A Rejoiner to the Refutation of Adam and Eve
Time to deconstruct the social legacy of the myth
By Corey Gilkes
November 24, 2006
My comrade Tyehimba's essay on Refuting the Myth of Adam and Eve raised very important points that in my view are not discussed nearly enough as we set about the business of hammering out a Caribbean civilisation and reconstructing the Africa as we knew it to be. I wish to further add to his contribution by calling into question something I think he himself should have paid more attention to: the psychological, social and political impact of the historicising of the Adam and Eve story, indeed the entire Old Testament as well as the New Testament and its central figure.
Today as the debate rages on over the issue of Intelligent Design vs Evolution - a truly nonsensical debate if there ever was one - I find very few people understand something that should have been quite obvious, glaringly obvious. The Christian argument has no place in any scientific discussion because it is simply not scientific and likewise, the scientific argument has no place in theology because it is not theological. This is one of the proverbial elephants in the room that no one (especially those on the religious side) seems to have picked up on. But then the Christian worldview and Christian teachings has such a deep hold on people's psyche that even though many in the Evolutionist camp dismiss the Creationists, they themselves make very little attempt to analyse and deconstruct the Creationist's foundational arguments. It's almost as if there is a quiet deference to certain articles of faith and the obvious is now anything but that.
We are seeing a disturbing resurgence in religious fundamentalism in politics by Christians, Hindus and Muslims; notwithstanding the recent defeat of the Republicans in the United States and their cozy Religious Right comrades, much of the gains made against religiously-influenced laws in the US are being systematically attacked and reversed. As economist and Humanist, Denis Solomon, has so rightly pointed out, this ID/Evolution debate is not so much an issue of the scientists versus religious teaching in a scientific debate, it is once again, the religious types versus everyone else's. The end result is as it has always been: universal conformity to one specific worldview and the authority of those who created that worldview.
If we are to continue to reverse the militarising of the world, the encroachment of neo-colonialism in the form of globalisation and its many manifestations and the destruction of the delicate eco-systems in the name of progress and "sustainable development", then one of the tasks we simply have to perform is the unpleasant task (for some) of deconstructing the idea that many events of the bible were actual, historic events, starting with that very Adam and Eve myth (which in another context is one of the most misogynist myths ever constructed).
Let me hasten to point out that we should not view such calls with a simplistic Cartesian binary-oppositional mindset. To do so may cause an instinctive resistance to dealing with the issue. To state that the Creation story and the Jesus story are myths does not necessarily dismiss them. The Adam and Eve myth is just that, a poetic myth (tradition) but as a myth it is a gateway to even deeper meanings and ideas. What is being called into question is the way in which that myth and others was woven into a complex tapestry that became historicised for certain political agendas.
As Tyehimba correctly pointed out there are many creation myths in other, much older cultures. What makes the Christian version of the Creation/Adam and Eve story so unique? It is believed to have actually happened along with the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Not even the Jews, from whom the Christian version was taken, argued that the Creation myth - and many others found in the Old Testament - was historical. The very names of 'Adam', 'Eve' are often written in lowercase letters because the names are actually symbolic and generic terms. A decoding of those names was attempted by such scholars as Gerald Massey, Cheikh Anta Diop and Charles Finch and if they are correct, the myth has very close ties with the Wisdom Teachings of Egyptian sacred science. It does lead one to ponder deeply the parallels between the biblical 'Adam' who was fashioned out of clay (the word 'adu-mah' in Hebrew means red/claylike) and a very ancient Kemetic/Egyptian deity Khnum who is shown sitting at a potter's wheel fashioning man out of clay. Even the name for the Garden 'Eden' is said to be traceable back to the Egyptian 'den' which even today, means 'enclosure' (which also is a faint reference to the symbolic representation of the Great Mother Goddess as a python that encircles her offspring as she nurtured them. Thus, when viewed from the standpoint of gender relations and the perception of women and the female principle, this is a poetic attack against the concept of the Divine Mother by the merging patriarchy of Eurasian cultures).
Be that as it may, what is of particular interest here is that crucial formative period of the first three hundred years of the Christian era. I strongly believe that anyone attempting to make sense of Western hegemony on world politics and economics, the hold Christianity has over a great many cultures, societies and people, even those who do not call themselves Christian, must pay very special attention to the turbulent years from the 1st the 4th C. This was a time when there were a number of 'Christian', Jewish and Gnostic sects all vying for primacy. The Romans had long since conquered and occupied Palestine and there was an extended period of armed and passive resistance by the conquered Jews. None of this, by the way, is reflected in the canonical New Testament and for good reason. By 70 CE the cataclysmic destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem had taken place and the Jews were scattered across the Roman provinces. The unbending and uncompromising stance by extremist groups like the Zealots meant that there would most likely never be peace as long as the Jewish faith could not remain autonomous. There were other sects, however, that were prepared to find some sort of accommodation and this caused a serious rift among the Jewish community. As the years advanced the radical view became less and less popular as certain Jewish leaders sought acceptance among the dominating Roman administration. The canonical stories that make up the New Testament have more to do with a careful and systematic shifting of blame for the destruction of the Jewish homeland and Temple away from the Romans and on to those radical Jewish elements who refused to compromise their principles. To add insult to injury, some of the other sects espoused selective aspects of Jewish teachings but were now revolving around the character of Jesus who was being recast as an historical figure and as a divinity in his own right and were becoming the dominant force. This historicising was very advantageous to the designs of Emperor Constantine who was seeking to unify the Roman Empire (see essay "Orthodox" Christianity and the Birth of European Nationalism).
The point is that what with the profound influence religion and the supernatural held, by arguing that one particular avatar and the stories leading up to that avatar's coming was factual, immense political mileage could be achieved. This is exactly what happened with Europe from the time when Constantine unified the Roman Empire using among other things univocal Church doctrine - even though Christianity was not the state religion of Rome - through the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, the age of mercantilism and the expansionist ventures into the Americas, Asia and Africa. The European right to rule was spurred in no small way by the fraudulent ideology of an historical death, resurrection and ascension of the Jesus character and the subsequent apostolic succession which passed on to the papacy. Protestants too, although they dismiss the primacy of the Vatican, supplanting the supremacy of the bible for supremacy of the papacy, retain the historicity of the New Testament with the more extreme adherents citing the historicity of the Creation story, the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve.
This has to be brought out into the open and painstakingly discussed and soon. The intolerance and violence that always accompanies religious differences of opinion become even more violent with each cycle of history. We cannot sit back and allow the destiny of the world to be left up to chance or solely to accidents of history. The destruction of the environment has always been spurred on by a deep-seated Eurocentric mindset that took firm hold in religion that the destruction of wild nature is in keeping with divine instructions to Adam that he was to have dominion over the animals in the Garden of Eden. Further, the militarising of the so-called Middle East as well as Latin America is, by no coincidence, occurring along with a millenarian belief in the End of Times. As ridiculous and laughable as it sounds (and is), there is a precedent for this in the form of the burning of Ancient Rome by Christian fanatics who, like their 20th and 21st C descendents, believed in a literal Second Coming. They set about burning 'pagan' temples and buildings in the hope that, by speeding up the process, the saviour would hasten his return. All well and good if one considers that at least they did not have access to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.