Satan is a Tool: The Evolution of Satan as Population Control
Published December 15, 2008 by:
Traditionally the Devil is an embodiment of evil whom uses his wicked ways to punish mortal men and drive them from God's path. Lucifer and Satan within the Christian religion are thought to be one and the same,
however, within the Old Testament, they are two separate entities. Satan in the Old Testament is simply known to be an unnamed, unaligned, but not unimportant entity who gives mortals a separate path to take in various situations; for example the serpent in Genesis 3. Lucifer, however, is an angel of light whom, upon his arrogance and jealousy of God's divine power, is sentenced by God himself to inhabit the abyss and from there answer God's call of being the embodiment of evil (Isaiah 14: 12-22); and is merely a metaphor for the King of Babylon whom desired to be all powerful. The traditional concept of Satan as the prince of darkness can be linked to the combining of both of these ideas into one evil being within the New Testament and can be argued to be a tool created by leaders of the early Christian Church and through its constant evolution is used to frighten citizens into living righteous lives.
The Satan, or for this argument a Satan, is defined in Hebrew to be an adversary or an "obstacle" (Harris 275) and makes several appearances in both canonical and non-canonical literature. In the Old Testament, when differentiated from the Devil, the Satan is a tool that God uses to tempt man so that he might see the devotion that his children have to Him. For example, in the book of Genesis, the Satan can be identified as the serpent in the Garden of Eden. While this embodiment of Satan can be associated with Devilish deceit, when one studies the true nature of this character they will find that it is merely a beast of the field that tells Eve to eat of a fruit that will give her knowledge (Caldwell 30). Also in Genesis we find an absence of the Devil in the instance of Cain slaying his brother Able (Genesis 4:8). Several verses later, we find God banishing Cain from Eden and marking him so that anyone who met him would kill him in the name of God (Genesis 4:15). In this we find most importantly that God is not the merciful, forgiving being he comes to be in the New Testament but instead is one of both benevolence and avarice allowing for only a view from a, "monotheistic," standpoint (Caldwell 32). It is not until the New Testament that one finds Satan as a character; prior to this he is merely a function of God's divine will (Pagels 106).
However, Satan in other works is known to be the traditional Devil that modern Christianity has come to accept as the incarnation of wretchedness. For example, in
the Book of Jubilees, which was written between 135-105 BC (Caldwell 100) we find that a similar account of the serpent is presented; however it shifts the serpents role to more of a malicious tone (Jubilees 26). It is only within the work the
Anglo-Saxon Genesis, a pointed non-canonical piece of medieval literature, that we see the serpent answering to the master with the statement, "the most cruel of messengers once more departed downwards. He meant to make his way to the broad flames, those canopies of Hell, where his master lay bound in chains," (Anglo-Saxon Genesis 33).
The Lucifer concept is one that requires a reader to analyze the literature with more scrutiny. Lucifer begins as a character in the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah chapter fourteen verses twelve and fourteen, we are presented with an angel who is cast out of heaven and into the abyss for attempting to ascend to heaven and creating a throne above God's own. Lucifer is cast down to rule the underworld under God's command and Lucifer hence forth is known to act as the tempter and tormenter of man; but cannot do so without first being ordered to by God himself (Pagels 107). This is simply the only reference to a being called Lucifer in canonical scripture.
The common reference to the Devil is a reference to a fictional character designed by the church to control the masses. It has evolved since the time of the institution of the Christian church following the life of Christ. For example, in the New Testament we find that Jesus Christ is led into the dessert where he fasts and is tempted by the devil. In the scripture of Matthew, we find the literal use of the word devil and not Satan or Lucifer (Matthew 1-11). By this we find a deviation from the Old Testament figures and a migration to early Christian ideas of a direct intimate enemy of the Lord God. The New Testament is a number of canonical scriptures which were written between the first and second century Common Era, long after the time of the Old Testament publications. With the birth of this Devil, his evolution to the traditional ideal of modern times can be seen through non-canonical works of literature and an obvious shift towards the mystical struggle of good versus evil, of God versus the Devil, can first be seen.
While Christianity grows in the early centuries of the Common Era, other cultural traditions such as those from Persian, Greek, and Syrian culture had been adopted and incorporated into the religion (Harris 276). These new ideas, coupled with the religious mysticism from the New Testament, enhance the epic battle between God and the Devil and perpetuate the theory of an eternal afterlife spent in Heaven or Hell depending on the life one lives. This theory is simply that if one leads a righteous life using the teachings of God and Jesus Christ, then they will be rewarded with the eternal praise of Heaven; and inversely, should they turn their backs to the Lord and not abide by His commandments, they will be eternally sentenced to Hell and damnation such as Lucifer was cast into the abyss. These teachings are the foundation upon which Christianity is built upon but through constant exaggeration continue to evolve and slowly dive into a diluted, fantastic, and almost fictional realm.
The period in which the Devil seems to be granted his most power and individuality is during the period of the medieval middle ages. This is when Christianity has spread to Europe and the Catholic Church is becoming more powerful and essentially a form of government all its own. An example as to the extent of over dramatics used by the Church can be found in the Anglo-Saxon paraphrase of the book of Genesis where we find the Devil granting divine powers to the serpent so that it may present the temptation of the forbidden fruit to Adam and Eve (Anglo-Saxon 25- 33). This exaggeration of the Devil, based on foundations laid by the early Christian Church, is meant to frighten the subjects of Christian kingdoms into leading a life under the 'divine' guidance of the Catholic Church.
While religion is a controversial subject between believers and non-believers, the idea that cannot be argued is that over the course of Christianity, the Devil, who is loosely based upon the early ideas of a Satan and Lucifer the angel, has constantly been granted power by Church scholars, writers, and leaders so that he may act as a punishment for those who do not live by God, and therefore the Church's will.