Was there Sex in Eden?
My last post argued that the eating of the tree in Genesis 3 had nothing whatsoever to do with the emergence of sensuality in human life on earth. But this fact raises an intriguing question: Were Adam and Eve enjoying sexuality before the fall? The well-known biblical scholar James Barr, for one, believes the answer to this question is yes.
I believe I have at least one further argument to add to those of James Barr. For me, one way to get some traction on the question is to remember that the OT does in fact contain poetry about what a return to the garden of Eden might look like: the poetry of the Song of Songs / Canticles.
In the Song of Songs, the ruptures and foul consequences of the Genesis 3 are reversed and overcome, and humanity, male and female, return to Edenic life. And certainly there is sensuality aplenty.
In view of the poetry of the Song of Songs, the uneasiness and qualms about sensuality of much of the Christian tradition makes precious little sense. Augustine's description of what making babies might have looked like had it happened in Eden appears particularly ridiculous!
Here are his words (usually printed in Latin!) from his City of God, 14.26:
In Eden, it would have been possible to beget offspring without foul lust. The sexual organs would have been stimulated into necessary activity by will-power alone, just as the will controls other organs. Then, without being goaded on by the allurement of passion, the husband could have relaxed upon his wife's breasts with complete peace of mind and bodily tranquility, that part of his body not activated by tumultuous passion, but brought into service by the deliberate use of power when the need arose, the seed dispatched into the womb with no loss of his wife's virginity. So, the two sexes could have come together for impregnation and conception by an act of will, rather than by lustful cravings. (City of God, Bk. 14, chp. 26).