Many of us think we know the biblical story of Adam and Eve and its themes of original sin, temptation and exile. But the story has a complicated history, beginning as a Babylonian creation myth and later taking on literal meaning for medieval and Renaissance Catholics. In his new book “The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve”, award-winning Harvard University humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt excavates the origins and retellings of the ancient tale to illustrate how it continues to shape Western culture.

Guest:
Stephen Greenblatt, professor of humanities at Harvard University, author of “The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve”; His other books include the Pulitzer prize-winning “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.”

Stephen Greenblatt on the Enduring Influence of the Bible’s Adam and Eve 4 October,2017Michael Krasny

  • EIDALM

    The biblical story of Adam and Eve may have been an ancient Egyptian mythology from the time of the pharaoh Akenaton who was the first man to advance the concept of monotheism, that is there is only one god who manifested himself in the Sun disc Aten, ( Adam ), there is some scholars who speculate that Adam and Eve are the pharaoh Akhenaton and his wife queen Nefertiti.

    • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

      Oy vey! The Babylonian myth of Adapa predates Akhenaton by at least a thousand years. Even it may not be the oldest antecedent of the legend of Adam and Eve. God save us from alchemists who claim to have extracted gold from Egyptian papyri.

      • e mckay

        OK Reverend, fine. But there are ways to impart knowledge without seeking to insult others. Eidalm probably thinks what he says here is true.He does not present it in an arrogant way. I don’t know all the history, though it is interesting to think about how ancient these stories are. Kindness and respect are often more important than deeper knowledge. If you are truly a reverend, I hope you don’t speak to your congregation like this.

        • BDN

          Hear, hear let’s not get all PC and academic over a little scripture and the origins of written language…

        • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

          I am never insulting or disrespectful to anyone. EIDALM brought up the subject of Akhenaten last week in a discussion on a completely different topic. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Timothy 4:2).

      • EIDALM

        The Ancient Egyptian story of creation goes back back over 5000 years far predate the Babylonian, the Earth God Geb and the sky Goddess Nut, who have 3 children, the goddess,Isis, her brothers Osiris, and evil brother Set, and the story evolved from there on.

        • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

          The Egyptian myths of Geb and Nut are indeed ancient, but they in no way involve Akhenaten, a pharaoh of the 18th dynasty who lived in the 14th century BC.

      • EIDALM

        All 3 Abrahamic religion, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, worshipers end their prayers by saying Amen, which comes from Amon, ancient Egyptian name of God,,,,,,,,

        • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

          Hardly. In Hebrew and Aramaic, “amen” means “may it come true.” In Egyptian, the name of the God Amon (or Amun) means “hidden” or “invisible.” I will give you a morsel for thought. The name Tut-ankh-amen, otherwise known as King Tut, means “living image of the Hidden God [Amun].” Millennia later, St. Paul (or Deutero-Paul for those who subscribe to “Higher” Biblical Criticism) used that same attribute for the Lord Jesus Christ, in Colossians 1:15.

          • EIDALM

            The ancient Greeks had real difficulty in translating ancient scripts, you can see bit of that in names, they used the letter J instead of Y, U, and I, an example Yousef, was translated to Joseph, Issa. was translated to Jesus, Yakoop, translated into Jacob, many other names were totally changed like Elizabeth, Sara, etc…..They also did lots of mistakes in translation of texts as well ……The Word Amen is referred to God, by the ancient Egyptians as the hidden supreme God, the Greek translation by the Church explanation does not make sense at all.

          • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

            There is no J in Greek, and the iota in that language fairly accurately transliterates the Hebrew letter yod. My credentials, you’ll find, speak for themselves.

          • EIDALM

            You are totally wrong, nothing else top say.

          • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

            Any Bible scholar — or linguist — will bear me out. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

          • EIDALM

            I know Arabic, and Hebrew, which are sister languages, and Aramaic……Amen by all means DOES NOT MEAN, it may come true….That was nonsense made up by the church.

  • Kurt thialfad

    How do the ancients explain a solar eclipse? What is the mythological explanation? What is the story?

  • marte48

    Is your guest familiar with the “Ice Age Lake Missoula Flood” story proposed by the “young earth” geologists?

  • Robert Thomas

    I immensely enjoyed Swerve; It lead me back to re-read my Loeb Classic 1924 translation of Lucretius by W.H.D. Rouse and then to a lyric 1946 translation by William Ellery Leonard that was new to me and further revealing – Thank you, very much.

  • Cristina Nigro

    Can you tell us more of how the allegory of Adam and Eve gets incorporated into post-Darwinian science?

  • Darthmaul

    I have heard people, a rabbi recently saying that the story was incorrectly translated from the Hebrew, and because of this there was a mysoginistic line that the original story didn’t have.

    My take, who cares! It’s a made up story with talking snakes. With all of the real problems in the world and real things we can spend our time on why waste time and energy on the merits of a fable, acting as if it mattered?

    • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

      Mythical or not, the story informs Western civilization to this day, and still exerts its influence over millions of people. I think of it as a type of Jungian myth about awkward adolescence. Adam and Eve discovered their sexuality, which necessitated a new sense of responsibility and obligation. Misdirected blame is often a part of this human experience.

  • Robert Thomas

    How can one read the Confessions, The City of God, the Soliloquies or the even Enchiridion without sensing the deadening, malignant presence of Monica intruding on every aspect of Augustine’s thinking. The greatness of Augustine’s mind – in whose every thought we recognize the expression of a timeless and soaring consciousness – was assailed by this hideous harpy, who destroyed his relationship with his beloved partner and their son with her tireless grasping and envy for social position. Combined with the the demented Ambrose’s gleeful permission to wallow in cruel misogyny, the most profound thinker of the early church is forever polluted and in turn pollutes all that follows.

  • reich.jonathan

    I am a long time listener and supporter. Thank you for this program.
    A wonderful version of the Adam & Eve tale was told by Jonathan Goldstein in 2003 on WBEZ’s “This American Life.”
    It’s funny, poignant, and profound – and only 14 minutes long.
    Here’s the link: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/233/starting-from-scratch?act=3

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    Interesting connection: hearing the term, “original sin,” reminded me of author Mark Wolynn, and his title: “It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.”

    Certainly there must be some scholars who accept the idea that “original sin” simply refers to the imperfections of parents and families passed down to innocent children.

  • marte48

    I’ve read explanations of who Cain and Able married, but they never quite satisfy my skepticism.

    • Robert Thomas

      When I was a teenager, I overheard a youth pastor come across with a response to this mysterious question from a younger kid – as had probably many thousands of irritated clerics in past centuries: “Aren’t you glad that we Baptists are so forgiving? The heathen Catholic poet Dante wrote that God made a special circle in hell just for smartypants little boys who ask that question.”

    • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

      They married their sisters. Incest hadn’t been forbidden yet.

  • Robert Thomas

    It’s irritating, to put it mildly, when a person assuming the mantel of “scientist” makes clumsy claims about the opinions of one of the most scrutinized personages of the last several millennia while yet apparently having himself utterly no familiarity with the works of said personage. Augustine’s extremely well-known passage on the unhelpful burbling of pious know-nothings who cluck their tongues at the assertions of learned natural philosophers – and who, by so doing, bring the skepticism of thoughtful lay people down upon all Christians by spouting buffoonery – provides an object lesson for anyone preparing to stutter his or her way onto a nationally broadcast radio program. Those of us lay persons tutored in the sciences as well as working scientists should take him to heart:

    “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although ‘they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.'”

    The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Vol 2
    Augustine of Hippo

Host

Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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