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The Social History of Satan, Part II: Satan in the New Testament Gospels Author(s): Elaine Pagels Source:

Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 62, No. 1 (Spring, 1994), pp. 17-58 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1465555 Accessed: 16/02/2010 17:55
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Journal of the American Academy of Religion LXII/1






Satan in the New Testament Gospels

Elaine Pagels

THE NEWTESTAMENT gospels all place the story of Jesus in the context of cosmic war. As the evangeliststell it, the story shows how the power of God acts throughJesus to challenge the evil forces that dominatethe presentworld. Eachof the gospelsframes its narrative,first at its beginning and then at its climax, with episodes depicting the clash of supernaturalforces that the evangelists see played out throughJesus' life and in his death. Mark,for example, opens his gospel describing how the spirit of God descended upon Jesus at his baptism, and ". .. immediatelydrove him into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by the devil (hypo tou satana) and was with the beasts, and the angels ministeredto him" (Mark1:12). From that moment on, Markrelates, even afterJesus reenteredhuman society, the powers of evil challengedand attackedhim at every turn, and he attacked them back-and won. Matthew and Luke both adopt and elaborate this stark opening scene, and, apparently using Q, turn it into a dramaof threeincreasinglyintense confrontations between Satanand God'sspirit actingin Jesus. Lukeshows how the devil, defeated in his attempts to overpower Jesus, prudently departedfrom him "fora time"(Luke4:13b). Lukegoes on to say explicitly what Markand Matthewimply-namely, that the devil returned in person, so to speak, in the passion narrative,to destroyJesus. Thus at the climax of the story Lukesays that "Satan entered into Judas Iscariot"to finish his work by initiatingJesus' betrayal,arrest, torture, and execution. The New Testamentgospels, then, (with considerablevariation)depict the passion narra-

ElainePagelsis Professorof Religionat PrincetonUniversity, Princeton,NJ 08544.



Journal of the American Academy of Religion

tive as the culmination of the cosmic war engaged at Jesus' baptism. The gospel of John at first seems an exception to this pattern, since its author omits the opening temptation scene. Yet, as Raymond Brown (1961) points out, its author has replaced it with analogous conflict stories that do, indeed, depictJesus and his followers engaged in conflict with persons whom John depicts as fulfilling the devil's will. At the climacticmoment of the arrest,John has Jesus identify the forces arrestinghim with the "rulerof this world"(14:30) who is about to be "castout" (12:31). In all of the gospels, then,Jesus' crucifixionseems to signal the victory of what Luke calls the "powerof darkness"(22:53b). Yeteach of the evangelists insists that, on the contrary,it actuallyheralds the ultimate annihilation of the forces of evil and ensures God's final victory. How, then, does the figure of the devil, here usually called Satan, function in the New Testament gospels? Many liberally minded Christianshave preferredto ignore or minimize the presence of such blatant supernaturalism.Yetas the evangelistssee it, the story they have to tell would make little sense apart from the context of cosmic war. For how could anyone claim that a man betrayed by one of his own followers and brutally executed on charges of treason against Rome not only was, but in fact still is, God's divinely appointed Messiah-unless his capture and defeat were (as the evangelists insist) only a preliminaryskirmish in a vast cosmic conflict now envelopingthe universe? As Jesus warns the high priest at his interrogation(Mk 14:62 par.), soon he shall be vindicated and triumphantwhen the "Son of Man"returns in glory. For the purpose of this sketch, I intend to leave aside certain traditionalapproachesalreadywell investigatedby other scholars: for example, approaches involving exploration of the historical, cultural, and literary background (as Neil Forsyth recently has done). I intend to leave aside as well approachesprimarily concerned with psychologicaland theological interpretation(such as those of WalterWink and JeffreyBurton Russell). Instead I propose to explore in the gospels what I have come to call, half jokingly, the "social history of Satan." This approachmay seem at first both odd and unpromising. Indeed, as Russell has said, it is precisely "generationsof socially oriented theologians"who have tended to "dismiss the devil and demons as superstitiousrelics of little importanceto the Christian

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


message." Against this view, Russell himself argues, quite rightly, writershad a sharp sense that "onthe contrary,the New Testament of the immediacyof evil,"and he proceeds to take his argumentin a theologicaldirectionin orderto conclude that "thedevil is essential in the New Testamentbecause he constitutes an important alternativein Christiantheodicy"(222). With this statement, as indicated above, I agree. But here I intend to take a differentapproach;that is, to investigatespecifically social implications of the figure of Satan in the New Testament gospels. For the evangelists'sense of "theimmediacyof evil" by no means involvesonly-nor perhaps even primarily-elements of cosmology. On the contrary, the theodicy of the evangelists intends to locate and identify specific ways in which the forces of certainpeopleto effect violent destructionevil have acted through above all, in Matthew'swords, "therighteousblood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariahthe son of Berachiah" (23:35)-violence epitomizedin what the evangelists as the culminationof the greatestof all evils, the execution regard of Jesus. What I have set out to explore is how, in particular,the figure of Satan serves to characterizehumanopposition to Jesus and his followers. What I discoveredis this: that while the New Testament gospels never identify Satan with the Romans, they consistently identify him with Jesus'Jewishenemies.1 This researchhas led me to conclude that, by casting the story of Jesus into the context of cosmic war, the gospel writersexpress in varyingways their identification with an embattledminority againstwhat each sees as the apostasy of the majorityof Jesus' (and, of course, by extension, their own) Jewish contemporaries.As I have shown in a previous article (1991), Jesus and his followersdid not inventsuch demonization of their enemies, although,as we shall see, they (and Muslims after them) carried it considerably further than others had, and with enormous consequences.
11 am grateful to Professor Wayne Meeks for pointing out to me that this statement requires qualification in the case of the Fourth Gospel. For while John explicitly identifies "theJews" as the devil's offspring who "seek to kill" Jesus (8:40-44) and describes the devil entering into Judas to initiate the betrayal (13:2; 18), the author may implicitly include Roman forces along with Jewish ones as agents of "the ruler of this world" whose energy lies behind Jesus' arrest and crucifixion (14:30). For a different view, see the work of Alan Segal, who argues that in the fourth gospel "the Ruler of the World is part of one of the strongest anti-Jewish polemics in the New Testament" (44, 441-75).


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What the previous article shows, briefly stated, is that the figure of Satan as leader of a supernatural army hostile to God emerged in certain Jewish pseudepigraphicsources from c. 165 B.C.E.-200C.E. Specifically,it emergedas a way of characterizing not Israel'straditionalenemies, "thenations"who conquered and ruled the nation,2but fellow Jews whom certain sectarian groups regardedas their "intimateenemies." In works like 1 Enochand Jubilees, stories adapted from Genesis 6 or Isaiah 14 came to describe how the "watchers," prominent leaders in the angelic their commander in chief and finally army, rebelled against became his enemies. Other stories, like the one relatedin the Life of Adamand Eve,depictedSatanas Adam'solder brother,provoked to ragingjealousy by God'spreferencefor his human sibling. Such stories explained,in effect, how "one of us" could become "one of them";that is, how relativesand colleagues could become the bitterest of enemies. Such stories, I suggest, found their deepest resonances among certain groups of "dissident Jews"(Smith) convinced that the majorityof other Jews had turned against themand so (as the Essenes put it), against God. conflict need not, of course, and most often did Intra-Jewish not, excludehostility toward"thenations." Certainof the Qfmran the authorscharacterize foreignenemies along with the majorityof Jews who collaboratedwith such "evilempires"as fellow agents of diabolic forces. Followersof Jesus often expressedthemselvessimilarly. Wayne Meeks suggests that the authorof John may include Romanforces along with Jewish ones as agents of the "rulerof this world" who effects Jesus' crucifixion (although Alan Segal disagrees;see note 1; personal communication,1992). Certainlythe authorof Revelation graphicallydepicts the powers of Rome in the animalistic and monstrous imagery adopted from prophetic tradition while simultaneously denouncing certain groups of Jewsapparentlythose who rejectedhis claims aboutJesus-as the "synagogue of Satan"(2:9).3 Yetwho actually wereJesus' enemies? What we know historically suggests that his enemies were the Roman governorand his forces who condemned and executedJesus on grounds of sedition against Rome. In all probability,as the gospels indicate,Jesus also had enemies among his own people, especially among those of its
20n traditional characterization of the "alien enemies," see Levenson. 3For discussion, see Collins (85), Schiissler Fiorenza (116-119), and Merideth.

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leaders who regardedhis activity as threateningand potentially with the dangerous. Yet had Jesus'followers identified themselves havetoldhis storyverydifferentlymajorityof otherJews,theymight and with considerably morehistoricalplausibility.Specifically,they have told it in a style ratherlike that of Maccabees, that of as might an inspiredJewish holy man martyredby Israel'straditional"alien enemies." At this crucial juncture, however, for reasons too complex to summarize here, the evangelists chose to dissociate themselves from the Jewish majority,and to focus instead upon intra-Jewish conflict-and so, simultaneously, upon their own quarrel with those who resistedtheir claims aboutJesus. Within the gospel narratives,the figureof Satan tends to correlatewith-and to expressthat dramaticshift of blame from "thenations"onto members of Jesus' own people. The variations in each of the gospels as each depicts the activity of the demonic opposition (and, correspondingly, those they perceiveas enemies) express, I suggest, a variety of relationships-often deeply ambivalent-betweenvarious groups of Jesus' followers and these Jewish groups each regardedas its primary opponents. We must be careful to avoid oversimplification. Yetit is probablyfair to say that in every case the decision to cast the story of Jesus into the context of God's war against Satan tends to exempt the Romans and to place increasingblame upon the "intimateenemies." By the time of the gospel of John, as we shall see, those the author often designates simply as "theJews" have become, in effect, a kind of diabolusex machina.4 Beforewe look at the characterization Satan in each of the of gospels, let us make one preliminarynote about the decision to start this investigationwith the gospel narratives. Were our concern to unravelthe problemsof source and redactioncriticism,we would have to begin, of course, with the earliest extant sources, such as the lettersof Paul,and whateverother constituentelements of gospel traditionwe might reconstruct,5 including, some scholars believe, the gospel of Thomas. But since our aim is different-to observe how the theme of cosmic war, and the correspondingdivision in society, dominates those traditionswhich the majorityof Christians (c. 70-200 C.E.) affirmed as "canonical"-we begin
4Fordiscussion of the much debatedmeaningof the term Ioudaios John, see infra. in 5Foran outstandingrecentdiscussion, see Koester.


