Synopses & Reviews
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 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.
"Like The Gnostic Gospels, The Origin of Satan offers an extraordinary reading of ancient controversies surrounding the Judeo-Christian religion. This time, Pagels's exegesis of the gospel focuses on the problem of evil. Tracing the evolution of Satan from a diffuse evil force to the specific, personified enemy of God and humanity, Pagels concerns herself primarily with the social meaning of the devil. She has gathered an impressive array of primary sources to support her argument that just as early Christianity was shaped by the supposed 'intimate enemies' of the new faith, so contemporary society continues to explain the power of evil, irrational forces by constructing an historically specific 'other.' During the Cold War years, for example, what Reagan called the 'Evil Empire' served as this other. Pagels presents her multifaceted, complex investigation of the conception and perception of evil throughout Western history in a way that speaks to both to the specialist and the common reader." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)