Eternal temptation

Eve’s transgression, and Adam’s complicity in it, were deliberate acts that determined the shape of all our lives.

November 29, 2017 19:38
4 minute read.
ALBRECHT DÜRER’S engraving of Adam and Eve from 1504.

ALBRECHT DÜRER’S engraving of Adam and Eve from 1504. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

For thousands of years, theologians, philosophers, natural scientists, creative artists and ordinary people have tried to understand the implications of the fate of Adam and Eve. What, they ask, does the story of the naked man and woman in the garden and the talking snake reveal about who we are, where we came from, what is special about us, why we sin, and why we suffer? In The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve, Stephen Greenblatt (a professor of the humanities at Harvard University; the author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; and Swerve: How the World Became Modern) provides a learned, lively, beautifully rendered and written examination of the long and fascinating history of one of the world’s most influential stories.

Sweeping and searching, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve analyzes the creation of the biblical account (which drew on and radically departed from rival origin narratives); Augustine of Hippo’s establishment of the story as literally true; the story’s full flowering in the Renaissance, with Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Fall of Man and John Milton’s epic poem, “Paradise Lost”; and the critique of Enlightenment intellectuals, geologists, and a naturalist named Charles Darwin.


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