Philip Almond, The Devil: A New Biography (I.B. Taurus, 2014)
It is often said that the devil has all the best tunes. He also has as many names as he has guises. Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub (in Christian thought), Ha-Satan or the Adversary (in Jewish scripture) and Iblis or Shaitan (in Islamic tradition) has throughout the ages and across civilizations been a compelling and charismatic presence. For two thousand years the supposed reign of God has been challenged by the fiery malice of his opponent, as contending forces of good and evil have between them weighed human souls in the balance. In this rich and multi-textured biography, Philip C Almond explores the figure of the devil from the first centuries of the Christian era through the rise of classical demonology and witchcraft persecutions to the modern post-Enlightenment 'decline' of Hell. The author shows that the Prince of Darkness, in all his incarnations, remains an irresistible subject in history, religion, art, literature and culture.
'The Devil has hardly lacked for biographers in the past forty years, but Philip Almond's new book represents a valuable addition to the list of such studies. It is comprehensive, spanning the whole range of time, amounting to two and a half millennia, in which Satan has been a figure in the Western imagination. It is lucid, explaining often quite complex theology in a manner which can be understood by, and makes the material genuinely interesting and exciting to, any readers. It will have an especial appeal to those in the English-speaking world, as, following a first half which concentrates on the development of the standard concept of the Devil in Christian theology, it examines how the implications of it worked out in England in particular; but it still keeps a hold on Continental European texts and events. All told, this is probably the best scholarly book on the subject currently available to a general audience.'
--Ronald Hutton, Professor of History, University of Bristol
'Philip Almond's new book is a triumph of the simple exposition of complex concepts. With humour and charm, it proceeds accessibly from the earliest Jewish writings on demons to eighteenth-century attempts to challenge the belief that Satan was active in human affairs. Angels, giants, demoniacs, witches and divines fill its pages, and the breadth of research informing the book is impressively broad. Yet the text is informal and readable. Almond has made theology and demonology approachable and his account rips along. Readers will find a wealth of great stories recounted here. The book also provokes serious thought about the process of demonising groupings belonging to despised sects or social groups, and the terrible consequences of regarding other people as agents of the devil. This is an entertaining and informative read.'
--Marion Gibson, Associate Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures, University of Exeter
‘This fascinating - and tragic - account of his influence through history will be a real eye-opener to anyone who supposes that the inconvenience of his not existing would limit the damage the Devil could do. Fundamentally, the Devil owes his powers to the problem of reconciling God's goodness with God’s omnipotence. Following with deep learning a trail of confusion, dogmatism and persecution, Philip Almond in his vivid biography convincingly demonstrates that the Devil was, and is, a very bad idea.’
--Jill Paton Walsh, author of Knowledge of Angels, shortlisted for the Booker Prize
For more see the publisher's website.