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instead with those portraitsof Jesus that provedmost influential in shaping all subsequent orthodox tradition. Let us consider first, then, the gospel of Markand the Q source, the importance of these two reinforcedby the way that Matthew and Lukereworkedboth into theirlaternarratives. Severalinfluential scholars recently have suggested that certain earlier components of Jesus tradition lacked the theme of cosmic war. In his recent study of Ancient Christian Gospels, Helmut Koester has shown, for example,how certain sayings traditions,including sections of the Gospel of Thomas,predatethe canonicalgospels. John followingthe lead of Koesterand Robinson,has anaKloppenborg, the Q source, and claims to be able to separate"theformative lyzed component in Q,"which he identifieswith six "wisdomspeeches," from what he regardsas later additions,including the apocalyptic sayings, the polemic against the present "evilgeneration,"and the diabolical temptationscene. What matters for our present purpose, whatever we assume about earlierand later strataof Q, is to observe that such "wisdom sayings"came to be included in canonicaltraditiononlywhen they are framed-and thus interpreted-by the theme of cosmic war. Although certain of the Q sayings attributedto Jesus may sound in "sapiential," my view they differradicallyfrom the Egyptianand Greek collections to which Kloppenborgcompares them. As he himself notes, the "confrontational, paradoxical,and hyperbolic" tone of Q is antitheticalto the conservativeattitudes expressed in as also observes, the pagan collections. Furthermore, Kloppenborg are dominatedand shaped by expectation of the coming Q sayings judgment. Most significantly, the sayings divide human society into two wise and thefoolish" a righteous as groups-notso much"the minority a wickedmajority.Wisdom tradition,by definition, rangedagainst presupposesan essential contrastbetweenthe wise and the foolish. But the Q sayings (including those Kloppenborgclassifies as the "inauguralsermon" and "sayingson anxiety")presuppose a very differentcontrast. In the former,for example,the speaker'sinjunctions to "loveyour enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who abuse you," etc., implicitly warn his hearersthat, in effect, "manypeople areyour enemies; they will curse, abuse, beat, and rob you; they will rejectyou and try to kill you." Unlike wisdom traditions,which intend to make "thewise" feel (and, one hopes, become) superior to "the foolish"

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(Beardslee),these sayings involvefar more than contrast;they presuppose active, hostile, even lethal opposition. Yet, as we noted already,even those sayings that can be construed as "sapiential" only survive into orthodox traditionin the context, Kloppenborg argues, of cosmic war. Consequently, they interpret all human conflict in terms of this cosmological strife. Turningto Mark,we can see that his gospel, as James Robinson has observed, "is anything but a straightforward historical account"(63). Markopens his narrativewith the account of John baptizing Jesus and relates that, at the moment of baptism, the holy spirit descended upon Jesus, and "avoice spoke from heaven, saying 'This is My beloved son."' From that moment, all humans disappear from Mark'snarrative: "Immediatelythe spirit drove Jesus) into the wilderness, and there he remainedfor forty days, temptedby the satan (tou satana) and he was among the wild animals, and the angels ministeredto him." Recountingthis episode, Markdoes not intend to departfrom events in the human, historical world, but rather,as Robinson notes, to interprettheir cosmic significance. The same pattern pervades the entire narrative. Let us glance, then, at the "story line" of Mark's gospel. Directlyafterthe spirit infusesJesus with power,drawinghim into combat with Satan in the desert, he emerges announcing the new situation (1:15), heraldingGod's imminentvictory over the forces of evil. When he enters the synagogue at Capernaum,a demonpossessed man, hearing him preach "with authority,"screams as the demon within him recognizeswhat Jesus' activity means and tries to overpowerhim: "Whatis there between us and you, Jesus of Nazareth. Have you come to destroy us?" (1:24). In this first public confrontationwith a demon,Jesus commandsthe evil spirit to leave, and forces him out; the demon convulses the man and shrieks "with a great voice" as he departs. All who witness this contest, struck with astonishment,ask each other "Whatis this? New teaching! With power (exousian)he commands the unclean spirits, and they obey him!"(1:27). As Marktells the story, then,Jesus' power manifestsitself especially in action, since Markdoes not, here, recordJesus' teaching. Even in the first public challengeto the forces of evil, Markshows how Jesus' power sets him in contrast-and soon into direct conflict-with the scribes commonly reveredas religious authorities, for, as he explains,Jesus "taughtwith authority,and not like the scribes"(1:22).


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Throughoutthis opening chapter,Markemphasizes that Jesus "drove out many demons," healed demonically induced illness in (1:34; 39), and traveledthroughoutGalilee"preaching the synaand casting out demons,"for, as he explains to his discigogues ples, "thatis what I came to do" (1:38). Simultaneously,as Mark tells it, the scribes immediatelytook offense at what they took to be his arrogatingdivine authority. Within the opening chapters, then, as Robinson has shown, Markpresents cosmic war on three interrelatedfronts: the holy spirit against Satan;the "son of God" against the demons; Jesus of Nazareth against his human

For Jesus has barely engaged Satan's power before his opponents' hostility turns murderous. Directly after witnessing Jesus healing on the Sabbath, the Pharisees, Mark says, began to plot with the Herodians"howthey might destroyhim"(3:6). Afterthis powerfulcoalition has united against him, Jesus retaliatesby commissioning a new leadership group, "the twelve,"orders them to preach, and gives them "powerto cast out demons"(3:13). This escalation of spiritualwar immediatelyevokes escalating opposition. For,Marksays, next "thescribeswho came down from Jerusalem"charge that Jesus "is possessed by Beelzebub;by the prince of demons he casts out demons!"Jesus objects: "Howcan Satan cast out Satan? ... If Satan is in rebellion against himself, he is divided and cannot stand, and that is the end of him" (3:23Satan (cf. Isaiah 56:7) Jesus characterized 26). Accordingto Mark, as a powerfullord, the rulerof a kingdom,or the masterof a house, upon whom Jesus openly declares war. He is out to "bind this enemy and to plunder his house." Jesus throws back upon his accusers the accusation of being demon-possessed,charging that in saying this they themselvesare sinning so deeply as to seal their own damnation (3:28-30). Later,telling the parableof the sower, Jesus specifically identifies Satan as the enemy who frustratesthe efficacy of his preaching:

schemati6Robinson,"Wehaveidentifiedthreelevelsof Markan language... summarized Jesus and his oppocally as follows: the Spiritand Satan;the Son of God and demoniacs; nents"(80). "Thedebates,too, ... are the actionsof Satan... the debateswith theJewish authoritiesare designatedpeirasmai" and the churchare engagedin the same (93). "Jesus cosmic struggle against the same demonic force of evil" (111). See also Nineham (34, passim).

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comesandsnatches Whentheyhear,Satanimmediately awaythe wordwhichis sownin them.(4:14) From this point on, Jesus sharply discriminates between those whom he has chosen, the inner circle, and "those outside." Althoughhe often criticizesthe disciples7-in 8:33 he even accuses Peter of playing Satan's role-Jesus shares secrets with them that are hidden from outsiders. For the latter, he says, quoting Isaiah, are afflicted with impenetrablespiritual blindness. Thus the first four chaptersof Markdemonstratehow the theme of cosmic warfare intertwines with that of conflict between the tiny group of Jesus' intimates and the various and powerful groups ranged against them. At first glance, one might assume that Markhere adopts and follows a pattern we observed in the literatureof those various groups sometimes called "dissidentJews."8 To some extent, he does; yet despite Mark'saffinity with such groups, his own viewpoint is actuallyfar moreradical. Forthe formerattemptto reform or renew Israel by going back with increased devotion to traditional ways of maintaining holiness-observance of Sabbath, for example, or kashrut. Mark,by contrast,depictsJesus both accused and apparently guiltyof violating strict observanceon both counts. Criticizedby the scribes, the Pharisees, and even, apparently,by the "disciplesof John," Jesus rejectsthe implied criterion: "Icame not to call the righteous,but sinners, to repentance." Unlike other "sectarian" texts, then, the gospel of Mark does not address those who are especially "righteous." I Enoch, for example,is addressedto the "holyones" among humankind,while Jubileesand the Qfmran texts are addressed to a "righteousremnant"within Israel. Mark,on the contrary,places such "reform" parties as the Pharisees (and possibly the Essenes as well) among Jesus' primary critics, and so finally among his enemies. What criteria remain, then, to discriminate-within Israelbetween the people who belong to God and those who follow Satan? Mark makes his primary criterion discernmentof spirits.
I 7See the work of Weedenand Tolbertfor recentcriticalinterpretation; find morepersuasive the forthcomingstudy by Shiner. 8Note Smith'smorepreciseattemptat definition: "Thosefirst-century Jewishgroups,both in Palestineand in the Diaspora,both beforeand afterthe destructionof the Temple,that and sourcesof revelation, principlesof authority, sought to developa notion of community, modes of access to divinityapartfromtheJerusalem priests,and cult" temple,its traditions, (2.701); see also Murray(1982:194-208, 1985:263-81).


