Jesus Christ denies original sin
oil painting by German artist Lucas Cranach the Elder, 16th century.
PRIEST And God said to the woman “Because you have listened to the serpent you will bring forth children in pain, you will follow after your husband, and your husband will rule over you.” This is the Word of God!
FAITHFUL Thanks be to God!
RACHEL Once again we have the benefit of an exclusive interview with Jesus Christ on this his second coming to earth. Our microphones are still in Nazareth, and today we are in the church of the convent of Santa Clara, where he just heard a scripture reading. What do you think, Jesus, about the punishment God imposed on Eve?
JESUS Although it’s right at the beginning of the Bible, I never liked that story. I never mentioned in my preaching. In fact, never spoke of either Adam or Eve.
RACHEL For what reason?
JESUS Because that story doesn’t do justice to the heart of God.
RACHEL Maybe it doesn’t do justice, but that’s what’s written down there. Do you know who wrote that Genesis story?
JESUS I’m not sure who wrote it, but I’m certain it was a man.
RACHEL Why are you so sure of that?
JESUS Everybody knows that it is women who give birth, it is you women who perform the miracle of life. But that story of Adam and Eve turns the world upside down imagine, a man giving birth to a woman!
RACHEL You’re referring to the rib…
JESUS Yes, that rib… That’s a dreadful tale that confuses everything.
RACHEL Afterwards the serpent and the forbidden tree appear …
JESUS That’s worse still, because they picture the woman as the bad one, the temptress… I remember the rabbi in Nazareth, an old grouch. He was always repeating a verse from another book of the Bible From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die. God covers his ears when he hears such nonsense.
RACHEL So, … the story of Adam and Eve is not inspired by God? It’s not the word of God?
JESUS It’s more likely the word of man, because God does not want anybody dominated by anybody else, neither the woman by the man, nor the man by the woman.
RACHEL You’ll excuse me, Jesus, but I prepared carefully for this interview, and I found this text. Listen “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of a woman is her husband.” This was written by Saint Paul in his first letter to the Christians of Corinth. What do you think of that?
JESUS Paul wasn’t thinking, or even feeling, when he wrote that. Because I always taught clearly that nobody should be over anybody. Nobody is head of anybody because all people, all women and men, have the same value in God’s eyes.
RACHEL What should we do, then, with the rib and the apple and that whole story of Adam and Eve? Take it out of the Bible?
JESUS Leave it there, but store it away in the crate for old clothes.
RACHEL So what are we left with?
JESUS With the good news that there are no tempting serpents or forbidden fruits, and that paradise will exist on earth when nobody dominates anybody else.
RACHEL I don’t think our audience will agree much with what you’re saying. Several listeners have already called to say that these interviews are very short and that you always leave us with more questions than answers.
JESUS Well, how wonderful, Rachel! A person who has questions is thinking. A person who has only answers is just obeying.
RACHEL What about you, friends of Emisoras Latinas? What group are you in? Do you have questions or are you satisfied with answers? Remember our telephone number, 714-4000, seven-one-four, four thousand. We’re always ready to take your calls. And on the Internet you can find us at www.emisoraslatinas.net. From Nazareth, this is Rachel Perez.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
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Through her fault…
The books of the Bible are full of misogynist and patriarchal references in which women appear as inferior beings; they are portrayed as subordinate and subsidiary, dangerous and sinful. The verse that Jesus recalls hearing from the rabbi of his town, From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die, is just one among many. It appears in the book of Ecclesiasticus 25,24.
Paul, a misogynist
Although Paul presented himself as a disciple of Jesus and a proponent of his message, and although he was assisted by women in the founding and running of Christian communities throughout the Roman empire, his letters are filled with misogynist comments, not unlike those of other thinkers of his time. Jewish by religion and Pharisee by education, Paul believed that women were inferior to men and should be subordinated to them. Rachel cites 1 Corinthians 11,3 as an example of how Paul set up a rigid hierarchical order. One of Paul’s most patriarchal texts, based on the Genesis myth, appears in the first letter to Timothy (2,11-15). Paul formulated his whole doctrine of salvation on the basis of the myth of the sin of Adam and Eve (see 1 Corinthians 11,8 and 15,21).
A myth with perverse consequences
In the myth of Adam and Eve, which was conceived three thousand years ago and appears in the first pages of the Bible used by Jews and Christians, Eve disobeys God and causes Adam to sin; as a result God submits women to the domination of men. This myth has been the origin of much of the male chauvinism and the discrimination and violence against women that have filled the whole history of the western world, which has been molded by Judeo-Christian culture. That mythical Eve represents all women, and on the basis of that founding myth all women are judged, despised and rejected. Western literature of every epoch shows evidence of this colossal abuse.
