"Mephistopheles" is the fourth and final volume in Jeffery Russell's excellent series on the history and myth of the Devil. Here Russell examines the contemporary beliefs and myths of the Dark Lord in detail, from the Renaissance to the present day. Russell explorers not only traditional Christian views on the Devil, but also his incarnations in Islam, Judaism, and others.
The idea of the Devil, the very personification of evil, has changed much since the early days of Judaism and Christianity. By the dawn of the Renaissance, the Devil had undergone a kind of "rebirth" himself. Though the onset of the early modern era had seen the beginnings of science and reason, superstition and religious persecution was at an all time high. Russell examines the role of the Devil in the Reformation and during the height of the Witch Craze. Though they differed on many points of theology, Catholics and Protestants definately agreed that Satan continued to be a very real and very dangerous foe. Russell continues his story into the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, which saw the Devil lose his teeth, followed by his romanticization in the 19th century as a rebellious anti-hero.
Though still feared by the credulous and railed against in the pulpits by evangelicals, Satan has largely been reduced to a shadow of his former self, an advertising ploy whose imagery is used to sell everything from deviled ham to movie tickets. Russell's books are generally considered the standard modern work on the history and myth of the Devil, and this volume examplifies why this is so. Well worth checking out.