Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Satan: A Biography

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Satan: A Biography

Article excerpt

Satan: A Biography. By Henry Ansgar Kelly. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 2006. Pp. xiv, 360. $ 65.00 hardback; $19.99 paperback.)

There is no shortage of recent interest in the Old Enemy. A study of his "birth" appeared in 2005, and the English translation of a well-known French scholar's study of him as a heretic appeared simultaneously with this work.l Doubtless, more books about him (for, despite all the misogyny in western literature, its personification of evil remains unshakably male) will soon follow: Besides this work, Kelly himself has also contributed to the recent renaissance of Satan by re-issuing two of his earlier books about the Devil; one of them, originally published back in 1968, adds an appendix giving an English version of Kelly's entry on 'Teufel' published in 2001 in a German theological encyclopedia.2 Does anything distinguish the work under review from such surrounding tutti fruttP. Here, Kelly refurbishes the argument that the Biblical Satan was a very different figure from the personification which began to be fabricated by his "new biographers" among early Christian intellectuals. This newer image of Satan has persisted, with further embellishments, down to the present. Kelly's approach explains why he devotes over half of this book to what he considers the "correct" English translations of key passages in Hebrew and Greek Biblical texts, supplemented by a few passages from the Apocypha and the Dead Sea scrolls (pp. 32-50).This essentially Protestant procedure also explains why the most recent work Kelly chooses to discuss at any length (pp. 308-315) is Friedrich Schleiermacher's dogmatic synthesis of 1830.

By turns pedantic and faux-chatty, the work reads like the script for a Power-Point lecture which takes its visual illustrations primarily from the Tres Riches Heures du Due de Berry, supplemented by a few from William Blake and Gustave Dore; once again, Kelly avoids the twentieth century. …

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