In Christianity there rises the need for the Devil because the Christians accept and pray to an all good and perfect God who possesses no imperfections or evil. Such a god concept becomes burdensome when evil in the world has to be admitted to and accepted.
This concept becomes even more burdensome when the Christians profess their all-perfect God created a perfect world. At this point, the belief and the reality becomes contradictory. An all-perfect God who creates a perfect world cannot have evil or imperfection in such a world, but in reality this world possesses evil. This leads to the consequential questions, where did such evil come from and how did it enter this world? The answer is the Devil.
There was no such conflict in primitive and pre-Christian societies. The people accepted the idea that evil and misfortune usually came from the gods. In some societies, such as the Greek and Roman, people often thought of their gods as having human traits and personalities; therefore, gods frequently sent misfortune to show their displeasure with human activities.
These gods were the ultimate powers that created the universe; and, therefore, possessed the power to render evil when they were displeased and good when things pleased them. In matters which were too trivial to concern these gods, people considered the harm or malice which befell them was distributed by numerous evil spirits.
The Hebrews were the first race which had an omniscient and omnipresent God. In the beginning the Hebrews recognized supernatural being to whom evil was ascribed. Jehovah, at first, was regarded as one among many gods. His followers and the Jewish prophets regarded the gods of their neighbors as hostile gods and enemies of Jehovah and his people. Later early Christians regarded pagan gods in a similar manner; not as fictitious, but as real, evil demons.
The initial concept of Jehovah as a god among many gods got replaced. He soon was thought of as the only God, the sole creator of the universe, and everything in it, as described in Genesis. The initial concept had Jehovah possessing both good and evil powers. Several Jewish prophets concluded this such as Amos, “Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord has not done it?” The same concept appears in Isaiah, “I form the light, and create darkness; I create peace and make evil; I the Lord do all these things.” And, also in Ecclesiastics, “Good things and bad, life and death, poverty and wealth come from the Lord.”
The concept or belief that the origin of evil was in God survived in the Kabbalah, in that evil is the offshoot or overflow from the sephiroth which are emanations from God. Although in this manner evil was seen as being in God it was relatively insignificant in the Hebrew tradition because God was not yet seen as all good. The Devil was still not necessary.
In the Old Testament Jehovah did let evil befall men. On one occasion He was angry with the Jews. He put the idea of having a census in King David’s mind so he might punish their crime by sending a pestilence upon them that killed seventy thousand men.
Also, in the Old Testament Jehovah was not seen as a ruler who reigned by himself. Occasionally he sought advice from others in heaven. On one occasion Jehovah was angry with Ahab and sought to bring about his death. Jehovah asked the question, “Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” The question was debated indecisively by the heavenly host until one spirit stood before Jehovah and said, “I will persuade him…I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” When Jehovah agreed Ahab was duly killed.
Among early beliefs there were the spirits which waited on Jehovah and made up his court; there were also angels of later Hebrew and Christian beliefs; also, the Hebrews believed in malignant and hairy spirits that invested isolated and barren places. However, in these early traditions there was no sign of a belief in the Devil, the prince of evil and arch-enemy of God. Even when the Devil is mention in later passages of the Old Testament they give no scriptural authority for his present existence.
The name Satan
The name Satan originates from the Hebrew word sawtawn meaning “adversary.” In the early books of the Old Testament before the Jews were forced into exile in Babylon during the 6th century BC the word satan was merely an adversary or opponent. As an example, “the angel of God ‘stood in the way for an adversary (satan)’ against Balaam.” A satan did not have to be considered supernatural. “The Philistines refused to accept David, because they were afraid he would turn his coat in battle and become their satan or adversary.”
Following this, two passages later, after the exile, “the satan” makes his appearance. He is an angel in God’s court acting as a accuser of men before God. In the book of Zechariah, possibly written in the late 6th century BC, the prophet see Joshua, the high priest, standing in judgment before God. The satan is seen standing at Joshua’s right side possibly either to resist him, or to argue the case against him. Even in this early Biblical book it is seen that that the satan has been assigned the characteristics of a zealous prosecutor because God admonishes him for accusing a righteous man.
The satan is seen skillfully at work in the Book of Job, probably written approximately one hundred years after Zechariah. The satan is still the accuser of men but appears to have assumed a more malignant nature. The sons of God stand before Jehovah, and the satan is with them. The satan utters words that have an ominous ring. He claimed to have come “from going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and down in it”. This would seem to mean then the satan could enter both heaven and the earth.
