1995 The Origin of Satan,
Allen Lane, The Penguin Press ISBN 0-713-99073-2
These two extracts and conclusion are included to portray three important aspects of the teachings hidden in Elaine Pagels' social historical account.
Firstly that, despite Roman corruption and violence, the pagan world view at the time was one of the divine unity of the natural world as opposed to a dualistic world of dark and light at war.
Secondly that within the gnostic Valentinian tradition there was a healing of this cosmic war into a reconciliation which can yet heal us today.
Thirdly in conclusion that this war of dark and light has become a heritage which has diabolized the Christian tradition right to the present day through the violence of Crusade, Inquisition and religious oppression and can be healed only in the "divinity of reconciliation".
Fron Satan's Earthly Kingdom
During the first phase of Christianity, there was a counterpoint of great irony between a Rome which had become both philosophically sophisticated and morally corrupt. When Domitan came to power he declared himself divine in is own lifetime, but Christians refused to accept any Roman Gods and, were treated as a social threat and martyred in droves.
Paul himself noted: "Our contest is not against flesh and blood [human beings] but against powers, against principalities, against world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places (Eph 6:12).
Thus while many of their accusers were sophisticated in philosophy and had come to a point where thet accepted the natural and divine as one unity in a sense more monotheistic than the polarized dark-light view of the Christians, the Romans were corrupt in slaughtering the Christians for thier dissident views. This corruption went further because the Christians were suspended in a moral tension which insists on chastity and compassion, while living on the edge of anhilation through the extreme example of Jesus' crucifixion. As Justin says:
We have learned to find God ... and we believe it is impossible for the evil or envious person, or the conspirator, or for the righteous person - to escape God's notice, and every person goes to eternal punishment or salvation according to the value of his works."
The reaction of the Romans in martyring the Christians thus simply fed their end of days polarity by embodying the very satan they were fascinated with to the point of self-anhilation for God.
What Elaine is showing us in Marcus Aurelius and Celsus is not just corrupt pagan spirituality however but a vision of nature as a unity which is not divided by the Christian polarization of dark and light. This becomes a point of learning how to reconcile the opposites, despite the mortal corruption of watching 300 gladiators die in a morning's entertainment.
Acutely aware that catastrophe and good fortune "fall without discrimination on those who are good and those who are evil," Marcus struggles to make sense of this fact. Does the universe simply function chaotically, "with no design and no direction"? Does honesty require us to become atheists? But he rejects the idea that life is meaningless, and says instead,
It is not a flaw in nature, as if nature were ignorant, or powerless, or making mistakes, that good and evil things fall without discrimination upon those who are good and those who are evil."
On the contrary, this indiscriminateness shows that "living and dying, reputation and disgrace, pain and pleasure, wealth and destitution, actually are neither good nor evil"; instead, all alike are simply part of "nature's work." What does involve good and evil, however, is how we respond to what nature does:
The only thing that makes the good man unique is that he loves and welcomes whatever happened, and what has been spun for him by destiny; and ... does not pollute the divine daimon within ... harmoniously following god."
Intent on transcending his own natural responses to betrayal and loss-anger, self-pity, and grief-Marcus directs his whole moral energy toward the discipline of practicing equilibrium, often returning to what the ancients called "the unbearable grief," the loss of a child. Marcus and his wife, Faustina, like so many of their contemporaries, experienced this repeatedly; eleven of the fourteen children born to them had died in infancy or childhood. During one of these crises Marcus wrote to himself, "I see that my child is ill. I see. But I do not see that he is in danger"'-since his philosophy insists that dying is equivalent to living. Marcus chides himself harshly for his impulse to pray, "Let my child be spared"; even to long that his child live and not die, Marcus believes, is to "complain against nature." Marcus consoles himself with the words of Epictetus, one of the great Stoic masters: "When you are kissing your child, whisper under your breath, 'Tomorrow you maybe dead."' "Ominous words," others reproached Epictetus, but he replied, "Not at all, but only indicating an act of nature. Would it be ominous to speak of harvesting ripe corn?"" Like Epictetus, Marcus ignores the obvious objection that a child is hardly "ripe" for death's harvesting; he muses only that every one of us will fall, "like grains of incense on an altar, some sooner, some later."" So, he continues in his internal dialogue, instead of saying, "How unfortunate I am, that this has happened to me," one should strive to say, "How fortunate I am, that this has happened, and yet I am still unhurt, neither crushed by the present, nor terrified of the future."" Reflecting on reverses of fortune-emperors suddenly assassinated, slaves freed-Marcus tells himself-
Whatever happens to you, this, for you, came from destiny; and the interweaving of causes has woven into one fabric your existence and this event."
