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Literature / The Gospel of Evil

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The truth is out there.
The Gospel of Evil ("L'Évangile selon Satan") is a 2007 thriller/horror novel written by Patrick Graham. It became a best seller in France, Graham's native country, and won the prestigious Pris Maison de la Presse 2007.

1348. In midst of the Black Death, a monastery consecrated to the preservation of ancient heretic books is being ravaged by a mysterious killer. Its mother superior, Sister Yseult, ultimately buries herself alive in order to protect a terrible secret.

Present day. Some years ago, a car accident destroyed the life of Marie Parks and gave her mediumnic powers in return. Now she hunts serial killers for the FBI, where she has the reputation of both a ruthlessly efficient agent and a troubled young woman. However, when she crosses paths with a mystic killer known as Caleb during an investigation of the latter's tracks in Maine, she gets thrown into a much, much darker revelation.

At the same time, an equally angsty Vatican exorcist named Alfonso Carzo is sent to the Amazonian forest, where he discovers that an ancient evil has awakened on Earth. He will be forced to confront the collapse of his own beliefs and, after teaming up with Parks, to unveil a mystery whose chilling truth threatens to destroy Christianity.


Not for the faint of heart, nor for excessively devout Catholics, but maybe for those who enjoyed The Last Temptation of Christ and would like an even Darker and Edgier story.

The novel was followed in 2008 by The Apocalypse According to Marie, which featured Marie Parks again.

Contains examples of:

