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By Elaine Pagels

From the non secular historian whose The Gnostic Gospels gained either the nationwide e-book Award and the nationwide e-book Critics Circle Award comes a dramatic interpretation of devil and his function at the Christian culture. With magisterial studying and the elan of a born storyteller, Pagels turns Satan's tale into an audacious exploration of Christianity's shadow facet, during which the gospel of affection offers solution to irrational hatreds that proceed to hang-out Christians and non-Christians alike.

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In the future in 215, in the course of Caracalla’s reign, squaddies arrived in Alexandria with a letter from the governor of Arabia (present-day Jordan), summoning Origen to seem on the palace. The governor had heard of Origen’s brilliance and desired to meet the younger guy; and Origen agreed. yet after Caracalla had governed for 6 years, he used to be assassinated by means of Macrinus, who reigned for just a 12 months prior to he, too, was once killed. He used to be succeeded by way of Heliogabalus, Caracalla’s cousin, a reclusive, fanatical younger worshiper of the sunlight god, a guy whom many folks considered as insane. 4 years later, one other cousin, Alexander Severus, changed Heliogabalus at the throne, and now, for the 1st time in Roman historical past, contributors of the imperial condominium not just tolerated Christians yet even preferred them. Severus's mom, the empress Julia Mammea, who accumulated many extraordinary humans at her court docket, despatched squaddies to ask Origen to affix them; while he arrived, she mentioned with him, between different issues, the potential for reconciling Christians to Roman civilization. Christians of the time might were astonished to listen to a rumor circulating within the empire—whether actual or not—that the emperor himself had arrange statues of Abraham and Jesus besides these of Socrates and different holy males in his deepest palace sanctuary! Hopes for a brand new age of tolerance have been shattered, besides the fact that, whilst Maximinus, a coarse peasant from Thrace, assassinated Severus, took over the throne, and instantly renewed the persecution of the Christians. Origen with nice hindrance the threatened arrest of a number of of his shut buddies and co-workers, together with Ambrose, his wealthy and influential shopper and good friend, and the priest Protoctetus. Origen, who used to be now not arrested, wrote to them in a passionate “exhortation to martyrdom,” caution them to not waver, nor to be deceived through it appears actual pleas to give up their religion that allows you to retailer their lives. to provide in, he stated, will be to capitulate to devil; seventy eight for these arrested for Christ’s sake, basically demise brings victory. 138 / THE beginning OF devil within the fight for the throne that Maximinus’ demise, the younger emperor Gordian III prevailed, and he, too, left Christians on my own. Assassinated via his personal infantrymen after ruling for 4 years, he was once succeeded via his personal leader common. The newly acclaimed emperor, Philip, the 1st Arab to accomplish that place, instantly secured his rule through killing Gordian’s younger son. Philip the Arabian can have been the 1st Christian emperor. not less than 3 witnesses attest that he played public penance for that homicide in view of the astonished congregation, in the course of the large gatherings that attended the Easter vigil the subsequent spring—penance imposed at the emperor by way of the Christian bishop of Antioch. in the course of Philip’s reign, hundreds of thousands of recent converts stuffed the church buildings. Now Origen complained in a sermon that conversion had turn into so universal or even stylish that it used to be not harmful. yet Origen’s suspicions of presidency energy have been proven while Decius killed Philip, seized energy, and initiated a brand new and extra competitive persecution of Christians.

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