THE ORIGIN OF SATAN, by Elaine Pagels. Vintage Books, 1995. Pp. 214. (BS2555.6.D5P34).
Pagels teaches history of religion at Princeton University. She was National Book Award-Winning author of THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS.
In THE ORIGIN OF SATAN, Pagels traces the evolution of Satan from Hebrew biblical roots to the New Testament. In the O.T., Satan is an antagonistof Yahweh, but in the N.T. he is the Prince of Darkness, and bitter enemy of God and humankind. At the crucifixion of Jesus he energized the cosmic struggle between good and evil. The followers of Jesus associated Satan with their own antagonists: Jews, pagans, and heretics of the Christian faith.
Whatever one's experience with the Devil may have been, or whatever one's understanding of Satan might be, this work from the pen of a talented writer has implications for living today. In this book, "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." (Back cover).
Pagels draws a dual conclusion from the four Gospels. First, there is the story of Jesus' teaching on love, forgiveness and redemption. Second, there is the bitter conflict between the followers of Jesus and their fellow Jews. Those who refused to worship Jesus as Messiah were condemned as creatures of Satan.
THE NEW YORK TIMES commends THE ORIGIN OF SATAN as "Lively reading...a book that makes familiar concepts disturbingly fresh and provocative." (Cover).