2006 August 27 Sunday
Sympathy For The Devil

"Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a man of wealth and taste". UCLA emeritus professor of English Henry Ansgar Kelly has a new book out, Satan: A Biography says Satan's bad name is a result of a mistake of early church fathers who mistook him for the totally different guy named Lucifer.

He's not the enemy of God, his name really isn't Lucifer and he isn't even evil. And as far as leading Adam and Eve astray, that was a bad rap stemming from a case of mistaken identity.

"There's little or no evidence in the Bible for most of the characteristics and deeds commonly attributed to Satan," insists a UCLA professor with four decades in what he describes as "the devil business."

In "Satan: A Biography" (Cambridge Press), Henry Ansgar Kelly puts forth the most comprehensive case ever made for sympathy for the devil, arguing that the Bible actually provides a kinder, gentler version of the infamous antagonist than typically thought.

"A strict reading of the Bible shows Satan to be less like Darth Vader and more and more like an overzealous prosecutor," said Kelly, a UCLA professor emeritus of English and the former director of the university's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. "He's not so much the proud and angry figure who turns away from God as [he is] a Joseph McCarthy or J. Edgar Hoover. Satan's basic intention is to uncover wrongdoing and treachery, however overzealous and unscrupulous the means. But he's still part of God's administration."

You mean he didn't ride a tank in the General's rank when the Blitzkrieg raged? He had nothing to do with killing the Kennedy's?

Satan works for the "Big Guy" upstairs.

When it comes to the Old Testament, Kelly insists that Satan's profile is considerably lower than commonly thought and significantly less menacing. By Kelly's count, Satan only appears three times in the 45 books that make up the pre-Christian scriptures, the best known being in the Book of Job. On each occasion, Satan is still firmly part of what Kelly calls "God's administration," and his activities are done at the behest of "the Big Guy." But his actions aren't evil so much as consistent with the translation of "devil" and "satan," which literally mean "adversary" in Greek and Hebrew, respectively.

"His job is to test people's virtue and to report their failures," Kelly said.

I wonder if he also reports the failures of kids to Santa Claus.

Origen of Alexandria got it all wrong.

Perhaps most surprising is not the figure Satan cuts, but his notable absences in the Old Testament. In the Bible's first reference to Lucifer, for instance, Satan doesn't appear even by implication, Kelly points out. "'Lucifer' is Latin for light-bearer," he said, and was the name given to the morning star, or the planet Venus. Originally written in ancient Hebrew, the passage, on face value, refers to the tyrannical Babylonian king who boasts of his conquests but who is "about to be cast to the ground." Kelly insists there's nothing more to the reference than an apt use of metaphor, but the third-century Christian philosopher Origen of Alexandria argued in his best known work, "On First Things," that the reference applied to Satan.

"Origen says, 'Lucifer is said to have fallen from Heaven,'" Kelly explained. "'This can't refer to a human being, so it must refer to Satan.' Subsequent church fathers found this reasoning persuasive, and so did everyone who followed them."

Ironically, the only mentions of Lucifer in the New Testament and there are three of them refer to Jesus, Kelly said. "Jesus is called 'Lucifer' or 'the morning star' because he represents a new beginning."

I have no idea whether Ansgar is right. If you can read ancient Hebrew and Aramaic you could check the original texts and see what words are used in each place.

Anyone know of a web site which has the Bible in the original languages it was written in and with a search engine to boot? Also, does anyone know what the words are in those languages for the Devil and Satan and Lucifer? Are there 3 different words?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 August 27 09:39 AM  Religion Christianity

Kurt said at August 27, 2006 11:36 AM:

The church lady: Well! Isn't that special?

mike said at August 27, 2006 5:27 PM:

What exactly is new about this premise? It has been noted for quite some time that the character that Christians consider the devil in the Old Testament is something like an "overzealous prosecutor" and the character mentioned in later scripture is a rather more sinister figure. Where is the novelty of this professor's concept? Theology ties the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the Satan of the Old Testament, and the later Lucifer together. Nowhere is the Trinity mentioned either, but that is a common, though not universal, doctrine among Christians also. All religion is bound to depend a great deal on interpretation.

So Very Bitter said at August 27, 2006 5:39 PM:

Ha ha, Professor Kelly's devil sounds more like Scott Adams' Dilbert character, the Prince of Insufficent Light, who darns people to Heck.

I am not sure if the article states as much, but Satan literally means "adversary" in (ancient?) Hebrew. As far as I know, Jews have never held a belief in a personal, evil counterpart to Yahweh. Job is more a literary book (not held in the same regard as Torah), so the figure of the Devil there is supposedly more a "plot device" to set up the story than meant to be doctrinal.

