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Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Cornell Paperbacks) Paperback


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Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Cornell Paperbacks) + Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Cornell Paperbacks) + Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (September 2, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801494095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801494093
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"All readers . . . will be enriched and stimulated by this honestly presented biography of the Evil One. The Devil, in religious myth, personal vision, and mystical reality, offers invaluable material for reflection and meditation."—Studia Mystica

"This fascinating story of 'the Devil' explores the concept and personification of evil (defined as 'the infliction of pain on sentient beings') from its ancient beginnings into New Testament times."—Seventeenth Century News, Summer-Fall, 1978

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Customer Reviews

Both have been done better and in greater detail by others.
Arly Allen
It's a very interesting research from a historian and despite its age, it remains classical and must read!!!
ikarionas
Surprisingly, it appears that Russell's sources are much less biased than he is himself.
Marc Ruby™

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book that shows how the Christian conception of the Devil can be traced to previous cultures through myths, symbols, and philosophy. The book starts will the definition and how the word has been interrupted through various cultures, including current Jung psychology which Russell favors. The book then progresses through how east and western cultures view the idea of evil. Summerian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Cannanite, Hiittie, Zoroastrianism, Mazdaism, Greek, and Roman mythology and cultures are used for comparison. The book ends with Hebrew personification and the Devil in the New Testament. Many references are mentioned regarding the Inquisition, which Russell picks up in the next book of this series.
Christian readers will probably be offended by Russell's conclusions, because he indirectly shows that ideas presented in the Bible have been presented in other cultures pre-dating Christianity. This historical approach is taken by other authors, but may jar Christians who have not been subjective to this line of thinking. This is my guess why this book has received bad reviews here at Amazon, but receives great reviews on history book lists. Granted that some of Russell's conclusions are subjective, but the history is solid and that is why it's a standard work.
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77 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 9, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is rare for me to find myself giving a book a very bad rating. For one thing, I reserve one star for books that do more harm than good, and there are really few works that have no redeeming value. For another, I make a real effort not to buy books in that category, since it's a waste of my time. This book, "The Devil," caught me by surprise. I expected one thing and got something else entirely. I'm not sure if it's my expectations or the book itself that are the source of my disappointment, but I will go with my instincts for now.
What did I expect? A good historical and anthropological study about the role of the devil or devils in human history up to the beginnings of Christianity. In particular, I was interested in demonic legends in first millennium BCE Israel. What did I get? I guess the best way to put it is that, had the subtitle should have been "Jeffrey Russell's Perceptions of Evil..." I would have been less surprised.
The reader gets an early warning when, in the preface, Russell starts out with "This is a work of history, not of theology" and then immediately begins discussing theological and metaphysical issues. Russell's style is reminiscent of a Victorian churchman/academic, rambling from one subject to another in mid-paragraph, regularly making portentous statements that seem to have no basis in fact. In fact, one of his most unusual quirks is to state a premise, actually indicate that there is either no or conflicting evidence for it, and then go on to use it for further logical gyrations. This is an argument style better suited to politicians than academics.
Gradually it becomes clear that Russell has at least one hidden agenda. He is intent on making a case for the dualistic nature of God.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
Russell traces the history, myths, and iconography of the devil. It explains how the devil became associated the with pitchfork, horns, and the human goat. Not only is this book well-written, but it also contains many pictures which depict the subject matter at hand.
Russell is highly respected by his peers and is usually reference by other authors. Anyone who is interested in mythology - especially Greek mythology - will love this well-documented book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on January 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
In this rigorous and erudite work, Russell sets out to explore the origins and early historical development of a concept. To make things easy, he calls it "the Devil", but in fact this is the history of the idea of evil incarnated in a character, as opposed to an abstract concept of "Evil". Although he takes every care to remind us that his is a work of history and not theology, it is impossible not to entertain certain philosophical questions and millenary debates: Why does evil exists? How has every civilization dealt with this insoluble problem? Why are there so many bad people? How is it possible that we humans inflict so much pain to ourselves and our fellows? Is it not God supposed to be good and omnipotent? Why does he allows for so much evil?

Before Christianity, there were two kinds of answers to these questions: in Monism, the One included the totality of the cosmos. God was a coincidence of contraries. God was truly One, and in him were resolved the contradictions between Good and Evil. Ancient polytheistic religions like the Egyptian and the Greek were Monist, since the different gods were nothing but manifestations of the One. According to Russell, these religions did not answer the question satisfactorily, but they did resolve the problem for every day life. The other answer, invented in the VII Century B.C. in Persia, what is now Iran, by the prophet Zarathustra (and above all his Mazdeistic followers), is Dualism. In Dualism, the cosmos is divided in two: one principle of Good (God), and one principle of Evil (which is not yet the Devil). In Persia these were Ahura Mazda (or Ormuz), and Ariman, the lord of Deception.
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