Author: Amelia Wilson
Publisher: B.E.S. Publishing
Year Published: 2002
The devil is one of the most intriguing and influential figures in human history and culture. How did the devil evolve from an ancient adversary of God to a modern symbol of evil and rebellion? How did the devil inspire and shape various forms of art and expression throughout the centuries? How does the devil reflect our fears, desires, and values as a society?
These are some of the questions that Amelia Wilson explores in her book, The Devil. In this book, Wilson provides a concise and informative overview of the historical and artistic representations of the devil from ancient times to the present day. She examines how the devil’s image and role changed in different religious, political, and cultural contexts, and how the devil influenced various aspects of art and culture, such as theology, literature, music, and film.
The book consists of six chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of the devil’s evolution and influence. The book is richly illustrated with color images of paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, and other artworks that depict the devil in various forms and contexts.
Paving the Way: The Devil’s Earliest Origins
The first chapter traces the origins of the devil to the ancient Near Eastern religions and cultures that influenced the Israelites, such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, Zoroastrians, and Canaanites. Wilson explains how these cultures had different concepts of evil forces, such as demons, chaos monsters, and rival gods, that later contributed to the development of Satan in the Hebrew Bible.
Becoming Satan: The Devil in the Bible
The second chapter examines how the concept of Satan emerged in the Hebrew Bible and how it changed in the New Testament writings. Wilson shows how Satan was originally a minor figure who acted as an agent of God to test or accuse humans, but later became a more powerful and independent adversary who opposed God and tempted humans to sin. Wilson also discusses how the New Testament writers expanded on the role and identity of Satan, introducing new names and attributes, such as Lucifer, Beelzebub, Antichrist, and Dragon.
The Devil Grows Horns (and Teeth)
The third chapter describes how the early Christian writers and thinkers shaped the image and role of the devil as a tempter, accuser, and adversary of God and humanity. Wilson analyzes how they drew on various sources, such as Jewish apocalyptic literature, Greek philosophy, Roman mythology, and folk traditions, to create a more vivid and terrifying portrait of the devil. Wilson also explores how they defined the nature and consequences of sin, evil, and hell in relation to the devil.
The Devil Takes Center Stage
The fourth chapter covers the medieval and early modern periods when the devil became a prominent figure in theology, politics, literature, and art. Wilson explains how the devil was used to justify various forms of persecution, violence, and oppression against those who were considered heretics, witches, or enemies of Christendom. Wilson also illustrates how the devil inspired some of the most remarkable works of art and literature in this period, such as Dante’s Inferno, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, and Faustus’ pact with Mephistopheles.
The Romantic Devil
The fifth chapter discusses how John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost influenced the perception of the devil as a complex and sympathetic character. Wilson argues that Milton’s portrayal of Satan as a proud rebel who defies God’s tyranny resonated with many writers and artists who were dissatisfied with the established order or who sought to explore their own individuality. Wilson also examines how some Romantic poets, such as Blake, Shelley, and Byron, admired or identified with Satan as a symbol of freedom, creativity, and passion.
The Modern Devil
The sixth chapter explores how the devil has been portrayed in modern times, especially in popular culture and new religious movements. Wilson demonstrates how the Devil has been adapted to suit different genres, audiences, and purposes, such as horror movies, comedy shows, rock music, and occult practices. Wilson also considers how the devil reflects some of the current issues and challenges facing our society, such as secularization, globalization, consumerism, and terrorism.
The book’s main strength is its visual appeal and accessibility. The book provides a clear and concise introduction to the devil’s history and impact on various aspects of culture and society. The book also offers some interesting insights and trivia about the devil’s symbolism and associations. For example, the book explains how the seven deadly sins were matched with their corresponding punishments in hell by medieval theologians and artists.
However, the book also has some weaknesses and limitations. The book tries to cover too much ground in too little space, resulting in a superficial and selective treatment of some topics. The book lacks depth and detail in some areas, such as the historical context and analysis of the artworks. The book also assumes that the reader has some prior knowledge of biblical and religious studies, which may not be the case for some readers. Furthermore, the book does not provide any footnotes or references to support its claims or to direct the reader to further sources. This makes it difficult to verify or challenge some of the statements made by the author.
In conclusion, The Devil by Amelia Wilson is a book that offers a brief but engaging introduction to the devil’s history and imagery. It is suitable for readers who are interested in learning about the devil’s role and influence in art and culture. However, it is not a comprehensive or scholarly work on the subject. Readers who are looking for more depth and detail should consult other books on the topic, such as Jeffrey Burton Russell’s five-volume series on the devil throughout history.