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The Devil: A Biography

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The Devil's deepest wile is to persuade us that he does not exist.--Charles Baudelaire. But now, Peter Stanford's highly readable survey brings the Devil to the forefront as he focuses on the Church, literature, folklore, psychology and history. The result is a lively account of our age-old response to the challenge of why evil and human suffering exist. The Devil's deepest wile is to persuade us that he does not exist.--Charles Baudelaire. But now, Peter Stanford's highly readable survey brings the Devil to the forefront as he focuses on the Church, literature, folklore, psychology and history. The result is a lively account of our age-old response to the challenge of why evil and human suffering exist.


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The Devil's deepest wile is to persuade us that he does not exist.--Charles Baudelaire. But now, Peter Stanford's highly readable survey brings the Devil to the forefront as he focuses on the Church, literature, folklore, psychology and history. The result is a lively account of our age-old response to the challenge of why evil and human suffering exist. The Devil's deepest wile is to persuade us that he does not exist.--Charles Baudelaire. But now, Peter Stanford's highly readable survey brings the Devil to the forefront as he focuses on the Church, literature, folklore, psychology and history. The result is a lively account of our age-old response to the challenge of why evil and human suffering exist.

30 review for The Devil: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steve Wiggins

    Stanford's treatment of the Devil is a good general introduction to the topic. Aimed at general readers, it doesn't go into the level of details that most academic treatments do, and Stanford's not to be faulted for that. One problem is that some of the details are slightly misrepresented along the way. Specialist training in the vast religious time frames he covers would, of course, probably rob an author of the ability to write for non-specialists. This book walks that balance fairly well. The Stanford's treatment of the Devil is a good general introduction to the topic. Aimed at general readers, it doesn't go into the level of details that most academic treatments do, and Stanford's not to be faulted for that. One problem is that some of the details are slightly misrepresented along the way. Specialist training in the vast religious time frames he covers would, of course, probably rob an author of the ability to write for non-specialists. This book walks that balance fairly well. The place the book really shines, as I mention on my blog (Sects and Violence in the Ancient World), is when it addresses more modern literary treatments. Unlike some other books on the topic, Stanford takes the role of films seriously, and discusses a few of the more notable examples of the Devil on celluloid. He seems to be much more comfortable with modern era literature than the somewhat complex and tangled world of antiquity. All of this makes sense since the Devil is a compound character, brought together from several different sources including religious publications, folklore, and non-Christian beliefs. Nobody, it seems, is in charge of Satan's identity. Even the Christian belief structure doesn't present a uniform view of the prince of darkness. If what you're looking for is a basic, non-technical introduction to a complex character, this book is a good place to start.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mathilde Bellemare

    Gives a cursory overview of the development of the Devil. I would have liked to see a little more time devoted to the difference between satan, Satan, and the Devil. Good outlining of the development of the Devil through the Dark Ages - Renaissance - Enlightenment. The compare and contrast of monotheistic and ditheistic religions is clear. The problems inherent to an independent, sometimes omnipresent and omnipotent, evil being within a monist theology is well expressed. Modern images and ideas of Gives a cursory overview of the development of the Devil. I would have liked to see a little more time devoted to the difference between satan, Satan, and the Devil. Good outlining of the development of the Devil through the Dark Ages - Renaissance - Enlightenment. The compare and contrast of monotheistic and ditheistic religions is clear. The problems inherent to an independent, sometimes omnipresent and omnipotent, evil being within a monist theology is well expressed. Modern images and ideas of the purpose of the Devil is somewhat laxking. However, the author does leave the question of a "secular devil" open. I had some problems with the author's intentional provocative language. His personal distain or, at least, ambivalence, for the Catholic Church is painfulky obvious. His use of "immature" to describe muscians or artists who use or abuse Satanic symbols is lacking professionalism. The language calls into question the author's relationship with the Catholic Church, the Devil, and his imagery. Even so, a nice read of a short, comprehensive biography.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Debumere

