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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 booklet Critics Circle Award comes a dramatic interpretation of devil and his position 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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Having two times didn't result in Jesus to accomplish a miracle to turn out his divine energy and authority, devil ultimately bargains him “all the kingdoms of this international and their glory,” which devil claims as his personal. hence Matthew, following Mark’s lead, means that political good fortune and tool (such because the Pharisees take pleasure in less than Roman patronage) could evince a pact with the devil—and now not, as lots of Matthew’s contemporaries may have assumed, marks of divine want. Matthew subsequent assails the Pharisees at the query that matters them so much, the translation of Torah. To right the influence that Jesus easily neglected conventional Jewish obstacle with righteous obedience to Torah—an impact any reader might get from Mark—Matthew makes Jesus embrace all that's top and truest in Jewish culture. Mark starts off his gospel with descriptions of healings and exorcisms, yet Matthew starts off via exhibiting Jesus proclaiming a brand new interpretation of divine legislations. Like Moses, who ascended Mount Sinai to obtain and promulgate God’s legislation, Jesus is going up on a mountain, the place he publicizes what we all know because the Sermon at the Mount. Taking target on the Pharisees and people inspired by way of their interpretation of Torah, Matthew insists that Jesus doesn't reject the Torah. in its place, Matthew says, Jesus publicizes its crucial that means: “Do now not imagine that I got here to abolish the legislation and the prophets; I got here to not abolish yet to meet them” (5:17). Jesus then warns that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you are going to by no means input the dominion of heaven” (5:20). therefore Matthew defends Jesus opposed to fees of laxity in Sabbath and kosher observance via insisting that he practices a better righteousness, now not a lesser one. in line with Matthew five and six, Jesus calls for a huge raise in spiritual scrupulosity: the normal Torah isn't part strict sufficient 82 / THE beginning OF devil for him! the place Moses’ legislation prohibits homicide, Jesus’ “new Torah” prohibits anger, insults, and identify calling; the place Moses’ legislation prohibits adultery, Jesus’ prohibits lust. a lot of the Mosaic legislations used to be couched in damaging phrases (“You shall now not. . . ”). Jesus reinterprets it definitely: “Whatever you are going to have humans do to you, do an analogous to them; for this is often the legislations and the prophets” (7:12). at the same time Matthew insists that Jesus’ critics, “the scribes and the Pharisees,” use mere hypocritical “observance” as a canopy for violating what Jesus the following announces to be the Torah’s principal instructions of affection for God and neighbor (6:1-18). As we've seen, Matthew diverges from Mark in making the 23 Pharisees Jesus’ basic antagonists. For Mark it used to be the Jerusalem scribes who have been angered through Jesus’ robust impact at the crowd and charged him with demon ownership; yet Matthew adjustments the tale to assert that the Pharisees accused Jesus of “casting out demons by means of the prince of demons” (12:24). whereas Mark says that the Pharisees and the Herodians first plotted to kill Jesus, Matthew says that basically the Pharisees “went and took assistance, tips on how to spoil him” (12:14).

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