Marcus's primary article of faith, then, involves the unity of all being:
All things are woven into one another, and the bond that unites them is sacred; and hardly anything is alien to any other. For they are ordered in relation to one another, and they join together to order the same universe. For there is one universe, consisting of all things; and one essence, and one law, one divine reason, and one truth; and ... also one fulfillment of the living creatures that have the same origin, and share the same nature.
Celsius argues for monotheism againstwhat he sees, quite accurately as the Christians practical dualism:
"If one accepts that all of nature, and everything in the universe, operates according to the will of God, and that nothing works contrary to his purposes, then one must also accept that the angels and daimones, heroes - all things in the universe - are subject to the will of one God who rules over all."
What makes the Christians' message dangerous, Celsus writes, is not that they believe in one God, but that they deviate from monotheism by their "blasphemous" belief in the devil. For all the "impious errors" the Christians commit, Celsus says, they show their greatest ignorance in "making up a being opposed to God, and calling him 'devil,' or, in the Hebrew language, 'Satan.' " All such ideas, Celsus declares, are nothing but human inventions, sacrilegious even to repeat: "it is blasphemy ... to say that the greatest God ... has an adversary who constrains his capacity to do good." Celsus is outraged that the Christians, who claim to worship one God, "impiously divide the kingdom of God, creating a rebellion in it, as if there were opposing factions within the divine, including one that is hostile to God!"" Celsus accuses Christians of "inventing a rebellion" (stasis meaning "sedition") in heaven to justify rebellion here on earth. He accuses them of making a "statement of rebellion" by refusing to worship the gods-but, he says, such rebellion is to be expected "of those who have cut themselves off from the rest of civilization. For in saying this, they are really projecting their own feelings onto God."" Celsus ridicules Paul's warning that Christians must not eat food offered to the gods, lest they "participate in communion with daimones" (1 Cor. 10:20-22). Since daimones are the forces that energize all natural processes, Celsus argues, Christians really cannot eat anything at all-or even survive-without participating in communion with daimones. Celsus declares that
whenever they eat bread, or drink wine, or touch fruit, do they not receive these things-as well as the water they drink and the air they breathe-from certain various elements of nature?"
Therefore, he adds,
we must either not live, and indeed, not come into this life at all, or we must do so on condition that we give thanks and offerings and prayers to daimones who have been set over the administration of the universe; and we must do so as long as we live, so that they may be well disposed toward us.
Celsus warns Christians that just as human administrators, whether Roman or Persian, take action against subjects who despise their rule, so these ruling daimones will surely punish those who prove insubordinate. Celsus ironically agrees, then, with Christians who complain that the daimones instigate persecution; he argues that they have good reason to do so:
Don't you see, my excellent sir, that anyone who "witnesses" to your [Jesus] not only blasphemes him, and banishes him from every city, but that you yourself, who are, as it were, an image dedicated to him, are arrested and led to punishment, and bound to a stake, while he whom you call "Son of God" takes no vengeance at all upon the evildoer?"
