Jeffery Burton Russell, “Satan: The Early Christian Tradition”

“Christian tradition has interpreted the saving work of the Passion in three main ways. According to the first interpretation, human nature had been sanctified, dignified, transformed, and saved by the very act of Christ’s becoming man. In terms of the second, Christ was a sacrifice offered to God in order to bring about the reconciliation between man and God. The third, in ransom theory, found its first strong proponent in Irenaeus, and its basis is as follows. Since Satan justly held the human race in prison, God offered himself as ransom for our freedom. The price could be paid only by God. Only God could freely submit. No on else could choose freely, because original sin had deprived us all our freedom. By submitting to Satan’s power of his own free will and choice, Christ liberated us from the Devil’s power. God handed Jesus over in order to release the hostages. The Devil accepted Jesus. But when he seized him and put him to death, he overstepped the boundaries of justice, since Jesus himself was without sin and could not justly be held. The Devil had held us justly in the past, but when he broke the rules of justice himself, he lost his rights and could no longer hold either Jesus or us. Christ’s suffering crippled the Devil, freeing us from death and damnation.”

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Simon Parkin, “Return of the Chess Cheat”

“Accounts vary as to how exactly a chess game between King Canute the Great and one of his most trusted Viking chieftains, Earl Ulf, went down, in 1026, but certainly cheating was involved, and for at least one party the match proved fatal. In their 1851 book “The Chess Player,” the German chess masters Bernhard Horwitz and Josef Kling tell a version of the story in which the king made a “false move” and lost one of his knights. Canute “would not have this,” they write, and insisted that he be allowed a redo, at which suggestion Ullf “waxed angry” and overturned the board. (The match took place at a banquet; he may have been emboldened by mead.) Things escalated. The king accused Ulf of cowardice, prompting the earl to remind Canute of the assistance he had rendered him at Helge River, when, he gibed, “the Swedes beat you like a dog.” Ulf turned on his heel and retired for the night. It was to be his last: Canute had him killed in church the next day.”

From The New Yorker, 4/17/15

William Faulkner, “Uncle Willy”

“The sister got there from Texas that night and we would walk past the house and see the ladies on the front porch or going in and out, and now and then Reverend Schultz kind of bulging out from among them like he would out of Mr. Miller’s Bible class, and we would crawl up behind the hedge and hear them through the window, hear Uncle Willy crying and cussing and fighting to get out of the bed and the ladies saying, ‘Now, Mr. Christian, Uncle Willy,’ and ‘Now Bubber,’ too, since his sister was there, and Unce Willy crying and praying and cussing. And then it was Friday and he gave up. We could hear them holding him in the bed; I reckon this was his last go-round, because none of them had time to talk now; and then we heard him, his voice weak but clear and his breath going in and out.

‘Wait,’ he said. ‘Wait! I will ask it one more time. Won’t you please quit? Won’t you please go away? Won’t you please go to hell and just let me come on at my own gait?’

‘No, Mr. Christian,” Mrs. Merridew said. ‘We are doing this to save you.’

For a minute we didn’t hear anything. Then we heard Uncle Willy lay back in the bed, kind of flop back.

‘All right,’ he said. ‘All right.’

It was like one of those sheep they would sacrifice back in the Bible. It was like it had climbed up onto the altar itself and flopped onto its back with its throat held up and said: ‘All right. Come on and get it over with. Cut my damn throat and go away and let me lay quiet in the fire.’”