Episode 22 – Adam and Eve: Self-Consciousness, Evil, and Death

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Lecture 4 in my Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories lecture series. I turned my attention in this lecture to the older of the two creation accounts in Genesis: the story of Adam and Eve. In its few short paragraphs, it covers:

1. the emergence of human self-consciousness;
2. mankind’s attendant realization of vulnerability, mortality, and death;
3. the origin of the capacity for willful evil, as the ability to exploit that newly-realized vulnerability;
4. the emergence of shame as a consequence of that realization;
5. the shrinking from divine destiny that occurred when shame emerged; and
6. the beginning of true history, with the self-conscious toil that life in history entails.

Impossible. Amazing. Breathtaking.

The only story that can perhaps match it in terms of impact per sentence is that of Cain and Abel, which we discuss in the next lecture: number five in this twelve part series.


  • Lisa Kenton

    Hate to tell you this Dr. Peterson, but married people also reserve the right to trade their spouses in,have you seen the divorce rate recently. Also, there are other reasons not to legally marry than lack of commitment. My partner and I have been togather almost 30 years. Either of us could have easily left at anytime, we have no financial entanglement because we’re poor. A big part of marriage for the middle and upper classes is about assets. Civil marriage is a contract. One more thing, you say a woman’s socio economic status plays almost no role in her attractiveness to a man. You must have next to no contact with poor people. You are clueless on many socio economic issues outside of your experience. You just condescendingly dismiss entire groups of people. I’m not sure why I continue to listen to you. Every time I do I have to wade through piles of bullshit to get to the good stuff. I guess I find enough of value to keep listening even though I find you personally increasing distasteful.

  • Mary Noelle

    I am continually fascinated by these lectures. As a lecturer in Biblical Studies I completely endorse Dr. Peterson’s statement that the biblical narratives are a collective attempt to solve the deepest problems of humanity. I share his desire to understand what these ancient texts still have to say to the chaos of twentieth century existence.

  • LucyZ

    Dear professor,
    at this lecture you talk about J K Rowling and the quidditch game, and you wonder “how does she know”.
    Try analysing the books and the movies by the 7 stages of Alchemy, this will give you a key to understanding the source of her knowledge.

  • Phillip Cowan

    Has anyone found a solution to enable listening to this lecture, or know what is the issue?

  • md yes

    The iTunes podcast download on my iphone as well as the direct feed above on windows 10 computer both stop playing around 8:40. Is anyone else experiencing trouble with this feed? Thank you

  • Jim O’Connor

    I am not able to play this through iTunes or the lefthand link in Safari past about minute 8 or so. I’m trying the SoundCloud link now. I am able to get into minute 9 at least on that file.