The heavenly discussion centered upon the man Job. Jehovah praised Job for being a righteous man. The satan protests that Job can be righteous because he has everything which he need and wants. Jehovah decides to test Job’s righteousness by allowing the satan to kill Job’s children, servants and cattle. But, even after these catastrophes Job still remains faithful to God; refusing to curse him, and saying, “The Lord give and the Lord take away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The satan still is not satisfied and says to Jehovah, “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” Jehovah lets the satan inflict a plague of sore boils on Job’s entire body, and still Job remains faithful to God.
The satan here performs his task of trying to bring out the inherent evil in men. Apparently the reason for his failure with Job was that Job possessed no evil. However, others incidents within this Biblical story must be noted because they are important and remain characteristics of both Jehovah, or God, and the satan as each deity developed in even the current Judeo-Christian religion. First, Job, the human, has no determination as to the onset of his fate. All he can do is accept it or reject it, this is his limited choice. Second, Jehovah, or God, is the initial character. He has the final say as to what action that is to be taken. Nothing is done without his approval. Third, the satan is the instrument of God. He can suggest to God courses of actions to be taken; but he cannot put such actions into effect unless and until God gives his approval. Fourth, it is still believed, as with Job, that God and the satan essentially still test men.
In describing the history of Satan parts of the Jewish Book of Enoch must be mention. This book, although, not included in the Old Testament was influential upon the early Christians. Within 1 Enoch there are a band of satans, of evil angelic beings, who are not welcomed in heaven at all. “Enoch hears the voice of the archangel Phanuel ‘fending off the satans and forbidding them to come before the Lord of Spirits to accuse them who dwell on earth.’ There are also ‘angels of punishment’ who seem to be identical with the satans,. They are seen preparing instruments of punishment for ‘the kings and the mighty of this earth, that they might be destroyed.’” These passages were written around the first century BC.
It is from these passages the concept of one angel who accuses and punishes men evolves which gave rise to the origination of the Devil of medieval and modern Christendom. When the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew to Greek, “the satan” was translated diabolic meaning “an accuser.” Accompanying this was the concepts of a false accuser, a slander, a liar, and by the combination of these conceptions the modern day conception of the Devil was well on its way toward being fully developed.
Along with this came a further development of Jehovah by later Hebrew writers. Jehovah was becoming an all-good God. Biblical writers were suffering difficulties when portraying some of Jehovah’s actions because they were unfitting an all-good deity. So an evil angel conveniently appeared to carry out these unseemly activities. An example of this is seen when returning to the Biblical tale of David and the census. The tale first appears in 2 Samuel, written in the early eighth century BC, when Jehovah himself puts the census idea in David’s mind. When the story is retold in 1 Chronicles, probably written in the fourth century, it is Satan who plants the census idea in David’s mind. “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” This is the sole appearance of the name of Satan in the Old Testament.
From this the figure of Satan began to grow and become enlarged in later Hebrew and Christian writings. Satan grew into the arch enemy of God, almost as powerful as God but never beyond God’s control. Such a teaching must exist within Christian doctrine if God was to be an omniscient and omnipresent deity because it would be impossible to have two such deities exist.
The question arose as to how such a valued if unpleasant official such as the satan could fall from God’s court. An explanation is given in Genesis in the description as to how men began increasing in numbers, “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” And in those days, “there were giants in the earth”. The daughters of men bore children of these giants or angel like men. The story possibly originally sought to establish the existence of giants and heroes in very early times but the meaning became distorted when connected to the following passage: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It was because of this that God sent the great Flood.
Although there are other versions of this occurrence in the Old Testament the fuller description of the events appears in the Book of Enoch. It had happened that men of earth had produced beautiful and comely daughters which were seen by some of the angels of heaven who lusted after them. These angels decided to take these daughters as their wives. The angels were of the order called the Watchers, or the sleepless ones. Their leader was Semjaza, or Azazel. They supposedly descended Mount Hermon. Then they entered and defiled the young women. They taught their wives charms and enchantments, botany and cutting of roots. Azazel instructed men in the making of the weapons of war: swords, knives and shields. He also taught them the evil art of cosmetics.
