Is Satan Real?

Off and on in my wanderings through the blogosphere, I’ve come across comments related to SATAN and his role in Christianity.  Based on the extensive research I did for my book, I’ve discovered many (if not most) people have incorrect perceptions about this “evil entity.” So, as a “public service” 🙂 , I decided to clear the air and share what I learned.

But before I do, I would like input from everyone who reads this post — especially Christians (whether active or lapsed) — to give me your view of SATAN.

  • Is he a rebellious, fallen angel?
  • Was he originally created by Yahweh?
  • Is he presently at war with God?
  • Was he embodied in the serpent?
  • How much power does he have?
  • Does he have demons to assist him in his “work?”
  • Is he able to “possess” people and make them do crazy and weird things?

Please don’t limit yourself to just these examples. If you see SATAN in some other way, don’t hesitate to share your viewpoint.

Then, I’d like you to go a step further …

WHY do you believe what you do? Can you back it up with scripture? Or are your beliefs simply a result of Sunday School teachings? Or perhaps your ideas are based on things you heard growing up? Even if you don’t believe he exists, what have you heard/read/been taught about him?

After I get input from as many people as possible, I’ll write a post and share what I learned in my research.

P.S. Please do not include anything you may have read in my book about SATAN as this information will be shared in a follow-up post. What I’m seeking is how you saw him before you read the book. Thanks!

Job and the Big Bad Guy

In this post by Siriusbizinus, there was reference to another blog where the writer seems to ridicule what he considers the atheist’s take on the story of Job. I barely skimmed the other blog posting, but it did get me to thinking about the story of Job and how (mostly Fundamental) Christians believe that “Satan” played such an important role in what happened to Job.

If you’ve read my book, you know I don’t believe in the existence of “Satan.” So how then do I explain what happened to Job?

From my book (Chapter 5):

In the prologue of Job’s book, we are told that “Satan” joined some angels (heavenly beings) for a meeting with God (Job 1:6). Surprisingly, it seemed to be a fairly friendly encounter – certainly not what you would expect if this was the Big Bad Guy! It took only a little investigation to discover why. The word used here is exactly the same as the examples cited previously; that is, ha-satan. In fact, there is a footnote in nearly every English Bible that indicates the more literal translation is “accuser.”

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However, this still didn’t explain why God allowed ha-satan to wreak havoc on Job’s life. With a little more delving, I learned that this particular “accuser” had a special function in God’s divine court. It was his job to “go to and fro on the earth” and look for any signs of disloyalty among humans and then report on them to his Supervisor. Elaine Pagels (The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics) describes him as a “roving intelligence agent.”  Several other sources call him “God’s prosecuting attorney.” The important thing to note is that it was not his job to stir up trouble, just to report on it. He worked for God, not against God.

During this particular heavenly meeting, the adversary speculates about Job’s dedication and commitment. He points out that it’s easy to be faithful when someone lives such a charmed life. God disagrees, but decides to allow the accuser to test Job. Important note: the “Satan” in this story is not an independent agent. He is a member of God’s heavenly court and must have God’s permission before he can do anything.

Job is an interesting story and one that many scholars believe is nothing more than a type of folk tale (parable, fable, allegory) written to assure the Israelites living during the terrible times of the Exile that God remained faithful. Fundamental Christians, on the other hand, prefer to see the story quite differently. For them, the story is totally true with Job as a prototype of Jesus (the “Man of Sorrows”) and “Satan” as the supernatural Big Bad Guy harassing a faithful man of God.

Added note: I did see one thing on the other blog that stood out. The blogger wrote (referencing theologian John Gill, 1697-1771):

Satan, although an angelic being, is fallen, sinful, reprobate and so had “no proper business there …”

Of course, my natural question is where in the bible does it say — and don’t reference “Lucifer” in Isaiah because you would be wrong (a posting for another time) – that Satan is a fallen, sinful, and reprobate angelic being?

Do You See Satan in Ezekiel?

In a discussion on one of Nate’s posting at the Finding Truth blog, there was some discussion on the authenticity of Paul. Was he truly an apostle? Did he speak for Jesus? Were his teachings from God or were they his own? One individual claimed that Paul was a “false apostle,” and referenced Deuteronomy 13 as her evidence.

After reading the chapter, I could see where she was coming from. However, as someone noted, these scriptures could be applied to any number of persons. Thing is, this is true of the entire bible. There are innumerable passages that can be interpreted innumerable ways. How can we know which interpretation is correct? Christians will say the “Holy Spirit” will reveal the truth. Er … well … OK.