Disclosure: I'm goyish, so this could all be bosh!

Stephen said at August 27, 2006 10:22 PM:

I dropped in on a religious blog recently (no link) whose author had counted up the number of murders the various books attribute to God vs the number attributed to the devil. Apparently God's grand total came in at two million targetted deaths (ie excluding floods & famines etc, but including specific orders of genocide carried out against non-believing societies), while the devil can only manage 10 (and six of those were killings authorised by God to prove God's contention that Job was his homey.)

Stephen said at August 27, 2006 10:24 PM:

Here's the link to the blog I referred to: Dwindling In Unbelief

Stephen said at August 27, 2006 10:48 PM:

More from the fascinating Dwindling blog, God's death toll by religion:

God's Death Toll
Bible -------------> 2,128,345
Book of Mormon --> 19,578
Quran ------------> 4

PS: anyone know how to get table formatting / tabs working??

Kenelm Digby said at August 28, 2006 3:24 AM:

Instead of trying to research a purely mythological Satan, (whose name means 'enemy' in Hebrew, I believe), we should look closer to home and see who the real and apparent enemy is threatening our very genetic existence.
The christian concept of 'the Devil' arose from a misunderstanding of the ancient Persian doctrine of dualism as typified by Zoroaster, the monotheistic faiths by attributing creation to one all-powerful Deity, were left in the quandary of attributing 'evil' to the same Deity, so as a 'get out clause' the cartoon figure of the personification of evil was convieniently invented.
But enough of invoking mythological beings, as I said there is a dtermined and real threat to the future genetic existence of the White race, a threat that is succeeding wildly beyond its dreams.If this is not the definition of 'evil' I do not know what is.
The real 'Satan' is the neocons and their lackeys who run the political classes of the White west.

Stephen said at August 28, 2006 3:38 AM:

Kenelm assumes far too much about Parapundit readers when he says:

"...threatening our very genetic existence."

"...real threat to the future genetic existence of the White race"
lex said at August 28, 2006 2:53 PM:

For anyone interested in this subject there is an excellent book, ANTI - CHRIST, by Bernard McGinn. This is a scholarly, historical analysis of the "devil" as he has been manufactured and developed over 2000 years.

sr said at August 29, 2006 8:26 AM:

Oh, Stephen, if you meant that Kenelm did not take into account the presence of cryptic, parasitic commenters like yourself, I can assure you that he knows perfectly well who you are and what you want to do.

AMac said at August 29, 2006 1:25 PM:

Sorry that I am missing certain references ("cryptic, parasitic commenters", "who you are and what you want to do"). Notwithstanding that, Steven is correct in stating that not all Parapundit readers are concerned with our genetic existence and threats to the future genetic existence of the White race. These are creepy formulations.

People concerned with culture--the Enlightenment and all that stuff--rather than melanin might find Steve Sailer's thoughts on 'Citizenism' worth reading.

Stephen said at August 29, 2006 8:12 PM:

cryptic parasite: A phrase to use when you're unsure what someones saying, but don't like it anyhow.

ya learn something new every day!

Randall Parker said at August 29, 2006 8:51 PM:

sr at,

I happen to like my discussions with Stephen. Yes, he's a liberal. No, I'm not. Yes, he says things that do not make sense to me. But he is curious about the facts and is willing to have civil discussions with people whose general political orientations are not close to his own. He does not write overly wordy comments. He does not insult people (least not that I can remember). He does not write long ALL CAPS posts. So he's got a lot going for him in my view.

Cryptic: Um, most people are too wordy. If someone is too lazy to go digging up links to real facts or to do real math I'd prefer they were more brief. Alas, I've found that's too much to hope for.

Are there people whose political discussions I treasure more? Sure. I especially like people who do real math on real data about politics and human nature without editing themselves to obey the liberal taboos. The Inductivist, Steve Sailer, Audacious Epigone, and Half Sigma figure out more real things about the world than 99% of the commentariat in NYC and Washington DC put together.

Stephen said at August 29, 2006 9:37 PM:

Ditto re yourself Randall.

just to clarify said at September 4, 2006 5:55 AM:

SR uses the words "cryptic" and "parasitic" to refer to what he assumes to be Stephen's Jewishness, not his politics per se. "SR" is also a handle sometimes used by "Guessedworker", who runs a quasi-Nazi blog called Majority Rights. A running theme at this blog is that Jews want to destroy the West and the white race. That's what he means when he says to Stephen that Kenelm Digby "knows perfectly well who you are and what you want to do."

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