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In the Old Testament, Satan is merely the Adversary, a forbidding member of God's retinue. How then did Satan become the prince of darkness in the Gospels, the one who brings about the crucifixion of Jesus as part of a cosmic struggle between good and evil? And why did the followers of Jesus increasingly identify Satan with their human antagonists--first Jews, then pagans, and then heretics of their own faith?
In this groundbreaking work of social and religious history, the author of The Gnostic Gospels traces the relationship between the embattled members of a breakaway Jewish sect and the myth they invoked to explain their persecution. This book is at once a masterpiece of erudition, and a book resonant with contemporary implications. For in its pages, we come to understand how the gospel of love could coexist with hatreds that have haunted Christians and non-Christians alike for two thousand years.
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 Satans story into an audacious exploration of Christianitys shadow side, in which the gospel of love gives way to irrational hatreds that continue to haunt Christians and non-Christians alike.
Elaine Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University and the author of Reading Judas, The Gnostic Gospelswinner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Awardand the New York Times bestseller Beyond Belief. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
"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