I was reading an article on a Humanist website about the defiance of god, and in this article, satan was compared to Prometheus, a beloved character in Greek mythology. Prometheus was the one who dared to steal fire from the gods, and he was admired for his defiance. This concept of defiance as an act of heroism is extremely unusual, and does not manifest itself in any of the major religions today (that I know of).
Satan is a defiant character in Jewish and Christian lore, however believers see him as the very embodiment of evil. I wondered to myself, Is he actually evil? Or just misunderstood? Should he be considered a hero like Prometheus?
I’ll consider the following sources for my research: Old Testament, New Testament, and the Koran. I’ll do a search through the text for the following key words: devil, satan, serpent, snake, hell, darkness, shawdow, death, evil, angels, demon.
First of all, I highly recommend reading this article first: How the Serpent Became Satan. Shawna does a terrific job laying out the details of an Old Testament satan, and provides some excellent context.
Genesis, “Serpent” | Three chapters into the Bible, a serpent character is introduced. This serpent is described as a crafty creature made by god. If god made the serpent, and god is all-knowing, he should have known that this serpent would cause the fall of man. Why would god create such a creature? Why would god set mankind up for failure? Strike one against god.
I do not know for certain if the serpent is satan, as that connection is not made very clear. God does say, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” If knowing good and evil makes you a god, and the serpent knew good and evil, then the serpent must be a god as well. The link feels very weak, don’t you think?
Anyway, this character does not seem expressly evil, to me. All he does is question god, and challenges Eve, who was blindly following god’s commandment. This is a rather Promethean scenario, and the Humanist in me applauds the serpent’s inquisitive nature.
“Serpent, Snake” | Serpents and snakes are mentioned here and there in the Old Testament, but never again as a creature with a consciousness. They are likened with evildoers, with sharp tongues and poisonous lips. Fleeing, hissing, darting creatures. Obviously, snakes are scary! It’s no surprise that snakes are paired with negative rhetoric in the Old Testament.
1 Samuel, “Darkness” | While heaven is definitely mentioned in the Old Testament, hell is not. The closest thing I could find to hell in the Old Testament was “the place of darkness”, and that the wicked will be silenced there. Doesn’t sound so bad, eh? Another mention of this place is in Job, “Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?” (38:17)
1 Chronicles, “Satan” | The first use of the word “satan” is not until the book of 1 Chronicles. The first mention of Satan is fairly innocuous. He doesn’t seem to be an evil character yet, rather simply a character motivating King David into action.
Job, “Satan” | Satan’s most colorful story in the Old Testament is found in the book of Job. God allows satan to test Job in every conceivable way in order to get Job to denounce his faith in him. Watch a quick summary of the story on YouTube. I personally think that god looks like a bigger douchebag than satan does in this story. Why does god stand by and do nothing? Strike two against god.
Isaiah, Ezekiel and the Fallen Angels | There’s a few passages in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:11-19 referring to a fallen angel. Some people point to these passages to describe how satan came into being. I am not convinced. I think that the first passage is actually referring to the King of Babylon, and the second is referring to the King of Tyre. In both instances, the kings are metaphorical fallen angels. However, for the sake of argument, let’s say they are in fact referring to satan. If so, satan used to be a good angel of the Lord, until he was corrupted by wickedness. This angel had designs on overthrowing god, but he was thrown out of god’s courts before he could do so.
Zechariah, “Satan” | The final mention of satan in the Old Testament is again a brief one. His purpose here is to be an accuser to Joshua the high priest. The picture I have in my head is that of a courtroom. God is the judge, Joshua is the convict (defended by an Angel of the Lord), and Satan is the prosecutor. God rebukes satan. Joshua wins and is ceremoniously purified. That’s it—very short!
Mentions of “evil” and “death” are too numerous to count, but interestingly, not to describe satan. The words “devil”, “demon” and “hell” is not used anywhere in the Old Testament.
There’s nothing here yet.
There’s nothing here yet.
Image source: sayot