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Who recognizesthe spirit acting in Jesus as holy, and who regards it as demonic? Accordingto Mark, the answer to this question reveals, in each case, whether a person stands on God's side or Satan's. Here the mutual accusations of demon possession effectively define the identity of Jesus' followers,on the one hand, and, on the other, that of theirJewish opponents. Strikingly,however, as we noted above,Marksees the evil "rulerof this world"personified not so much in Israel's traditional"alien enemies" (in this case, the Romans) so much as in the "intimateenemies." Mark charges the Jewish leaderswith virtually the full responsibilityfor enacting Satan's purposes on earth. For according to Mark, as Jesus leads his terrified followers towardJerusalem,he tells them explicitly whom they are to blame for his impending death: "The death, and hand him over to the nations, and they shall mock him and spit upon him, flog him and kill him" (Mark 10:33). AfterJesus' public demonstrationin the temple outrages the temple officers, Mark again repeats that "the chief priests and scribes sought to destroy him" (11:18). When both groups, together with the elders, demand to know by what authority he acts, Jesus refuses to answer. Insteadhe retells Isaiah'sparable of God's wrath against Israel (12:1-12) in a way so transparentthat even the chief priests, scribes, and elders themselves recognized that he was telling it "againstthem"(12:12). The following scenes show Jesus contending first against the Pharisees and Herodians, who fail to trick him into making anti-Romanstatements (12:13the statement that "the high priests sought by deceit how they might overcome him and kill him," while the people remain on Jesus' side (14:2). Shortly afterward,Judas Iscariot, obviously awareof the hostilityJesus had aroused-and among which influential people-"went to the chief priests in orderto betrayUesus) to them, and when they heard it they were glad, and offered him money" (14:10-11). Mark'stheology, as is well known, paradoxically inverts the ordinarymeaning of the event he relates. In his conviction thatJesus' death will become a means of destroyingthe powers of evil, Markdepicts Satan himself-momentarily appearing in the person of Peter-actually attemptingto obstructthe passion (8:31-33)! The sacred mysterythey claim lies hidden in Jesus' death does not, however, exonerate those who successfully conspire to kill
15), and then against the scribes (12:35). Chapter 14 begins with chief priests and scribes . . . will condemn (the Son of Man) to

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him. And while Markdoes not explicitly introduceSatan into the passion narrative,from the first chapters (as we noted above) he has described those scribes, Herodians, Pharisees, and chief priests who seek "to destroy (esus)" as people acting in concert with the powers of evil. Finally, then, as Mark'snarrativedarkensinto the events leading to the crucifixion, the reader senses those forces closing in, their presence manifest through the increasinglyhostile and dangerous machinations of Jesus' "intimate enemies." We noted alreadythat Satan appearedshortly beforeJesus' arrest, not only, as Luke and John will have it, in the form of Judas Iscariot'sdecision to betray Jesus, but even in Peter's instinctive attempt to defend him. Possessedby the convictionthatJesus "hadto die"for mysterious reasons which he does not presume to fathom, Mark depicts Peter himself "tempting"Jesus to evade his divinely ordained death (8:31-33). Far from acquittingJesus' enemies of blame, however,Mark's account (possibly following earlier traditions) significantly shifts the blame from the Romans to the Jewish leaders. We need not rehearsehere certain obvious reasons for deflecting responsibility for the crucifixion from the Romans. As Paul Winter points out, the evangelist,writing in the turmoil surroundingthe disastrous Jewish war against Rome,wished "... to emphasizethe culpability of theJewish nation, particularlyof its leaders ... for ... the death of Jesus. His motives are defensive, not aggressive;to avoid mentioning anything that would provoke Roman antagonism toward, or even suspicion of, the ideas forwhich he stood ... the evangelist tried to conceal thatJesus had been condemned and executedon a charge of sedition"(144). By contrastwith John, Mark(like Matthewand Luke following him) mentions no participation by Roman soldiers. Instead he insists that Jesus was arrested by soldiers sent "from the chief priests and the scribes." It is certainly likely that Jewish authorities, having secured Judas' cooperation, may have sent Temple police to participate in the arrest;but Mark chooses to mention only Jewish officers-despite what he records of Jesus' protest at being arrested at night, and so treated "like a rebel" (hos lestes, 14:48).9
90n the use of lestes for Jewish nationalists, see Horsley (1981).


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The most effectivemeans Markuses to shift responsibilityonto Jesus' "intimateenemies," however, is to introduce the so-called "trialbefore the Sanhedrin,"and to juxtapose this with the contrasting "trialbefore Pilate." For Markgoes on to tell a dramatic story of Jesus' immediate arraignmentthat night before the high priest, in whose presence "allthe chief priests and the elders and the scribes were assembled"(14:53). Markelaborateseach detail of this alleged "trial,"where, he says, after hearing a series of trumped up charges and lying witnesses, the chief priest pronounced Jesus guilty of blasphemy, and the entire assembly "all condemned him as deserving death."'0
10New Testament scholars from the time of Dibelius through Barnabas Lindars and Edvard Schweizter, to the more recent studies of Linneman, Marxen, Peros, and Donahue agree that this critically placed "trial before the Sanhedrin" is historically implausible, most likely constructed by the evangelist. As building blocks for the scene, scholars suggest such passages as Isaiah 53, which Mark apparently took as prophecies concerning an innocent sufferer, falsely accused, who says nothing in his own defense, in spite of being beaten, mocked, and spat upon. Donahue has pointed out how these and other major themes of this narrative all characterize the situation of Jesus' followers at the time Mark was writing. It is they who are accused of devaluing the temple, and of predicting its downfall; it is they who contest Jesus as "Messiah, Son of the Blessed One"; and, third, Mark hopes, it is they who will emulate Jesus' calm acceptance of condemnation and torture. Mark composed this narrative, then, to encourage Jesus' followers facing interrogation and sentence before Jewish and pagan authorities c. 70-80 C.E. By juxtaposing Jesus' composure and straightforward confession with the scene of Peter's terrified denial when a servant tries to identify him as Jesus' follower, Mark intends to exhort his fellow believers, when on trial, to imitate their Lord and shun the cowardice that Peter displays. Intending to demonstrate that the Roman authorities have no quarrel with Christians, Mark shifts the burden of blame virtually entirely from the Romans to the Jews. His account of the subsequent "trial"before Pilate, by contrast, is abrupt and incomplete. There Mark mentions only the single charge that would interest a Roman interrogator: that Jesus had claimed to be "King of the Jews." Yet this second Marcan account hardly deserves to be called a trial, since it lacks elements central to Mark's fictitious "trial before the Sanhedrin"-including the appearance of witnesses and the pronouncement of sentence! Mark goes on to elaborate how Pilate offered to release Jesus, "for he recognized that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up" (15:10). As Mark tells it, Pilate expresses scrupulous concern to avoid unjustly executing an innocent Jewish prisoner, while attempting in weak and futile gestures to appease the crowd. Those whom Mark previously had described as Jesus' defenders he now depicts as a bloodthirsty mob screaming for crucifixion. Pilate, of course, finally capitulates, and-never having pronounced sentencehe "delivered Uesus) to be crucified" (15:15b)! Later Luke will follow Mark but go farther, exculpating Pilate by revising the story to show that Pilate actually declared Jesus innocent no less than three times and tried three times-in vain-to release him before "he gave (Jesus) up to their (the Jews!) will" (23:24). Matthew adds the episode of Pilate washing his hands "in innocence," and Matthew alone adds the terrible curse the Jewish people invoke upon themselves and upon all their progeny ("His blood be upon us and upon our children"; 27:25). Still later John will imply that Pilate only allowed Jesus to be beaten and mocked in order to evoke compassion from the onlookers.

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Without rehearsingall the argumentshere, I agree with those scholarswho have arguedthat Mark'saccountof this so-calledtrial was a construction of the writer (or of his sources) designed to make an apologeticpoint. Thereby,as one scholar observes, Mark sentence were the work of a Romancourt."11Comparewith this the equally artificial"trialbeforePilate,"in which, as Marktells it, Pilate barely interrogatesthe accused, never sentences him, but instead acknowledgeshis innocence, and finally, only after trying in vain to defend him from the shouting mob, acquiesces in their demands. The French biblical scholar Loisy has, indeed, "gotten makeus understand thegovernor not condemn that did Jesus,but that he merelyallowedhim to be put to deathin accordance with the sentenceof theSanhedrin, after havingtried in vain tofree himfrom the hatredof his enemies"(1.1031). At first Markidentifies these enemies with the chief priests and scribes, but by the end of the story they also include "thecrowd"whose response previouslyhad protectedJesus. Thus Markeffectivelyconcludes that the majorityof Jesus' fellow Jews served Satan's purpose in helping to destroy Jesus. From this quick sketch drawn from Mark,let us turn to Matthew to see how the theme of supernaturalconflict serves to characterize the relationship between Jesus' followers and those they saw as their primaryenemies. Here, too, the relationshipremains implicit, not explicit. Unlike Mark,who describesJesus' baptism as the primaryevent in which God's spirit descended upon Jesus, Matthewdeclares-and emphasizes-that this divine power entered Jesus from the very moment of his conception. Indeed, according to Matthew,the spirit actuallyinitiatedthat conception: "Shewas discovered to have a child in her womb through the holy spirit" (1:18). Thus the angel explains to Joseph that her child "wasconceived through the holy spirit"(1:21). As Matthewtells the story, then, Jesus even as a newborn was royaland divine, alreadyGod'sdesignatedfuture"Kingof theJews" (2:2). Matthewproceeds immediatelyto show how Jesus' earliest history echoes and recapitulatesthe story of the infant Moses' escape from the murderous acts of an evil tyrant. Many have
llWinter (33-4); Nineham, especially 368-403: "The indisputable fact that he died by crucifixion shows that his trial and sentence were the work of a Roman court" (403).

