The Devil, Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles - throughout history the Prince of Darkness, the Western world's most powerful symbol of evil, has taken many names and shapes. Jeffrey Burton Russell here chronicles the remarkable story of the Devil from antiquity to the present. While recounting how past generations have personified evil, he deepens our understanding of the ways in which people have dealt with the enduring problem of radical evil. After a compelling essay on the nature of evil, Russell uncovers the origins of the concept of the Devil in various early cultures and then traces its evolution in Western thought from the time of the ancient Hebrews through the first centuries of the Christian era. Next he turns to the medieval view of the Devil, focusing on images found in folklore, scholastic thought, art, literature, mysticism, and witchcraft. Finally, he follows the Devil into our own era, where he draws on examples from theology, philosophy, art, literature, and popular culture to describe the great changes in this traditional notion of evil brought about by the intellectual and cultural developments of modern times.
Is the Devil an outmoded superstition, as most educated people today believe? Or do the horrors of the twentieth century and the specter of nuclear war make all too clear the continuing need for some vital symbol of radical evil? A single-volume distillation of Russell's epic tetralogy on the nature and personifcation of evil from ancient times to the present (published by Cornell University Press between 1977 and 1986), The Prince of Darkness invites readers to confront these and other critical questions as they explore the past faces of that figure who has been called the second most famous personage in Christianity.
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(229mm x 156mm x 19mm)
Cornell University Press
Publisher: Cornell University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
Russell (History/Univ. of Cal. at Santa Barbara) has written four scholarly books on the Devil front antiquity to modern times. Here, he summarizes the major themes of his earlier works in a form more accessible to the general reader. Russell is a careful historian, and traces the origin of this Western figure (the Devil appears only in Zoroastrianism, ancient Hebrew religion, Christianity, and Judaism) in early cultures and in Biblical references. A tong section, replete with theological speculation - including a contrast of the views of Origen and Evagrios - covers the development of the concept of the Devil in early Christianity. The author goes on to discuss the Devil in the popular imagination, literature, and art, offering an informed and insightful argument - but one that fails to infect the reader with his own enthusiams. As if on a crusade, he shuffles the sound informational material at the core of the book with chapters warning us that we ignore the "personification of evil" at our own peril. Russell seems to believe that there may very well be a conscious, malevolent force outside of us that we must defeat through love; but if this is so, how can we at the same time strive, as he urges, "to integrate the evil within us?" When he sticks to history, Russell is on firm ground. But he is no philosopher, and his exhortations detract from the value of his informative work. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Jeffrey Burton Russell
Jeffrey Burton Russell is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara.