Friday 19 November 2010

Adam and Eve

Parts of this post were first written on 28th January and 1st May, 2010. Updated and expanded on 18th November, 2010.

Adam and Eve

This is an image from the wonderful Ebstorf Mappamundi, a Medieval European map of the world created in around 1234. Look, both Adam and Eve got an apple: this is equality between men and women (they are equally guilty). And the serpent winding down the tree is not depicted as feminine but masculine — he has a beard.

3 Responses “Adam and Eve” →

May 1, 2010
Adam and Eve and the Serpent is a very interesting story. Eve, as we surely know, was created from one of Adam’s ribs, a kind of cloning process if you will. So she is really a female version of Adam.

We should keep in mind that there is more to it than just Adam and Eve and the Serpent. Who is missing from this picture? Lilith is missing. Lilith was created at the same time as Adam and was his equal. (

Initially Adam and Lilith got along fine, but Lilith soon realized that Adam wanted her to be subservient to him. She could not agree to this, as she felt she was his equal. And so she went to God with her complaint. God tried to get them to get along, but in the end Adam would not accept that Lilith was his equal, so she left him. And she even got God to grant her the use of his sacred name, which gave her great power. At this point it gets a bit murky, but many of the stories agree that she married the angel Samael. (

Samael is often regarded as Satan, but this is not so. According to many of the stories. Samael is the ruler of the fifth heaven. Samael is widely regarded as the snake in the Garden of Eden, but according to some stories the snake is actually both Lilith and Samael conjoined, with Lilith providing the body and Samael the voice of the serpent.

Another interesting aspect of the story is what eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means. The general thought is that this is a fall into sin and guilt. This is the view promoted by the Christians.

Still if you think of it as the awakening of our moral sense, knowledge of good and evil as morality, then you can see it as an awakening of consciousness. This adds depth to our lives. Because without this sense of morality, we would act like amoral sociopaths, who think nothing of lying, cheating, stealing, and acting against the good of friends, family, and humanity. Thus to my view this knowledge of good and evil is what God wanted us to have. And to make sure we ate of the fruit, He forbids it to us. This is always how it work in such stories. Who can resist forbidden fruit?

May 1, 2010
Perhaps those in the Dark Ages were a little more enlighten than our Biblical Scholars choose to admit.

May 2, 2010
for some reason the serpent looks feminine to me! @_@

A quote

In a discussion of Geoffrey Chaucer ('the first great poet in English'), Harold Bloom mentions Milton (only to quickly dismiss him as 'a strong third' behind Chaucer and Shakespeare), and has the following to say about Milton's Adam and Eve:
Adam and Eve, before the Fall, are demigods; after it, they are first quarrelsome children, and then poignantly homeless ones. (p. 30). 

Now, a bit of history

Do you know what the object on the left is?

It is called “Ain Sakhri lovers figurine” and is one of the 100 items discussed in A History of the World in 100 Objects, a project co-run by the British Museum and the BBC. By the way, their podcasts are wonderful.

Found in the Middle East and made by the Natufians in about 9,000BC, this is the earliest known artistic representation of two people having sexual intercourse.

The programme website describes the figurine: 
The knees of one of the figures bend up over the legs of the other. The pebble has been ingeniously carved so that, whichever way you look at it, the shape of the figurine is phallic but the genders of the couple are not revealed.
I particularly liked “the genders of the couple are not revealed”. Jill Cook, Curator of the Museum, comments:
Whether we see the Ain Sakhri lovers as a piece of erotica, a tender expression of homosexual or heterosexual love, a symbol of fertility, masculinity or a metaphor for creation, depends on our own background and beliefs.

6 Responses “Now, a bit of history” →

Shadowy figure
January 28, 2010
I think it is a bit presumtuous to assume that “the genders are not revealed”. Maybe the figure has just eroded so that the details aren’t visible? Maybe it wasn’t that well sculptured to begin with?

Old artifacts may have survived by fluke of accident instead of being particularly representative of the age. I am much more interested in the tools and housing and burial methods of ancient folks, than their art.

January 28, 2010
Apart from making his doubt about experts’ opinions explicit, SF also cared to show me this comic strip during an msn conversation: Interesting.

January 28, 2010
I have been listening to this series and I think it is terrific. The producers use each object as a way of talking about the history of the people and time more generally. Obviously, sex was one of the issues which was addressed in this particular episode.

As for Shadowy Figure’s point, it is true that a rare or unique object may have survived by fluke, and thus does not offer us a completely representative image of the time. Of course, if something was common, its chances of surviving are greater. On the other hand, if something was special, and thus treated with more respect and care, that may also increase its chance of making it into the future. The sex statue above would seem to fall into the latter category, but who knows, maybe everybody had one of these statues at the time. Maybe it was used as a model for early sex-ed courses.

January 28, 2010
Yes, very interesting. Sex-ed in the public schools has been a huge topic now in Hong Kong for some time. Some parents are bellowing that their younglings should be thoroughly educated in this subject, starting as young as grade 4. Perhaps someone could anticipate the government’s eventual compliance and seek a manufacturing company across the border to mould thousands of these phalluses in plastic. Such an enterprising soul could make a fortune.

January 28, 2010
i am looking forward to go to this exhibition too. glad you enjoyed.

March 12, 2010
As an abstract sculptor I sometimes ‘create’ figurines such as these by just embellishing the natural lines and faults in stone or wood.I’ve got a feeling this lovely figurine is of this type,and the result of a happy accident.Some of my own favourite pieces are derived from found natural stones.Because of the effort invested in making these objects without the use of metal tools,our ancestors would have looked around (as I do) for partially formed pieces to save time.The cave painters did’nt look for flat surfaces to produce their art,they looked for natural contours and fault lines in the rock to give emphasis to the applied pigments.Primitive art is always a pleasure to look at.

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