Sunday, March 26, 2006
Reform and Conservative Judaism's views
The more modern liberal branches of Judaism, such as Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism, which see no "evil" other than the evil actions of human beings, disagree with traditions that identify the serpent with Satan. Eve's only transgression was that she disobeyed God's order. Adam was with her the entire time and at no time stopped her. Therefore, it is incorrect to blame Eve alone. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden and had to live ordinary, human lives. In other words, they had to "leave home" and grow up and live as responsible human beings. If they had never eaten from the forbidden tree, they would never have discovered their capacity to act with free will in the world. God doesn't want human beings who have no choice but to always do what is good and right.
The original sin in Gnosticism
Many Gnostic sects (particularly the Ophites) saw the figure of the serpent as a divine benefactor and liberator of humanity, rather than as Satan, Lucifer, or any other ill-intentioned figure. They held that the world was created by the Demiurge, an imperfect creator who wished to rule it as a tyrant. However, the spirit of Christ interfered by possessing the serpent and telling Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eating from this tree allowed Adam and Eve to have free will and thus defy, if need be, their Demiurge creator. Therefore, according to many Gnostics, what Christians call the Fall of Man was really the freeing of humanity's minds and souls.
[too cool!! I had never heard of this!]
The original sin in Islam
The Qur'an recounts the story of Adam and Eve in a similar way to that of the Bible. However, the blame of disobedience is either put squarely on Adam, or both are blamed for the sin; Eve never convinces Adam to sin. Adam and Eve are forgiven by God after they repent.
The idea that the sin propagates to their offspring is categorically refused by the majority of Sunni and Shia muslims, citing ayahs such as: [6:164] "Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another," and [2:286] "On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns." There are minor factions, such as the Qur'an Alone Muslims, who accept a concept of original sin according to which every single human has sinned individually before coming to this earth.
Original sin in Restoration Movement
Most Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement Churches, such as the Churches of Christ, Christian Churches, and other Congregational Churches of the same origin, reject the notion of original sin, believing only in the sins for which men and women are personally responsible. Adam and Eve did bring sin into the world by introducing disobedience. This spread to further generations in much the same way other ideas spread, thus ensuring an environment that will produce sin in any individual above "The Age of Accountability." Many Restoration movement churches and individuals, however, do believe that Adam's sin made us depraved (that is, with a tendency towards sin) without making us guilty of Adam's sin. Man is predisposed towards sin, but though every person sins, they are not intrinsically forced to sin.
The only other previous explanation I had come across regarding the Catholic/Christian mainstream interpretation of original sin was that when early Christians were battling for supremacy against many of the other local religions, and they started to become more and more powerful, they used specific strategies to consolidate their ideological power and legitimacy: in order to de-legitimize many of the pagan, folk religions, in which women had a more positive (and powerful) part to play, they demonized the character of Eve, blaming her (and all other women) with the original sin. Additionally, they took several pagan rituals and incorporated them, giving them a Christian make-over, in order to win over pagan adepts more easily.
As for the Church taking over pagan rites, I recommend reading the Church history of Johann Laurenz von Mosheim. He details the way that the Church became pagan lock, stock, and barrel after they outlawed the pagan priesthoods. That includes worship of saints (a practice that is still denied, though overt).
In the Sumerian story of the Fall, Eve is a king with feminine features (Enkidu). The "snake" takes the form of a temple harlot who gives Enkidu feminine wisdom.
The Druids were characterized as "snakes" by the Church, not only in order to associate them with evil, but because they sported snake tattoos.
The snake is associated with wisdom because wisdom is like poison. Achieving enlightenment is like being bitten by a snake. It makes one weak. It is also addictive.
In the Gilgamesh wisdom cycle, the principle goddess performs the role of marrying off a tyrannical king and turning him into a beast. For this, she is shunned by the tyrant.