4.13.2006

Sympathy for 'the Devil':
The Demonology of Lucifer in Doubt

The Devil Redeemed!

from Sploid

Christians believe in a character called Satan who rules an evil empire and is constantly trying to make people have sex or drink beer, but a Medieval Studies professor is on a bold mission to tell the truth about the so-called Devil.

According to
Dr. Henry Ansgar Kelly, the Evil One feared by Christians is just an invention of the Roman church still used by "fire and brimstone" preachers even today. Over the centuries and especially during the Middle Ages, the Satan character became ever more detailed.

As the Christian religion was put together from a diverse collection of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean mythologies and cults, the church fathers found it useful to combine dozens of different characters to make a scary devil monster that would
keep people in line, according to Satan: A Biography.

The "satan" in the Old Testament isn't even a specific character, Dr. Kelly writes. In the famous Book of Job, for example, the Hebrew text describes a class of angels that do cruel experiments for a bored and vicious God.

These entities are known as "ha-satan," or "the adversaries" or "the prosecutors" -- the hit men or district attorneys working for God.

"For 1700 years, Satan has been the enemy of God, whereas in the Bible he works for God, he's his prime minister or attorney general, in charge of policing the world. He is one of God's angels and his job is to test people,"
Dr. Kelly told The Age this week.

In other Old Testament uses, "satan" is a generic word for any human opposition or adversary, a divine messenger, or most frequently as a member of God's inner council -- a sort of governing board of directors.

But during the 400-year gap between the events of the Old Testament and the time of Jesus described in the New Testament, Jews radically changed their concept of both God and "the adversaries." Historians say this is because the Jews were in particularly close contact with Iran between about 300 B.C.E. and 50 B.C.E.

From Iran, the Jews borrowed
a whole new set of concepts from the Persian Zoroastrian faith. Suddenly the all-powerful sadistic God of the Old Testament was no longer in charge of evil and no longer had the strength to stop evil, which was now run by a deity who was just as powerful as God and who was wholly evil.

In the centuries after Jesus reportedly preached in modern-day Israel, theologians decided that all the various gods, demons and vague evils in the Old and New Testaments would be better as a
single terrifying monster.

Because of this "keep it simple, stupid" philosophy, diverse Middle Eastern gods such as
Hadad, Ba'al Zebub and even the planet Venus became a single fearsome bad guy.

Most of the so-called "demons" in the Bible are just the names of the gods worshiped by neighboring tribes ... often Hebrew tribes!

And "Lucifer," who makes a single appearance in today's Bible, doesn't have anything to do with Satan or demons.

"Lucifer" - Latin for "light bringer," or Venus the morning star - is the result of a sloppy 4th Century Latin translation of a
story about an Iraqi king. The whole tale of Lucifer being a beloved angel of God who does something bad and "falls" to Earth was entirely invented centuries later, supposedly from a verse in Isaiah about a plain old king being taunted by exiled Jews.

(During the same
simple era when the masses were told all the competing deities in the Bible were actually one "lone gunman" devil who just happened to look like a popular Greek nature god, monks and theologians were privately creating an incredible world of "Christian Demonology" in which there were hundreds of thousands of devils and demons in a fantastically complex bureaucracy.)

Dr. Kelly says he wants this true history of "Satan" to spread so that Christians may one day learn the Devil they know doesn't actually exist in their own Bible.

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