I can say without a doubt that most people I know believe in a literal Satan and that He somehow influences their actions in an intimate way, which leads them to Sin. It is one of those doctrines that brings the Pentecostal, the Baptist, the Catholics, and the Methodist together (which is just unheard of!); a scapegoat for the masses to pin the struggle, the pain, the temptation, and creation of Sin onto. He is the creator of Evil and the instigator of The Fall of mankind. Satan, in this grandiose scheme to pull all of us into hell with him, transfigured himself into a serpent and convinced Man to disobey God, thus securing a defeat of sorts over God, and starting the ultimate rivalry of Good versus Evil. As the oratory goes, He was once an angel (of music, some say) who reasoned that he was so great and deserved a better position in heaven; and this pride lead him to revolt against God, gaining the support of lesser angels, and leading a charge against their creator; a battle waging in heaven until God, like Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse, kicked Satan and his cronies out of the pearly gates. From this point on it gets a little fuzzy exactly where and what happened to this army of now demons (one thing we do know is that the drop in atmospheric pressure caused them all to grow horns and turned their irises & teeth yellow). But jumping to Genesis 3, most people Assume that this serpent is Satan, the great deceiver. And this same Satan (or Lucifer, or Beelzebub, or The Morning Star, or The Devil) tempted Jesus in the desert after 40 days of fasting, and that this same Satan tempts each of us today, to lead us into un-repented sin so that he may defeat God, who in all his justice will then have to send people to Hell. And to most, this is the Satan of the Bible. I disagree. I do not believe in this literal Satan. Does this make me a false teacher, a person working under the hold of Satan to deceive others from believing in Sin? I don’t think so. I pray to YHWH as I write this, that I may influence people to draw closer to him, that I may open people up to an alternative interpretation of Scripture that accounts for Sin, Evil, and the Saving grace (through faith) of Jesus, without having an older sibling to pin their sin on. I would like to show how this above interpretation of Scripture not only is stretching of scriptural authority to an already predisposed ideology, but it is also, just absurd. I do not think those, that at the end of this interpretation choose to disagree, are false teachers and will be condemned to hell, but that they are just being irrational in their interpretation of Scripture and are deceiving themselves and others from the full conditions of sinful human nature. That they are ultimately alleviating the full depravity of man onto this myth of Jewish origin, that really has no power to influence one’s actions except to point a finger and say “The Devil made me do it.” So, I will Go through first the old testament accounts of “Satan” as commonly taught and try to first reconcile these.
Ezekiel 28, Addressing the King Tyre:
11The word of the Lord came to me: 12 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“‘You were the seal of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden,
the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you:
carnelian, chrysolite and emerald,
topaz, onyx and jasper,
lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.
Your settings and mountingswere made of gold;
on the day you were created they were prepared.
14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub,
for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God;
you walked among the fiery stones.
15 You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created
till wickedness was found in you.
16 Through your widespread trade
you were filled with violence,
and you sinned.
So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God,
and I expelled you, guardian cherub,
from among the fiery stones.
17 Your heart became proud
on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom
because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth;
I made a spectacle of you before kings.
18 By your many sins and dishonest trade
you have desecrated your sanctuaries.
So I made a fire come out from you,
and it consumed you,
and I reduced you to ashes on the ground
in the sight of all who were watching.