  • 90% of Your Brain: This is the explanation given by Dr. Hans Zimmer (no, not that Hans Zimmer) to Marie's mediumnic powers.
  • Aborted Arc: Carzo's investigation of Maluna's possession in the Amazonas is strangely Left Hanging after he is called back. While we later discover that a spirit passed from Maluna to Carzo and deleted his memories of it, what happened to her or why her possession turned her into a weird bat-monster (which doesn't happen to any other possessed in the book) is never explained.
  • Action Girl: Parks, although in this universe she is Overshadowed by Awesome very often.
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  • Ambiguous Ending: A hospitalized Carzo reveals to Parks that he is still possessed by Caleb. What happens next is unknown. Did she pull her gun and killed him? Did she called the Vatican so they could exorcize him? Not even the next Marie Parks book reveals anything about it.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • What happens when one dies in the novel's universe? Caleb and his side are an Unreliable Narrator in this matter. He first says all humans are condemned to Hell without remission because Satan rules alone this universe, but this clashes with his other claim that Father Jacomino's soul went to Hell for the specific reason that he was secretly evil. Later he changes completely his stance and tells Carzo that every soul gets reincarnated after dying, although it is conceivable that he's saying this only to mess with Carzo's head. Meanwhile, Parks's mediumnic powers seem to prove all of this is false, or at least there is a cosmic alternative to it. Her talks with dead people like Crossman's wife point more to a classic TV afterlife where people simply rest in peace if they doesn't have any finished business on Earth.
    • How much truth does the Gospel of Satan tell? Christ's skull apparently proves that Jesus really turned away from God and was not resurrected, and the supernatural spirits behind the Soultakers are very real, but that's all the physical proof of their cosmology. Their claim that God abandoned humanity is contradicted by His repeated sealings of Satan through history, which also imply that Satan and God are not equally powerful deities as the book says. In fact, Parks's contact with dead people who are in peace implies a lot of this, if not all, is just Satanist propaganda.
    • Does people who read the Gospel really Go Mad from the Revelation and no other reason? The fact that all of them react the exact same way (becoming apathetic loons) and speak with identical expressions (calling repeatedly their interlocutors "poor madmen" and rambling about "the death of their faith") despite being people of varied stance and education (from medieval knights to modern priests) implies the gospel actively brainwashes the reader with its supernatural influences rather than this being a natural psychological reaction to its contents. However, no explanation is given on this, and the book's status as a literal cursed item is treated as an Elephant in the Living Room even by the most skeptical characters.
    • Caleb's way to possess bodies can be only described as random. The autopsy on the body he used to torture Parks only gives contradictory, fundamentally impossible results, and it is shown that he had used and discarded several other bodies (that somehow had the same exact face) at several points in history. His powers and limitations are even less clear.
  • Ancient Conspiracy:
    • Our universe is a Cosmic Horror Story and Jesus became the son of Satan before his death, which the Church knows, yet it is kept secret to keep the world from being overcome with chaos and despair.
    • The world is secretly dominated by Novus Ordo, a Satanist conspiracy.
  • Ancient Order of Protectors: The Custodian Sisters.
  • Arc Words: "God is in Hell. He rules over the demons. Rules over the condemned souls. Rules over the spectres who roam the darkness."
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Bubonic plague doesn't typically cause facial disfiguration and bloating as described in the book (although bubonic plague isn't typically caused by supernatural entities in real life either, which might be the justification there).
    • The Tuberculis perennis found in Caleb's stomach during the autopsy is a fictitious plant species (and one whose Latin name is absurdly vague for scientific standards, by the way). Why would have he swallowed it whole instead of masticating it is another point.
    • According to the narration, Valentina removes her shoes in the Vatican archive in order not to destroy any proof. This is a strange procedural belief for a police inspector, given that her bare feet would precisely contaminate the scene with her DNA rather than avoiding any other disturbance.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The real Pope Clement V died from chronical bowel cancer, which had plagued him all his life, and his body certainly wasn't found in any suspicious or creepy state. The story also claims that 28 Popes were found dead with the same signs, which, aside from being untrue in real life, makes one wonder why didn't it ring any bells that Popes were being poisoned in the story.
    • In the novel's story, the Church gave Cortés permission to enslave the Aztecs and any other Mesoamerican culture that had converted to the cult of Janus. In real life, though this might be surprising to hear, conquistadores never had such permission, and it was precisely the Catholic Church (in the form of the Dominican friars and the Reyes Católicos themselves) who banned all forms of slavery in the New World as soon as Columbus returned with the first slaves (of course, abuse of the natives happened anyways, but it didn't have the support of the authorities and it was punished as a crime whether there was the chance to enforce the law). Generally, the situation given in the novel would have simply not been possible in the first place, as Cortés only conquered the Aztec Empire with the help of other powerful Mesoamerican civilizations like Tlaxcala, Xochimilca and Texcoco, all of them being civilizations that, according to the story's background, would have probably been worshippers of Janus just like Aztecs.
