Monday, 7 January 2013

On Satan

Satan, Lucifer and the snake in the Garden of Eden: All these things have been corrupted by Christian to become something that in the Old Testament they are not. I have discussed the snake elsewhere. Lucifer appears in Isaiah, and if you read the context, is about a dead Babylonian King, and the text makes that very clear.

Isaiah 14:3 On the day the Lord gives you relief from your suffering and turmoil and from the harsh labor forced on you, 4 you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:

Satan and Job

This page is about Satan, and will look especially at Satan in Job. Was Satan opposing God when the events in the Book of Job occurred? The usual Christian belief is that he was, but the evidence suggests otherwise...

According to here and here and here in the original Hebrew, whenever satan is mentioned in Job, it actually says "the satan"; this indicates that "satan" was a title or position, rather than a specific individual.

The satan is an angel who has been appointed by God as the adversary, an angel who will test a person's faith by trying to tempt him to the "dark side". Certainly the satan is a tempter, but he is a tempter working for God' divine purpose, not for his own evil reasons.

Let us see what it says in Job...
The satan presents himself to God along with all the other angels:

Job 1:6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

This is reasonable, because this was just an angel who has been appointed to be the satan, and part of the role involves touring the world looking for bad people. Christian theology would have us believe that when ultimate evil presents itself to God, God merely asks what he has been doing recently!

Everything the satan does is done with God's blessing, as verse 12 makes clear, because this is an angel that God has appointed to be the satan:

Job 1:12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

At the end of Job, God specifically accepts responsibility for all the bad things that happened to Job - because the satan had been acting under God's orders, to test Job:

Job 42: 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver[a] and a gold ring.

That makes no sense in the Christian theology - all the bad things happened because of evil Satan. It only makes sense when we realise that the satan was acting under God's remit.

Let us think about the theology a bit more. Christianity, besides the trinity, has Satan who is not as powerful as God, but is certainly comparable to the pagan gods in power, and clearly working to his own agenda. Christianity can explain bad things by blaming Satan.

In a true monotheism, there is no bad god to blame things on, so why does bad stuff happen? The lesson from Job is that it is God testing us, and if you pass the test you will be rewarded. Sure, God and the satan are opposed, but they are opposed because that is what the satan is there to do. It is his job to tempt people to the "dark side", because God wants to see if we will succomb to that temptation.

Remember that bit in the Lord's prayer: "Lead us not into temptation". Why should we pray that God not lead to temptation, unless tempting was part of what God does? In Christian theology you should be asking Satan not to tempt you, because he is the tempter and answers to no one. In Judaism, this request makes sense, because temptation comes from the satan, who is acting under God's authority.

What They Say

A certain JP Holding has a page on the subject of the satan in Job:
http://www.tektonics.org/qt/satansame.html

Holding says "Satan's role is as a tempter, and he claims to own the world (Matthew 4:9 and parallels)." He takes some time supporting the claim that satan is the tempter in Job - and this is consistent with what I said above. It is the satan's appointed task to tempt people to test them for God.

Now let me ask critics a question: In Job, Satan says that he has been "going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it." Now given his character, what is it that critics suppose Satan to have been doing while he was wandering around the earth? He was undoubtedly looking after his own interests. And since his primary interest in Job is to turn Job away from God, isn't it logical in context that whatever else he was doing was intended to serve the same interest?
Easy enough to answer. What the satan was doing was tempting people on God's behalf to see if they are worthy.

Holding says "He was undoubtedly looking after his own interests" but that is just assuming the conclusion he purports to prove. He does this later too: "Once again, when we realize that Satan in Job was probably engaged in activities to benefit his own agenda, it's obvious that these titles are not promotions but rather recognitions." Sure, if we assume Satan in Job was probably engaged in activities to benefit his own agenda, then its obvious that Satan is evil. But if we abandon that assumption, and instead assume that the satan was an angel working for God, we come to a quite different conclusion. And the latter assumption would seem to fit the original Hebrew.

Satan makes no "request" in Job but issues a challenge of honor, and there is nothing at all, Biblically, against Satan being able to be in God's presence at this point in history, any more than it is a problem that sinful men can be in the presence of the Shekinah.

[The Shekinah, by the way, is the dwelling of the divine presence, especially in the tabernacle and temple in Jerusalem.]

Holding wants us to believe that God had no problem having the most evil being in the universe in his presence. And conversely that the most evil being in the universe has no problem entering God's presence. Perfect good and utter evil, sitting down for a cozy chat. I have to wonder why unutterable evil would want or be able to approach God. I have to wonder why a perfectly good God would allow unutterable evil to be in his presence. And yet, here they are, having a conversation.

He also says "at this point in history", and I am not sure why. Presumably God has not changed, what with him being unchangeable and all. So it suggests Holding thinks Satan has changed between then and (I guess) the NT, and yet the web page seems to be saying it is the same Satan. As I say, not sure about that one.

The other thing I find fascinating is this "challenge of honor". It paints God and the satan as two boys in the school yard, and one says, "I dare you to..." Seriously, this is the divine being, all-power, all-knowing, and Satan goads him into all that befalls Job. I would have guessed the supreme being would be a bit more mature than that. But what do I know?

Of course, the whole "challenge of honor" thing is a fabrication. The Book of Job is about God, and his relationship with man; it s not about the satan at all - he is just part of the scenery. This is about God testing Job's faith, and God uses the satan to set up the test. For most of the book, people are discussing the nature of God, because what the book is about is why God allows (or causes) bad things to happen to good people. In Christian theology, that is because of Satan, but the people in Job do not discuss Satan at all; he is not relevant to the theology here. In Judaism, bad things happen because God is testing you (though his agent the satan), so it makes sense to discuss God's nature when bad things happen to a good man.

Numbers

If you check the Hebrew for Numbers 22:22 (eg here) you will make the surprising discovery that God sent the satan to stand in the road before Balaam. That makes no sense if Satan is a fallen angel, but is perfectly reasonable if the satan is an angel working under God's direction.

It is interesting that no Christian Bible makes this clear. Of course not, they have their own agenda to promote, and that trumps God's holy word every time.

Now this is a blog about creationism first and foremost. The only reason to believe the claims of creationism is that that is what the Bible says. Ironic then that Christianity will ignore what the Bible says if it gets in the way of their theology!

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