Tuesday, February 21, 2006
On the Nature of Satan
Many of you may picture the devil as ruler of hell, inflicting physical and mental pain on others. But this portrayal of the devil is nowhere in the Bible. In the Bible, the devil is just another captive.
Jews and Christians refer to the devil as Satan, a fallen and arrogant angel. In parts of the Old Testament, Satan is not God’s enemy but rather a challenger or accuser. The word devil comes from the Greek diabolos, meaning "slanderer," or "accuser." The word Satan is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word for "adversary" in the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, Satan gambles with God about the faith of Job. Later, in the New Testament, Satan becomes the "prince of devils" and has names such as Lucifer (the fallen angel of Light), Belial (lawless), or Beelzebub (Lord of Flies):
All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." (Matthew 12:24-27) What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:15-16)
For Christians, Satan’s job is to tempt man to commit immoral acts. Moselms believe in Iblis, the personal name for the devil. They also call him ash-Shaytan, which means the demon. In the Koran, God tells Iblis to bow in front of Adam, the first human. Iblis refuses.
Seven Old Testament books and every New Testament writer refers to Satan. In the Middle ages, theologians debated about how a supernatural being like Satan could exist in a universe governed by an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent God. Many came to believe that Satan was not an actual being but a symbol of evil.
An interesting book on this subject would be "The origin of Satan" by Elaine Pagels.
The result was a seminal document of our very civilization, the western yinyang,
the bipolar Ahriman/Ahura Mazda dichotomy which was imported via the Jews during the Babylonian captivity, as the God/Devil dichotomy, which did not appear in things judaic previous to this.
The Zoroastrian schema provided an explanation why cult berserkists were bad, why good citizens ought to behave, and why the state did not have to reward them for being good (they would get their reward in a juridical hereafter).
Having been constructed as a civil constitution, with spiritual mumbo-jumbo validation, and then handed down, it appeared to later people as "the way the universe is" and, along with much Gilgamesh myth, was treated as, well, "bible truth"!
The devil was simply Zarathustra's boogey-man enforcer.
And now, after centuries of waning power, he suddenly has the ability to be infinitely more subtle in his deviousness, to the point that we supposedly don't know when he is tempting us and when the temptation is simply a product of our own imaginations? I just don't buy it.
And if Satan is not as the bible would have us believe, the whole house of cards comes crumbling down. That's the problem when you claim a books is infallible. Just one loose thread.....
Instead of a cross an albatross about my kneck was hung.
Unlike other religious sources, the Bible's historical accuracy is unparalleled, being verified with every turn of the archaeologist's spade.
Moreover, the manuscript evidence is overwhelming with many more than a thousand manuscripts in whole or part, separated by more than a thousand kilometers in distance, and more than a thousand years in time. All unanimously affirm the same truths. No work of antiquity comes anywhere close -- we are lucky if we have more than two or three surving manuscripts of other ancient works. Yet no one refuses to believe in the historicity of Julius Caeser or Homer. Why all the willing ignorance regarding the existance of Jesus Christ -- the Theanthropist who made such a dramatic appearance on the world stage that we mark time by His birth? What other religious author starts a movement by claiming that he will rise from the dead, and succeeds in convincing the known world, starting with eyewitnesses who were in a position to know the truth from a lie?
With respect to sin and Satan, the Bible is quite clear that individuals are responsible for their own sin, and that Satan instigates sin. Scripture states that Satan does not rule in hell, but that the fires of God's torment were established for his eternal punishment. The clear testimony of Scripture is that there are varying degrees of punishment in hell just as there are degrees of reward in heaven.
We shall all one day stand before the throne of God to give an account of what we have done in this life. Some will go into life everlasting and some into eternal torment.
Doesn't anybody read the Bible anymore? Is literary acumen such a lost art that know one knows the difference in style between ancient history and myth?
All of man's religions, mythos and spiritual traditions throughout history reveal important information concerning the common subjective experience of its practitioners. Each encapsulates the common spiritual ethos of its adherents.
I feel that by examining the relationship between a society and their devil the greatest insights about the emotional and visceral experiences of that society can be gleaned.
I also feel that by examining the relationship between a society and their principle deity (deities), one gains insight into the motivations, psychopathies, neuroses and sexual deviations of their religious leaders (or founders).
The divine rulers of a given tradition almost invariably reflect the personalities (and character flaws) of that traditions earthly rulers.
The common underlying principle that unifies man's historical spiritual traditions is the dark god. Though the form and function differs greatly between traditions, the shadow intelligence is always there to tempt, question, accuse and inspire.
