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The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  217 ratings  ·  27 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 2005)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Wilhelmina Jenkins
My bible study group requested that we spend the 6 weeks between Christmas and Ash Wednesday studying Satan. I was a bit taken aback - this is not a subject I had considered studying - but I'm game to learn about almost anything. My difficulty came in finding resources that fit in comfortably with our Episcopalian world view (we seldom mention Satan unless it's Lent or someone is being baptized) and the scriptural/historical approach we take in our studies. I was very pleased to find this book. ...more
Steve Westenra
Feb 11, 2020 rated it liked it
A solid overview of the subject that is accessible, and useful for the instruction of undergraduates. There are some minor factual errors.
Ebony
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual-stuff
I loved The Birth of Satan. It was incredibly witty with lines like, “Warning: Common side effects of biblical study include visual flashes, deep remorse, and (unless reading Song of Solomon) decreased libido” (p. 30). The authors were honest about their positions and yet very thorough in their reading of the Bible. Turns out, Satan plays a very small role in the Bible. Much of what we know about him, we can attribute to postbiblical interpreters and our imaginations. Essentially, Satan is the d ...more
J.M.
Sep 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Basically this is an in-depth investigation of how the character of Satan came into being based upon references in the Jewish and Christian bibles. It's very well-researched and informative, and draws from the climate and surrounding religions in the Middle East to strengthen our understanding of why man felt the need to create a minion of evil in a monotheistic religion.

While reference was made to Islam as another religion with one God and a contrasting evil character, nothing from the Qur'an w
...more
Samantha
Oct 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was a great concept. It helped me to understand what I had learned growing up about Satan. Was it Biblical or not? Was it literature? This book explores is Satan real or is he just made up by people so that God isn't seen as doing things to humans that are bad. It goes into the fact that most people want to believe that God is a loving god but not the punishing vengeful god, so was Satan created to combat that? The book starts off asking all these questions and more. Then it explores S ...more
Sam Thurman
Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: biblical-studies
Though I only gave it three stars, the book is very informative and generally entertaining for the general reader. The book is well researched and tracks the adversarial satan (noun)of the Old Testament to the extra-canonical, apocalyptic material that transforms the adversarial noun into a proper name, Satan, the prince of demons; and finally, the transition of Satan in the New Testament. The book is packed with lesser known information concerning this nebulous character and demystifies the sti ...more
Maggie
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this for the second time, realizing that I'd forgotten much of the detail. It’s a historical-critical bible study with a sense of humor, and goes beyond the bible to contemporary texts from other cultures, such as Babylonian and Persian. Literary interpretations of the devil are analyzed as well: Faust, Paradise Lost, The Inferno. Very interesting to see all the different streams that have contributed to the red guy with hoofs and horns, though when they try to answer the questions about ...more
Todd
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads need half-stars. I'm torn about this work. On the one hand there is some good information and research between its covers. On the other hand, the writers stretched their findings in ways to seem to bend credulity. The humor was just plain silly and needs to be removed in subsequent editions. Over-all, I'd give the book 2 and half to 3 stars.
Marshall
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating journey through the biblical roots of Satan, the Devil, Lucifer. I found it particularly relevant because of my childhood memories of being terrified of Hell and Satan, and how these were used to scare me into being a Christian. Even exploring my religious doubts was an overwhelming feat when I thought all of my doubts were the influence of Satan. It took me several painful and scary years before I could overcome this fear.

Looking back, I realize that I never actually looke
...more
Kendrick
Not exactly

Not quite what I was looking for, however not a bad read. A lot of stories here actually focus on the original idea of the devil rather the actual “origin” of his own story. It drags here and then, but mainly because most of this information I had already knew.
Steve
May 07, 2014 rated it liked it
T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley claim that the book is targeted at both an academic and lay readership, although I suggest some knowledge of the history of God and an awareness of man's dual nature would provide depth of context for the work. Taken straight, I think it would be a little bland. They stay very tightly within the boundaries of the Biblical references to Satan with some references to the near Eastern historical context. Their contention is that Satan evolves and changes during the cour ...more
Hans
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religious
Part of this book's downfall for me was my own high expectations. I was hoping for a deep plunge into a psychological/philosophical dissection into the need for Satan's existence, alas that isn't what I got. These authors took a more benign approach with this difficult subject matter and simply talked about his historical/literary evolution through religious writing. Their conclusion : Satan didn't always exist but came about gradually to fulfill a need to explain the ugly part of life. In extre ...more
Crystal
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I literally just finished reading this book, and it's great. It is neither an anti-religious argument against Biblical accuracy (although it clearly identifies contradictions within the Bible), nor is it religious propaganda intended to persuade nonbelievers of the fear of Hell or the devil. Rather, it is a very well-researched and balanced historical description of how the current, Western concept of the devil evolved from ancient religions. The authors present their history by analyzing what, ...more
Denny
The main reason I gave The Birth of Satan two stars is that there was almost no new information in it for me since I have already read several of the books that T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley rely so heavily on as sources. To be fair, the authors state in the introduction that it's intended for "both scholar and novice", and it may very well be interesting and informative for lay readers who don't know much about the subject, but I doubt it would satisfy any but the most callow graduate student ex ...more
Maria Caggiano
Mar 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: othernon-fiction
This is an easy-to read but scholarly account of how the concept of the devil was first introduced and then developed in the bible. I am reading it for a project I am undertaking regarding the relationship between psychiatric treatment and the cultural and religious beliefs of psychiatric patients. The book lends itsself well to this type of amature investigation. It is complete with sitations so that the reader can decide for themselves if the authors' conclusions seem credible. It also offers ...more
Kate Davis
They try to write to both an academic and lay audience, which means that as an academic there was much I found redundant (and, imagining some lay friends reading this, I imagine their confusion). Otherwise, a helpful and thoughtful overview to the development of Satan, leaving the conclusions open-ended enough for the audience to decide how to understand or reject the idea of Satan for themselves.
Mcke
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit redundant. It states its idea and then spends the rest of the book dissecting the Bible to prove its theory. With extra bits on Hell and the importance of the Devil tacked on at the end. I would suggest others to read it, but the ones who need to read it the most are the ones who will refuse it the most and most often don't want to take a logical look at their own holy book lest they be proven wrong.
Marjorie
This book chronicles the evolution of the Satan figure throughout biblical history. A little repetitive in some chapters, but a well planned and executed argument leaves room for individual exploration into the biblical and extra-biblical texts discussed therein. Not the best bedside reading, but highly reccomended for biblical studies and/or religious exploration.
Fraser Sherman
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very good account of how the Old Testament "satan"--an adversary or tester, working on god's behalf--slowly mutated into the arch-fiend we all know today. The author does an excellent job putting the shifts in Jewish, then Christian thought over the centuries into perspective.
Rhonda
Jul 28, 2011 added it
Really interesting, but I kind of wanted more. The historical and cultural scholarship is all about the ancient world. Maybe some speculation on what implications this has to the present. Still an excellent read.
Mihai Criveti
May 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Entertaining and informative.
Darla
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great book on the origins of Satan and portrayals of him throughout history.
Lazarus
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
It was ok, but not as enlightening as I wished it to be picking it up.
Carla
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I had Dr. Wray as my professor - analyzing this book with her was one of the most amazing experiences/classes I've ever had!
Carin
Dec 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
It looked fascinating.
It turned out to be way too dense, dry and scholarly for me at the moment.

I couldn't finish it.
John Hanscom
Jan 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book on a subject which gets little press.
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Jun 08, 2020
Lori Snaith
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May 25, 2011
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May 17, 2012
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