Origen admits that this is true and concedes that at such moments one might imagine that the evil powers have won. "It is true," he says, "that the souls of those who condemn Christians, and those who betray them and enjoy persecuting them, are filled with evil," being driven on by daimones. Yet for martyrs, suffering and death are not the catastrophic defeat they seem. On the contrary,
when the souls of those who die for the Christian faith depart from the body with great glory, they destroy the power of the demons, and frustrate their conspiracy against humankind."
The demons themselves, perceiving this, sometimes retreat, afraid to kill Christians, lest they thereby ensure their own destruction. It is for this reason, Origen says, that persecution
From The Enemy Within
Elaine here shows us how the Gospel of Philip can resolve the battle of Dark and Light and heal evil through the process of gnsis combined with wisdom. Since the gnostics were suppressed by the orthodox church, these passages are themselves manifestations of the repressed other from withing the Christian source tradition coming to the surface after 17 centuries through the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts. They are thus revealing that which was concealed by the very repression that comes from the duality of light against dark.
The Gospel of Truth, which may also have been written by Valentinus, offers the following ethical instruction to gnostic Christians:
Speak of the truth with those who seek for it, and of gnosis to those who have committed sins in their error. Secure the feet of those who have stumbled, and stretch out your hands to those who are ill. Feed those who are hungry, and give rest to those who are weary... For you are the understanding which is drawn forth. If strength acts thus, it becomes even stronger.... Do not become a dwelling place for the devil, for you have already destroyed him."
The Gospel of Philip proposes an alternative to the common Christian perception of good and evil as cosmic opposites.' In this gospel, unlike the New Testament gospels, Satan never appears. Instead, the divine Father and the holy spirit, working in harmony with each other, direct all that happens, even the actions of the lower cosmic forces, so that ultimately, in Paul's words, "all things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28). The Gospel of Philip offers an original critique of the way all other Christians, orthodox and radical alike, approach morality. Much as they disagree on content, both orthodox and radical Christians assume that morality requires prescribing one set of acts, and proscribing others. But the author of Philip wants to throw away all the lists of "good things" and "bad things"-lists that constitute the basis of traditional Christian morality. For, this author suggests, what we identify as opposites-"light and dark, life and death, good and evil"-are in reality pairs of interdependent terms in which each implies the other." Intending to transpose Christian moral discipline into a new key, the author of Philip takes the story of the tree of knowledge of good and evil as a parable that shows the futility of the traditional approach to morality. Accordiig to Philip, "the law was the tree"; the law, like the tree of knowledge, claims to give "knowledge of good and evil," but it cannot accomplish any moral transformation. Instead, it "created death for those who ate of it. For when it said, 'Eat this, do not eat that,' it became the beginning of death."" To show that one cannot distinguish good from evil in such simple and categorical ways, Philip tells another parable, of a householder responsible for an estate that includes children, slaves, dogs, pigs, and cattle. The householder, who feeds each one the diet appropriate to its kind, is an image of the "disciple of God," who "perceives the conditions of [each person's] soul, and speaks to each one" accordingly, recognizing that each has different needs and stands at a different level of spiritual maturity." Thus Philip refuses to argue over sexual behaviorwhether, for example, Christians should marry or remain celibate. Posed as opposites, these choices, too, present a falsc dichotomy. This author admonishes, "Do not fear the flesh, nor love it. If you fear it, it v.,ill gain mastery over you; if you love it, it will devour and paralyze you."" Philip intends to follow Paul's insight that for one person marriage may be the appropriate "diet," for another, celibacy. While rciccting the ordinary dichotomy between good and evil, this author does not neglect ethical questions, much less imply that they are not important. For him the question is not whether a certain act is "good" or "evil" but how to reconcile the freedom gnosis conveys with the Christian's responsibility to love others. Here the author has in mind a saying from the gospel of John ("You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free") and the apostle Paul's discussion of love and gnosis in 1 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. There Paul says that he considers himself, because of his own gnosis, free to eat and drink whatever he likes, free to travel with a Christian sister as a wife, and free to five as an evangelist at community expense. Yet, Paul says, "since not everyone has this gnosis" (1 Cor. 8:7-13), he willingly relinquishes his freedom for the sake of love, in order not to offend potential converts or immature Christians. The author of Philip follows Paul's lead, then, when he takes up the central question: How is the Christian to avoid sin? How can one act in harmony with gnosis, on the one hand, and with agape, or love, on the other?
