Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots By T. J. Wray

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. For example, 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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