The children of the Watchers were the giants of the earth. When the men of the earth could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and began devouring the men, then they turned, or sinned, against birds, beasts, reptiles and fish, till at last they ate and drank one another’s flesh and blood. God finally took control of the situation sending the archangel Raphael to imprison Azazel in the desert till the last judgment when he will be thrown into the eternal fire. Other Watchers had to watch their children, the giants, being killed. God then told the archangel Michael to bind the angels in the valleys of the earth until the day they will be cast into everlasting torment in an abyss of fire. But this did not rid the earth of evil. The demons that came from the bodies of the dead giants have remained in the earth ever since causing wickedness, destruction and oppression.
From the above descriptions several debates have arisen as to the real evil of such actions taken by the Watchers against the will of God. One is that these angels longed for the comforts of sexual and family life; but such actions were inappropriate because God had created them immortal, above men, so there was no reason for their descent. All it caused was the abnormalities in the earth of the giants. The physical union of angelic and human beings was a crime against nature. (One might note this certainly was not true in the Greek and Roman pantheons. Several notable heroes came from such unions.) Such stories as the one above possibly led to the fascination in medieval times of sexual relationships between witches and the devil. Some even think it is a diabolical counterpart of the revered mystery in the Christian faith of the Divine descending upon a virgin to give birth to a Savior.
However, from the above story has evolved through the centuries the current status of Satan in Christendom. From the story the concept have evolved that Satan, the Devil, tried to make himself equal to God. Some said before his expulsion from heaven the satan was called Lucifer, but afterwards he was known as Satan.
With all of this as evidence it did not take much doing for the first century Christians to connect Lucifer and Satan to the serpent in the garden of Eden who tempted Eve. But, strangely enough the book of 2 Enoch gives this graphic story too along with the Old Testament. It describes an archangel named Satanail trying to make himself equal to God by seducing the Watchers to rebel with him. They all were banished from heaven, and to revenge himself for his fall Satanail tempted Eve in Eden. There is another version, according to the Vita Adae et Evae that Satan refused to worship Adam, as the angels were commanded to do by God, God became angry and hurled Satan with his angels down to earth; therefore, Satan tempted Eve. Here the concept of the Devil’s pride which caused his rebellion is combined with angelic jealousy of man.
In the Old Testament there is no suggestion in Genesis that the serpent who tempted Eve was the Devil; however, early Christian writers generally assumed that the serpent was either the Devil or one of his agents in disguise. It is upon this assumption that the entire central doctrine of Christendom rests. St. Paul and later St. Augustine clearly welded this doctrine. Adam’s crime plunged all further generations into the Devil’s power and the toils of sin and death, for who God sent his son Jesus Christ to rescue them.
This is a general history of the Devil. His development was begun by Hebrew writers in the Old Testament and is continued by the Christian writers of the New Testament. Corresponding with the change in the personification of Satan is a change in the personification of God. As the Hebrew God Jehovah progressed from a god among many gods to a single, all good God Satan became progressively more evil. In rationale, this was necessitated to compensate for the existence of good and evil in the world. His followers could not and would not say their all good God created a world with imperfections in it. These imperfections were, of course, brought about by the evil Devil. The Devil, who sinned through pride, has became the arch-Enemy of God which is still a predominant Christian teaching.
The strength of the Devil and his demons was also increased by Jesus and his followers who taught that the Devil possessed authority over the world at least in the concept of demonic rule over worldliness, luxury and pride. This belief is presented in the scriptural scene of Christ being tempted in the wilderness. In Matthew the Devil showed Christ “all the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them.” Then the Devil promised to Christ, ‘All these things I will give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” In Luke Jesus called the Devil “the prince of the world.” St. Paul called him “the god of this world.”
The latter declaration at one time seem to work against the orthodox Christians as it seemed to be coherent with the Gnostic conception the Demiurge. The Gnostics viewed the Demiurge as the Christian God, or the one who created the material world. To them the Demiurge was not the almighty God, who with the Goddess Mother was in a spiritual realm. Later their sole contact with the physical world was through emanations. In the Gnostic version of the creation of the world the Spirit of God is referred to as the Wisdom of God or Sophia who is also a feminine creative force. It seems she wished to give birth to a creature like herself. She did so without the permission of her partner. She was able to do this by the power within her. The fruit of her desire was something imperfect and different from her in appearance. She was ashamed of it, threw it outside of the heavenly realm and hid it in a cloud so none of the Immortals would
see it. According to the Gnostics this horrible child became the one they called the Demiurge. Unbeknown to him his mother gave him some of her power which contained the Spirit. The Demiurge thought the power which his mother gave him was his own, and with it he started creating the physical world. In doing this the Gnostics believed the Demiurge entrapped the Spirit in matter.
