The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels - Book Report/Review Example

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The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels Elaine Pagel’s text The Origin of Satan provides a historical account of the development and changing understanding of the Christian Satan. Pagels herself has an academic background in religion and has previously authored texts that investigate the nature of the Gnostic Gospels, as well as various aspects of early Christianity…
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Download file to see previous pages Pagels argues that Christian enemies became identified with Satan as early as the Jewish Wars from 66-73 A.D. During this period, the Jews that refrained from accepting the main tenants of Christianity were labeled as being vehicles for Satan or Satanic thought. She writes, “"The New Testament gospels almost never identify Satan with the Romans [Gentiles], but they consistently associated him with Jesus’ Jewish enemies..." (Pagels 13).  Pagels extends her identification of this labeling mechanism to the field of New Testament scholarship in arguing that since it was during this period the Jews were for the first time identified with Satan, then the Gospels must have been written after 70 A.D. Pagels main reasoning in this regard is an argument that since the Gospels, she claims, fundamentally represent a the struggle between God and Satan, they had to have been written after the first incarnation of the identification of Satan with the Christian enemy. While the text’s overarching theme is the utilization of Satan as an oppositional figure throughout Christian history, it also provides a number of pertinent theological investigations. In these regards, one of the most notable considerations Pagels makes concerns the conflicting nature of Jesus’ teachings. In these regards, Pagels argues that early Christianity constituted a wide variety of competing theological interpretations of Jesus’ message. While Pagels falls short of providing significant cultural interpretation of the Gospels, she notably presents a meta-critical argument; that is, in placing the origination of the Gospels after 70 A.D. she argues that their major elements can be interpreted in terms of major historical events. As Pagels text continues, it becomes clear that it is not solely the utilization of Satan as an oppositional force, but the investigation of the broader historical nature of Christian opposition in general. She does note that shifts in the predominant identification of Satan. In one regards, she indicates that the identification of Satan shifts primarily from the Jews to the Romans. Pagals goes on to trace the development of Christianity and the eventual political power it gained within world governments. In these regards, she argues that the religion came to identify political adversaries with the notion of Satan. A number of criticisms have been levied against Elaine Pagels’ philosophy and scholarship in The Origin of Satan. A great degree of these criticisms are aimed at her general understanding and disregard of the Gospels as divinely inspired. As one might surmise, Christian writers levied the majority of these criticisms. Still, encroached in this God-based criticism are some points regarding the nature of Pagels’ scholarship. One of the main contentions is that while Pagels’ presents her understanding of the variant understandings of Jesus’ message during the early years as a new view of the period, it’s argued that this has been long understood by Biblical scholars (Brown). It’s further argued, albeit in a qualitative sense, that Pagels unfairly indicates the Gospels, particularly John, as being entirely oppositional in nature. It’s argued that Pagels does not go far enough in demonstrating how the Gospel of John truly demonizes the Jews within the Gospel text ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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