The Sin of Adam and Eve According to St. Jerome
Saint Jerome had what many describe as an anti-sexual obsession. According to Jerome, Adam and Eve had a sexual relationship only after the Fall. Jerome believed that a husband could love his wife only if he abstained from all sexual intercourse with her. Jerome made a distinction between love and sexual lust. Love was divine, virginal, manly, asexual. Sexual lust was obscene, fit for pigs and dogs, rather than human beings.
Of course, the Bible clearly does condemn sexual lust as obscene. Yet Jerome seemed to think that all sexual desires and sexual expressions were sinful, even within marriage. Although he allowed for the use of sex within marriage to produce children, but preferred the state of celabacy. To St. Jerome marriage was the Old Testament, the Law. It was 'carnal' and thus stood condemned. Virginity, however, was the Gospel. To Jerome, becoming a Christian meant to be or to become a virgin.
Jerome held that marriage was only instituted after the fall. Marriage partakes in the effects of sin. "Matrimony is always a vice," claimed St. Jerome. "All that can be done is to excuse it and to sanctify it; therefore it was made a religious sacrament."
Another quote from Jerome:
Do you imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children? He who is too ardent a lover of his own wife is an adulterer.
According to Jerome, "woman is the root of all evil." Like all the early Christian theologians, Jerome glorified virginity and looked down on marriage. His reasoning was rooted in Genesis:
Eve in paradise was a virgin ... understand that virginity is natural and that marriage comes after the Fall.
The marital act to Jerome cannot be good because it only acts as a relief valve:
Thus it must be bad to touch a woman. If indulgences is nonetheless granted to the marital act, this is only to avoid something worse. But what value can be recognized in a good that is allowed only with a view of preventing something worse?
Jerome wrote that the only good thing about marriage is that "it produces virgins." Jerome also wrote:
And as regards Adam and Eve we must maintain that before the fall they were virgins in Paradise: but after they sinned, and were cast out of Paradise, they were immediately married.