Author: Jeffrey Burton Russell
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Year Published: 1977
The devil and evil go hand in hand, and in Professor Russell’s first book in his history of the devil and evil, he takes us back to pre-Christian times. The Devil starts with some necessary thought provoking questions on the nature of evil itself and takes us through questions on the nature of God, our own reality, and several different examples that we may consider evil, for only when we understand the nature of evil, can we understand the personification of evil, that which we call the Devil.
Russell’s book takes us to a time before Milton’s concept of the devil and even before Christian legends of the serpent and the Garden of Eden to antiquity. We journey through archaeological evidence and cross-cultural references to gain a background into the rich mythology of antiquity -who were the demons of the Babylonians, the Canaanites, the Greeks, the Jews and finally the Christians of the New Testament. Topics range from some of the earliest examples we have of Mesopotamian religions to Zoroastrianism to Greek mythology and the Greek philosophers to the Bible and Pseudepigraphical literature on the Watchers.
Overall, this book does an excellent job of walking the reader through all the mythology of the devil that we now take for granted. If you are looking for a strictly Christian interpretation of evil, you won’t find it here. However, if you are looking for a crash course in how early cultures viewed evil, this is a great start. It’s an easy read, containing lots of pictures and examples, and it provides a good starting point for anyone looking to understand the concept of evil in antiquity.