    • The novel also claims that Columbus had to argue with the masters of the University of Salamanca to prove that Earth is round, which is yet another amateur mistake. Contrary to popular belief, the notion of the planet being round was actually known and accepted by most literate people in the Middle Ages, and it had always been so from very ancient times. What Columbus defended was not that Earth was round, but that the distance between Europe and Japan traveling from east to west wasn't impractically long and could be even shorter and safer than the other way around Africa.
    • Immurement was not a form of execution used by the Catholic Inquisition, nor it was a form of capital punishment regulated in any Christian land. Ironically, it was much more popular among Pagans and Muslims.
    • A flashback in the novels portrays a Hun fortress sporting Gothic architecture, gargoyles and all.
  • Artistic License – Religion:
    • While it remains a very popular speculation since the craze of The Da Vinci Code, the notion of the entire Christianity being threatened by a freaky gospel being made public is not a real possibility - this kind of revelation has happened countless times in history and keeps happening every time archaeologists find another piece of apocrypha, and its effects on Christianity have always been next to nothing. Even if a Pope himself like Camano were to come out and claim that a Satanic text should replace the Bible, the consequences would be less about a bloody Satanic apocalypse and more about believers around the world immediately decrying that Pope as having gone bananas (not to mention Protestants, people from other religions and atheists, who would probably find all the fuss either hilarious or sad), with the worst case scenario being many schisms and Reforms happening around the planet if the Vatican insisted on telling everybody that Jesus worshipped Satan. Although most characters seem convinced of the disaster, the truth is sort of pointed out by Giovanni at the end of the novel, as he says that faith is not supported by truth after all, but rather by what people choose to put their hopes on.
    • The book establishes "Janus" name given to Jesus by Satanic cultists after disowning God, and its reference to the ancient Roman god of duality makes it a Meaningful Rename as well. However, unless they had this specific meaning in mind, why would Hebrew cultists choose a preexistent foreign god to name their own deity-founder is a never explained oddity.
    • The book explains Janus's cult spread through lands and countries and had to be excised by the Catholic Church. However, in real life, it would be truly a sociopolitical oddity that an apocalyptic cult whose message amounts to "we are all going to Hell forever and there is nothing we can do about it, period" became not only accepted, but even successful in any society. Basic antropology says that in order for an apocalyptic doctrine to thrive, it must also offer some kind of salvation only they could grant instead of just telling everybody that they are screwed whatever they are; Christianity itself became so popular in the Roman Empire to begin with precisely because it was so simple and open and promised a heavenly afterlife relatively easy to reach. (Unless, of course, that as said in Ambiguous Situation above, the reason behind the Janus boom was actually the Gospel of Evil brainwashing people left and right.)
    • The story tells an old Jew belief hat evil dead people had to be buried in special tombs so their soul was contained there and didn't escape to torment the world. This seems to be a reference to the Dybbuk, a piece of Jewish folklore claiming that the souls of evil men could dislocate from their corpses and possess the living - only that this story started circulating around the 16th century.
    • Ganesh and Durga are mentioned as Hindu demons. This is extremely wrong, as in real life they are both Hindu gods, and actually two of the most popular and worshipped in Hinduism. Ganesh is a god of arts and wisdom whose father is Shiva, while Durga is a goddess of war and protection dedicated to fight demonic forces, sometimes associated to Shiva too. That they are counted as demons here would imply that, in the novel's universe, Hindus are unknowingly worshipping demons, something that would have likely been significant enough to be mentioned given that Hinduism is currently the world's third largest religion.
    • Mastema also appears as a demon, while in real life he is a spirit from the Jewish Book of Jubilees (possibly even an angel, and not a fallen one) who supposedly works for God as a seducer of sinners.
    • The Pope and Cardinal Ballestra are described to wear sandals instead of dress shoes. In real life, they would be the first high-level Vatican staff members to do such in centuries.
  • Badass Bookworm: According to Marie's background, she graduated in Law and Psychology from Yale and Stanford respectively, and is also a very capable field agent, even if in this case she is Overshadowed by Awesome.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • The Knights Templar were Satanists, or at least became such after finding the Gospel of Satan.
    • Likely the same with The Cathars, who are mentioned in the prologue as being hateful heretics. The book doesn't explore them further, but as the Cathar creed was very similar to what the Gospel of Satan says, this might be a clever Inside Joke that they were in the conspiracy as well (or possibly that they opposed them, being a sort of Good Counterpart, thans to their privileged knowledge of the story's cosmology).
  • Big Bad: Cardinal Oscar Camano, although he is technically a servant to Gaal-Ham-Gaal.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Black Smoke of Satan is destroyed and Novus Ordo is given a heavy blow, but both will probably re-emerge again, especially given that one of their spirit seems to reside in the Cross of the Poor. Also, Parks and Carzo are alive and well, but the latter is still possessed by Caleb and nothing is revealed about his fate. Finally, there is a possibility that the Gospel is telling the truth and humanity is cosmically screwed, though Crossman's dead wife shows it is possible to escape that fate.
  • The Chessmaster: Cardinal Oscar Camano turns out to have been a Mole in Charge.
  • Demonic Possession: Countless times, but most specifically Caleb and all the bodies he inhabits. Including Carzo.