evades ". .. the indisputable fact . . . that (esus') final trial and

the point" of these two juxtaposed accounts: Mark intends ". .. to


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observed that MatthewpresentsJesus' birth as a typologicalparallel with Moses' (Brown,1977:214-225). But no one yet, so far as I know, has noted how Matthew simultaneously departs from his typological scheme by reversingtraditionalroles. Certain devout people among his subjects,including, of course,John the Baptist, regardedHerod'scredentialsas suspect. He was, after all, an Idumean; his family lived in a notoriously Gentileway (despite their religious professions);and, as the Baptistpointed out, he lived in open violation of Jewish law. Shockingly,Matthewcasts the Jewishking, Herod, into the villain's role traditionallyreservedfor Pharaoh. Throughthis device, Matthew turns the "alien enemies" of Israel's antiquity into the "intimate enemies,"as Matthewperceivesthem, including the chief and scribes, alongwith all the inhabitantsofJerusalem. For priests to Matthewsays that not only was Herod "troubled" hear of Jesus' "allJerusalemwith him"(2:3). Matthewintends, birth, but so was no doubt, to contrastHerod,Idumeanby background,and from a suspect dynasty, with Jesus, whose legitimately Davidic (and so royal)lineage Matthewproclaims. Here it is Herod-not Pharaohwho ruthlessly orders the mass slaughterof Jewish male infants. Thus (as RaymondBrownalso notes in his masterfulstudy) even in the infancy narrativeMatthewforeshadowsthe terrible climax of the passion (1977:183). Accordingto Matthew,no sooner was Jesus born than the "chiefpriests and scribes of the people"assembled, unwittingly aiding Herod's attempt to "searchfor the child and kill him" (2:13). While transposing the Jewish king into Pharaoh'straditional role, Matthewsimultaneouslyreversesthe valences of Israel'ssymbolic geography. Egypt, traditionallythe land of slavery (and so traditionallysynonymouswith oppression)now becomes forJesus and his family a sanctuary-a place of refugeand deliverancefrom the slaughterorderedby the Jewish king! In its shock value, this reversalof imagery nearly matches that in the book of Revelation, called Sodom which refers to Jerusalemas the place "allegorically and Egypt,where our Lordwas crucified"(11:8)! Later,of course, Matthew will go on to have Jesus favorablycompare Tyre and Sidon-and even Sodom-with the local towns of Bethsaida, Chorazin,and Capernaum(11:20-24). Since Matthewclaims thatJesus receivedGod's spirit from the moment of his conception, he sees Jesus' baptism as merely confirming, not conveying,his receiptof divine power. The spirit con-

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


tinues to direct the subsequent action, leading Jesus into the wilderness for the purpose of undergoing temptations "by the devil." Apparentlytaking his cues from the Q source, Matthew describes Satan challengingJesus' divine identity ("Ifyou are the Son of God. . ."). But failing twice to induce Jesus to prove his divine power and authority,Satan offers him "allthe kingdoms of the world and their glory"(which Satan here claims as his own) in exchange for worship. Thus Matthew, following Mark's lead, implies that political success and power are evidence of affiliation with the devil-certainly not, as many of Matthew'scontemporaries would have assumed, marks of divine favor! Throughouthis gospel, Matthewsustains both the reversalof alien enemies with intimateones and the correlatedreversalof Jewish vs. Gentile territory. Here, afterthe arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus went, as Isaiah had prophesied,to the "landbeyond the Jordan, the Galilee of the Gentiles"(Isaiah 9:1-2, cited in Matthew 4:15). Subsequentlyhe heals a leper outcast from Israel,and then he performsa healing for a Romancenturionwho recognizesJesus' divine power and appeals to him to use it on his behalf. Astonthan any"he ished to hear a Roman officer express faith "greater has found in Israel,Jesus immediatelydeclares, "I tell you, many shall come from east and west and sit down with Abrahamand Isaac andJacob in the Kingdomof God, while the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness"(8:11-12a). As Sean Freyneobserves,Matthew,himself contendingwith his fellow Christiansagainstthe rivalparty of Pharisees,tells the story of Jesus as a polemic between Jesus and the Jewish leaders (1985:117-144; 1988:67-132). For this purpose, Matthew seems what apparentlywas a comsimultaneouslyintent on "correcting" mon impression-that Jesus simply ignoredtraditional Jewish concerns with righteous obedience to Torah. Thus, instead of beginning, as Mark does, by showing how Jesus' mighty worksand thus his implicit arrogation of divine authority-bring him into conflict with religious leaders,Matthewopens Jesus' ministry with his "new Torah."Thus Matthewpreparesthe reader for the chargesofJesus' laxity in Sabbathand kosher observanceby insisting that Jesus acts on the basis of a greaterrighteousness (5:20), not a lesser one. Accordingto Matthew5 and 6, Jesus demands an enormous increasein religious scrupulosity: the traditionalTorah is not half strict enough for him! Simultaneously,Matthewinsists thatJesus' critics, "the scribes and the Pharisees,"use mere hypo-


Journal of the American Academy of Religion

critical "observance" a cover for violating what Jesus here proas claims to be the Torah'scentral commands of love for God and neighbor (6:1-18). Matthew thus leads the readerinto the controversiesbetween Jesus and his opponents by way of Jesus' teaching.12And unlike Mark, as we noted already,Matthewcasts the Pharisees, not the scribes, into the role of Jesus' primaryantagonists.13Thus here it is the Pharisees who, at a crucial moment, charge Jesus with demon possession ("He casts out demons by the prince of demons";9:34). Having warned the Pharisees that by false "discernment of spirits" they commit unforgivableblasphemy, Matthew's Jesus insists that supernatural conflict creates two separate-and opposing-communities: "Whoeveris not with me is against me, and whoever does not gatherwith me scatters." Distressed to see Israel lacking spiritualleadership,Jesus then over unclean spirdesignates the twelve and gives them "authority to cast them out" (10:1). While warning them that the people its, "will deliver you up to sanhedrins, and beat you in their synagogues"(10:17), Jesus warns them to anticipatemurderoushatred within their own households (10:21) as well as from "everyone" (10:22); for, as he says, "ifthey have called the masterof the house Beelzebub,how much morewill they malign those membersof his household?"(10:24). After the Pharisees "went out and took counsel against him, how to destroy him" (12:14), Matthew'sJesus replies in Isaiah's words, claiming that God himself has said of him, "Ihave put my spirit upon (my servant), and he shall proclaimjustice to the GenAt this turning point in the story, Matthewreports that Jesus healed and exorcised a blind, mute man who was demon possessed (might he represent the Gentiles to whom Jesus has just declaredhe is to minister?).14 Seeing this, and seeing the crowd's admiringresponse, Matthewsays, the Phariseesrepeattheir charge
tiles . . . and in his name will the Gentiles hope" (12:13-21).

'Can this be the Son of David?' But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, 'It is only by Beelzebub,the prince of demons, that this
12Seethe recentstudy by Garland. 13Cf.Overman. 14Notethe perceptive commentsbyJackson,"The(Roman)centuand, I believe,correlated rion is the counterpart Mark's for intendedreader" (20), as he is in Matthewas well.

of demon possession: ". .. all the people were amazed, and said,

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


man casts out demons."' To this accusation,Jesus responds, as in Mark,with the counterchargeof blasphemy and warns that they are liable to damnation. The bitter hostility expressed in Matthew23 has attractedconsiderable comment, notably including recent discussions by D. Garlandand A. Overman. LukeJohnson has attemptedto ameliorate the bitterness by showing, quite accurately, that rhetorical vituperationtypically characterizeddebate between rival teachers in antiquity. But Johnson fails to note that demonicvilification occurs extremelyrarely. In the wide range of examples he offers, only Essenes and Christiansactually escalate conflict with their opponents to the level of cosmic war. Indeed, as Matthew'snarrative proceeds, the antagonism between Jesus and his enemies comes to be described-as in the literatureof the Qfmran sectarians-as a war between those whom Jesus calls "sons of the kingdom" (13:38a) and the "sons of the evil one" (13:38b). FirstJesus repeatsJohn's denunciation to them: "youare evil" (12:34). Next he predicts that despised foreignersshall "ariseat the judgment of this generation and condemn it" (12:41). Finally he implicitly accuses his opponents of being hopelessly demon possessed, telling the parable of a man who, once exorcised, experiences a new that the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. So shall it be also with this evil generation!" (12:45). Later,Jesus explains privatelyto his followersthat the generation he addresses-except for the elect-already has been judged and condemned;his opponents'refusalto receivehis preaching,he says, evinces Satan'spower over them. In terms of the parable of the sower,Jesus identifies the "evil one" as the "enemy" who has "snatched away"the seeds he has planted and so preventedhis preaching from bearing fruit among his own people (13:19). Jesus tells the parableof the weeds, explicImmediatelythereafter itly interpretingit so as to identify his opponents as the offspring of Satan: "... the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil!"(13:38-39). Jesus, finally recognizedby his disciples as Messiah,tells them that now, by the authority of God's spirit, he is establishing his own assembly,which shall triumphover all the forces of evil. This signals that God has replaced Israel with a new community: as Nicklesburg observes, by Matthew 16 "the qahal 'Ysraelhas become 'my church' (mou ten ekklesias)" (174).
invasion of "seven other spirits more evil" than the first, ". .. so


Journalof the AmericanAcademyof Religion

YetJesus' conflict with the Pharisees has not yet reached the climax impending in the passion narrative. Hultgren(67-131) has shown how Matthewconsistently turns earliertraditionsinto conflict stories that pit Jesus against those he denounces seven times as "scribesand Pharisees,hypocrites,"and even calls "childrenof hell" (23:15)! He goes on to call down divine wrath upon "this generation, . . . that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of the innocent Abel to that of Zechariah, son of Barachiah,whom you murdered between the sanctuaryand the altar"(23:35). Throughthe parableof the sheep and the goats Jesus proclaimsa direct and powerfulmessage: that everysingle response a person makes towardhim-here interpreted as, in effect, anyone in need, hungering, thirsting, sick, naked, imprisoned-takes place within the context of this cosmic battle between God's spirit and Satan. For Matthew, this apparently means that Jesus in his futurerole as Son of Man shall judge the whole human race, inviting some to enter into God's kingdom and ordering all who ignore his commands "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels"(25:41). Consistent with these themes is Matthew'sgreater emphasis throughoutthe passion narrativeon Pilate's innocence and upon the consequently greater guilt of Jesus' Jewish contemporaries. Althoughwe need not here repeatthe work of those who have analyzed the Mattheanpassion narrativein detail (Dahl), let us note some of the uniquely Matthean features: the story of Pilate's handwashing,an episode apparentlyadded to echo Jewish practice as mentioned in such passages as Deut 21:6-9 and Ps 26:6; Pilate's implicit recognition of Jesus' innocence (27:18) and his consequent refusal to pronounce sentence; and, finally, his reluctant acquiescenceas "allthe people"acknowledgetheir blood guilt and invoke God's curse upon themselves and their children (Mt. 26:28). As Matthewtells the story, evenJudas Iscariothimself-to say nothing of Pilate'sown wife-declares Jesus innocent! Finally, it is Matthewalone who adds the story that the "chiefpriests and the Pharisees,"following the crucifixion, solicit Pilate to secure Jesus' tomb with a guard,lest his followerssteal his body in order to fake a resurrection. Matthew'sstory concludes with the wellknown story of the Jewish authoritiesbribing the soldiers to start the false rumor that "hasbeen spread among the Jews to this day" (28:15).

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


As the gospel ends, then, MatthewclearlydissociatesJesus' foland depicts the resurlowers from these hostile and lying "Jews" rectedJesus announcingto his followersthat now, having received "allauthority,on heaven and on earth,"he ordersthem to "go and make disciples of all nations"(28:19). Thus the end of the gospel echoes the beginning: the traditional"alien enemies" have now become those fromwhom, along with a remnantfrom Israel,God's ekklesia. spirit shall gather the new "qahal"-Jesus' The gospel of Luke makes considerablymore explicit the pattern we are callingthe "socialhistory of Satan."Accordingto Luke, it is the holy spirit (or its agents, the angels) who initiates every one of the uniquely Lucanopening anecdotes,fromJohn's miraculous conception to Simeon and Anna'sgreetingto Jesus in the Temple. LikeMatthew,Lukeshows that the momentJesus appearsas a full grown man, "fullof the holy spirit"to challenge the forces of evil, Satan immediatelyappearsto challengehim. Finding himself thrice defeated, "the devil departed from him for a time" (4:13). This does not mean, as Conzlemannimagined, thatJesus' activity As until his betrayalwas "Satan-free." I read the gospel, I agree with certain more recent commentatorswho contend that Luke's entire narrativedemonstrates the opposite.15 Now, however, the devil works underground-or, more accurately, on the groundthrough human undercoveragents. What first suggests this is his juxtaposition of two conflict stories in Luke4. For directlyfollowinghis account of Jesus' conflict with the devil, Luke narrateshis first public appearance-a scene that ends in sudden and nearlylethalviolence. HereJesus appears in the Nazarethsynagogue readingpassages from Isaiah and proclaiming their fulfillment. Favorablyreceived at first, Jesus then predicts that his own townspeople shall reject him, and declares that God intends to bring salvationto the Gentiles. His words so synagoguewere filled with rage, and they rose up to throwhim out of the city, and led him to the edge of the hill on which their city was built, in order to throw him down headlong"(4:28-29). But Jesus quickly departs, and so he escapes this first attempt on his life.
outrage his audience that ". . . hearing these things, all those in the

15See,for recentdiscussion, Garrett.


Journal of the American Academy of Religion

AfterJesus' townspeoplehave respondedto his first appearance by trying to kill him-and thus to accomplishthe devil's purposeLuke shows the religious authorities beginning to plot against Jesus. At first they suspiciously watch him, hoping for an opportunity "to make an accusation against him." When they find one, rage (anoias) and discussed with one anotherwhat they might do to Jesus"(6:11). Fromthe beginning of Jesus' public activityto its end, Luke intends to show that it is Jews,Jesus' intimate enemies, who willingly play Satan'srole.16Yeteven in Lukethis theme is not a simple one; here, as some scholars have noted, Jesus' encounter with the Jewish leaders often seems to indicate intra-Jewish polemic rather than anti-Jewish polemic.17While Luke castigates the Pharisees for having set themselves,in effect, against God (cf. Jesus' followersin lan16:13-14), he simultaneouslycharacterizes guage reserved for the "righteousremnant." From the opening scenes in the TempleinvolvingJesus' infancy and adolescence to the wordswith which Lukecloses the gospel (the disciples "wentto Jerusalem,and were continuallyin the templepraisingGod")Luke depicts Jesus and his associates as deeply loyal to the Temple-as, perhaps, the only genuine Israelitesleft in Jerusalem. Internal conflict often is, of course, the bitterestof all. When Jesus proceeds to teach and heal, "castingout a demon that was dumb,"Luke says that "someof the people"accuse him of possession by Beelzebub. Luke, like Matthew, quotes the Q sources, acknowledgingthe divisions his coming arouseswithin the "house of Israel":"Donot think that I have come to bring peace on earth, no, rather division; from now on in one house there shall be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father,mother against Spiritualwarfarebetween God and Satan-and so, simultaneously, betweenJesus, his followers,and their "intimateenemies"intensifies throughout the gospel. As his enemies harden their opposition, certain PhariseeswarnJesus (in an episode unique to Luke) that "Herodwants to kill you." Jesus' contemptuousanswer suggests that what reallyunderliesHerod'shostility (as well as that of others) is thatJesus challengesSatan'spower: "Goand tell that
160n many points I tend to agreewith Sanders'discussion;see especially 1-83. 170n the work of other scholars,see Sanders.

seeing him heal on the Sabbath, ". . . they were filled with insane

daughter and daughter against her mother. . ." (12:51-55).

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


fox, 'todayand tomorrowI cast out demons and heal, and the third day I finish my course. . ."' (13:31-32). Yetafterthe seventy apostles he sends out return astonished and triumphantat their power over demons, Jesus exults, foreseeing Satan's impending defeat:18 "Isaw Satan fall like lighteningfrom heaven: Behold, I have given you powerto treadon snakes and scorpions,and upon everypower of the enemy"(10:18-19). Directly before this supernatural "enemy"enters into Judas Iscariot to initiate the betrayal,Luke has Jesus warn-in parablehow he himself shall return as king to annihilatehis enemies. At the very moment he begins his final journey to Jerusalem,Jesus tells the story of "acertain nobleman" who travelsto a distant land "in orderto claim his kingly power (basileian)and return"(19:11). When he has accomplishedthis and returns in triumph, his first act is to demand the immediateexecution of his enemies: "Asfor thoseenemiesof mine, who did not wantme to rule over them, bring them here and slaughterthembeforeme"(emphasis added; 19:27). Lukehighlightsthe significanceof these ominous words as follows: "while saying these words, Jesus travelledbefore (the disciples), going up to Jerusalem."Arrivingthere,he orderedhis disciples to preparefor his royalentry into the city (cf. Zech. 9:9). Luke alone inserts the words "theking"into the Psalmist'sacclamationhe says the disciples shouted atJesus' arrivalin Jerusalem: "Blessedis the one, the king,who comes in the name of the Lord!" 118:26; Lk (Ps 19:38). As the passion narrativeproceeds, Luke increasingly emphasizes the culpabilityof those Jews who "didnot want (him) to rule over them" and so reject their anointed king. As Luke tells the story, "Satan entered into Judas Iscariot,"but neither this nor God's preordained plan absolved Judas from bearing his guilt (22:22). Intendingto betrayJesus,Judaswent not only to the chief priests but also, Lukeadds, to "theTempleofficers"to arrangefor the arrest. UnlikeJohn, Lukementions no Romansoldiers among the arresting party. Later, describingJudas' arrival in Gethsemane, Lukesignificantlyomitsthe saying common to Markand Matthew, that "the Son of Man is betrayedinto the hands of sinners (=Gentiles)"(Mk 14:41 par). Instead,Jesus here addresses "the chief priests and temple officers and elders who had come out


Journalof the AmericanAcademy Religion of

against him," and identifies these very persons as, in effect, Satan incarnate: "Haveyou come out as against a robber,with swords and clubs? When I was with you in the temple every day, you did not lay hands upon me. But this is your (pl.) hour,and (that of) the power of darkness(he exousia tou skoutos)"(22:52-53; emphasis added). Lukegoes much furtherthan eitherMarkor Matthewhad-and makes a much less plausible story-by depictingJews not only as responsible for arrestingand sentencingJesus, but even, perhaps, the carryingout his execution. Without discussing in detail Luke's we before the Sanhedrin," note that, in Sandversion of the "Trial .. portraysthe Jewish religiousleaders ers' words, this evangelist". as presentingobviously false politicalchargesto Pilate, chargesthe falsehood of which is immediatelyclear to any readerof the gospel who pays attention. As Luketells the story, theJewish leadersare a cohesive group capable of manipulatingthe Romanauthoritiesfor the purpose of getting rid of Jesus for very murky reasons"(7). Lukeadds to the account of Pilate'sinterrogationthe statement that Pilate specifically pronounced Jesus innocent: "I find no cause (aition = i.e. = for prosecution)in this person"(23:14). Yet "the chief priests and the crowds" (who here are clearly Jews) object, Luke says, and insist that Jesus is guilty of disturbing the peace, "fromGalilee to this place"(23:5). Luke alone claims that Pilate, hearing this, sends Jesus to Herod. Having interrogated Jesus and having failed to elicit from him any information,"Herod with his soldiers abused and mocked him" (23:11) and sent him back. Here Herod, acting as an official working under Roman jurisdiction,agreeswith Pilate,and in this sense fulfills Luke'spurpose by effectivelyacquittingJesus of any political chargesagainst him. Luke also diverges from Mark and Matthew in attributing Jesus's mockery and abuse to Herod's-not Pilate's-officers (23:11). Pilate then receives Jesus back and calls together "the chief priests and the rulersand the people"(23:13). These threegroups, previously divided at least between the leaders and the people, now presents a united front againstJesus. Pilate formallydeclares Jesus innocent for the second time, adding that Herod has agreed with this verdict. But hearingPilate declarethat he now intends to release Jesus, Luke says, "they all cried out together" (23:18) for execution and for Barabbas'release. When Luke presents Jesus' Pilate'sprotestationof Jesus'innocence for yet a thirdtime, he says

