Sunday, April 30, 2017
Satan the Devil Said to be of Persian Origin, 1888 Article
THE DEVIL—SATAN SAID TO BE OF PERSIAN ORIGIN, article in Current Literature 1888
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Taking the word Satan in its specific sense, as a proper name, we find it in the Bible signifying a spiritual invisible being, whose vocation is to tempt and mislead mankind, and who delights in man's destruction and degradation. In the Book of Job Satan is described as being familiar with the Almighty: “And the Lord said unto Satan, whence comest thou?" (Job i., 7). During the reign of David, Satan is reported to have worked against Israel. “And Satan stood up against Israel" (I. Chronicles xxi.) When the prophet Zechariah beheld in a vision the high priest Joshua standing before an angel he saw Satan by his side to resist (Zechariah iii., 1). These biblical passages have given rise to a superstitious belief which has taken deep root, not only in the hearts of our people, but also in those of the numerous adherents of Christianity and Islam. In the New Testament Satan is identified with the devil, derived from the Greek Diabolos, and is believed to be as ubiquitous and powerful as God himself. In Matthew iv., 1, Satan is reported as having tempted Jesus. St. John calls Satan a murderer, a liar. And in Revelation xii., 7, 9, it is said: “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, etc. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the devil and Satan,” etc. It is most astonishing that Jesus, in whom Christians believe as having been God himself, was powerless in the presence of Satan, while Michael and his angels vanquished him? In the second and seventh chapters of the Koran we read that “Satan, who is there called Eblis, having disobeyed God's order to worship Adam, was hurled down from heaven," etc. Thus has Satan become the invisible ruler of Europe, western Asia and America, corrupting the innocent, defiling the pure, and degrading individuals as well as communities. But the question arises spontaneously: Who is Satan? Has Judaism given birth to such a phantom? Are the people of Israel responsible for the existence of such a demon? In order to solve these question, we must concur in the conclusions to which our great historians and modern Bible critics have arrived, with reference to the period when those books which mention Satan as a proper name were discovered. It has been ascertained that the books Job, Daniel, Chronicles and Kings belong to that time when the children of Israel, with exception of a few who were permitted to remain in Jerusalem, were transported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. There they came in contact with the Persians, whose religion consisted in fire worshiping and believing in a deity of a dual form, in Ormuzd, the creator of light and good, and Ahriman, the originator of darkness and evil. This belief of the Persians was during the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, improved by Zoroaster, who was the propagator of Monotheism, teaching that there was before the world's creation but one omnipotent God who, by his word, called into being two good angels, Ormuzd and Ahriman. But the latter corrupted his ways, and thus became ruler of darkness and evil. Now, as the people of Israel found in the land of their captivity a nation whose principal belief in God bore such a striking resemblance to their own, they soon became closely attached to them, and imbued with their belief in Ahriman, whose name they changed afterward into Satan, which found entrance into the Bible. Persian superstitious religious ideas took a strong hold of our people's imagination, yes, even of that of our prophets. "The names of the angels"—says the Talmud Jerushalmi of Rosa Hashana— "did the people of Israel bring with them from Babylon during the reign of Cyrus." Thus the Christian world is indebted for the invention of Satan, who embellishes their Testament, not to the Jews, but to the Persians. Also the believers in Kabbalah are indebted for the nomenclature of angels and demons which they possess to nobody else but to the Persians. The Persian doctrines of angelology and demonology have impressed the majority of our people so that they adhere to it up to the present day. This doctrine has become the nucleus of many of our prayers. The Kabbalistic rabbis have even gone a step further, and have identified Satan with the serpent which enticed Adam and Eve to trespass against God's commandments. And gradually they have advanced him to the high position of Malach Hamovess, angel of death. Hence, one of the sages says: “ Hu, Hasatan, Hu Hajezer hora, Hu Hamalach hamovess." "The Satan, the enticer to evil, and the angel of death are one and the same being." This view, however, was not shared by all rabbis. There were many who bitterly opposed it. The Talmud B'rachoth, page 33, relates: “In the place where Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa resided a serpent endangered the lives of the people. The rabbi succeeded in doing away with the serpent and convincing the people that not the serpent killeth, but sin." This story intimates the idea that Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa worked to destroy the prevalent belief that the old serpent Nachash Hakadmony was the Malach Hamovess who hurls people into untimely graves. The rabbi endeavored to show that untimely death is due to some cheth, yes, some deviation from God's precepts which are compatible with the divine and supreme laws of nature in the world.
From this it appears that the devil has no business in the Bible. He is an imposter—a standing fraud. Discussing the devil, the National Review says: "To gain his end there were no pains the devil would not take, no situation in which he would not place himself. He assumed the likeness of an elegant young man in order to lead astray a girl called Maricken. Through her means he gained more than a thousand souls, but was at last robbed of his chief victim and accomplice through the efforts of her uncle, a holy priest. He clothed himself with the body of a beautiful princess of Constantinople, lately dead, in order to marry Baldwin, Count of Flanders, on account of the unrivaled opportunities for evil which this position would give him. And he acted for thirteen years as lady's maid to a Portuguese woman named Lupa, but was robbed of his prey after all; for since, amid all her wickedness, she had not ceased to reverence St. Francis and his disciple St. Anthony, they brought her the habit of their order on her deathbed, and so saved her from the clutches of the fiend. Yet, in spite of all this zeal and versatility, he cannot be acquitted of the grave fault of sometimes wasting his time. It could, for instance, serve no great purpose for the devils to leap about the refectory tables of St. Dominic's convent. And from the time which he devoted to teaching in the Black School he did not reap an unmixed benefit; for, though ‘the devil took the hindmost,’ this was sometimes the man's cloak or his shadow, and his more able pupils, such as Soemundr the Learned, learned among other accomplishments, to exorcise and cheat their great and wily teacher."
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