I’d like to offer my own perspective on another passage of scripture related to the existence of “Satan.” This is from Ezek. 28:11-19.

12 Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald; and worked in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the stones of fire. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. 16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from among the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctuaries. So I brought out fire from within you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.

This passage has long been accepted as pertaining to the “Big Bad Guy.” Even though the words, “devil,” “satan,” or “fallen angel” are nowhere to be found, scores of Christians are certain Ezekiel is writing about “someone” other than the person named in verse 12 (the king of Tyre).

What’s interesting is that throughout his book, Ezekiel speaks to several foreign rulers. So why do believers isolate this message written to the leader of Tyre and assign it a second meaning (i.e., Satan) — especially when Ezekiel specifically says he’s speaking to a mortal?

Personally, I don’t believe Ezekiel was talking about “Satan.”

Through extensive reading and research.  I discovered this idea came from the writings of Origen of Alexandria, one of the early church fathers. It was his contention that Ezekiel could not possibly be talking about a human being and therefore must be referring to “some superior power which had fallen away from a higher position,” and who was then converted into a “wicked being.”(1) In case you don’t know this Origen fellow, he played a major role in the formation of Christian doctrine. In fact, it was his viewpoint on this matter (among others) that set a precedent in early Christianity, and remains the accepted teaching in many churches today.

What do you think? Is Satan in Ezekiel?
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I discuss more on this topic in my book, along with several other passages that believers contend are about “Satan” (Garden of Eden, Book of Job, Lucifer in the Book of Isaiah, Revelation).  I think many will be surprised at what I learned.

 

(1) Origen, De Principiis, Book I, Chapter 5, Verse 4

OMG! Don’t Open the Door! Satan May Be on the Other Side!


doorwaystosatan

 

From my own experiences, I know there are people who sincerely believe in the accuracy of this list. In fact, during my time in Christianity, I was cautioned against several of these activities.

But c’mon … Yoga? Vegetarianism? Meditation? Video games? Harry Potter?

If there’s anything I learned as a result of walking away from the church, it’s that Satan does not exist.

Most believers are unaware that the concept of an “evil one” was  developed by apocalyptic writers during the “silent years” (the approximate 300-400 year gap between the end of the Hebrew sacred writings and the appearance of Jesus). This was when the Jewish people were experiencing the tumultuous times of the Babylonian captivity, the Persian and Greek takeovers, the unholy desecration of the Jewish temple by the Greek ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, and the oppression of Roman exile.  Little by little, these imaginative writers began to develop a “cosmic entity” (based on myths from surrounding cultures, as well as “otherworldly visions”) that could be blamed for all the bad things that were happening.

Interestingly, while Satan (or the Devil) is mentioned in the New Testament – according to one source no less than 568 times – no one talks about where he came from. He just appears. But then, there was no need because for the past several centuries he had become a very popular, albeit malevolent, figure among the Jewish people.

To this day,  Satan continues to be a very hot topic. He’s frequently mentioned in movies, books, and on TV. And look, someone has even published a list to prevent anyone from opening the doorway to this very bad guy.

P.S. You can read more about Satan and his beginnings in my book, Things I Never Learned in Sunday School.

Satan in the Garden?

Things I Never Learned in Sunday School

Excerpt from Things I Never Learned in Sunday School
Chapter 4 – “The Big Bad Guy: Is He For Real?”

The Crafty Serpent

Of all the stories in the Bible that relate to “Satan,” I find the one about the serpent in the Garden of Eden the most creative. Throughout my research, I came across numerous dissertations by the faithful about what “really” happened during the meeting between the serpent and Eve … and why. Again and again I read, practically word-for-word, what I had been taught during my Christian experience. The fact that there is little to no basis for this oft-repeated tale seems to matter little to the various expositors.

According to tradition, the downfall of humankind started because Eve, after a talking serpent told her that God was lying about eating a certain fruit in the Garden, went ahead and ate it and also gave some to Adam, her husband (Genesis 3:1-6). (On the surface, can anyone deny there isn’t at least a minimal amount of incredulity in this story?) After the first couple confessed they had shared the fruit, the Bible tells us God cursed the serpent and proclaimed it must forever crawl on its belly and eat dust. Nowhere does it say that God turned the serpent into an evil spirit.

In the original Hebrew language, the word for serpent is nahash and this is the word used in Genesis, not ha-satan. So where did the belief that the serpent was a representation of “Satan” get started?

You can read the answer to this question (and more) when you order a copy of Things I Never Learned in Sunday School at Amazon.com.