The most enduring challenge to traditional monotheism is the problem of evil, which attempts to reconcile three incompatible propositions: God is all-good, God is all-powerful, and evil happens. The Prince of This World traces the story of one of the most influential attempts to square this circle: the offloading of responsibility for evil onto one of God's rebellious creatures. In this striking reexamination, the devil's story is bitterly ironic, full of tragic reversals. He emerges as a theological symbol who helps oppressed communities cope with the trauma of unjust persecution, torture, and death at the hands of political authorities and eventually becomes a vehicle to justify oppression at the hands of Christian rulers. And he evolves alongside the biblical God, who at first presents himself as the liberator of the oppressed but ends up a cruel ruler who delights in the infliction of suffering on his friends and enemies alike. In other words, this is the story of how God becomes the devil—a devil who remains with us in our ostensibly secular age.
About the author
Adam Kotsko is Assistant Professor of Humanities at Shimer College in Chicago. His books include Why We Love Sociopaths (2012) and Politics of Redemption (2010)."
"A substantial contribution to recent studies of the figure of the devil in Christian theology. Adam Kotsko goes beyond the biography of an icon to a provocative investigation of the devil's many lives and effects in cultural and political ideologies. Not only that, his book is a great read."
—Laurel C. Schneider, Vanderbilt University
"This diabolically gripping genealogy offers a stunning parable of western politics religious and secular. It tracks as has never been done before the dramatic shifts of the relation between God and the Devil–conflict, rivalry, game of mirrors, fusion. With the ironic wisdom of a postmodern Beatrice, Kotsko guides us through the sequence of hells that leads to our own."
—Catherine Keller, Drew University
"The devil's visitations have been multivalent in the course of history and we should not be shocked by the reach of his wily creativity. The devil is, as ever, the prince of this world, and he will have his seat at the table. The central idea of his truly excellent study—that the devil exists and persists in a living gallery of secularized forms—is a highly engaging exercise in political theology and deserves a wide readership."
—Michael P. Murphy, Reading Religion
In The Prince of This World, Adam Kotsko traces the rise and fall of the devil from his inception in the Hebrew Bible to his contemporary figuration in secular modernity—an origin story which ends up offering a timely reading of our contemporary moment. The writing is clear and not burdened by much of the jargon that can work to obfuscate the findings of the genealogical method. This clarity makes The Prince of This World an enjoyable as well as important contribution to the fields of political theology, secularism, and philosophy. Seamlessly interlacing critical theory with careful readings of medieval, patristic, and Hebrew biblical traditions, Kotsko also offers a text that should provoke interesting discussion for undergraduate and graduate students of the Bible. Finally, the book will be of value to non-academic readers interested in the relevance of Statan for the problems of criminalizing and demonizing marginalized groups today."
—Amaryah Shaye Armstrong, Anglican Theological Review