From this Gnostic description of the creation of the world it can easily be understood how Paul’s description of the Devil as “the god of the world” might be construed as referring to the Demiurge. However, it must be noted that unlike the Christians the Gnostics avoided the dichotomy of having an all-good God creating an imperfect world. There was a clear separation between God and the creator. The creator, or Demiurge, was seen as truly evil, he was the one who entrapped the Spirit of God in matter. To the Gnostics the way toward salvation or back to God for man was the freeing of the spirit from matter. To help man to achieve this God sent Jesus through an emanation into the world. One might contend, for the Gnostics the Demiurge was their Devil who acts independently without the consent of God.
Throughout the centuries other sects besides the Gnostics shared similar beliefs as those of the Gnostics. Two such sects were the Cathars and the Bogomils. Similarly as the Gnostics the Cathars taught the God of the Old Testament was Satan. They believed he governed the human body, death, and all material and temporal things. Some said he was a fallen archangel while others held he existed independently as the opposite of the true God.
Like the Gnostics the Cathars believed the soul was entrapped in matter, and the quickest way to free it was to put an end to all matter; therefore, they taught begetting children was wrong because it prolonged the grip of Satan. The leaders led lives of rigid austerity: they refrained from sex, violence, all foods of animal origin, lying, owning property, and taking oaths. However, as with the Gnostics, there were other groups who did not consider themselves immoral if they sinned against the Devil. They indulged in sexual intercourse which did not propagate children. They were suspect of homosexual and lesbian relationships as some of their relationships were described as Male perfect and Female perfect.
It is not known whether the Cathars really worshipped the Devil or not. The Catholic Church said they did and Pope Innocence III organized a crusade against them in southern France earlier in the 13th century. They were accused of worshipping the Devil in the form of a goat or cat in meetings which the Catholics called “synagogues of Satan”, an idea taken from Revelation 2:9. Under torture many confessed to such acts as killing stolen children and drinking potions made from their bodies. They also confessed riding to such meetings on broomsticks, a favorite mode of travel which later witches were said to use when going to sabbats.
The Cathars were possibly influenced by the Bogomils, a sect appearing in France about 1125. Its leader was Clementius of Bucy, a French peasant who taught that the altar of the Catholic Church was the mouth of hell. It was sinful to marry and beget children. This was his reasoning for encouraging homosexuality and lesbianism. There were rumors of occasional promiscuous orgies where babies were burned and the remains were made into communion-bread.
Such sects can be found throughout history. Their activities might differ, but they share a similar belief, that the orthodox church or churches, as now the case may be, are wrong. The God of orthodoxy is usually labeled Satanic. Whether the members of these sects were or are Satan worshippers is difficult to objectively say. According to orthodoxy they are, but within their own hearts they may sincerely believe they are doing a correct thing. Such belief might come from a mistrust of what seems to them a hypocrisy within orthodoxy.
This hypocrisy within the orthodoxy is often also labeled Satanic. To the true believer in an orthodox religion this is comprehensible: such rationale is that whatever the believer’s religion or faith says it true, is true. Such a person has no need to question. His faith or belief rests on the sole word of his religious leaders. Anything that the leaders declare is evil, is evil. However, to the objective observer such rationale seems suspicious, at least. The first question usually asked is where did these so called religious leaders acquire their knowledge as to what is good and evil. In Protestant Christian orthodoxy, the answer is generally from the Bible. If this is true, and the subject is that the Devil is evil, and the arch-enemy of God, then how can the objective observer justify these answers after have read the above portions of this article which describe the evolution of the devil? Such a question does not seem to pose a problem for the sincere, orthodox believer either because he has not acquired such knowledge, or has not been told of it, or if he has such knowledge he believes those leading him are better able to judge the knowledge than himself. In short, to him, the Devil is evil and against God; and, everything evil or bad in the world is caused by the Devil.
