In the Old Testament, Satan is merely the Adversary, a forbidding member of God's retinue. How then did Satan become the prince of darkness in the Gospels, the one who brings about the crucifixion of Jesus as part of a cosmic struggle between good and evil? And why did the followers of Jesus increasingly identify Satan with their human antagonists--first Jews, then pagans, and then heretics of their own faith?
In this groundbreaking work of social and religious history, the author of The Gnostic Gospels traces the relationship between the embattled members of a breakaway Jewish sect and the myth they invoked to explain their persecution. This book is at once a masterpiece of erudition, and a book resonant with contemporary implications. For in its pages, we come to understand how the gospel of love could coexist with hatreds that have haunted Christians and non-Christians alike for two thousand years.