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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Devil: A Very Short Introduction is quite a long introduction to the social construct of the Christian devil. If this sounds like a bit of a mouthful, then it's probably worth reading the introduction to this introduction to understand why. Essentially, if you wanted the facts on the Devil in Christianity, then you could either read about a page in Berkhoff's Systematic Theology, or read a blank piece of paper, depending on where on the Christian-Atheist continuum you stand. There isn't a lot of 'official' information on the Devil. However, if you want to look at what people have thought and written about the devil, from the Book of Enoch onwards, then there is a vast range of material. It is this material which this book covers.

For the inter-testamental Jewish writers, and for the medieval and post medieval writers, the Devil is an endless source of fascination and controversy. James I wrote about him passionately, Augustine advanced an entire theology of a ransom paid to the devil (later dismissed by Anselm), Milton made him the star of Paradise Lost, and CS Lewis brought his minions memorably to life in The Screwtape Letters: Letters from a Senior to a Junior Devil.

All this and much more Darren Oldridge covers in a book which is informative and even entertaining, without ever asking you to actually make your mind up on what you think of it. As an Introduction, this is pretty good.

I was sceptical about this book -- what it was trying to do, how successful it would be. I think that, for the social construct of the Devil in art and literature, I can thoroughly recommend it. If you're looking for a more personal introduction, read the Screwtape Letters.
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VINE VOICEon 1 October 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This very short introduction really achieves its brief - it revisits what the Bible and other literature has said about the Devil and examines how he has been represented through the ages.
Other authors have expressed their personal bigotry in books on the subject but Oldridge delivers an even handed overview that will offend no one but deliver what was asked of him. For anyone who thinks they know a little about the subject, the author will join the many dots in culture, society and literature to help us see the picture that may have not have been obvious.

For anyone studying the subject this will be a great primer, and an excellent reference. The book is worth buying for its bibliography alone, but there are other reasons on almost every page. For any student needing to reference Satan in an essay, this would be an excellent source.

As a series I have found these 'Very Short Introductions' mixed, but Oldridge stands out of the crowd in delivering an excellent piece of work.
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VINE VOICEon 2 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This 100-page addition to the "very short introduction" series, from the Oxford University press, is an excellent and very balanced summary of one of the most enduring aspects of religious faith. Chapter 2, "A Short History of Satan", does exactly what it says, emphasising that the way Satan is seen has actually gone through great changes since Old Testament times. For example, in the Book of Job he is an adversary in the Heavenly Court to question Job's righteousness; he is not at that point an enemy of God. Only much later does he become the "fallen angel" of Christian understanding, and the different approaches of Catholics and Protestants are discussed. Chapter 3, "The Devil and Humankind", discusses his effect on people, taking in exorcism and other phenomena. For me Chapter 4, "Depicting the Devil", is the most interesting, discussing his representation in the arts, including films such as The Exorcist. The final chapter, "The Devil Today", is self-explanatory.
What I find particularly refreshing is the author's refusal to take sides, whether in justifying the traditional Christian view of the existence of a personal Devil, or in high-mindedly dismissing it as a primitive superstition. So this book can be found acceptable by anybody.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The word "evil" is frequently used in the media these days but Satan seems to have disappeared without a trace, relegated to the occasional possession lead horror movie and as an occasional character in South Park.

The book covers the history of Satan from his most notorious down through the years, and makes a good starting place if you are interesting in the history of belief and its effects.

As we have moved on and developed as a society the Devil has fallen out of favour, and after reading this book I do wonder why. People seem so anxious to believe that there might be vampires, etc, and yet the oldest deity (or should that be anti-deity) is ignored by all but the likes of South Park.

Definitely an interesting read.
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on 1 July 2016
An introduction to the devil as seen by Christian theologians, artists, filmmakers, poets and novelists. A nice book with which to begin your study of the devil. Oldridge also provides a nice "Further Reading" section in the back of the book for further study.

Readers would also like "Jenna's Flaw," a novel about Satanism and demonic possession in the Midwest.
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VINE VOICEon 1 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Superb little book. Little in size (like a little pocket diary, will fit neatly into your pocket), and little in length (just over a hundred pages)...but not little in concept or quality. The concept here is a history of the devil- religious, cultural references and philosophical. Why do we need a Devil? How have ideas of Satan/the Devil/Lucifer changed over the centuries? What have artists and writers made of this concept? All the key players are here- Marlowe/Milton/Goethe/Bosch/WH Auden through to Bergman/Friedkin/Mel Gibson..
At this length, the book can only be an appetiser, a whetstone to the mind, and it fulfils this function admirably- it really makes you want to read more. And that's where the ten page references/further reading section comes into its own. This points you in the direction of other, deeper texts on this theme, from Bunyan and St Augustine to Zimbardo. A treasure trove in a very small packet. Recommended. And you don't have to be a religious fanatic to admire this survey of a powerful influence on human thought through the ages. Just someone with an interest in the nature of evil, and the capacity of human beings to anthropomorphise concepts.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book, The Devil A Very Short Indroduction, does just this. The book is small - it fits in my pocket. Read on a long train trip in just over 1 hour. While short this book is packed full of interesting facts about what others think of the Devil and the backgroud to the ideas. There are no real ansers given to the many questions I have - the book invites the readers to think for themselves - which is good.

