A History of the Devil

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AN UNORTHODOX COMPARATIVE HISTORY OF RELIGION-FROM THE DARK SIDE-BY A BESTSELLING THEOLOGIAN

"The biggest ruse of the devil is making us believe that he doesn't exist," claimed Baudelaire. On the contrary, argues bestselling historian and critic Gerald Messadié, the true evil lies in the fact that we believe in him at all.

A History of the Devil is a provocative exploration of the personification of evil through the ages and across cultures. Messadié reveals that the Satan of ...

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Overview


AN UNORTHODOX COMPARATIVE HISTORY OF RELIGION-FROM THE DARK SIDE-BY A BESTSELLING THEOLOGIAN

"The biggest ruse of the devil is making us believe that he doesn't exist," claimed Baudelaire. On the contrary, argues bestselling historian and critic Gerald Messadié, the true evil lies in the fact that we believe in him at all.

A History of the Devil is a provocative exploration of the personification of evil through the ages and across cultures. Messadié reveals that the Satan of Judeo-Christian mythology-the antithesis of God and good-was a concept unknown to the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Hindus, and Chinese. In fact, the devil was probably invented six centuries before the common era by Persian clergy eager to demonize their political adversaries. Ever since, the image of evil has been a useful tool of the powerful, both religious and secular, from the prosecutors of the Spanish Inquisition to the Cold Warriors of our own time. In seventeen absorbing chapters, Messadié researches the genealogy of the devil in the world's major civilizations, from Asia and Europe to Africa and North America. He examines the devil's role in each culture and the evolution of his various incarnations throughout history.

Abundant in historical references and cultural analyses, A History of the Devil shows that it is precisely the belief in the devil that lies at the root of religious fanaticism around the world today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Highly engaging and provocative cultural history."-Library Journal

"[t]he finest of the legion of recent books released about the archfiend and his cohorts."-Publishers Weekly

"Messadié['s] opinions are offered with exuberance and humor-irreverence, if the term can be used for his subject."-Associated Press

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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
Library Journal
Given the great success of books about angels, is it any surprise that the Fallen Angel himself, the devil, wants to horn in on the territory? Actually, Messadie's book is a comparative historical study of the development of the concept of the devil in different cultures, from ancient Oceania to 20th-century Europe and America. While the idea of the devil as evil personified is often absent from Eastern cultures, such an idea is common to many Western cultures. Yet Messadie's conclusions call into question the existence in the late 20th century of a personified evil figure whose presence often becomes the pretext for human abdication of moral responsibility. Massadie's highly engaging and provocative cultural history is essential for most libraries.
From Barnes & Noble
A bestselling French historian's provocative & sometimes unorthodox exploration of the personification of evil through the ages and across cultures. Discusses the origins of Satan, the use of evil as a political tool through history, & more.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568361987
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA
  • Publication date: 11/17/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerald Messadié studied at École des Langues Orientales in Paris, and is the author of fifteen books in French. His works have been widely translated in Europe.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 The Ambiguous Demons of Oceania 15
2 India: Spared from Evil 35
3 China and Japan: Exorcism through Writing 55
4 Zoroaster, the First Ayatollahs, and the True Birth of the Devil 72
5 Mesopotamia: The Appearance of Sin 91
6 The Celts: Thirty-five Centuries without the Devil 109
7 Greece: The Devil Driven Out by Democracy 125
8 Rome: The Devil Banned 146
9 Egypt: Unthinkable Damnation 162
10 Africa: The Cradle of Religious Ecology 176
11 The North American Indians: Land and Fatherland 193
12 The Enigma of Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, and the God-Who-Weeps 206
13 Israel: Demons as the Heavenly Servants of the Modern Devil 227
14 The Devil in the Early Church: The Confusion of Cause and Effect 251
15 The Great Night of the West: From the Middle Ages to the French Revolution 271
16 Islam: The Devil as State Functionary 294
17 Modern Times and the God of Laziness, Hatred, and Nihilism 312
Notes 329
Index 363
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