The Origin of Satan

The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics by Elaine Pagels, the 1996 paperback edition from Vintage Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Elaine Pagels The Origins of Satan from Vintage Books

“In the Old Testament he is merely the Adversary, a forbidding member of God’s retinue. How then did Satan become the Gospels’ prince of darkness, who brings about the crucifixion of Jesus as part of a cosmic struggle between good and evil? And why did jesus’ followers increasingly identify Satan with their human antagonists—first Jews, then pagans, and then heretics of their own faith?

In this groundbreaking work of religious and social 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. The Origins of Satan 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.” —back cover