Creating Satan

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In the last centuries before the Christian Era, the Devil enjoyed an impressive rise both in his professional status and his assigned areas of responsibility. From being a minor official at the Heavenly Court, he rose to become a fully-fledged adversary of God, almost an anti-God, and like the deity he acquired his own institutional [Read More...]

The Devil’s Progress

I remarked that Satan is difficult to trace in the canonical Old Testament, but that he becomes prominent in later centuries, in the so-called Inter-Testamental period (a phrase I hate, but let that pass). Moving the diabolical story forward to 200BC, we are clearly entering a different world, and the volume of material is impressive. [Read More...]

The Rise of Satan

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The story of Satan is one of remarkable upward mobility. Let me tell that story in barebones form here, and then discuss it in more detail in subsequent posts. Most people have a sense of the Devil’s biography, which owes a great deal to John Milton. In this popular vision, Satan was once a bright [Read More...]

The Curse of Memory

The recent furor over shootings of civilians by police has inspired a lot of discussion about eyewitness testimony and the nature of memory, and the question of just how reliable memory can be. If you read the grand jury testimony in the Ferguson, Missouri, case, a number of witnesses reported things that simply did not [Read More...]

The Sicilian’s Tale

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Not many people read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow any more, but some of his poems do have unexpected treats. Longfellow himself was a distinctly rational believer, a faithful Unitarian. Some of his poems, though, had a wider religious message, and his Christmas Bells has been much recorded in modern times. Someone could write a good book [Read More...]

Sons of Light and Sons of Seth

I discussed Dylan M. Burns’s book Apocalypse of the Alien God, an account of the influential early Gnostic sect called Sethians. Burns’s arguments resonated because of work I have been doing recently on the origins of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, and the influence of the sectarian Judaism we know from Qumran and the Dead Sea [Read More...]

Seth and the Alien God

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The origins of Gnosticism are normally discussed in terms of debates within Christianity. However, one richly informative conflict occurred beyond the familiar realm of church history. One of the great minds of Late Antiquity was the Egyptian-born philosopher Plotinus, the leading figure of Neoplatonism, and a younger contemporary of Origen. Around the year 263, in [Read More...]

Babylonian Baptists

I have been posting about the emergence of Christianity in Iraq/Mesopotamia, and its possible inheritance from sectarian Judaism. Other continuities from the older Jewish world lay beyond the realms of orthodox Christianity, and these likewise tell us much about the importance of those Mesopotamian lands. During the third century, Mani founded a Dualist-Gnostic religion that [Read More...]

The Jesus Identity!

Like many readers, I have been stunned by the revelations in the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene. Their bold detective work exposes the hidden narrative of Jesus found in a text called Joseph and Aseneth, which timid [Read More...]

Christians in Babylon

In the early Christian era, Mesopotamia/Iraq was a thriving center of rabbinic Judaism, and throughout the first millennium it was the intellectual capital of that faith. Given the Jewish background, naturally we find very early Christian settlements in Iraq. Within the Persian empire, the greatest seat of church power was of course at the capital [Read More...]


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