We offer several examples of some of the argumentation that employs the myth of Genesis. In the second century Tertullian, a doctor of the church, wrote and preached as follows: Woman, you should walk about dressed for mourning and wearing rags. You should present yourself as a penitent, awash in tears in order thus to redeem the crime of having lost the human race. You are the gateway to hell, you were the one who broke the seals of the forbidden tree, you were the first to violate divine law, you were the one who corrupted the man whom the devil did not dare to attack directly. You were the cause of the death of Jesus Christ.
In the fourth century the great theologian Augustine preached the following: Woman is an inferior being. It is in keeping with justice and the natural order of humanity that women serve men.
In that same century Jerome, another doctor of the church and translator of the Bible into Latin, exclaimed: If a woman does not submit to a man, who is her head, she makes herself guilty of the same sin as a man who does not submit to Christ.
“Harmful root and source of vices”
In the sixth century the bishop Isidore of Seville, declared a saint and considered in his day to be “the most learned man who has appeared in recent times”, stated the following: Man was made for his own sake. Woman was created only as a help to man.
In that same century, the year 585, the Synod of Macon debated about whether at the hour of the general resurrection women would be transformed into men in order to be able to enter into heaven.
In the eleventh century Marbode, the bishop of Rennes, France, who was considered the “king of orators” uttered the following: Of all the many traps that our wily enemy lays for us, the worst one, which almost nobody can avoid, is woman, the weak stem, the harmful root, the source of vices, who spreads scandal though all the world. Oh, woman, sweet evil, honeyed poison! Who persuaded our first father to taste of the forbidden fruit? A woman!
In the thirteenth century the most influential Catholic theologian of all time, Thomas Aquinas, wrote as follows: For the good order of the human family, some need to be governed by others who are wiser than they. Therefore woman, weaker as regards vigor of soul and corporal strength, is by nature subject to man, in whom reason predominates. The father should be more loved than the mother, and he deserves greater respect because his part in conception is active, whereas that of the mother is simply passive and material. … Woman is a defect of nature, a sort of stunted, mutilated little man. If women are born, it is due to a defect in the sperm or to humid winds.
“Made from a curved rib”
In the fifteenth century, the German Dominican Jakob Sprenger, general inquisitor and specialist in judging and executing witches, offered this argument: In the composition of the first woman there was a fault, since she was made from a curved rib, curved as if in the opposite direction from a man’s. And since woman is an imperfect animal due to that fault, she cannot help but deceive.
In the sixteenth century, French theology professor Jean Benedicti taught the following: If a woman, swollen with pride in her intelligence, her beauty, her possessions, and her parentage, despises her husband and refuses to obey him, she thereby rebels against the judgment of God, who wants a woman to submit to her husband, since he is more noble and excellent than the woman and is made in the image of God, whereas woman is made only in the image of man.
In the eighteenth century Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the ideologues of the French Revolution, proposed the following considerations: The education of woman should be organized in relation to men. They should be taught to be pleasing to men’s eyes, to win men’s respect and love, to educate boys during childhood, to care for men when they are grown, to counsel and comfort them, to make their lives pleasant and happy. Such are the duties of women at all times, and this is what they should be taught when they are young.
In the nineteenth century French philosopher Pierre Proudhon, considered to be an important social reformer, stated: Woman is a sort of midway condition between man and the rest of the animal kingdom. … In the mental realm, as in generation, woman contributes nothing of her own: she is a passive being, enervating, given to tedious chatter and caresses. Whoever desires to preserve his corporal and spiritual energies in their fullness should flee from women. They are homicidal.
With the exception of official Catholic thought – which emanates from the Vatican, the most male chauvinist institutional power of the West – the twentieth century has made it ever more “politically incorrect” for famous male writers and thinkers to express themselves in the same patriarchal terms that have been used by scholars and teachers down through the centuries. Nevertheless, there are many people who even today continue to think that way and who consequently act on the basis of such ideas.
A collection of misogynist statements can be found in the book of French journalist Agnes Michaux, Contra ellas (Edhasa, 1997), and in that of Tama Starr, The Natural Inferiority of Women: Outrageous Pronouncements by Misguided Males (Poseidon, 1991).
