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Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World Paperback – February 22, 1990
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Jeffrey Burton Russell is not only a conscientious historian, he is also an introspective essayist who acknowledges his own continuing struggle to understand the nature and the source of evil."―Robert Coles, New York Times Book Review
"It is more than the history of demonological imagination as it has been displayed for half a millennium in theological controversies, in poetry, novels, paintings, and witch trials: it is the history of European man trying to cope with the terrifying riddle of radical evil. . . . Both an extremely rich scholarly work and an exiquisite exercise in a topic that is unlikely ever to die off in our civilization."―Leslek Kolakowski, Journal of Modern History
"This book moves with sustained seriousness and brilliance across five centuries, from Luther's time to our own . . . and, although it has all the virtues of great intellectual history, it is explicitly rooted in a profound moral analysis of our own era."―M. D. Aeschliman, National Review
"No few sentences can adequately convey the book's richness of content and seriousness of purpose. Russell has without doubt bequeathed us a magnificent synthesis of Western culture's modern, tortuous grappling with the ideas of radical evil and the devil."―Brian Easlea, American Historical Review
"An excellent and important intellectual history."―Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
viewed since the Reformation. Russell takes a historian's stance to examine
a subject both controversial and mystifying at best. No stone is left unturned
as he looks at how the devil is viewed by church officials, commonfolk,
and intelligentsia,and how these views are reflected in the artwork and pop-culture
of those times. This work manages at once to be intellectual and an easy read,
thorough and engrossing. A must for anyone fascinated by the forces that have shaped Christian thought.
The idea of the Devil, the very personification of evil, has changed much since the early days of Judaism and Christianity. By the dawn of the Renaissance, the Devil had undergone a kind of "rebirth" himself. Though the onset of the early modern era had seen the beginnings of science and reason, superstition and religious persecution was at an all time high. Russell examines the role of the Devil in the Reformation and during the height of the Witch Craze. Though they differed on many points of theology, Catholics and Protestants definately agreed that Satan continued to be a very real and very dangerous foe. Russell continues his story into the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, which saw the Devil lose his teeth, followed by his romanticization in the 19th century as a rebellious anti-hero.
Though still feared by the credulous and railed against in the pulpits by evangelicals, Satan has largely been reduced to a shadow of his former self, an advertising ploy whose imagery is used to sell everything from deviled ham to movie tickets. Russell's books are generally considered the standard modern work on the history and myth of the Devil, and this volume examplifies why this is so. Well worth checking out.
This volume picks up with the beginning of the Reformation, whose emphasis on sola fide revitalized older medieval ideas of diabology. Some interesting, and scary, fragments of Martin Luther’s life are retold, including the tidbit that one of his most important biographers, Heiko Oberman, described Luther’s whole existence as a “war with Satan.” He also uses this section of the book to look at the diabology of John Calvin and sixteenth-century mystic-contemplatives St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.
With the appearance of the Enlightenment, increasing popularity of empiricism, rationalism, and use of the scientific method, people started to take diabology – or at least the possible existence of the Devil – much less seriously (which is hardly a surprise). In this section of the book, Chapter III, the reader gets a plodding, thirty page-long piece of exegesis on Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” which while it is a poem largely about the Devil, seems to consist of too much summary and too much ham-handed literary analysis.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Jeffrey Burton Russell completes the journey from ancient antiquity to the present with "Old Horny" still up to his same old tricks in a variety of new guises and... Read morePublished on June 6, 2006 by Brian E. Erland