Is the Devil in the Details?

Did the Devil lead worship in heaven, complete with a Taylor acoustic guitar with Fishman electronics? Was he there in the first place? Did he get thrown like a skydiver with no parachute?

I want to avoid a whole discussion on the history of this figure, but it is worth noting, even taking into account the developed tradition in the New Testament, that every reference source I have looked at stresses the ambiguity of the figure and his “personhood,” role and actions in the whole Biblical narrative.

My primary point in my recent post was that the passages in the prophetic books of the OT, primarily Isaiah and Ezekiel, did not and do not intend to speak about “The Satan, The Accuser, The Serpent, etc….” I base this off of the reality that the passages in question are dealing with real kings of real kingdoms. The Satan is nowhere mentioned, and the texts do not at all even hint at a “satan” figure. I would venture to argue that the passages loose any significance and meaning when they are taken metaphorically to speak of another “supernatural” figure other than the king in question or in addition to the king in question.

Picture if you will, a people dispossessed of their land which they were promised by divine right by YHWH the one God is Israel. The prophets had been telling them that the King in question was gonna do some damage if they did not repent of their sins. But, even though doing YHWH’s bidding, in the end these kings too would be judged for their arrogance and pride, as they were putting themselves in the position of god (a well known and well documented Ancient Near Eastern practice). So in the end Israel, and more importantly YHWH would be vindicated by judgement on the prideful kings.

Now try in that social and religious climate to suggest that the prophet actually meant (or God meant?) another malevolent spiritual figure unconnected to the narrative and I will say that one is reading between the lines in a big way. If authority lies primarily in authorial intent, then I would venture to assert again that the OT prophetic passages are not at all referring to “The Accuser” and that any subsequent interpretation of them in such a manner is using a different hermeneutic than I would deem reliable.

Perhaps Jeremy, we will have to agree to disagree 🙂  Or, make your case, iron sharpens iron right?

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2 Comments

  1. Okay, I’m over my head here, but please bear with my effort.
    First a couple of questions:
    Why do the passages “lose any significance” when they are viewed as a dual fulfillment prophecy? Again, Isa 9. I think that you base your argument on author’s intent (authority), but Jesus and Paul quote the OT extensively to bring a further layer of understanding as they minister. This probably wasn’t the author’s intent. Jesus and Paul shed a deeper light on so many passages I’ll list some if needed?
    Secondly, I’m not sure why you are skipping over Zech 3. Why not this passage?
    He is obviously a contemporary of the last writers before the intertestamental period, but from Job to Zech, there is an understood person that the writers might have had in mind when they wrote their texts. But even if they didn’t intend on referencing Satan, what if Jesus (Luke 10- your reference) and the writer of Revelation have these passages in mind? Does it then negate the significance of the writer’s primary intent?

    Reply

  2. Alright, I feel as if I am over my head as well! But let’s have a go shall we?

    I think that “second layers of meaning” and “text re-appropriation” are significant things to talk about. Not least in this Advent season when we consider the Septuagint’s use of “young woman” to be “virgin” and the Gospel writers subsequent use of it to “prove” Jesus virgin birth. Still, I wish to point out that my original post was on what the passages in question “originally meant,” not how they were subsequently used. I will be adventurous and say that several NT writers used OT passages in ways that were significant for their situation, but that they did not always use them as they were originally meant. Matthew for instance constantly uses OT stuff WAY out of context. So I don’t really have a definite answer at this point in my life, it is a tension.

    That being said, I still stand by my original statement, that Isaiah and Ezekiel were not speaking of an evil “spiritual” figure whose name was “The Satan” then they wrote (not least because “he” is never mentioned). I still think that they were addressing a current or recent-past situation and were using mythic language to denounce the proud kings who are about to be judged by YHWH.

    Also, I don’t think that either Jesus in Luke 10 or John in Rev.12 were re-using Isaiah 14.1-14. The Greek parallels just aren’t there neither are the themes similar. Unless of course we want to identify “The Satan” (remember, it just means “The Accuser”) as a mythic representation of a King who is going to be judged by Israel’s God (this time through Jesus); in which case we are back to using mythic language to describe “on-the-ground” events. Which means that I was correct all along.

    Before I comment on Zech 3 I would need to do a study of Zech, which I have not yet done. But it seems by a cursory read that it is in the same vein as what I have been discussing already. Apocalyptic writing is a beast all it’s own.

    Reply

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