Elaine Pagels on Sex in the Bible

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In this memorable clip from A World of Ideas (1988), Princeton University religion professor Elaine Pagels explains how different interpretations of the Bible lead to both positive and negative perceptions of sex in the story of Adam and Eve, and how the transmission of sin itself can be perceived in sexual terms.

Watch the entire conversation between Bill Moyers and Elaine Pagels.

About Elaine Pagels

Elaine Pagels is the author of numerous articles and five books and is well known for her work in translating the Nag Hammadi Library, translations which contradicted the image of the early Christian Church as a unified movement. Pagels published the results of her scholarship in The Gnostic Gospels, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award and has been published in 10 foreign languages. She is also the author of The Gnostic Paul; Adam, Eve, and the Serpent; The Origin of Satan; Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas; and now, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation. The recipient of the MacArthur Prize, she has also received awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton.

Interviews with Elaine Pagels

NOW with Bill Moyers

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly

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  • Gail

    I can only think that this is some world we have created for ourselves!! Fear, hate, hostilities, suspicion, lies, greed, anger, no lawful procedures for the justice we tout, illegal invasions to commit covert vigilante murders, genocide, starvation, war and more war. I wonder; if the unborn could see what lies ahead for them, would they choose to be born??! Prisons overflowing with our youth, brains damaged by drugs and alcohol, even the unborn are not safe in the womb, they are doomed before they draw their first free breath, by the abuses of illegal substances that could have been prevented if our government would only do so, instead of legalizing it & making it easier to experiment with. If they had spent the tax payers money on prevention and education and deportation instead of creating false incidents to invade the countries with oil, we would not be in this unholy mess and out of control mess today!
    Terrorists, all, “upon live capture” and “within 48 hours”, should be made to stand accused, sentenced to death, before the entire world; and executed by order of “A Free World Court”, then buried at sea. Terrorism must be a world concern with prior agreements set in place. Extraditions honored world wide!
    All done in the open, the entire world witnessing! 
    No exceptions! No cover ups! No leniency! No Prison Sentences!
    It is important & necessary to our well being as Civilized Human Beings and  Nations, that we live what we stand for and do not falter and fail ourselves!
    Terrorists murder with “their reasons” and then, so do we all!
    Assassinations return us to an uncivilized barbaric state that we pretend to have moved on from, but in truth and fact; have not!!


  • Unsanitorial

    Wow! You’d fit right in at Eric Holder’s Justice  Department. (Summary execution as due process)
    I don’t understand how speedy and sure capital punishment improves our quality of life. I can go with your sentiments on ending Empire with its foreign occupations, on a more sensible drug enforcement policy, on good pre-natal care and careful socialization of children, and even a World Court, but you sound afraid and slighted. Seems like you want revenge against something or someone you don’t name. My experience is that making the best of what life hand’s you and advocating for equal justice is more rewarding than vindictiveness. Applying the law is more complex than you say: A terrorist from one point of view is a freedom fighter from another perspective. 
    No one has perfect skill in writing to be understood.
    I apologize if I’ve mischaracterized your positions.
    I look forward to more discourse with any passionate and thoughtful humanitarian like Gail.

  • Unsanitorial

    And I thought the topic was Pagels’ view on Biblical sexualiity!
    The seminal contamination thing is insightful. (Jesus didn’t get any.)
    In college we used to say that those sleeping with faculty (with favoritism often shown) 
    were receiving a “seminal education.” If ejaculate can be believed a contamination (by original sin) can it not also be believed a vehicle (transmitter of) for knowledge, wisdom or genetic memory? If we could overcome prudishness and anxiety to discuss such implications we could advance our spirituality and apply it in new ways.
    People need to mature in religious understanding, politics and social engineering; but to do so we must know ourselves and our mythic subconscious.

  • Anonymous

    Odd Topic — “six” and “sex” seem like the same word.  666 is sex sex sex.