  • Devil, but No God: The Devil's influence is ever-present in the book, with all sorts of demons, visions and supernatural events, but God's not, aside from hopefully real happenings from the past like Satan's sealings or the apparitions of the Virgin Mary (which only get mentioned at the background). Possibly subverted when Carzo theorizes God's way to deal with the problem is precisely through him, Parks and their allies, also implied by the scent of roses that appears in Parks' most helpful visions.
  • Faction Motto: It's implied the Black Smoke of Satan's is, or at least used to be, "ad majorem Satanae gloriam" ("for Satan's greater glory").
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: God and Satan are real forces here, but apparently Thutmose III's Egyptian magic, Psychic Powers, Amazonian shamanism and some unspecified pagan exorcism rites do work as well.
  • Foreshadowing: Camano being a covert Satanist is hinted at his very introduction, where he casually utters a scandalous blasphemy to a Swiss Guard while going to see the Pope.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Mafia, with some exceptions, are solidly against Satanism too.
  • Healing Factor: Possessed people have one as long as their demon is not exorcised, although firefights with the FBI and Valentina shows that they can be killed (or at least disabled) the conventional way with the right amount of body damage.
  • I Have Many Names: Gaal-Ham-Gaal, also known as Satan.
  • Hollywood Satanism: It touches almost all the cliches, with a version of Satanism that is theistic, in contact with very real demons, and secretly controlling the world through capitalism. That said, this is also shown to be a cult based on a secret, very specifical set of beliefs, not your regular Satanism for Satan's sake.
  • Living on Borrowed Time: As seen in his autopsy, Caleb's possession of a medieval cultist seemingly put the latter's body on a sort of existential stasis. Not only it remains preserved young after so many centuries, but his stomach contains fresh medieval food and his lungs are impolluted of modern contamination.
  • Magical Romani: A Gypsy seer foresaw Marie's future... at the cost of her own.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Janus, the god of two faces, just like he passed from being God's Messiah to Satan's one.
    • Caleb's name in Hebrew means "devoted", reflecting his devotion to Satan.
    • Marie is French for "Mary", as in the Virgin Mary, and like her, she plays the role to save the world.
    • Same with her superior Crossman or "cross man".
  • Mind over Matter: Not in the story itself, but it is mentioned among the Psychic Powers that have been unlocked in history by way of 90% of Your Brain.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. We have Alois Bannerman and Alois Mankel.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Caleb's first body starts to turn old after it dies.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Kali, Ganesh and Durga are listed as Indian demons, when in real life they are all benevolent deities (there is a demon also named Kali, written with different characters, but it's more probable the book is referring to the goddess due to his comparative oscurity). Ganesh is a particularly strange choice, as while Kali and Durga have both the excuse of being bloody, warring deities that might appear demonic to a western Christian, Ganesh is a peaceful, friendly-looking elephant god of wisdom.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Gaal-Ham-Gaal was this many times through History.
  • Sequel Hook: Carzo is still possessed by Caleb and the Cross of the Poor is still active.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The surname of forensic technician Mancuso, the setting of Parks's home in Pittsburg, the finding of a new gospel with a truer story of Jesus which threatens the Church, and Carzo being a miracle-specialized priest who travels to Brazil (along with a Brazilian priest being named Alame[i]da) are all references to the 1999 Religious Horror film Stigmata.
    • Caleb's character and dialogue, as well as his body-changing antics, strongly evoke Azazel from another religious horror film from The '90s, Fallen.
    • A third plot reference is made to the 2001 film The Body (based on Richard Sapir's 1983 novel), where another Hispanic priest teams up with a woman of science to unveil the mystery of an ancient skeleton which might prove that Christianity is a lie and Jesus never came back from the dead.
    • Marie's psychic powers, her role in the FBI and her search of a powerful serial killer all evoke another film of the 2000s, Suspect Zero.
    • The Black Smoke of Satan comes clearly from a throwaway comment made in real life by Pope Paul VI on June 29, 1972 that there might be a Satanic cult inside the church ("from some crack the black smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God"). In the book, this is proven true.
    • Gillian Ray, a serial killer encountered in the past by one of the lead characters, is an unsubtle reference to 15th century serial killer Gilles de Rais.
    • Marie's psychiatrist is named Hans Zimmer, seriously.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The Satanic cosmology here is a mismash of the real life schools of Gnosticism, an ancient Christian heresy that considered the world to be demonic. Like them, the Gospel of Satan includes a primal deity named Abyss with a system of beings and no-beings (as in Basilidean Gnosticism), God and Satan being eternal opposites (same), human souls reincarnating (pretty much all Gnostic doctrines), Satan actively ruling this universe (ditto), the world having been created in a sort of competition between light and dark (as in Manichaeism) and an evil Jesus (as in Mandaeism). The main difference is that this mix is given here a pessimistic, Satanic flavor, whereas in real life, even the darkest Gnostic sects were humanistically hopeful. The fictitious Gospel of Satan is less a manual on gnosis than a propaganda text for the Gnostic version of Satan, so in a sense, it could be considered a Gnostic Satanic text rather than a Christian one.
    • Jesus somehow becoming the son of Satan after losing faith in mankind evokes another heresy, Adoptionism, which postulates Jesus was a regular man merely adopted by God (or in this case the Big Red Devil) instead of His Son.
  • Sunglasses at Night: In a flashback, Crossman puts on his shades during a party at night, although only to hide his tears after Marie talks to him about his dead wife.