The central theme of the Gospel of Philip is the transforming power of love: that what one becomes depends upon what one loves.'Whoever matures in love takes care not to cause distress to others: "Blessed is the one who has not caused grief to anyone."" Jesus Christ is the paradigm of the one who does not offend or grieve anyone, but refreshes and blesses everyone he encounters, whether "great or small, believer or unbeliever."" The gnostic Christian, then, must always temper the freedom gnost's conveys with love for others. The author says, too, that he looks forward to the time when freedom and love will harmonize spontaneously, so that the spiritually mature person will be free to follow his or her own true desires without grieving anyone else. Instead of commanding one to "eat this, do not eat that," as did the former "tree" of the law, the true tree of gnosis will convey perfect freedom:
In the place where I shall cat all things is the tree of knowl edge.... That garden is the place where they will say to me, "Eat this, or do not eat that, just as you wish.""
When gnosis harmonizes with love, the Christian will be free to partake or to decline, according to his or her own heart's desire. The majority of Christians, by contrast, characterized spiritual formation as the Essenes had, as an internal contest between the forces of good and evil. The great Christian ascetic Anthony, who lived in Egypt c. 250-355 C. E. and became a pioneer among the desert fathers, taught his spiritual heirs in monastic tradition to picture Satan as the most intimate enemy of all-the enemy we call our own self. The Life of Anthony, written in the fourth century by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, describes how Satan tempts Anthony by speaking through his inner thoughts and impulses, through imagination and desire. Philip, on the other hand, interprets the human inclination to sin without recourse to Satan. But this does not mean, as some orthodox Christians suspected, that Valentinian Christians na:fvely believed that they had no need to engage in moral struggle because they were "beyond good and evil," essentially incapable of sin. On the contrary, Philip teaches that within each person lies hidden the "root of evil." This is Pbilip's interpretation of the traditional Jewish teaching of the yetzer 'bara, which the rabbis called the "evil impulse." So long as we remain unaware of "the root of evil" within us, Philip says, "it is powerful; but when it is recognized, it is destroyed." He continues,
As for us, let each of us dig down to the root of evil within us, and pull out the root from the heart. It VAII be plucked out if we recognize it. But if we do not recognize it, it takes root in our hearts and produces its fruits in our hearts. It masters us, and makes us its slaves. It takes us captive, so that "we do what we do not want, and what we do not want to do, we do" [cf Rom. 7:14-15]. It grows powerful because we have not recognized it."
Essential to gnosis is to "know" one's own potential for evil. According to Philip, recognizing evil within oneself is necessarily an individual process: no one can dictate to another what is good or evil; instead, each one must strive to recognize his or her own inner state, and so to identify acts that spring from the "root of evil," which consists in such impulses as anger, lust, envy, pride, and greed. This teacher assumes that when one recognizes that a certain act derives from such sources, one loses the conviction needed to sustain the action. In order to do evil-whether to indulge in an angry tirade, commit murder, or declare aggressive war-one seems to require the illusion that one's action is justified, that one is acting for right reasons. This author holds, then, the optimistic conviction that "truth ... is more powerful than ignorance of error."" Knowing the truth in this way involves more than an intellectual process; it involves transformation of one's being, transformation of one's way of living: "If we know the truth, we shall find its fruits within us; if we join ourselves with it, we shall receive our fulfillment."" For the mature Christian, Philip suggests, the doctrine and moral strictures of the institutional church have become secondary, if not irrelevant. Yet unlike many later Protestant Christians, Valentinian Christians did not simply reject the ecclesiastical structures. Instead they claimed to build upon them as upon a foundation, just as Christians as a whole claimed to have built upon the foundations of Judaism. The author of Philip, in fact, like the author of the Testimony, at one point uses the terms "Hebrew" and "Christian" to compare the relationship between those who have received only the prelt'minary revelation, and those who have received the tiller understanding ofgnosis. Thus the author of Philip criticizes those he calls Hebrews and defines as "apostles and apostolic people," who fail to understand, for example, the meaning of the virgin birth. Many take it literally, as if Jesus' "virgin birth" referred to an actual conception and pregnancy. Philip ridicules such belief-
Some said, "Mary conceived by the holy spirit." They are in crror. They do not know what they are saying; for when did a female ever conceive through a female?"
