This course surveys the evolution of the demonic in the philosophy, theology, and literature of the West.
Conceptions of the demonic played an important role in appraisals of pagan philosophy among early Christians,
while the Middle Ages produced such infamous texts as the Malleus Maleficarum in response to concerns about
demonic sorcery. Martin Luther’s famous preoccupation with the devil influenced his impulse toward reform and
the centrality of devil imagery in his polemical writings. Public fascination with demonic possession in the 17th century
served as inspiration for Descartes’ malin génie. While the Enlightenment put a damper on “primitive superstitions,”
and demonology all but disappeared from academic theology until Tillich’s ontological re-appropriation of the concept,
modern literature and popular entertainment reveal an undiminished fascination with Lucifer and his minions that
surpasses any comparable interest in the divine. Authors include Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Descartes, Milton, Goethe, and Twain.
Grading and Assignments
Students will be given a take home midterm covering the development of demonology from the Hebrew Bible
to the Middle Ages. Students will then write a final paper (10-15 pages) on a topic of their choice, in consultation with the Instructor.
To facilitate this, students will submit a research proposal that suggests a topic and relevant sources for the final paper and provides a
basic outline of the argument.
Grades for the course will be based on the following:
Take-home midterm (20%)
Research paper proposal (15%) due mid-quarter
Final research paper (40%) due at the end of the quarter
In-class participation (25%)
(full schedule of readings and assignments coming soon...)
* indicates full text available online at no cost for students
Ancient/Biblical and Early Christian
*Bible (preferred translations include RSV, NRSV, NIV, and KJV):
The serpent: Genesis 2 and 3
The divine-demonic relationship: 1 Kings 22.22; Job 1-2; Zech 3
Demonic temptation/affliction: 1 Sam 16:14-23; Hos 4.12; 1 Chron 21; Matt 3-4; Luke 22; 1 Tim 4.1; 1 John 5.18; 2 Cor 12.7, 11.14; Jude (cf. Rev 20.2)
Exorcism: Mark 5; Matt 7.22 and 9.18-38; Luke 10.16-23 and 11.14-36; Acts 19.11-16;
Fall of Satan: Isa 14; Ezek. 28; Luke 10:18; Revelation esp. 9-22
Boureau, Alain. Satan the Heretic: The Birth of Demonology in Medieval West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Bailey, Michael D. Battling Demons: Witchcraft, Heresy, and Reform in the Late Middle Ages. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003.
Luther, Lectures on Galatians 1-4 (1535), Luther's Works, Vol. 26. Edited and Translated by J. Pelikan. St. Louis: Concordia, 1963.
Chapter 2, pages 79-186.
---, Lectures on Genesis 1-5 (1544), Luther's Works, Vol. 1. Edited by J. Pelikan. St. Louis: Concordia, 1958.
Chapter 3, pages 141-236.
Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, “The Second Week” (1522). In Ignatius of Loyola: The Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works, Classics of Western Spirituality, translated by G.E. Ganss, 146-166. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1991.
Muchembled, Robert. History of the Devil: From the Middle Ages to the Present. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.
Clark, Stuart. Thinking with Demons. Oxford University Press, 1999.
Maxwell-Stuart, P.G. "Rational Superstition: The Writings of Protestant Demonologists." In Religion and Superstition in Reformation Europe, edited by Helen L. Parish and William G. Naphy, 170-187. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.