Also in other cultures and religions
Misogyny, machismo and discrimination against women are by no means a monopoly of Judeo-Christian culture. It comes from much further back, predating even the oldest biblical writings. The dominance of an unjust patriarchal culture had its beginnings some ten thousand years ago, when human beings first discovered agriculture. It was at that time they began to disconnect themselves from nature and to feel that they could dominate nature and control it. Societies began to accumulate surpluses of grains, they developed warfare to defend their granaries, and they consequently began to adore bellicose masculine gods who justified their wars. Right up to the present day we are heirs of that androcentric culture, whose center is the male and whose supreme value is masculinity.
Texts similar to those found in Judeo-Christian culture can be found in the philosophical and religious writings of both cultured Greece and powerful Rome. They are also abundant in the Koran, the sacred book of Islam, as well as in the literature of the sages and the writings of the founders of the different eastern religions. We offer some examples:
In the fifth century before Christ, we read in the Hindu scripture called Panchatantra: Such are the virtues of women: a bunch of vices.
In the sixth century before Christ Confucius, who promoted a new religion in China, taught: Woman is what is most corrupting and most corruptible in all the world.
In the seventh century before Christ Buddha was claiming: Woman is evil. Any time she has a chance, a woman will sin.
In the eighth century before Christ, Zarathustra, the great reformer of Persian religion, instructed women thus: You should adore man as a divinity. Nine times in the morning you should stand before your husbands with your arms folded and repeat to him: What do you want me to do, my lord?
In the fourth century before Christ, the great philosopher Aristotle offered this consideration: Nature makes women only when it cannot make men.
In the fifth century before Christ, the Greek dramatist Euripides stated: There is nothing in the world worse than a woman, except another woman. And the great Athenian statesman Pericles declared: Women, slaves and foreigners are not citizens.
The story of Adam and Eve in Paradise appears also in the Koran. In the seventh century after Christ, the Koran (Sura 4, verse 38) states: Men are superior to women because God has granted them predominance over women. Husbands who suffer disobedience from their wives can punish them, leave them solitary on their beds, or even beat them. And Sura 24, verse 59, declares: God has not granted to man a more pernicious calamity than woman.
The black Eve
The science of genetics has taught us that modern human beings did not originate in any kind of biblical paradise with forbidden trees and enticing serpents. Rather homo sapiens was born in Africa about 150 thousand years ago, after evolving for many hundreds of thousands of years from more primitive human species, which in turn had evolved for millions of years from more primitive hominids, which in turn had evolved from early primates, etc. At some point, about 100 thousand years ago, those first modern humans left Africa, but not because they were expelled from any paradise. Rather, they emigrated out of Africa toward Europe and Asia in search of food, and also adventure. Thousands of years later they crossed the frozen steppes of the northern climes and began to populate the Americas.
Genetic research on mitochondrial DNA, which is present in all human cells but is inherited only from the mother, indicates that that initial human migration was undertaken by only one of the thirteen human clans that originally populated the African continent. That single adventurous clan was made up of a very small number of men and women. Some scientists has called it “Lara’s clan” since they were all considered to be descendents of a single woman, poetically christened “Lara”. That black woman is the true Eve, the mother of all humankind.
We have Africa in our blood
A well-known geneticist from Oxford, Richard Dawkins, speaks thus of our African birthplace: All the fossils from the years when our species was in formation come from Africa, and molecular tests suggest that the ancestors of all present-day peoples remained there for a long time, approximately until the last few hundred thousand years. We have Africa in our blood, and Africa holds our bones. We are all Africans. This fact alone makes Africa’s ecosystem an object of exceptional fascination, for that is the community that molded our species; that is the community of animals and plants in which we did our ecological apprenticeship. But even if Africa were not our continent of origin, it would still captivate us since it is perhaps the last great refuge of Pleistocene ecologies. If you wish to have a last look at the Garden of Eden, forget the Tigris and the Euphrates and the dawn of agriculture. … Turn rather toward Kilimanjaro, or look toward the Rift Valley. Those are the places in which human beings were designed to flourish.
More questions than answers
When we reflect thoughtfully and critically on the religious beliefs and traditions we have received from the past, as we have done with the myth of Adam and Eve, we frequently end up asking ourselves more questions. The interviews with Jesus and the answers he gives Rachel also generate more questions.
That is the way people grow and make progress. The great Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire had confidence in questions and proposed using them as a way of teaching. He used to say: We must develop a pedagogy of questions. We have always practiced a pedagogy of answers, where the teachers answered the questions asked by the students. Often, in expounding the so-called “magisterium of the church”, those who have the role of “teachers” practice, promote and impose a pedagogy of answers – answers to questions that nobody nowadays is even asking!