For those who are bold enough to look beyond the superficial masks, the dark lord becomes teacher and demonic initiator. I think that man understands this on some primal level. No matter how hard religion may try, it cannot stamp out man's instinctive gravitation towards the unknown.
In modern western society which prides itself on a spiritual tradition awash with guilt, denial and self-loathing; it is no surprise that god forbids man to seek out the mysteries of the Universe. I think that both god and those who administer his divine law have a vital interest in preserving man's ignorance of his own spiritual nature. If men and women approached the divine boldly and directly; both god and his earthly representatives would whither and die. Why was Adam forbidden to eat of the Tree of Knowledge? Perhaps so that god could keep his job.
The Prince of Darkness is vastly beyond the crude and self-serving symbols that we use to describe it. Something distinct from the Universe yet is a product of the Universe's architecture. Ancient in ways that are beyond man's laughable understanding of the word. The mythos of the devil, while uniquely colored by man's imagination and perversions, can still offer us some scrap of greater understanding; like the serpent who tempts Eve to challenge her purpose by realizing her potential. The Promethean relationship between man and the devil can be found in many religious mythoi.
In fact I suspect that the dark lord has always been man's greatest benefactor, challenging and tempting him towards his own divinity.
The paragon of angels.
Was possessesed of the sin of pride.
Who created him perfect with that single flaw?
Satan couldn't help but defy God and God, his all powerful, all knowing creator cast him out of his domain to play a part as the ultimate evil.
God may have created evil for balance sake ying and yang/pos-neg and so on.
Maybe Satan is humankind at its worst the balance of good and evil.
One of my favorite things on television is watching the theologians discuss the bible- when anything came about, under what conditions, & how many times it's mentioned throughout the history of ancient writings.
It seems almost everything was invented in obscurity & carried on & embellished in later writings.
Just as with other topics "satan" is no different. Evil had to come from somewhere, so they gave us a man in a cloak with a pointed tail, overlooking his lake of fire. At least thats one of our fairy tale descriptions.
Satan is a viewpoint of "evil", whatever that is & however its described by whoever is doing it.
So why not have a snarling, bi-polar-schitzophrenic with a pitchfork to get the point over?
First of all Xymoid , what is the bloody point of a balance between good and evil . To attribute a desire for such weird, duplicious balance to Creator is insulting to the Creator !
Second of all, the notion that the agreement portrayed in the book of Job , where God was told to allow Satan to afflict Job and his family was designed to test the faith of Job is a crude, and theologically backward notion .
Nowhere in the book of Job or elsewhere in the Bible is explicitly stated that God's motive for allowing Satan to afflict Job was to test the faith of Job .
What I am about to propose as the probable motive for Satan being allowed by God (given the premise that such an event actually took place in physical history) to afflict the man Job is not ---in all fairness not explicitly stated in the text either but it makes far more sense in light of a deeper acknowledgement of the infinite virtue of God .
The prospect makes more sense knowing that God never intended evil deeds to be done in any universe --to suppose that God was hoping that Job-- in remaining steadfastly loyal to the Creator ---even after horrible atrocities had been sponsored by Satan against Job and his family , in that he refused to give into the temptation to curse God--might possibly shame Satan into repenting---ceasing from all further evil activity . After all, before an event done by agents with free will happens there are many possible futures ---even to God--and so there was (given the domain of discourse we are discussing) a possible future where Satan did repent and another future where he refused to repent . It makes more sense in light of the cosmic concern of God with seeking to eliminate evil on a large scale. Im reminded of the verse in one of the Psalms where , the Psalmist prays,
'oh that the wickedness of the wicked might come to an end. '
The idea that the God was somehow insecure about whether he could rely on Job's character and had to test Job as part of some competitiveness where He felt He had to compete with Satan is a notion that is insulting to God . God is above such competitive contests. Also , He had already fervently vouched for Job's steady character in the early chapters of the book of Job --so such notions about God somehow having lingering doubts about the faith of Job makes not much sense.
It is worth noting, incidentally, that nowhere does God in his dialogue with Job--- in the final chapters of the book -- ever say to Job that he had allowed Satan to afflict Job and Job's family for some mysterious purpose we are NOT meant to know. That mysterious- purpose- for- tragedy doctrine is a totally weird doctrine-- which is insulting to God and is nowhere explicitly stated in the text of the Bible ---despite the willingness of many fundamentalists and others influenced by some Calvinist teachings to advocate that weird, murky doctrine .
Jay at email@example.com