    This is harddddddddd *complains*

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erika Harlitz-Kern

    Even though it sometimes feels as if The Devil is everywhere, there is surprisingly little written about him from a scholarly perspective. Journalist Peter Stanford has written The Devil: A Biography in an attempt to synthesize the research that does exist, while at the same time addressing the general public and make available in easily-digested format the research that has been done on this intriguing character. The Devil is a Christian invention with long ancient roots. Stanford traces these Even though it sometimes feels as if The Devil is everywhere, there is surprisingly little written about him from a scholarly perspective. Journalist Peter Stanford has written The Devil: A Biography in an attempt to synthesize the research that does exist, while at the same time addressing the general public and make available in easily-digested format the research that has been done on this intriguing character. The Devil is a Christian invention with long ancient roots. Stanford traces these roots all the way back to Mesopotamia, by way of Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Germanic cults of northern Europe. He demonstrates deftly how Jewish apocrypha helped in the development of the idea of The Devil. Where Judaism has abandoned these ideas, they remained among those Jews who formed the earliest Christian congregations in the ancient Mediterranean. Stanford's purpose with his book is to write a biography of The Devil. He succeeds only in part, the reason being that he sets the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 as the end in the development of The Devil as concept. According to Stanford, after the Fourth Lateran Council doctrine on the Prince of Darkness has not changed. Instead, the development of the lore that surrounds The Devil has taken place among regular people and the lower clergy. The problems with this statement are, firstly, that Stanford does not discuss what the Fourth Lateran Council actually says about The Devil. He only states that this is the last time that The Devil as a developing concept was discussed. Secondly, he reaches this conclusion already in chapter 5, but the book itself contains a total of fourteen chapters. The remaining nine chapters are, in fact, not a discussion about The Devil, but rather about groups that the Church throughout the Middle Ages and the early-modern period deemed as Satanic, e.g., Jews, Muslims, and witches, as well as a discussion on how The Devil is manifested in today's society. The Devil: A Biography by Peter Stanford is an interesting and compelling read that brings together scholarly research in an easy-to-digest format. But if you are looking for an entire book dedicated to the Prince of Darkness, you will be disappointed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Äsruþr Cyneaþsson

    Some good aspects and research, let down by the lack of focus in the final third of the study. Stanford offers a good insight into the role of the Devil within the Catholic church -- the strength of this study, rather than the wider cross-mythic roles of the adversarial rebel.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dean

    Very enjoyable, touches on various interesting perspectives of the devil, ranging from historical, sociological, psychological/psychiatric, etc.

  7. 4 out of 5

    RJ Avery

    An unbiased view of the history of the modern idea of the devil. Excellent book!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kim Zinkowski

    Very interesting. A valuable book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark Speed

    An excellent, comprehensive biography of Satan. It was written in conjunction with the author's BBC TV series, which was broadcast that year. Who is the Devil? He's the scapegoat that the major religions use to place the blame for human frailties and evils. Some inculcate the idea within themselves and then try to lay the blame at his door. Anyway, the concept has been around since religion was written down. This is a terrific read for anyone interested in religion. Excellent notes, bibliography a An excellent, comprehensive biography of Satan. It was written in conjunction with the author's BBC TV series, which was broadcast that year. Who is the Devil? He's the scapegoat that the major religions use to place the blame for human frailties and evils. Some inculcate the idea within themselves and then try to lay the blame at his door. Anyway, the concept has been around since religion was written down. This is a terrific read for anyone interested in religion. Excellent notes, bibliography and index.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Frau Feli

    I've read it in german, but couldn't find the edition. Love that history of the idea of the devil, through the major religions and beliefs. Thrilling and entertaining, even witty to read, though still scientific with lots of references. I've read it in german, but couldn't find the edition. Love that history of the idea of the devil, through the major religions and beliefs. Thrilling and entertaining, even witty to read, though still scientific with lots of references.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Up to "A Jewish Childhood: Job's Comforter". Up to "A Jewish Childhood: Job's Comforter".

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Well written and intriguing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christopher tm

    An amusing divertissement.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  15. 4 out of 5

    Phil

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pr0fanus

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

  18. 4 out of 5

    Greg Chapman

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amy Christine Lesher

  20. 5 out of 5

    Howtobeterrell

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hedwig Van wuijkhuijse

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  23. 4 out of 5

    ciara brown

  24. 5 out of 5

    Averly

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lori

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Milligan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Giuseppe Culiers

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dagrun

  29. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jon

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