Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots

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Overview

Of all the demons, monsters, fiends, and ogres to preoccupy the western imagination in literature, art, and film, no figure has been more feared—or misunderstood—than Satan. But how accurate are the popular images of Satan? How—and why—did this rather minor biblical character morph into the very embodiment of evil? T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley guide readers on a journey to retrace Satan's biblical roots. Engaging and informative, The Birth of Satan is a must read for anyone who has ever wondered about the origins of the Devil.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An informative study of the biblical origins of Satan…With resourceful though never excessive citation, Mobley and Wray make a good job of pinning down the roots of a notoriously protean character."—The Times Literary Supplement

"Let's admit it. Even in a secular age we are all still fascinated by Old Harry. Even though the devil appears only rarely in the Bible, he is a recurrent presence in the religious and literary imagination. Why? The authors skillfully and humorously trace the origin and history of Satan and explain why we would miss him if he were gone."—Harvey Cox, author of When Jesus Came to Harvard

 

"Making sense out of evil is part of humanity's endless quest to discover the meaning of life. This book illuminates that quest by tracing the history of Satan through the lens of the Judeo/Christian faith story. In an engaging manner, it forces us to realize that either by making Satan a literal being or by dismissing the devil as pre-modern mythology we are still shaped by its ever present shadow."—John Shelby Spong, author of The Sins of Scripture

 

"What a delightful recipe for an interesting and informative reading experience: an inherently interesting topic, sound scholarship, and an utterly engaging style sprinkled with humor! The end result is an engrossing journey through the diverse origins and complex development of the notion of Satan as arch-fiend, concluding with a thoughtful essay on the function and significance of devil-language in human experience. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the topic, about which both religious and non-religious folk tend to be oh, so knowledgeable, yet oh, so ignorant."—Russell Pregeant, Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Emeritus, Curry College, Visiting Professor in New Testament, Andover Newton Theological School

"As intriguing, complicated, and pervasive as the devil himself, this volume tells it all. Essentially a biblical tale, it locates the biblical stories in the tribal cultures from which they arose, intersecting them with classics of Western literature. It's a must read for those who are interested in, or troubled by, Satan."—Raymond F. Collins, Warren-Blanding Professor of Religion, Professor of New Testament, The Catholic University of America

Publishers Weekly
Where the devil did the devil come from? Wray, a Roman Catholic who teaches religious studies at Salve Regina University, and Mobley, a Protestant professor of Old Testament at Andover Newton Theological School, suggest that the early Hebrews struggled with the puzzle of a God who is the source of both good and evil. As Israel continued to evolve toward a clearer monotheism, it was considered prudent to cast off the negative characteristics of the one true God-which the authors call "repellant aspects of Yhwh")-and embody them in a personality who would become the biblical "Satan." Beginning with Genesis, the authors trace the development of "the devil" until he appears fully formed in the New Testament, where his role is "to serve as the cosmic scapegoat, saving God from blame for evil." Wray and Mobley pay particular attention to the beliefs of many of Israel's neighbors and their influence on her emerging faith in a cosmic evil being. Ultimately, they reject the concept of a personal Satan, but acknowledge its usefulness in dealing with the idea of evil. Written at a popular level, this book offers an interesting and challenging alternative to traditional beliefs. (Oct. 5) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403969330
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

T. J. Wray is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Salve Regina University. She is the author of Surviving the Death of a Sibling and Grief Dreams. Gregory Mobley is Associate Professor, Andover Newton Theological School.

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Table of Contents

The Bible and Other Preliminaries

• Unsystematic Theology: The Nature of God in the Hebrew Bible

• The Devil Is in the Details: Satan in the Hebrew Bible

• The Influence of Israel's Neighbors on the Development of Satan

• Satan between the Testaments

• Satan in the New Testament

• Why Satan Matters

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2005

    THE book on Satan is out!

    This is an absolute triumph of a book, the one I¿ve been wanting to read for a long, long time. The Devil has made, for over 2000 years, a good story, and this book tells us why. Using the tools of religion, history, theology, and culture, authors Wray and Mobley offer the general and religious reader alike a conceptually fresh, extremely well-written, and relatively short history of the role Satan has played. This playground includes our literature, religious imaginations, everyday conversations, and religious literature. The strengths of this book include: 1) Mobley is a gifted Hebrew Bible scholar who understands the pre-Christian world, including its manifold non-biblical writings that held traction in this world. With his co-author this book makes the case that there have been many two-bit ideas of Satan through the years, mostly inchoate and undeveloped (and not that powerful), until a largely single image of the High King of Hell emerges in early Christianity. 2) Powerful summaries throughout the chapters, culminating in a final chapter that is a rare tour de force in synthesis, breadth of insight ¿ and brevity. In that chapter, the reader will get a well-developed job description for Satan. 3) The reader will be invited to think deeply about monotheism, and how that very enticing theological position may have itself led to the birth of Satan as an unintended consequence. The thoughtful reader should anticipate the authors¿ examination of the more peculiar and distasteful aspects the Bible and God. 4) Conceptually fresh imagery. Chapter Two¿s introduction of God as ¿Godfather¿ is a strikingly unique way the authors get the readers to understand God as the early Jews may have. This is just one of scores of helpful images. The authors have made in this short book a landmark contribution to popular understanding about the many factors that contributed to Satan¿s metamorphosis from a third-rank adversary or stumbling block in the Hebrew scriptures to the Titan of Evil in the Christian era. This kind of intelligence is critical in our times.

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