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The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality.

Immortality of the human soul has been central to Christian belief. Beginning in the 20th century, theologians like Oscar Cullmann proposed that immortality of the soul was not part of biblical belief but that the foundation of Christianity lay rather in the quite different doctrine of the resurrection of the body. Many voices began to argue that immortality was not only different from resurrection but actually opposed to it.

Barr challenges these arguments by proposing that the story of Adam and Eve is not at all about the origins of evil; rather it is a story about how human immortality was almost gained but in fact was lost. The erroneous interpretation of the story as the "Fall" comes from using Paul's typological Adam as a detailed explication of the story. In fact, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, not because they were unworthy to stay or hopelessly alienated from God, but to prevent them from having access to the tree of life which would offer immortality.

Barr offers a fresh and stimulating interpretation of the story. He argues carefully and convincingly that interpretation of the story as a "Fall" is not faithful to the story taken in and for itself. His argument for the centrality of the theme of immortality is less persuasive, as evidenced by his acknowledging the polysemy of nephesh yet asking the reader's permission to translate it as "soul" (40). However, Barr does reestablish the compatibility of immortality with early biblical thought.
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Author:Burns, Camilla
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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