The Good and Evil Serpent: The Symbolism and Meaning of the Serpent in the Ancient World (Anchor Bible Reference Library)
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When asked what the word serpent, brings to mind, most Christians, Jews, and Muslims would describe it as the incarnation of “the Devil” or “evil.” The same is true of the scholarly world—the vast majority of scholarship on the symbolism of the serpent has stressed its negative connotations, seeing it as a representation of iniquity and deceit or of the dangerous, “sinful” aspects of sex. James Charlesworth challenges this accepted wisdom in THE GOOD AND EVIL SERPENT and shows that its appearances as a positive symbol, in fact, far outnumber the negative.
Drawing on sources ranging from the Bible and other religious texts to works of history, philosophy, and art history, to actual artifacts like statues and jewelry, Charlesworth reveals the complex and subtle meanings the serpent held for ancient civilizations. He discusses the widespread use of serpent imagery to symbolize wisdom, rejuvenation, and eternal life, and illustrates the specific ways various cultures and belief systems interpreted and depicted the serpent’s powers. In ancient Egypt, for instance, the image of an upright hooded cobra was commonly employed as a protective icon. In many cultures, serpents represent health and healing. The familiar caduceus of Western medicine originated with the entwined serpents carved on the staff of the legendary Greek healer Aesculapius, and Moses fashioned a serpent of brass on a pole to ward off snakes in the wilderness.
Illustrated with more than one hundred black-and-white images, THE GOOD AND EVIL SERPENT is the definitive investigation into the creature that has been both revered and vilified by human societies throughout history.