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The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics Paperback – April 30, 1996
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The book is organized in three principal sections. The first part dissects the four gospels in the order they were written, and delineates the relationships between the authors, their social context, and their thinking with regard to Satan and all things/people evil. Among the most helpful recognitions in this part of the book is that as the gospels evolved, Pilate and the Romans grew more and more "innocent" (the Christians were trying to make a distinction between themselves and the troublesome dissidents of Palestine), and the Jews grew more and more "responsible" for Jesus' crucifixion, thus "under the influence of Satan." Much of this awareness is found in the recognition that Jews in the Roman Empire were torn between the social elite who were for the most part the priesthood and the wealthy, and the poor fundamentalists who saw the privileges of the empire in opposition to the covenants with God.
The second section of the book describes the growing rift between the pagans of the Roman empire and the growing Christian sect. What is most helpful in this section is comparing the writings of such pagan minds as Celsus and Marcus Arelius with the early writings of Justin, Origen and others. In the Roman Empire, there was no greater virtue than that of "citizenship" in the empire, and the strength of the empire was assured by performing the ritual obligations to the Gods.Read more ›
To Rome, Christianity was a radical threat, notes Pagels. Not because it was different from the State religion (more interested in taxes), but because Christianity demanded discarding old ways. For Rome their religion was synonymous with tradition, community, Pax Romana and peace in the Empire. While Jews associated Judaism to a certain people, the Christian movement encouraged adherents to abandon ancestral customs and connections. No doubt one of Christianity's appeal for some, it also accelerated individualization (see Marcel Gauchet) as each must choose between the two for themselves. Pagels notes Rome also had a sense of an "almighty," leading the pagan apologist, Celsus, to write it was blasphemy for Christians to invent a power (Satan) that could constrain an infinite God.Read more ›
Reading this book made me a lot more familiar with some of the political issues that were of concern to early Christians, and how these issues may have been reflected in the writing of the Gospels. But I was a little disappointed in the book because I felt that most of the focus was on general Christian history and politics and not on the central questions posed on the back cover concerning the origin of Satan. It seemed that the idea of using the question of the invention of Satan as the central theme of the book was almost pasted onto individual articles as an afterthought. In reading each chapter, it often felt like the chapter was meant to be a self-standing entity, and details concerning the conception of Satan were added simply to glue the book together. Many times, Pagel's comments touched on how the early Christians related to opposition, and how they might even demonize opposing groups, but how this led to the invention of the concept of Satan is still unclear to me after reading this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting take on Satan. Not sure I by all of her reasoning, but well written.Published 21 hours ago by Robert
I love this book, this is my second copy. Would love to give to friends and family if it were approximate. 😉 I love it and if u have an open mind buy it.Published 1 month ago by Midnite
interesting in bits, but too boring to get through in one goPublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Well written! Difficult material written in a very fluent style.Published 7 months ago by C. Tarvin