred in a period of immaturity before they achieved perfection is also shared by Peter Lombard, Hugo of St. Victor, Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventura, John Duns Scotus and others in the Franciscan school.

2. Adam And Eve Had Sex In The Wrong Place
Others, like Gary A. Anderson, professor of Old Testament Studies at Harvard Divinity School, assert that Adam and Eve had sex in the wrong place, which was akin to having sex in the Holy of Holies.

In Anderson's book, The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), where Adam had sex with Eve is essential. Rabbinic and Christian interpreters are at odds with each another on this point. Anderson says sexuality is not condemned as sinful per se, but where it happens, according to Anderson, is critical for the correct interpretation of the Eden narrative.

Many Christian interpreters understand Eden as a sacred place, similar to the Jerusalem Temple. Anderson relies heavily here upon Ephrem. As a holy place, one can only be in it if one is in a state of purity, reflecting the image of God. Some Christians scholars, therefore, believe that Adam and Eve were only allowed to have sexual intercourse outside the Garden of Eden. Jewish commentators, on the other hand, believed that Adam and Eve did have sex with one another inside the Garden, and that Eden was not a sacred space.

3. Adam And Eve Had Sex: Sex Is Always Sinful
Still others claim that God didn't want them to have sex, period. John of Damascus, writing in the eighth century, said:

"Adam and Eve were created sexless; their sin in Eden led to the horrors of
sexual reproduction. If only our earliest progenitors had obeyed God, we would be procreating less sinfully now" [exactly how God would have populated the earth, he didn't say].

According to Jerome, Adam and Eve had a sexual relationship only after the Fall.

4. Eve Had Sex With The Devil
And some, like F. R. Tennant, believe that Adam and Eve engaged in some sort of orgy, either with Satan himself or with the devil and his demons. According to Tennant, this belief was widespread among the ancient Jews.

3 comments:

Matthew said...

I believe that the 3rd and 4th interpretations are clearly in the wrong. For number three, why else would God create us with private parts? Are they seriously saying that Adam and Eve had bare crotches? Very obsurd. And for number 1, how on Earth would have Adam and Eve committed premarital sex? God made them man and wife, togetheer.

Tom Gruber said...

Matthew,
Thank you for your comments and interest in my posts.

I hold to position number 4 for reasons I expound on elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

There should be position number 5 - having sex at the wrong time! This is different from having sex in the wrong place. Position no. 4 is also correct, in my view.