19 All the nations who knew you
are appalled at you;
you have come to a horrible end
and will be no more. ’”
Now, Ezekiel is talking to The King, but some have interpreted this to be a painting of Satan, Ezekiel turning his focus onto Satan instead of What God told him to do. I find this interpretation to be poor for two reasons: The first being that Ezekiel is an obedient servant to God and so he addresses who God tells him to address. Secondly, It only makes sense that he is still Addressing Tyre, as he has been doing prior to this passage. I would say what Ezekiel is addressing here is a Spirit (or an attitude, demon, sin, etc.) of Pride. He is saying “in this same attitude of pride, you, oh man (speaking in generality), disobeyed me in the garden, in all of your glory and beauty as being a perfect creation, deceived yourself by being prideful, and I cast you out of the garden.” This does not require any allusion to a previously unrecorded event (i.e. Satan being cast out of Heaven). This then leads me to address the events of Genesis 3:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Now we in modern times, who have no evidence of any snakes talking, find it hard to believe that a snake was able to talk to Eve and persuade her into eating from this tree. So, for most this is very hard thing to interpret, at face value, because of this fact, but it shouldn’t lead us to make other extraordinary claims! Now, would Moses, the author of this book, possibly be referring to Satan, and why then would Moses be instructed to turn his staff into an embodiment of Satan (see Exodus 4)? I Personally see this to be poetic or hallucinatory, in referring to the snake speaking. Perhaps Eve was caught in self-reflection and inner thought, watching the snake slither beside the tree, in which she already desired so strongly to try. Perhaps her desire manifested itself in a strange dream, in which her conscience took on the form of the serpent, thus convincing her to follow-through with the action that she so wished for. Or, perhaps the snake, in all of it’s wisdom (exactly how God created it) chimed in, and gave an opinion, seeing the evidence at hand, realizing the tree of life readily available, and concluded that with this other tree, there was no way they would die. OR perhaps the snake had already eaten of this tree so he knew that it didn’t cause death, but he didn’t understand what God meant. In any scenario, neither God, Moses, or Eve ever refer to the Serpent as a reanimated Satan and I feel that it is only upon additional mythical interpretation of scripture by gnostic Jews and overall stories of later Jewish circles in which this reference is born. And this is a great analogue of what people do, in general when they assume Satan: “But the Snake deceived me!” and for this Eve does not yet come to full repentance, for she never seems to fully come to admittance that she is at fault for herself. I would say that this snake is simply that, a snake.
Now to Isaiah, addressing the King of Babylon: 14:12-17
12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
13 You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit.
16 Those who see you will stare at you
and ponder over you:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
who shook kingdoms,
17 who made the world like a desert
and overthrew its cities,
who did not let his prisoners go home?’
Again, Isaiah, like Ezekiel, Is addressing A king. And again, like Ezekiel, it seems that he is addressing the pride of the king and his strive to be “greater then God.” I think a better parallel to this story is that of The tower of Babel (See Genesis 11). This constant strive for knowledge and betterment, to attempt to maneuver around God and to gain this wisdom (which only comes from YHWH) will ultimately leads to destruction and humiliation.
From there the myth begins, and people decide to make allusions to this Character of fiction. (Some may point to 1 Samuel 29:4 as another mention of Satan, but a more cogent interpretation is “The adversary” meaning the enemy, and specifically the Philistine commander is referring to David, and thus 1 Kings 11, 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21, and Numbers 22 can all be translated as such). Twice is the character of Satan directly mentioned in Old Testament Literature (being a separate entity).
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
This same story is repeated in Job chapter 2, the same way genesis two is a repetition of Genesis one. It’s likely a result of oratory compilations which often in Old Testament literature result in the repetition of stories or events. This introduction really has no connection to the rest of the story, which leads me to believe that it was either added later through the gnostic schools to help further the credibility of their mythology or was analogous to lead into the story of Job which the author took creative measures with. This isn’t uncommon in Ancient Near Eastern cultures, or in the Greek plays, which start with contemplative gods that help lead into the more realistic melodrama that relates to social or political events of the time. The suffering Job isn’t an unbelievable tale and is a great story for those that are struggling and would wish to put the blame on God, but the introduction neither gives credulity or explanation to the events in Jobs life, except by raising more questions.
Apart from this one other instance in the Old Testament mentions the newly inserted character that is Satan: Zechariah 3:1 & 2
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”
This almost incoherent interjection makes me wonder if Zechariah was taking some liberties here to help further propagate the mythological character Satan as posited by Job, or if this could better be understood to be referring to an adversary of Joshua, another tribe that wish to fulfill the Priesthood. Jesus is the Great High priest and does fulfill that calling, which is great news for us, that are grafted into the branches of Israel by him! But seeing as for the most part, the OT doesn’t refer to Satan as an individual so much as a title (Adversary) so, it would make more sense to interpret it this way, unless of course we are trying to use this example to help further the character Satan, which clearly has been done for many centuries!
So, upon looking at the “Evidence” of Satan in OT literature, it seems very irrational and irresponsible to support this character that was mainly furthered by those that did not believe in the afterlife, those that did not believe in resurrection, and, most importantly, those that rejected Jesus as messiah.
Moving onto the New Testament Literature in the my next post We will look at three things: 1. The story of Jesus in the wilderness; 2. The writings of John specifically; and the writings of Paul, all looking at their mentions of Satan. Coming very soon!