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Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Cornell Paperbacks) Paperback – August 25, 1987
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"Drawing extensively on earlier scholarly literature, as well as his own original research in complex source materials, Russell has offered a coherent account of the development of a tradition in Christian thought that should be of great interest to specialists and nonspecialists alike. Although Russell would be the very last to claim that he can draw out leviathan with a hook, he has competently and diligently drawn out an image of leviathan that takes a respectable place in the literature of early church history."―American Historical 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 valuable introduction to the theological portion of the Western Devil tradition."―Speculum
About the Author
Jeffrey Burton Russell is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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Top Customer Reviews
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?
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.