Alexander Waugh

The Devil You Don’t Know

Satan: A Biography

By

Cambridge University Press 360pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

The problems besetting a biographer of the Devil are legion. From the start he will notice that the Devil (like God) has no proper beginning or end, and even where he appears to have a middle there are no clearly marked biographical hooks on which to hang a narrative – no childhood, no adolescence, no mid-life crisis, no retirement, no senility. Also like God, Satan appears under a host of confusing names. In Rabbinic scripture he is called Sammael; in the Qu’ran, Iblis; in various apocalyptic texts he is Sataniel. In the Book of Watchers he appears as the fallen angel Azaziel; and in the Book of Jubilees as the chief giant, Mastema. Are all these noises supposed to refer to just one being? Or are there in fact meant to be many different satans, just as there are multiple gods knocking about in the Bible?

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