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The Origin Of Satan

Paperback Book
April, 1996
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Banyen's Description: 

New from Princeton’s distinguished historian of religion and author of The Gnostic Gospels, this book traces the evolution of Satan from its origins in the Hebrew Bible, where Satan is at first merely obstructive, to the New Testament, where Satan becomes the Prince of Darkness, the bitter enemy of God and man, evil incarnate. Pagels shows how the Four Gospels tell two different stories: one of Jesus’s moral genius: his lessons of love, forgiveness, and redemption. The second tells of the bitter conflict between the followers of Jesus and their fellow Jews, a conflict in which the writers of the four gospels condemned as creatures of Satan those Jews who refused to worship Jesus as the Messiah. The evangelists invoked Satan to portray their Jewish enemies as God’s enemies too. Pagels then shows how the church later turned this satanic indictment aginst its Roman enemies, declaring that pagans and infidels were also creatures of Satan, and against its own dissenters, calling them heretics and ascribing their heterodox views to satanic influences.

The irreconcilable stories of love and hate in the four gospels reflect a profoundly human conflict: the struggle between our loving selves and our fearful, combative selves, the central irony of our human condition. Much has been written about the legacy of Jesus’s profession of love and compassion. The Origin of Satan shows how this great message is entwined at its origin with a no less powerful story of bitter hatred and cosmic strife, a story that has shaped human history as much as that of Jesus’s love.

This remarkable work of groundbreaking scholarship, quite accessible to non-specialists, is much more than an articulation of ancient controversies. It brings into a new light the whole notion that the struggle between good and evil is the way things are, and that that’s good. ‘Tain’t necessarily so!

I hope that this research may illuminate for others, as it has for me, the struggle within Christian tradition between the profoundly human view that “otherness” is evil and the words of Jesus that reconciliation is divine.


Publisher’s Description: 

From the religious historian whose The Gnostic Gospels won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award comes a dramatic interpretation of Satan and his role on the Christian tradition. With magisterial learning and the elan of a born storyteller, Pagels turns Satan's story into an audacious exploration of Christianity's shadow side, in which the gospel of love gives way to irrational hatreds that continue to haunt Christians and non-Christians alike.

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