09 August 2011

Review: Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Jeffrey Burton Russell)

Satan: The Early Christian Tradition
Satan: The Early Christian Tradition by Jeffrey Burton Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Russell's first volume, The Devil Personifications of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity, he dealt with an era of time that was much more diverse, covering ancient history of all kinds of religious views. This time around, he sticks with Christian history, and focuses on only the first few hundred years of church history. A much easier read than the first volume, and covering an era already somewhat familiar to me, this volume was easier to digest overall.

I found it very interesting to read some of the understandings held by the early monks, and the ways they believed and dealt with evil, demons and possession. It revealed a glimpse into where some of the traditions of the Roman Catholic church started from (i.e. sign of the cross, views on baptism).

This volumes ultimately comes out to be a large discussion on the problem of evil, and how they sought to explain it. It seems the most common explanation they have used to explain the existence of it was that it was tied to man's free will. It was not until Augustine comes on the scene that this view changes to more of a mix between free will and predestination. but the struggle in understanding has never really been exhausted or satisfactorily answered for some. Good stuff.

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