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


that ". .. they cried out in loud voices that he should be crucified, and Pilate commandedthat theirdemand and theirvoicesprevailed, might be granted. . . and he gaveJesus over to their will" (23:25; emphasis added). Immediatelyfollowing, Luke writes, ". . . they led him away ... and when they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him." Previously,Lukehas followed tradition,indicating that it is the Gentilesto whom Jesus' people deliveredhim (18:31-34); later Lukewill note the presence of a Romancenturion at the crucifixion. These clues, along with his account of the written charge, surely indicate that Luke knew that Romans actually had pronounced the sentence and carried out the execution.19 Nevertheless, as Sanders points out, Luke recounts the story in such a way that not only allows but perhaps intendsfor the reader (especially one unfamiliarwith the other gospel accounts) to infer that, aftera Jewishcourt alone had condemnedJesus, it was Jewish soldiers who actually crucified him. Luke'saccount seems to confirm these shocking inferences in what follows. He relates, for example, that the Roman centurion present at the execution, seeing Jesus die, "praised God" and exclaimedthat "certainly man was innocent." Thus the foreign this officer confirmed what the Roman governor already had stated three times. Luke offers further confirmation in the charges hurled by Stephen and Peterin the early chapters of Acts, where Peterspecifically addressesthe "menof Israel,"chargingthat "you crucified and killed" the righteous one whom God had sent to Israel. Shortly after, Peter again addresses the "men of Israel," preaching of Jesus, ". .. whom you delivered and deniedin the up presenceof Pilate, when Pilate had decidedto releasehim . . . you denied the holy and righteousone, and you asked insteadfor a murderer to be grantedto you" (3:13-14). When the high priest and the sanhedrin accuse Peter and his companions of "intend(ing)to bring this man's blood upon us," Peterboldly repeats the charge: "You killed Jesus by hanging him on a tree." Stephen,of course, takes up accusations familiarfrom certain propheticsources and amplifiedamong "dissident Jews":20 it is theJewish people-the apostatemajority,that is-who bear the responsibilityand the guilt forJesus' death, as for those of his fol19This point has been debated by Lucan scholars; see Grundmann (429, 473), Loisy (552,577), and Via (122-45). I agree with Fitzmeyer (493-513) and Sanders (1-23). 20Cf. Pagels 1991 passim.


Journal of the American Academy of Religion

lowers. As Loisy says, accordingto Luke/Acts, "theJews are the authorsof all evil"(787); thus Lukeindicates that those who reject Jesus' messiahship accomplish Satan's will and Satan's work on earth. What about the gospel of John? GustaveHoennicke,analyzing "DieTeufelsideein den Evangelien," declaresthat "mostof what we read in Christiantheology about the devil goes back to the evangelists" but locates this theme specifically in the synoptics. Hoennicke says that in Markand Luke the demonology is particularly marked,while in John der Teufelsidee ganz fehlt" (208). Far more accurateis RaymondBrown'sopposite assessment: that in the gospel of John, no less than in the synoptics, the whole ministry of Jesus is a strugglewith Satan, culminatingin the final struggle of the passion (1966, especially 364-476). What promptsHoennicke'scomment,no doubt, is his observation that the Johannine author depicts the devil quite differently than do the synoptic authors. The most obvious differenceis that John omits the synoptics'opening "frame"-thescene of the desert temptation-and so omits as well many of the statements that evince the presence of constant demonic opposition throughout Jesus' ministry. Hoennicke characterizesthis differenceas a contrast between what he calls the synoptics'"mythological" representation of the devil and its "ethical" representationin John: "Auch Joh. 8, 44 ist der TeufelVaterderJuden nur in ethischen Sinn ... In den Menschen der But Herzenherrscht Teufel." this alleged contrast between "mythological" "ethical" and representationsof the devil fits neither the synoptics norJohn-nor, for that matter,any of the Jewish literatureknown to me from c. 165 B.C.E.-100C.E. From I Enoch's Bookof the Watchers the Martyrdom Isaiah, from the to of Lifeof Adamand Eveto the synoptic gospels, the figureof the devil functions simultaneously mythologically and ethically. What Hoennicke says of John-"the devil reigns in human hearts"-is, as we have seen, as true of Mark,Matthew,and Luke as it is of John. Thus, I suggest, Hoennicke's observation inadvertentlyconfirms the basic point of this article-that the devil serves, as one of its severalpurposes, to characterizehumanopposition. YetJohn does alterearliercharacterizations Satan in striking of Here, significantly,Satan does not appearas a supernatural ways. characteracting independently human beings, as he does in the of synoptic temptation scenes. Thus the latter does not occur in John-neither in the stark confrontationMarkdescribes nor in the

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


drama in three acts that Matthew and Luke recount. At first glance, then, we might assume that the story of three diabolic temptations is entirely absent from John; but, as Brown has pointed out, this is not so. InsteadJohntransposesthis scene-and its underlying theme of cosmic war-into a new key. Let us observe, then, what John puts in place of the synoptic temptationscene. First,beginningwith the prologue,John substitutes as a "frame" the narrativethe cosmological theme of the for conflict betweenlight and darkness. Echoingthe grandcosmology of Genesis 1, the prologueidentifies the logos,God's energy acting in creation with life (zoe) and light (phos), that is, the "light of human kind"(phoston anthropon). Anticipatingthe message of his entire gospel, John declares that "thelight shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John goes on to specify that this divine presence,"thelight of humankind," finally came to shine in and throughJesus of Nazareth,revealedto be the Son of God. ThusJohn recasts the elements separatedin creation(light and darkness) into the form of human drama, now interpretingthem simultaneouslyin religious,ethical,and social terms. Accordingto John, this divine "light"not only "became human, and dwelt among us,"but also becomes the spiritualprogenitorof those who "becomethe children of God"(1:12). (Laterin the gospel he says that those who believebecome "sons of light"(12:35).) Simultaneously, too, the crisis of Jesus' appearancereveals others as the "sons of darkness." Thus Jesus explains to Nicodemus that ".. this is the judgment: that the light came into the world and people loved darknessratherthan light, because their deeds were evil ...
but whoever does the truth comes to the light. . ." (3:19-21).

By the end of the gospel, Jesus' epiphany shall have accomplished in human society what God accomplishedcosmologically in creation: the separationof light from darkness-that is, of the "sons of light"from the offspring of darkness and the devil. Having placed the story of Jesus within this grand cosmologicalframe, John then sets it entirely within the dynamics of this world, the world of human interaction: "thestory of Jesus in the gospel is all played out on earth"(Meeks 1972:50). The frame, nevertheless, informs the readerthat bothJesus' coming and all his human relationships are elementsplayedout in a supernaturaldramabetween the forces of good and evil.


Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Furthermore,every one of the three traditional "temptation scenes,"as Brownpoints out, has an analoguein the fourthgospel. Here no disembodied Satan appears to contend against Jesus; instead, it is other people-first members of Jesus' audience, and then his own brothers-who play the tempter'srole (Brown 1966). A contemporaryreadermight be inclined to interpretthis as a psychologizingof the temptation account; yet John intends by this means to interprethuman conflict theologically. Just as God has become incarnate in Jesus, so Satan too becomes incarnate in in Jesus' human opponents. We have seen this occur implicitly the synoptics; now John makes it explicit, and carries it out with a programmatic consistency. Let us recall, in the first place, what Lukerelates as the devil's second temptation (4:5-6) and Matthew as the third (4:8-9), in which Satan challenges Jesus to claim power over earthly kingdoms. Accordingto John, a parallel "diabolictemptation"occurs when "the people" try to seize Jesus and forcibly make him king (6:15). Here, as in the synoptics,Jesus resists the temptation;thus he eludes the crowd and escapes. Second, while Matthew and Luke, following Q, relate that the devil challengedJesus to "make these stones into bread"to prove his divine authority,John says that those who witnessed Jesus' miracles-and in particular his multiplication of the loaves-then challenged him to perform anothermiracle to prove his messianic identity. Like the devil in the synoptics, "the people" in John quote the Scripturesas they urgeJesus to producebreadmiraculously: "... so they said to him, 'What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathersate mannain the wilderness;as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat"' (6:30-31). Jesus resists this second temptation as well, and he answers his human temptersjust as the synopticJesus had answeredthe devil, with a metaphorical response about spiritual nourishment. The third episode, which Matthew and Luke describe as the devil temptingJesus to displayhis divine powers in public, finds its parallel in John 7:1-9when Jesus' own disbelievingbrotherschallenge Jesus to "goto Judea,"to "showyourself to the world"in Jerusalem, where, as he and they are well aware,his enemies seek to kill him (7:1). This third temptation,too, Jesus rejects. Accordingto John, Jesus himself reveals the "social history of Satan"-or, to be more accurate,the social identityof Satan. For Jesus, hearingPeterdeclarethat "we(disciples) believethat you are

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


the Messiah,the Son of God,"respondswith these brusquewords: "'HaveI not chosen you twelve,and one ofyou is a devil?' He spoke of Judas Iscariot,the son of Simon, for it was he that would betray him, being one of the twelve"(6:69-71; emphasis added). At the scene of his betrayal, Jesus again identifiesJudas, along with his accompanyingposse of RomanandJewish soldiers, as his supernatural enemy appearing in human form-indeed, in the form of his most intimate enemy. While according to Matthew, Jesus signals Judas' arrivalwith the words, "Rise;let us be going; my betrayeris coming"(12:46), John has Jesus announce instead (14:30-31). Soon afterwards,Jesus accuses "the Jews who had believed in him" of plotting murder: twice he charges that "you seek to kill me." When they find his words incomprehensible, Jesus proceeds to identify "theJews"who had previously believed in him as Satan'sown: "You of your father,the devil; and you are want to accomplishyour father'sdesires. He was a murdererfrom antagonist comes to the fore. This motif will grow louder and louder as the hour of Jesus approaches, until the passion is presented as a struggle to the death between Jesus and Satan (1966:364). Such remarks,howeveraccurate,remain confined to the relatively safe terrain of theology. What do these passages mean in terms of human conflict? Many commentators,along with perhaps the vast majority of Christian readers, have agreed with Rudolph Bultmann'sblunt, unself-conscious assessment: "There can be no doubt about the main point of the passage, which is to show that theJews' with its hostility to truthand life, stems unbelief, their being children of the devil" (319; emphasis added). from Bultmannadds thatJohn, like Matthewand Luke,in effect charges theJews with "intendedmurder" (321). (As we shall see, Bultmann elsewhere makes statements bearing very different implications.) During recent decades, of course, these passages have elicited a often from Christiancomflurry of discussion and argumentation, mentators insisting that they do not-or morally cannot-mean what most Christiansfor nearly two millenniahave taken them to mean. occurs much Manyscholars have observedthat the term "Jews" more frequentlyin John than in the synoptics and that its use often
the beginning . ." (8:4-11). Brown comments that in these passages ". .. for the first time the fact that the devil is Jesus' real that ". .. the ruler of this world is coming; . . . rise, let us be going"


