Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Origin of Satan

"All converts understood that baptism washes away sins and expels evil spirits[from the body], and conveys to the recipient the spirit of God." The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels

In her book, published in 1995, The Origin of Satan, famed historian and author Elaine Pagels, perhaps best known for her work on The Gnostic Gospels, writes of a history in the West, of the developing idea of the 'Evil One,' the Satan. Exploring the solidifying development of the spirit, Satan, and his ways, Pagels delves into the Roman and Greek era and traces their thought to the more modern, current. Of Satan, she writes in the chapter, The Enemy Within, that for nearly two thousand years, most Christians have taken Saint Irenaeus at his word..." Saint Irenaeus is best remembered for his exhortations against the mockeries of the Devil, Satan.

Pagels examines in this chapter a text called, the Testimony of Truth which direct believers to asceticism. They are according to the Testimony to renounce all worldliness. "No one knows the God of Truth, except the one alone who renounces all the things of the world." She writes early Christians like Saint Justin Martyr was one who shared this view of self mastery; he wholeheartedly admired those who renounced the world and practiced celibacy. Today this tradition most clearly survives in monasticism.

Another text examined by Pagels here is called, Reality of the Rulers,"In this universe... there is no devil, and no need for one, for the 'Lord,' the God of the Jews and most Christians alike, himself acts a chief of the fallen angels who seduce and enslave human beings." According to this interpretation of the 'Truth,' written in the Testimony and the Reality of the Rulers the "human condition involving work, marriage, and procreation do not reflect divine blessing, but demonstrate enslavement to cosmic forces that want to blind human beings to their capacity for spiritual enlightenment... most Christians have fallen prey to the rulers of darkness and so, like most Jews and Pagans, remain entangled in social, sexual and economic bondage." It is through understanding that truth belongs not to the darker powers but to wisdom and the Father of the whole; the spirit of the truth resides within them. They remain free to devote themselves to the dominions of the Holy Spirit.

These texts and others discovered at Nag Hamadi, as known in the ancient world by the majority of Jewish-Christians who responded to these texts with the term 'heretic.' Heretic, Pagel points out means to make a choice. The ancient, Tertullian wrote that it was actually a matter of pride to be heretical for some; they regarded their own, deeper insight as a 'spiritual gift.' He further observed that Heretics would object to any creed, saying that Jesus himself encouraged questioning, saying, "Ask, and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened to you." For Tertullian the question and the answer resided in one simple, clear place: upon the cross of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Christ. Looking further was no longer necessary.

It was Satan, after all who invented all sorts of arts of spiritual warfare; the devil of course, is attached to the wiles that distort the truth, wrote Tertullian. In the last word on the subject of this chapter, Pagels returns to the thoughts of Saint Irenaeus with whom she started: "the structure that has sustained orthodox Christianity ever since, claims access to the apostles, the manifestation of the Church throughout the world and the body of the Christ, with the succession of bishops together forms a very complete system of doctrine." Finally she writes of her own thought that in writing this book, she hopes that the modern struggle against otherness as evil and the group as solid, secure and good, will more clearly come to light. This she does do in a most complex way.

2 comments:

珮陽 said...

每次看完你的文章,總是回味許久,要經常發表喔。..................................................................

溫緯李娟王季 said...

困難的不在於新概念,而在於逃避舊有的概念。............................................................