- Paperback: 214 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 30, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679731180
- ISBN-13: 978-0679731184
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 174 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics Paperback – April 30, 1996
"Maybe You Should Talk to Someone" by Lori Gottlieb
"This is a daring, delightful, and transformative book." ―Arianna Huffington, Founder, Huffington Post Learn more
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"Arresting . . . brilliant . . . this book illuminates the angels with which we must wrestle to come to the truth of our bedeviling spritual problems." —Boston Globe
"Pagels is a wonderful writer. . . . She has a gift for bringing ancient texts alive. . . . Fascinating." —San Francisco Chronicle
"Lively reading . . . a book that makes familiar concepts disturbingly fresh and provocative." —The New York Times
"Pagels has achieved something important. . . . Thoughtful scholarly works that are also original and adventurous are not common. The Origin of Satan is such a work, and we should be correspondingly grateful." —New York Review of Books
"Lucid and closely reasoned. . . . Pagels remains always a lively writer who discerns the human implications of esoteric texts and scholarly disputes." —Chicago Tribune
From the Inside Flap
igious 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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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.
The evolution of the notion of Satan progresses from an angel who tests people for God, posing questions and proposing alternatives to the righteous in contravention of God's will, into the embodiment of evil, whether as a being or a force within one's heart and mind. Pagels explains this strictly from both Biblical and "heretical" texts, with a keen eye on political developments of the time. First, in the Hebrew Bible, Satan (or Bielzebub or by any array of names) is an angel. Slowly, he becomes the force behind sectarian disagreements, from intra-Jewish ones to opponents of Jesus' supposed vision for the Jews. He also serves as the source of evil to be found in GOYIM, or those who are not of the nation of Israel. Second, as Christianity progressively becomes dominated by gentiles, the notion of the devil's evil work moves from a) vilification of non-believing Jews, Romans, and Pagans, to b) the condemnation of those Christians who promote rival interpretations to one's own, ending in c) a question of what is in one's own heart and what causes one to sin.
All of these notions, Pagels argues persuasively, came to dominate the consciences of the various branches of monotheism over the next 2,000 years. With the accusation (or "demonization") of the "other" as irredeemably evil and not on the side of God and his righteous, it creates a kind of solidarity and certainty in the face of sometimes overwhelming odds - and an excuse to treat others as less than human in a cosmic war. This makes her argument, in my view, essential reading.
Nonetheless, I was looking for an examination of Satan himself, not only as a socio-political phenomenon, but as imagery, characterization, etc. As he appears in this book, Satan is a kind of morphing gravity well, a murky socio-political force. While very interesting, I was disappointed and will have to seek the other perspective elsewhere.
REcommended with enthusiasm. It is a great review of early Christianity and crucial to understanding the monotheistic mind.
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."