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The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics Paperback – April 30, 1996
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. . . ground-breaking . . . Many times in the course of reading her explications I found myself saying, "Of course, why hasn't someone said this before?" By showing how the sectarian demonization of the "intimate enemies"--Jews and heretics--shaped early Christianity, the book helps us to understand the power of irrational forces that still need to be confronted in contemporary society. -- S. David Sperling, professor of Bible, Hebrew Union College --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Pagels, whose Gnostic Gospels (LJ 1/15/79) was a best seller and a major award winner, here examines the New Testament tendency to associate the Devil with Jews resistant to the teachings of Christianity.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Elaine Pagel is a brilliant scholar and writer, but the reader must understand that the subject matter of this book is better characterized by its subtitle: "How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics.
Ms. Pagel invests much of the reader's energy by parsing through the gospels (canonical and Gnostic)and other historic documents to illustrate how frictions of faith in the early church became elevated to a point of putting the mantel of "evil" and "children of darkness" and "demonic" upon those who opposed (and still oppose) Christianity. For those who are truly interested in the early Christian church and its struggles, this is a good work. I was particularly intrigued by the changes that occurred as the early church moved from being primarily a Jewish sect to becoming a Gentile religion.
If you're uncertain whether or not this book is for you, read the final chapter, "Conclusion." Ms. Pagel does an excellent job bringing together her main arguments and observations. If what you read interests you, buy or check-out the book. Otherwise, move on to something like "History of Hell," by Alice K. Turner or "A History of Witchcraft," by Russell and Alexander. Those books may be more along the line of what you're looking for in terms of "the origin of Satan."
As he first appeared in the Hebrew Bible, Satan is not necessarily evil, much less opposed to God. But an adversary not described as a particular character. He then evolved into a far more malevolent figure and given names like Satan, Beelzebub, Semihhazah, Azazel, Belial, and the Prince of Darkness.
Later, in Hebrew scripture, the devil or the evil ones became a way of characterizing one's actual enemies as the embodiment of transcendent forces and that the forces of evil could act through certain people. Some of these evil forces could be chief priests and scribes in opposing factions.
Thus the Jews demonized other Jews, the Christians demonized Jews, the Romans and the Pagans. Early church leaders demonized other Gnostic leaders.
The gospel writers saw the Jewish leaders as doing Satan's work to destroy Jesus. The Essenes saw a cosmic battle between angels and demons, God and Satan. They demonized their fellow Jews. Had Satan not existed, the Essenes would have invented him.
Pagels in the later chapters gives us a description of some of the early church fathers, like Origin, Tertullian, Irenaeus and Justin, and how their lives shaped Christianity.
The entire book is a brief synopsis of the Bible and life in the ancient world. Anyone with an interest in those things would benefit from reading this book.
I'm not sure how to describe the contents herein. It's a lot of information that is slightly narrative in structure but also of the dry, scholarly kind which presents many different figures, points, quotes, footnotes, etc. as both distinct and yet apart of the narrative. As another reviewer mentioned, this book is primarily concerned with Christianity's historical, real world application of Satan and satanic figures and how it has metamorphosed into the sort of cancerous 'us vs. them' mentality which creates such a rift I'm thought between followers and non-followers.
The title should best be read as 'The Origin of the Historical Satan' in contrast to the mythical Demi-god we are typically presented with. Read this book for the historical implications and how 'satanism' (for lack of better words) takes shape in reality. If you're looking to debunk the myth of Satan as a divine being at war with god, you might want to look at other books which deal primarily in the spiritual aspects of demonic theory. This book still deserves a spot on anyone's reading list who is frustrated with the lack of transparency in the history of this religion.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Aside from doing a sort of double-take when I realized what this was bore little...Read more