Journal of the American Academy of Religion

indicates that the Johannineauthorregardshimself and his fellow believers standing at an even greater distance from the Jewish Sometimes,of course, the majoritythan do the other evangelists.21 use of the term coincides with that of the synoptics (and for that matterwith general contemporaryusage) in passages that simply describe people who are Jewish and not Gentile. Yet in John the term has a range of interrelatedconnotations. Brachterlists four types of usage (365-409). Besides the simple descriptivesense, the term may specifically designate, in a specific group of passages, Judeans,that is, people who live in Jerusalemand its vicinity. In a third group of passages, the term clearly serves as a synonym for the Jewish authorities. Finally,a considerablenumber of passages apparentlyuses the term simply to characterize persons hostile to Jesus. Various scholars have chosen to emphasize each of these connotations. C. J. Cuming, for example, chooses the second and third options and so concludes his researchby declaringthat "... the Jews in the fourth gospel whom the evangelist regardswith such hostility do not representthe nation as a whole. For him the word has a special associationwithJerusalem:It meansJudeansas opposed to Galileans"(290-2). This interpretationenables Cuming to conclude that "the indictment is not directed against the whole Jewish nation, but against its religious leaders"(292). Malcolm Lowe, intending to sum up scholarly discussion in the mid1970s, argues that the secondmeaning dominates the Johannine gospel. Lowebases his discussion primarilyon passages in which this meaningis indisputableand proceedsfrom these to claim that the term Ioudaios should regularlybe translated"Judeans" because, in his words, the "philologicalerror"of translating the term as ".. "Jews" . has provided,in practicallyall modern translationsof the gospels, a constant excuse for antisemitism,whosefurther existence cannotbe permitted" (130; emphasis added). Thus Lowe seems to equate what he calls "philologicalerror" with moral unacceptability. Urban von Wahlde, on the other hand, presents a comparative survey of Johannineresearch(33-60) and then charts the occurrenceof the term in the gospel in orderto argue that the Johannine author intended the term "for the religious authoritiesexclusively."
for 21Shepherd, example,counts 70 occurrences(96); Meekscounts 71 (180).

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


While each of these argumentsbears a certain validity, I find each limited primarilyto the specific groups of passages on which each scholar chooses to focus. Althoughvon Wahlde's argument may work in certain passages, others, as I read them, use the term "Jews"in a more generalized way to mean "persons hostile to Jesus"-without the qualifications that von Wahlde and others wish thatJohn had added. I agree,then, with WayneMeeksthat "it is undeniablethat in the fourth gospel 'theJews' in generalis used in an alien, even hostile, sense, particularlyin the notes, evidently by the hand of the evangelist,that 'the Jews persecutedJesus,' or 'theJews sought to kill him,' and in the repeatedphrase, 'because
of the fear of the Jews'" (1975:181).22

Neutraluses of the term giveway to increasinglyhostile uses as the gospel narrativeprogresses,23 especially from the moment of Jesus' arrest. At this point, the author clearly marks himself and those with whom he identifies as separateand distinct from "the Jews." While it is true that in theJohanninegospelJesus himself is twice called "aJew,"both occur as descriptiveterms used by outsiders, first by the Samaritanwoman and secondly by Pilate. By the time of Jesus' execution, as Meeks says, ". .. the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel is also distant from 'theJews,' even though (or just because) they are 'his own' who rejecthim, and even though what Pilate 'has written' stands ineffaceable, that he is 'King of the Jews"' (1975:181). Many scholars who acknowledgethis theme in the Johannine gospel neverthelessinsist on interpreting"theJews"only symbolically. Rudolph Bultmann sometimes mitigates his other statements by insisting that "theJews"merelysymbolizeho kosmos; "the in their totality are the representativesof unbelief' (59, my Jews translation). Erich Grasserdevelops this theme, describing ".. ein in der Auslegung des vierten Evangeliums unbestrittener Tatbestand; namlich die Synonymitatder Begriffe kosmos und IoudaiosDenn kosmosund loudaiossind in gleicherWeiseChiffren
22See also Meeks (1972:22-70; cf. especially 35 and 70); Brown (1966:70, LXXXIV): "John's attitude toward 'the Jews' is not missionary but apologetic and polemic. The violence of the language in chapter eight, comparing the Jews to the devil's brood, is scarcely designed to convert the synagogue, which in Johannine thought is now the 'synagogue of Satan'" (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). 23See, for example, Townsend (72-97). For an opposing view, see von Wahlde (47): "There is no sign of an increase of hostility throughout the gospel; rather, their reaction is unified and monolithic."


Journal of the American Academy of Religion

fur den Unglauben schlechtin" (88-89; latter emphasis added). H.

Schneideradds that to TheJewssymbolize fleshlymanin his opposition God... From ofJesusby menin theearlychapters, the a general non-acceptance to the Jews. Ultimately groupstandsforthe forcesopposed Jesus,
which are the forces of darkness. It is obviousthatwe are not dealsymbol... ing with an ethnicgroup,but with a dramatictheological the Wewouldmiss thefull significance this symbolif we considered of .. "The Jews"are an everJew in Johnonly as an historical figure. of presentrealityand threatto any worship Godin spiritand in truth. (347-351; emphasis added) opposition is more and more identifiedwith a group. . ., with the

Yet other commentators,including the Jewish scholar Samuel Sandmel,find such conclusions anythingbut obvious. Discussing both the argumentsthat "theJews"means differentthings in differJews, but is rathera term for all human opaquenessaboutJesus ...
or ... ent Johannine passages, and that ". .. 'Jews' does not really mean the general evil in the world," Sandmel suggests that such

interpretersare, in fact, attempting"to exculpate the gospel from its manifest anti-Semitism" (117). Most telling is Sandmel'sobservation thatJohn does not charge"humanity" "theworld"in genor eral for actively seeking Jesus's execution, but specifically "the

It is not my purpose here to speculate,as others have, upon the complex situationthat gaverise to theJohanninepassion narrative. Let us simply acknowledge,first, the historicallikelihood that certain Jewish leaders collaboratedwith the Roman authorities to engineerJesus' arrest and execution. Let us acknowledge,too, the point well explicatedby Louis Martynand others, that the Johannine author reads into his story conflicts he is experiencing between his own group and those he calls "theJews." The author probably means by this term primarily the Pharisaic leaders of Jewish communities known to him (c. 90-100 C.E.), togetherwith the majorityof their followers. Grantingthese general premises, our purpose here is not that alreadyundertakenby so many scholars,25to define his use of the term precisely. Insteadour purpose
24See Martyn; Sandmel (115). 25For an abbreviated list of these, see, for example, Grasser (74-79); Fortna (58-94); Brachter (401-409); von Wahlde (33-60); Cuming; Brown (1966:lxx-lxxiii); Meeks (1975:103-186); and Culpepper (273-288).

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


is much simpler: to show how, in John as in the synoptics, the mythologicalfigure of Satan coincides with specific human opposition, implicatingJudas Iscariotin the first place, then the Jewish authorities,and finally "theJews"collectively. My previousresearch(1973) on the languageof the fourth gosinterpel inclines me to agreewith those who insist on "symbolist" pretations. Nevertheless, to maintain an exclusively"symbolist" view which denies the practicalimplicationsof his use of the term seems to me not only an evasion of John's message but "Jews,"26 also an attempt at apologetic sleight-of-hand. For this author's decision to make an actual,identifiablegroup-both amongJesus' contemporariesand his own-into a symbol of "all evil"27obviously bears religious,social, and politicalimplicationsthat provide the potential for arousing and even legitimating anti-Judaism-a potentialwhich, as ReginaldFullersays, "hasbeen abundantlyand tragicallyactualizedin the course of Christianhistory"(37). From the beginning of the gospel, then, as we have seen, the Johannineauthor,like his predecessorsat Qumran,draws the battle lines between the "sons of light"and those whom Jesus' coming provesto be sons of darknessand the devil. Followingthe scene in which "theJews" attempt to stone Jesus for speaking words they take as blasphemy (claiming,in effect, the divine name, 8:59), he declares that "I must do the work of him who sent me, while it is day; the night is coming, when no one may work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Movingquickly toward the passion narrative,which here comprises half of the entire gospel, John, like Luke,makes explicit the chargeimplicitin Markand Matthew-that Satan himself initiatedJudas' treachery: "During supper, the devil had alreadyput it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him. . . Then after the morsel, Satan enteredinto him. Jesus said to him, 'Whatyou are going to do, do quickly'... So afterreceivingthe morsel, [udas] immediatelywent out; and it was night"(13:2, 27-30). BecauseJohn wants to insist that Jesus, fully aware of the future course of events, remains in complete control of them, he relates thatJesus himself givesJudas the morsel that precededSatan'sentry (thus fulfillingthe prophecy of Ps 41:9). Jesus then actually directsJudas' subsequent action ("do quickly what you are going to do"). At that fateful moment
26See, for example, Lutgert. 27See Loisy (787).


