different picture: God, like Satan, continuesrnto nag at our consciousness sorntenaciously that people still feel the needrnto argue with Him, even denounce Him.rnFor all their academic detachment, bothrnNhles and Pagels are remarkably grippedrnby this supposedly extinct mythology.rnjack Miles’ Biography (presumablyrnunauthorized) is based on the view thatrn”Many in the West no longer believe inrnGod, but lost belief, like a lost fortune,rnhas effects that linger…. [God’s] imagernis living still within us as a difficult butrndynamic secular ideal.” If God has beenrnreduced to a mere vestige of the Westernrnconsciousness, then He can be treated asrna purely literary figure, whose characterrndevelopment and inner conflicts can berntraced through the various works inrnwhich He appears. The book takes thernform of a detailed literary reading ofrnGod’s appearances in the Hebrew Biblern(why not the New Testament also?). Hisrnstudies of particular Old Testamentrnbooks are often brilliant, reinforced by arnbroad range of cultural references andrnparallels. He makes no attempt to concealrnhis personal love for works like Jobrnand Ruth, and the result is a stimulatingrnmeditation that makes us want to read orrnreread these and the rest of the Bible.rnFor Miles, God the character is by nornmeans changeless: He demonstratesrnmany flaws, fie whines and rages, He isrninfuriatingly contradictory, but He alsorngrows and matures. He “comes to fullrnconsciousness of His literal uniqueness.”rnHe differs radically from any humanrncharacter, lacking as He docs either parentrnor family, or any social relationships.rnThis makes it hard to approach, still lessrncomprehend, “the elusive weirdnessrnof the Lord God.” However, we neverrnforget that the development of God is reciprocalrnwith that of the worldly and humanrncommunity of Israel, which is subjectrnto conventional historical analysis:rnthe notion of God flourishes alongsidernthat of His nation.rnThis lengthy Biography is based essentiallyrnon the one quirky conceit of Godrnthe literary figure, and while this is donernin a shrewd and literate manner, it wouldrnnot hold our attention unless Milesrnwere closely engaged with his subject.rnThough he makes no assertions of personalrnreligious belief, the book is obviouslyrnthe product of decades of internalrndebate and presumably argument, an attemptrnto relate the bizarre figure on thernprinted page to a cosmic reality. Milesrnconcludes with a splendidly phrasedrncomment on the influence of this Godrnin every aspect of our culture: “His is thernrestless breathing we still hear in ourrnsleep.”rnElaine Pagels has written a biographyrnof Satan quite parallel to Miles’ accountrnof God, and she appears just as engagedrnboth with her protagonist and with Hisrnvast influence throughout Western history.rnShe is, however, far more explicitrnthan Miles in using a scholarly explorationrnto advance a religious agenda,rnnamely to condemn historical Christianityrnfor an abundance of sins and flaws,rnmost egregiously intolerance and anti-rnSemitism.rnThe Origin of Satan traces the historicalrnevolution of the devil into what wernmight call the classical Miltonic sense ofrna Lord of Evil, master of a hellish kingdomrnin permanent rebellion against thernDivine. She is undoubtedly correct inrnher assertion that this particular Satanicrntheme is virtually absent from the HebrewrnBible. The Genesis serpent is notrnoriginally diabolical, while the celebratedrntester of Job is an official or state prosecutorrnof the Lord’s court, a sort of supernaturalrnMarcia Clark. The Satanic personarngrows in what Christians term thernintertestamental period, especially afterrnthe Maccabean Revolt: it emerges inrnmature form in the Dead Sea Scrollsrnoften (but not universally) associatedrnwith the Essene sect, and in the NewrnTestament.rnIn Pagels’ view, the new idea of the diabolicalrnflourished in response to socialrnand religious conflict, especially withinrnthe branches and schools of Judaism.rnJewish groups in controversy with powerfulrnrivals painted them as servants of thernforces of darkness, and quite literally asrnthe children of Satan, tolerated by Godrnfor His own mysterious purposes until anrnimminent judgment (literally, “crisis”)rnwhen they would be consumed likernchaff. Though the Essencs certainly didrnthis, the main culprits were that otherrnfringe Jewish sect who followed Jesus ofrnNazareth. To quote the book’s somewhatrnmisleading blurb, it tells how “thernwriters of the four gospels condemned asrncreatures of Satan those Jews who refusedrnto worship Jesus as the Messiah . . .rnthe evangelists invoked Satan to portrayrntheir Jewish enemies as God’s enemiesrntoo.” The anti-Judaic polemic of thernGospels was merely unsavory whilernNazarenes remained a hunted minority,rnbut, when they gained political power,rnthese texts proided a charter for segregation,rnpersecution, and ultimately forrnattempted genocide. The “Satanic”rnworldview later shaped the Christian approachrnto other opponents, includingrnthe Roman Empire, Christian heretics,rnand followers of rival religions like Islam.rnThere is much here that is correct andrnperhaps self-evident, and certainlyrngospel passages exist where the evangelistsrncleariy meant to suggest that Jewishrnleaders opposing Jesus were directlyrnmotivated by dark forces. However, ThernOrigin of Satan is also inaccurate on fundamentalrnmatters, most glaringly that ofrnorigin itself. One can read the book andrnsee “Satan” as the product of internalrnJewish debates without the slightestrninkling of the vast and unquestioned influencernof other Near Eastern cultures,rnabove all that of ancient Persia, whosernZoroastrian religion had for severalrncenturies posited an eternal conflictrnbetween God and Satan, the Lords ofrnLight and Darkness, who are portrayedrnin terminology that would have been instantlyrnfamiliar to a medieval Christian.rnPersian concepts were encountered atrnthe time of the Babylonian exile, andrnsubsequently permeated the thoughtrnof sectarian Judaism and mainstreamrnLIBERAL ARTS irnIrnTHE END OF RACISMrn”I single Jews out because their oppressionrnof blacks cannot go unnoticedrnwhile they disguise their evilnessrnunder the skirts and costumes ofrnthe Rabbi. Lift up the yarmulke andrnwhat you will find is the blood of billionsrnof Africans weighing on theirrnheads. . . . How dare any Jewish personrnask me why I am obsessed withrnJews. I speak of Jews because of thosernfrom their race who are always on ourrnbacks sucking the blood from thernblack communit) then pretending tornbe our friends.”rn—from a column by Shared Baker inrnthe October 12 issue of the ColumbiarnSpectator, a student newspaper atrnColumbia Universitv.rnJANUARY 1996/33rnrnrn