As Philip sees it, Jesus, born of Mary and Joseph as his human parents, was reborn of the holy spirit, the feminine element of the divine being (since the Hebrew term for spirit, Ruah, is feminine) and of the "Father in heaven," whom Jesus urged his disciples to address in prayer ("Our Father, who art in heaven . . ."). Yet, the author adds, the very mention of a feminine spiritual power "is a great anathema to the Hebrews, who are the apostles, and apostolic people."" Such people do see baptism as rebirth through the holy spirit, but they do not understand that they must be reborn from the heavenly Father as well. Thus, says Philip,
when we were Hebrews, we ... had only our mother; but when we became Christians, we had both father and mother."
Baptism, then, differs for different people. Some, the author says, go down in the water [of baptism] and come up without receiving anything,"" but nonetheless such a person says, "I am a Christian." For such people, according to Philip, the name "Christian" is only a promise of what they may yet receive in the future. For others, however, baptism becomes a moment of transformation: "Thus it is when one experiences a mystery. Whoever is reborn of the heavenly Father and heavenly Mother becomes a whole person again, receiving back a part of the human self that had been lost in the beginning of time-"the spirit, the partner of one's soul." Such a person becomes whole again, and "holy, down to the very body."" One can hardly refer to such a person as a Christian, "for this person is no longer a Christian, but a Christ."" What about specific practical questions? This author's attitude recalls that expressed in the Gospel of lbomas, where Jesus' disciples ask him for specific directions: "Do you want us to fast? How shall we pray? Shall we give alms? What diet should we observe?" According to Matthew and Luke, Jesus offers specific answers to such questions. But according to the Gospel of 7bomas, he says only, "Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate,"' an ironic answer, for it turns one back upon one's own resources. Who but oneself can know when one is lying, or what one hates? The Gospel of Philip, too, while apparently expressing a preference for asceticism (obviously intended to mirror Paul's own preference for celibacy over marriage expressed in 1 Corinthians 7:1-40), refrains from offering specific instructions about sexual behavior. What matters, apparently, is not so much what one does but the quality of one's intention. Hence the Gospel of Philip remains nonprescriptive, but with two important provisos: first, the gnostic Christian must temper with love the freedom gnosis conveys; second, the believer must remain continually aware of his or her potential for doing evil, for only such awareness can free the Christian-even the gnostic Christian-from involuntary enslavement to sin.
Although Irenaeus and others charged that Valentinian Christians were dualists, the Gospel of Philip indicates the opposite. This author abandons even the modified dualism that characterizes the great majority of Christian teachings, based, as we have seen, on the conviction that God's spirit constantly contends against Satan. Instead of envisioning the power of evil as an alien force that threatens and invades human beings from outside, the author of Philip urges each person to recognize the evil within, and consciously eradicate it.