Journal of the American Academy of Religion

which initiatesJesus' betrayal, John, like Luke, depicts the "power of darkness"(cf. Lk. 22:53) eclipsing the "lightof the world": hence his stark final phrase, en de nux. John, like Luke, seems intent on suppressing all traces of Romaninitiativein Jesus' execution. In nearly every episode,John to goes to the point of "bizarre exaggeration" insist that the blame for initiating, ordering,and carryingout the crucifixion lies upon Satan's offspring,Jesus' intimateenemies. Apparently using at least one source independentof the synoptics, John reports that beforeJesus' arrest the Pharisees and chief priests convened, having heard about Jesus' popular appeal, and concluded that ". .. if we let him go on thus, everyonewill believe in him, and the Romanswill come and destroyboth our holy place and our nation" (11:45-48). Concluding the meeting, they plot "howto put him to death"(11:53). After"Judas, procuringa band of (presumablyRoman)soldiers, and some officers from the chief Jesus, the arrestingparty priests of the Pharisees,"(18:8) betrayed seized and bound him and led him to Annas, "fatherin law of the him, "senthim bound to Caihigh priest,"who, afterinterrogating the high priest." Reutherrightly observes that John here aphas intends to suppresspolitical chargesagainstJesus in favorof a religious one, despite the fact that John's prior account of the chief priests' meeting had described their plausible and pragmaticconcern to protecttheir own constituencyfrom Romanreprisals,even at the possible cost of a wrongful execution. AlthoughJohn reportsno other trial by anyJewish tribunal,he leaves no doubt that the chief priests want Jesus killed. When Pilate inquires about the charge, their answer manages to be at once evasiveand self-righteous:"Ifthis man were not a malefactor, we would not have broughthim to you"(18:30)! When Pilate, still having heard no charge,answers,in words apparentlyeither indifferent or contemptuous, "Takehim yourselves and judge him by answer:"Itis not lawful for us to put your own law," the "Jews" to death" (15:32). Reflecting upon the scholarly debate anyone about the historicalaccuracyof this statement,Winter argues that the Romans, following their policy of allowing subject peoples to govern internal disputes, did, in fact, accord to Jews the right of adjudicating capital cases before 70 C.E. Whether or not he is right, the point John wants to make is clear enough: that although Romanswere known to have carried out Jesus' execution by their

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


own peculiar method (see 19:32), they did so only because "the Jews"forced them to do so (Sandmel:115). When Pilate does questionJesus about an apparentlypolitical Jesus parries the question, and Pilate charge ("Areyou a king?"), retorts, "AmI a Jew? Yourown nation and the chief priests have handedyou over to me: what have you done?" (emphasis added; 18:35). Werehis kingdom an earthly one, Jesus declares,"myservants would fight so that I might not be handed over to theJews" (18:36)-an ironicJohanninereversalof the synoptic charge,which repeatedly describes the Jews "handing Jesus over" to "the nations"! Like Luke, John shows Pilate three times proclaimingJesus innocent, and proposing three times to release him; but each time "theJews" cry out, demanding instead that Pilate "crucifyhim" (19:6, 15). John "explains,"too, that Pilate had allowed his soldiers to scourge and tortureJesus only for the purpose of evoking the crowd'scompassion (19:1-4), and so to placate"theinsatiable fury of the Jews."28 John adds that when they protested that had violated their religious law, and therefore"deserves to Jesus die,"Pilate was "moreterrified"(19:8). Returningto Jesus as if he still hoped to find a basis to acquit him, Pilate instead receives from the prisonernear exonerationof his own guilt. Speakingas if he himself were Pilate'sjudge, Jesus declares to the governorthat "the one who deliveredme to you has the greatersin." When the crowdthreatensto chargePilatehimself with treasonagainstRome (19:12), Pilate makes one more futile attempt at release and then gives in to the shouting, blood-thirstymob. Finally, having pronounced neither sentence nor any order of execution, Pilate "handed(esus) overto them to be crucified"(19:16). Throughout this scene, as John tells it, ". .. the priests exert unrelentingpressure, while the governorturns and doubles like a hunted hare."29 Thus John, like Luke,leads the readerto conclude that "the crucifixion ... comes from the Jews"(Winter:88). Indeed, after Pilate hands Jesus over to theJews,the narratorgoes on to say that "... theytookJesus ... to the place called in HebrewGolgotha,... there they crucified him, and with him two others"(19:17). Afterthe crucifixionscene, designed to demonstratehow Jesus' ignominious death fulfills prophecyin every detail,John adds that
28SeeNineham(412). 29SeeDodd (97).


Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Nicodemus, "forfear of the Jews"(19:38), secretly petitions Pilate to allow him to recoverJesus' body and to bury it at enormous expense, using "a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloe." Many scholars have discussed the author's motives for thus depicting "the innocent Jesus whom Pilate wishes to free"against the Jews who here become not only the "villains, but the ultimate in villainy."30 Pilate, as John depicts him, does retainto some extent his traditional role as "alienenemy." But in the "concludingframe"of the passion narrative,as we have seen, John, like Matthewand Luke, adds and alters details that suggest increased concern to mollify Romansuspicion of Christians. As we observe changes in the trial account from one gospel to the next, we can see that it comes to serve severalpurposes at once. First, it representsChristians,like their leader, as innocent people falsely accused, who present no real danger to the Romanorder;second, it representsPilate acting as Christianshopedto persuadeagents of imperialauthorityto act, as benign rulers,zealous to preservejustice; and, third(whereboth of these failed), it offers Christians under arrest, torture, and impending execution as exemplaryparadigmsof martyrdom. In the process of reworkingthe trial narrative,the Pilate we know from history disappears. For those contemporaryreports we do have of Pilate completely contradictthe evangelists'characterization of him. Philo describes the governoras a man notorious for his "inflexible,stubborn, and cruel disposition,"and lists as typical features of his administration"violence,robbery,assault, abusive behavior,frequentexecutionswithout trial"(Legatioad Gaium 301-302). Josephus recordsincidents that illustrateeither Pilate's indifferenceor, morelikely, his contempt,for his subjects'religious convictions. Josephus also notes the quick and brutal action Pilate characteristicallytook to terrify angry crowds into submission. One episode tells how Pilate, ignoring his Roman predecessors' respect for Jewish religious sensibilities, violated precedent by orderinga Romangarrison to enterJerusalemdeliberatelydisplaying-instead of covering-the army standardsthatJews considered idolatrous. Anticipating the massive resistance he would meet
30The scope of this article does not allow us to include an account of the much-discussed question of the Johannine community, which would have to consider its sectarian character, the situation of increased hostility and separation between Jesus' followers and their Jewish opponents which this gospel indicates, and, finally, the Roman suspicion of Christians (Winter).

Pagels: The Social History of Satan, Part II


from the population, Pilate alreadyhad orderedhis soldiers to surround the Jewish crowd, three men deep, and to kill anyone who expressed outrage or offered resistance.31 In another incident, Josephus tells how Pilate decided to finance aqueducts forJerusalem by illegally appropriating money fromthe Templetreasury,"an act of sacrilege even from the Romanpoint of view, since the Temple tax had been made sacrosanct by Rome" (Smallwood:162). This time, too, fully anticipating the resistance he encountered, Pilate had orderedhis soldiers to minglewith the crowdin disguise until he gave a signal for them to beat everyone who protested. Josephus adds that "many died from the blows and many were trampledto death by their fellows. The fate of those who died terrified the rest into silence." Even Luke, despite his flattering portrait of a wholly differentPilate, neverthelessalludes to an episode involvingcertain Galileans"whoseblood Pilate mingledwith their sacrifices" (13:1). Smallwood notes that rounding up Jews suspected of anti-Roman activity "wasa commonplacein Judea"during Pilate's time (164). Pilate's political tenure abruptly ended when the legate of Syria finally responded to repeated protests from Pilate'ssubjectsby strippinghim of his commission, and dispatching one of his own staff to serve as governor. Pilate, ordered to return to Rome at once to answer the charges against him, apparently never returned. It is remarkable,then, that as Paul Pilate grows more mellow from gospel to gospel ... [fromMarkto Matthew, from Matthew to Luke and then to John]. The more removed from history, the more sympathetic a character he becomes" (Winter:88-89). In regardto the "intimate enemy,"a parallelprocess occurs, but in reverse. Where MarkdepictsJesus' bold initial challenge to the power of evil, he showsJesus coming into increasinglyintense conflict first with "the scribes,"then with the Pharisees and Herodians, until crowds of his own people, in a conflict depicted essentially as "intra-Jewish," persuade reluctant Roman forces to execute him. Matthew,as we saw, writing some twentyyears later, depicts a far more bitter and aggressiveantagonismbetweenJesus and the majorityof his Jewish contemporaries, even to the point of the role of Pharaoh into that of the Jewish king, transforming Herod. Indeed, no sooner wasJesus born than he arousedthe sus31See BellumJudaicum II. 169-177; Antiquities XVII. 55-64, 84-87.

Winter observes, according to the gospel account ". . . The stern


Journal of the American Academy of Religion

picion of Herod and "allJerusalemwith him."Matthewgoes on to depict the Pharisees as "sons of hell," the devil's own offspring, destined, along with all who rejectJesus' teaching,for eternal punishment in the "firereserved for the devil and all his angels." Yet we may agreethat even Matthewdepicts, in effect, a battle between rival reform groups of Jews-each insisting upon its own superior righteousness, and each depicting the other as demon-possessed. Luke, as we have seen, goes considerably farther. No sooner has the devil appearedto temptand destroyJesus than the whole of Jesus' townspeople, hearing his first public address in their synagogue, aroused to fury, attemptto throwhim down a cliff. Only at the climax of the gospel will Satan enterintoJudas and so to direct the operation that ends with the crucifixion. John, finally, writing c. 100 C.E., dismisses the device of the devil as an independent supernatural character (if, indeed, he knew of it, as I suspect he did). Instead, as John tells the story, Satan, like God himself, here appears in the form of incarnation. First he becomes incarnate in Judas Iscariot, then in the Jewish authoritiesas they mount opposition to Jesus, and finally in those John calls "theJews"-a group of Satan's allies now as separate fromJesus and his followersas darknessis from light, or the forces of hell from the armies of heaven. Each of the evangelists'various depictions of the devil progressively correlateswith the "socialhistory of Satan"-that is, with the history of increasingconflict and oppositionbetweengroupsrepresentingJesus' followersand their opposition. By presentingJesus' life and message in these various forms of polemic, the evangelists probably intended (as Kloppenborg says of the Q source) to strengthen group boundary and self-definition. In the process, they shaped, in ways that were to become incalculablyconsequentof ial, the self-understanding Christiansfor millennia to come.32

32For their generous help and learned criticism in preparing the present draft of this article, I am grateful to colleagues and friends, including especially Professors John Gager, Kent Greenawalt, Howard Clark Kee, Wayne Meeks, Vernon Robbins, James Robinson, and Alan Segal.

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