A great introduction.
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on 25 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was diabolical!
In a good way of course. This is basically a summing up of various Christian theologians and writers view of the Devil.

The writing is a bit `academic' but it was still readable. At times it was fascinating. There were a few decent illustrations as well.

For me personally it was the right length - detailed but not too detailed. Most of the arguments were quite straightforward to follow. It is pretty short which might be a consideration for some when it comes to value for money.
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on 4 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
These 'A Very Short Introduction' books from the Oxford University Press are always reliable pocket books to give you an overview into a topic [I've read about a dozen now],and this is no exception.

The author makes no bones about this being a historical analysis as much as a 'cultural' one, so I can't really complain about large parts of the book being concerned with the former, but the book really takes off and is at its most interesting, when Darren Oldridge looks deeper into the religious, socio-cultural and human psychological aspects of the Devil and his Works in human society, particularly the current one.

The idea that the Devil and Evil on the whole is based in an absence of belief and positive action and in the destruction of form and thoughts, rather than their development and enhancement, is of course spot on. This leads to the neat observation of Baudelaire, that if the devil exists, it will be his primary purpose to encourage our ignorance him, and believe he does not exist. If that is the case, in contemporary society he is doing a good job.

This book is so tight, well written and quickly digestible there's little point going over it's philosophical deliberations here- just give it a read, you can get hold of it for about a fiver- but just to reiterate my above point, it is when Oldridge discusses the contemporary cultural attitude to the Devil and Evil in general, that it becomes the most fascinating. Because paradoxically, in a century [the 20th] when evil most blatantly romped across the planet on a grand scale, our understanding- even belief in it as a force- became fogged and diminished, and continues to do so. In fact popular culture has parcelled up the Devil as not much more than a media actor, all darkness and demon-assisted and sinisterly sexy, á la Hollywood. The reality may well be as St Paul and countless others have observed, that he actually comes as 'an angel of light.' Because on the whole, humans do Bad Things, believing they are doing right.

In that way, real evil as W H Auden observed, in all likelihood works most effectively in contemporary society through our class and economic system, through the ruling bureaucracies and now, more than ever, the media outlets they control. The simplest and most frighteningly damaging example of that for us in the West, was of course Nazi Germany, where an inherently liberal, gentile and educated middle class were within a matter of a few years transformed into rabid supporters of Fascism. It's a timely reminder from history, and one to my mind inextricably linked to theories of Evil.

So an excellent introduction to the subject. For a more in depth study of Evil in particular, I would recommend On Evil by Terry Eagleton which is a wonderfully thought provoking analysis of the subject. Starting here is as good a place as any though.
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VINE VOICEon 14 November 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Following the Devil's cloven footprints through history, Darren Oldridge traces the evil one back to his Old Testament roots when he was more in God's senior management team, as it were, with his role being the great adversary or oppose, there to test God's subjects, a kind of trouble-shooter. It's in the later Jewish apocalyptic literature that we get the ideas of Satan as a rebel angel, as cosmic power in constant opposition to God. Themes that are developed in the New Testament, which solidified the ideas about the evil power that we are more familiar with today.
Oldridge shows us how in the ancient and medieval and pre-modern worlds, where God, and magic were as indisputable as science, that Satan was a figure there to torment the damned, to test the faithful, and to be the ruler or prince of the world, the architect of its fall. This short book has some well chosen pieces of art from these earlier eras's illustrating these themes.
Later he shows us how such thinking led to the slaughter of the Witch trials and other persecutions, how an opposing Church hierarchy i.e. Catholic / Protestant could be seen as the devil's Church on both sides. IF you believed that you really had in your custody an agent of Satan or evil, then surely you had someone who had to meet the most brutal and violent justice. They were after all agents and channels for Satan, making crops fail and infants die and disease run rife.
In the modern age Oldridge states that faith and its ideas of evil supernatural powers have been replaced by secular thinking, science, objectivity, psychology and so on. So what were once thought of as demons are now `the animal within,' the bestial impulses that are traces of our evolutionary heritage, or mental illness, or products of our environment. This last idea is a concluding one in this book. That the `principalities and powers' of St Paul are societal and cultural environments that strongly encourage evil in others, e.g. a Camp commandant in Hitler's order may have been merely a tidy bureaucrat in another environment and age. He cites the Satanic abuse investigations and the War on terror as later expressions of the heritage of battles against demonic evil, the fight against evil as a separate and abstracted power wrecking havoc in the world, as opposed to just the responsibility of human beings doing bad things.
It's a clear and engaging short tome, but Oldridge is perhaps too quick to strip away the mysteries of faith from the subject. It's a dispassionate and academic overview of the subject. He ends by citing Baudelaire on an idea which is very apt, and which was later appropriated in the film "The Usual Suspects;"
"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone."
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