This vision of cosmic struggle, forces of good contending against forces of evil, derived originally from Jewish apocalyptic sources and was developed, as we have seen, by sectarian groups like the Essenes as they struggled against the forces they saw ranged against them. This split cosmology, radically revising earlier monotheism, simultaneously involved a split society, divided between "sons of light," allied with the angels, and "sons of darkness," in league with the power of evil. Followers of Jesus adopted the same pattern. Mark, as we have seen, tells the story of Jesus as the conflict between God's spirit and the power of Satan, manifest in the opposition Jesus encountered from evil spirits and evil people alike. Each of the gospels in its own way invokes this apocalyptic scenario to characterize conflicts between Jesus' followers and the various groups each author perceived as opponents. We have seen, too, that as the movement became increasingly Gentile, converts turned this sectarian vocabulary against other enemies-against pagan magistrates and mobs engaged in bitter struggle with the growing Christian movement, and against various groups of dissident Christians, called heretics-or, in Paul's words, "servants of Satan." Christians in later generations turned weapons forged in first-century conflict against other enemies. But this does not mean that they simply replaced one enemy with another. Instead, Christian tradition has tended to accumulate them. When pagan converts like Justin Martyr, for example, aimed vocabulary concerning Satan and the demons against Roman persecutors and against "heretics," they often took for granted the hostile characterizations of the Jewish majority they found in the gospels. Justin himself praises those he calls Hebrews-that is, the ancient Israelites, revered ancestors of his own faith-but expresses condescension toward those of his contemporaries he calls not Hebrews but Jews for their "blindness" to God's revelation and their "misunderstanding" of their own Scriptures. Justin castigates the Jews in language largely drawn from Matthew's polemic against the Pharisees and often repeats for his Gentile audiences Luke's refrain in Acts that Jesus was "crucified by the Jews." Origen, too, although preoccupied primarily with struggles against Roman persecution and against "heretics"-and despite his own extensive conversations with Jewish teachers, whom he credited with teaching him a great deal about the Hebrew language and scriptural interpretation-nevertheless develops the views expressed in Matthew to characterize the Jewish people as divinely condemned for rejecting their Messiah. The attitudes Justin and Origen express are not unique to them. They are readily recognized by most Christians from the second century through the twentieth because they draw upon a familiar source, the New Testament gospels. Throughout the centuries, Christians have turned the same polemical vocabulary against a wider range of enemies. In the sixteenth century, for example, Martin Luther, founder of Protestant Christianity, denounced as "agents of Satan" all Christians who remained loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, all Jews who refused to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, all who challenged the power of the landowning aristocrats by participating in the Peasants' War, and all "protestant" Christians who were not Lutheran. I am not saying that the gospel accounts are essentially Manichaean in the ordinary sense of the term, that they envision good and evil evenly matched against each other. Christian tradition derives much of its power from the conviction that although the believer may feel besieged by evil forces, Christ has already won the decisive victory. Anthony, one of the pioneers among the desert ascetics, a man famous for wrestling with demons, explains to his followers:
Since the Lord dwelt among us, the Enemy has fallen, and his powers have been weakened. He does not submit quietly to his fall ... but keeps on threatening like a tyrant.'
Describing how a great, towering figure once appeared to him, Anthony says he asked the intruder, "Who are you?" and was told, "I am Satan." Anthony boldly rebuked the Enemy, reminding him that
"Christ has come and made you powerless. He has cast you down and stripped you." When he heard the Savior's name, hc vanished, for he could not endure its burning heat.... If, then, even the devil admits that he is powerless, we ought to despise both him and his demons.... The Enemy with his hounds has only so many stratagems.... We should not be disheartened, nor succumb to cowardice of soul, nor invent terrors for ourselves.... We should take courage, and always be joyful as people who have been saved. Let us keep in mind that the Lord who defeated and vanquished him is with us.'
