"The Origin of Satan", Elaine Pagels
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13-11-2013, 11:33 PM
"The Origin of Satan", Elaine Pagels
My current read, and in fact I came here, to the TTA forum, so I would have a place where I could share my thoughts on this book.

In this book the author describes how in the OT Satan was basically a helper angel who did chores for God, wandered the earth seeing what was happening, etc. Mild stuff. Even the Job story is mild compared to the NT. In fact, the God/Satan/Job story sounds almost like a couple of drinking buddies picking on a dog to see if they could make it angry and get it to bite. To appreciate the Job story I think you have to forget the modern and NT version of Satan. At that point Satan was not the prince of darkness.

Later in the OT when the Hebrews come into conflict with each other Satan is invoked more and more, and more harshly. The issue is usually good Jew versus not-good Jew, Jews that come under the influence of "Nations" and Jews that stick with the old ways. That sort of thing. The wrath of god, to be delivered by Satan, is being called down upon other Jews, and not very often the "Nations", basically any country except Israel. Gradually Satan is transformed from the one who will deliver the punishment to the one that leads you astray and is the reason you get punished.

In the NT the authors of the four gospels all invoke Satan in their conflict with the established Jewish leaders. Pagels notes that you have to read Mark (the first Gospel written) as wartime literature. The temple had just been destroyed, Rome haven gotten fed up with constant conflict and eventually an uprising.

Years after Mark, Matthew and Luke, rewriting at about the same time and using Mark as a source, are retelling the Jesus story in a way that dealt with the issues of their day, that being, the new Jewish leadership, the one that replaced the original Temple leaders after the temple was destroyed. This new leadership, working to solidify their followers, now saw the Jesus sect as more than just another oddball off-shoot, but as an obstacle to the consolidation they were working towards. The conflict was pretty serious, and Matthew, for example, had to respond to claims that Jesus was a bastard, not of the lineage of David, and so on. Matthew's nativity story deals with this and he goes to some length to prove the legitimacy of Jesus as the ruler of Israel. In Matthew and Luke the Jerusalem Jews are the enemy, they are the evil ones, they are the one's Satan has corrupted. Knowing this Jesus' entry into Jerusalem at the end of the story takes on a whole new sense of danger and threat to authority. It's easy to see why people would have wanted him killed.

In these Gospels the authors are easy on the Romans and heavy on the blame for the Jews. In fact, with each succeeding Gospel the Romans look milder and milder and the Jews more and more evil. What is also happening is that the Jesus/Jew conflict is elevated to be not about two people's, but about a cosmic war between good and evil. Talk about inflating an issue!

John, wiring later, is more concerned about the Gentiles the sect has attracted, and the fact that too few Jews came over to the Jesus side. Still, in John Satan has corrupted Israel.

There's more to come as I am not done with the book yet. But I have noticed a couple of things in this telling of the Jesus/Satan story that are interesting and not addressed in the book and I'd like to get to those at some point.

Thanks for reading.
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14-11-2013, 12:04 AM
RE: "The Origin of Satan", Elaine Pagels
Does she talk about the fact that the Hebrews got the whole idea from the Sumerians and it was reinforced by other surrounding cultures ? The Sumerians had a winged messenger of the gods, and they shared the motif with the Egyptians, and before Mithra is seen in Greek culture, it (Mitra), was known to have existed in the Re-Veda in Hindu texts, (before 3,000 BCE). Zoroastrianism had 6 archangels, by 650 BCE, ((along with 40 ''adorable ones", (of which OF COURSE, I am one)), and then guardian angels. The word "devil" come from the Zoroastrian word for "diviine force", or "daevas", which existed in opposition to angelic forces. The Hebrews certainly did not cook up the notion.

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14-11-2013, 12:21 AM
RE: "The Origin of Satan", Elaine Pagels
Quote:In fact, with each succeeding Gospel the Romans look milder and milder and the Jews more and more evil.

History plays a part, M610. In 66 AD there was a serious revolt by the Jews. In 115 there was another serious revolt by Jews in various enclaves in the East although the ones in Judaea were still licking their wounds from the ass-kicking they got in 70.
In 132 there was yet another revolt in Judaea. By this time, the Jews were pretty much on the top of everyone's shitlist in the whole empire. They were an easy target for vilification.

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