Such a person, unlike the objective observe, never questions the status of the Devil and evil within the world. He just believes they are things which he should be against. This is what his religious as well as other authorities tell him. He is usually totally unaware that the Devil is a man-made concept. Also he is unaware of the necessity for the Devil, which has previously been discussed. Generally speaking, almost everything to such a man is black and white, or right and wrong; there are few gray areas in his life.
There are those claiming to be or called Devil worshippers are said to hold views which are opposite of Christian view or values. Objectively, this point of view is valid; therefore, good is evil and evil is good. But, also objectively, nothing is or can be validated. From the above it should be readily recognized that the Christian cannot objectively validate their own tenets. As it has been previously said and shown, the evolution of Jehovah called for the evolution of the Devil. Those claiming to be Devil worshippers have an legitimate right to do so; because, in a sense the Christians within their worship of their all-good God are in essence deifying the Devil with certain supernatural powers.
When speaking of Devil worship, or Satanism, and Devil worshippers one must be careful in determining what precisely is being spoken of. It is readily recognized that Christianity has labeled any heretical belief or practice Devil worship at one time or another. As previously when discussing the Cathars under torture many confessed to such acts as killing stolen children and drinking potions made from their bodies. They also confessed riding to such meetings on broomsticks, a favorite mode of travel which later witches were said to use when going to sabbats. Whether such activities actually occurred or not is debatable, but to the Catholic church such acts were deemed horrible, while to others they may not have seemed so.
The philosophy of Satanism seems to be actions which are conventionally condemned as evil are valued for their psychological and mystical powers. There is a belief that the reaching of perfection and the divine comes from an ecstasy reached through sensual orgy which occasionally involves perverse sex practices, homosexuality, and flagellation. There is an admiration for pride, self-assertion, dominance, violence, as well as lustful and passionate sensations. Such persons are frequently condemned for egotism, not possessing the meekness of Christians. However, the question arises when one surveys the characteristics attributed to Devil worshippers, aren’t they the similar characteristics which the world societies admire in their military and social leaders. A dichotomy seems poignant.
People who believe in such a natural system, believe that nature will correct Herself when things get out of balance. They wish to help nature make these corrections and stay in balance. They, therefore, worship nature as a religion. It is believed man is responsible for these disturbances in nature, and not some supernatural evil power; and, therefore, man is responsible to help correct these disturbances. Thus, there is no need for a Devil.
Many appear tired of this dichotomy. They refuse to see life a dualistic, a fight between God and the Devil. They believe that is the Christian concept of life, which in actuality is man-made. Many who share such a belief are known as neo-Pagans, and they believe in what has became known as neo-Paganism. Like modern Witches neo-Pagans are independent and autonomous. Some are members of groups and organizations, while others remain solitaire. Some refer to themselves simply as “Pagans.”
Neo-Paganism is founded in the ecstatic and mystery traditions of the pre-Christian religions. It does not forcibly oppose Christianity, but finds that the Christian God is is remote, inaccessible and intangible, and Christians view nature as something to be economically exploited. The followers of neo-Paganism feel that it brings them closer to nature and the Divine force. The Divine force is believed not to be one absolute God, but rather several pantheons of Pagan gods and goddesses. Prayers and rituals may be addressed to each at various times during the celebrations of fertility and nature. Pagans seek to be in harmony, or balance, with the rhythms of life and the forces of the elements. Neo-Pagans see all nature as life, and themselves as part of that life; therefore, each feels like and integral part of the greater whole, of nature and the cosmos. Most neo-Pagans believe in reincarnation and the Wiccan Reede, “An’ if harm none, do what ye will.”
People who believe in such a natural system, believe that nature will correct Herself when things get out of balance. They wish to help nature make these corrections and stay in balance. They, therefore, worship nature as a religion. It is believed man is partially responsible for these disturbances in nature, and not some supernatural evil power; and, therefore, man is responsible to help correct these disturbances. Thus, there is no need for a Devil.
Thus, in summary, it might be wise to take a phrase from Dion Fortune: The true nature of the gods, she said, is that of magical images shaped out of the astral plane by mankind’s thoughts, and is influenced by the mind. It seems that such a concept can be similarly said about the Judeo-Christian God and Devil. After reviewing their evolution, the only thing left to be said is that both are a part of a belief, and they each are as good or bad as those holding the belief make them. A.G.H.