The faith that Christ has conquered Satan assures Christians that in their own struggles the stakes are eternal, and victory is certain. Those who participate in this cosmic drama cannot lose. Those who die as martyrs win the victory even more gloriously and are assured that they will celebrate victory along with all of God's people and the angels of heaven. Throughout the history of Christianity, this vision has inspired countless people to take a stand against insuperable odds in behalf of what they believe is right and to perform acts that, apart from faith, might seem only fiitile bravado. This apocalyptic vision has taught even secularminded people to interpret the history of Western culture as a moral history in which the forces of good contend against the forces of evil in the world.
Philosophically inclined Christians such as Augustine of Hippo have often disparaged such mythological language and declared that, ontologically speaking, evil and Satan do not exist. On this level, orthodox Christianity does not diverge from monotheism. Yet Augustine himself, fike many other philosophically sophisticated preachers, often speaks of Satan in sermons and prayers and acknowledges, when he is dealing with people confronted with obstacles, that Christians in this world still struggle against evil in ways that they experience as demonic attack. So compelling is this vision of cosmic war that it has pervaded the imagination of millions of people for two thousand years. Christians from Roman times through the Crusades, from the Protestant Reformation through the present, have invoked it to interpret opposition and persecution in myriad contexts. To this day, many Christians-Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, and Orthodox-invoke the figure of Satan against "pagans" (among whom they may include those involved with nonChristian religions throughout the world) and against "heretics" (that is, against other Christians with whom they disagree), as well as against atheists and unbehevers. Millions of Muslims invoke similar apocalyptic visions and switch the sides, so that those who Christians believe are God's people become, for many Muslims, allies of "the great Satan." Many religious people who no longer believe in Satan, along with countless others who do not identify with any religious tradition, nevertheless are influenced by this cultural legacy whenever they perceive social and political conflict in terms of the forces of good contending against the forces of evil in the world. Although Karl Marx's extreme and resolutely materialist version of this apocalyptic vision is now nearly defunct, a secularized version of it underlies many social and political movements in Western culture, both religious and anti-religious. So long as the Christian movement remained a persecuted, suspect minority within Jewish communities and within the Roman empire, its members, like the Essenes, no doubt found a sense of security and solidarity in believing that their enemies were (as Matthew's Jesus says of the Pharisees) "sons of hell," already, in effect, "sentenced to hell." This vision derives its power not only from the conviction that one stands on God's side, but also from the belief that one's opponents are doomed to failure. The words Matthew places in Jesus' mouth characterize his opponents as people accursed, whom the divine judge has already consigned "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Yet among first-century Christian sources we also find profoundly different perceptions of opponents. Although Matthew's Jesus attacks the Pharisees and bitterly condemns them, and John at one point characterizes Jesus' opponents as Satan's progeny, the Q source that Matthew uses also suggests different ways of perceiving others, in sayings attributed to Jesus that urge reconciliation with one's opponents:
If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (5:23-24).
Or Matthew 5:43-44:
You have heard that it was said, "You shall lovc your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be chil dren of your father in heaven."
To pray for one's enemies suggests that one believes that whatever harm they have done, they are capable of being reconciled to God and to oneself Paul, writing about twenty years before the evangelists, holds a still more traditionally Jewish perception that Satan acts as God's agent not to corrupt people but to test them; at one point he suggests that a Christian group "deliver to Satan" one of its errant members, not in order to consign him to hell, but in the hope that he will repent and change. Paul also hopes and longs for reconciliation between his "brothers," "fellow Israelites," and Gentile believers.
Many Christians, then, from the first century through Francis of Assisi in the fifteenth century and Martin Luther King, Jr., in the twentieth, have believed that they stood on God's side without demonizing their opponents. Their religious vision inspired them to oppose policies and powers they regarded as evil, often risking their well-being and their lives, while praying for the reconciliation-not the damnation-of those who opposed them. For the most part, however, Christians have taught-and acted upon-the belief that their enemies are evil and beyond redemption. Concluding this book, I hope that this research may illuminate for others, as it has for me, the struggle within Christian tradition between the profoundly human view that "otherness" is evil and the words of Jesus that reconciliation is divine.