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Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Cornell Paperbacks) Paperback – August 25, 1987


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

  • Series: Cornell Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (August 25, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801494133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801494130
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Russell has complete mastery of his material, and the book's sweep is grand—- a tour of the first five centuries of Christian intellectual history with the spotlight on the villain instead of the hero. . . . Satan is a vaulable introduction to the theological portion of the Western Devil tradition."—Speculum

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 77 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
This I think is without question the weakest of all four volumes of this series, in that it doesn't address the real question surrounding the devil in early Christianity which is "where did the Christian devil come from?". It will be obvious to most readers familiar with Jewish background to the New Testament that the NT devil comes virtually out of the blue. One can point to only two significant Satans in the whole OT (Job's and Zechariah's - one poetic, one prophetic) and then suddenly in the NT there is an explosion in diabolic activity from page 1 (35 mentions of "devil", 35 of "Satan", plus various synonyms such as "prince of this world"). Yet one searches in vain for anything in the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and Dead Sea Scrolls that prefigures the NT devil.
Why? This is the $64,000 question. But Russell doesn't address it - he allows his own personal faith in an everpresent fallen angel (from Eden?) to buck the issue that puzzles everyone confronted with the sudden upgrade of the devil in early Christianity, and what we get is a pedestrian walk through of early Christian devil belief without even attempting to explain this radical departure both from the Old Testament and also contemporary Judaism. Nor does Russell explore Paul's equally radical concept of the Old Man versus the New Man as a spiritual battle. If this isn't relevant to the NT devil, what is?
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Thordur Gudmundsson on August 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is written by Jeffrey Burton Russell professor of History at the University of California. It is his second volume about the history of concept of the Devil, first published 1981. Satan: The early christian tradition tracks the first five centuries of the christian church. There are lot of questions in these book concerning the origin of evil in this world and the existence of the Devil. What was the nature of his fall? Where is he now? Can he be saved? Going through history with the guidance of J.F.Russell we see in what way the early church fathers tried to answer questions like these. It is also interesting to see why some early christians preferred martyrdom while others become monks. And here you find the basis for persecutions of heretics and witches for centuries! To my mind this is a good literature about the first five centuries of Christian history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dave on May 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic book. So much history regarding the development and wanderings of the church with regards to evil, satan, demons, angels and God's purpose in it all. I really liked the chapter on asceticism. Great old stories of monks confronting demons in the wilderness. One story recounts a demon presenting himself as an enticing woman, for example. Even more interesting are the notions of people like Origin, Clement and other Fathers regarding the heirarchy of the spiritual realm.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Mccormack on August 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Russell's first volume, [book:The Devil: Personifications of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity|11152379], he dealt with an era of time that was much more diverse, covering ancient history of all kinds of religious views. This time around, he sticks with Christian history, and focuses on only the first few hundred years of church history. A much easier read than the first volume, and covering an era already somewhat familiar to me, this volume was easier to digest overall.

I found it very interesting to read some of the understandings held by the early monks, and the ways they believed and dealt with evil, demons and possession. It revealed a glimpse into where some of the traditions of the Roman Catholic church started from (i.e. sign of the cross, views on baptism).

This volumes ultimately comes out to be a large discussion on the problem of evil, and how they sought to explain it. It seems the most common explanation they have used to explain the existence of it was that it was tied to man's free will. It was not until Augustine comes on the scene that this view changes to more of a mix between free will and predestination. but the struggle in understanding has never really been exhausted or satisfactorily answered for some. Good stuff.
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