A History of the Devil

Gerald Messadie, Author, John Urda, Editor, Marc Romano, Translator Kodansha America $27 (0p) ISBN 978-1-56836-081-2
Now that God's biography has been written, by Jack Miles, it's time to give the Devil his due. Messadie's book is the finest of the legion of recent books released about the archfiend and his cohorts. Using a comparative and phenomenological approach, the author traces the idea of the Devil from ancient Greece and India to contemporary Western culture. What emerges from Messadie's explorations is that the Devil is a very recent concept, arising primarily out of Zoroastrianism in Persia in the sixth century B.C. In that religion, a personified evil being is coexistent and coeval with a personification of the good, and Messadie examines how that dualism has slipped into Christianity, in particular. Thus the author concludes, on the basis of careful historical study, that the Devil does not exist in societies where the need for a force opposing the good is absent. Finally, Messadie aptly demonstrates how people in contemporary culture, in the absence of the personification of evil, use the Devil to vilify their enemies and to promote hatred. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1996
Release date: 06/01/1996
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-1-56836-198-7
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