“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
“How did the early Christians come to believe that sex was inherently sinful? When did the Fall of Adam become synonymous with the fall of all humanity? What turned Christianity from a dissident sect that championed the integrity of the individual and the idea of free will into the bulwark of a new imperial order—with the central belief that human beings cannot choose not to sin? In this provocative masterpiece of historical scholarship Elaine Pagels re-creates the controversies that racked the early church as it confronted the riddles of sexuality, freedom, and sin as embodied in the story of Genesis. And she shows what was once heresy came to shape our own attitudes toward the body and the soul.” — back cover
“In 1945 an Egyptian peasant unearthed what proved to be the Gnostic Gospels, the sacred books of one of the earliest Christian sects. This landmark study, a winner of both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, draws on those texts to illuminate the world of the first Christians and to examine the different ways in which both Gnostics and the orthodox constructed God, Christ, and the Church. Did Jesus literally rise from the dead? Was there only one God, and could He be both Father and Mother? Whose version of Christianity came down to us and why did it prevail? Brilliant, provocative, and stunning in its implications, The Gnostic Gospels is a radical yet accessible reconsideration of the origins of the Christian faith.” — back cover