The Real Devil


The ultimate origin of evil and human sin is indeed a deep question; but only by dealing with that issue are we empowered to handle sin and evil and find a way of victory. To blame it all on a personal devil with horns and tail and pitchfork seems to me to be a form of escapism, a dodging of the question, just quickly going for a simplistic but wrong answer. Especially once it is understood that actually this view of 'the Devil' is one nowhere found in the Bible, but is rather an accretion of centuries of speculation and adaption of pagan myths. In Chapter 1, I seek to demonstrate that this is indeed what's happened. Throughout that chapter and those that follow, I seek to demonstrate how surrounding myths about a Satan figure were not only accepted by God's people; but the Bible writers actively seek to deconstruct them by alluding to them and exposing their fallacy. From the account of the Fall in Genesis 1-3 to the references to Satan in Revelation, this is what's going on. The fact Holy Scripture doesn't use quotation marks and footnote sources may mask this to the uninformed reader; but the allusions and deconstructions going on in the Biblical text are powerful and bitingly relevant to both their day and ours.

But the history of the Devil as a concept doesn't solve the huge problem of sin and evil for us. It's not like a problem in a maths textbook- if it beats you, well you can just go to the back of the textbook and find the answer. It demands far more than that. Ursula LeGuin wrote powerfully of "all the pain and suffering and waste and loss and injustice we will meet all our lives long, and must face and cope with over and over, and admit, and live with, in order to live human lives at all" (1). This is indeed how it is; her cancer, the tragedy of his life, the tsunami here and the repression of human rights there, the deeply hidden regrets and secret sins of every human life... over and over we have to rise each day and live with it all. It seems to me that the burden of it all, the sheer pain and difficulty of the struggle to understand, has led people to simply give up, and blame it all on a personal Satan who fell off the 99th floor and came down here to mess up our nice good little lives. But simplistic one dollar answers to these million dollar questions have floated around for too long. Legitimate responses and understandings are not going to be found in a pagan myth, no matter how respectably it's been developed by bunk theology and enshrined in Christian tradition. Valid answers and true insights are, I submit, to be found in God's word of truth alone. And it's here that I seek to look in detail in Chapter 2, seeking to develop a true framework for understanding what the Bible itself actually says about the devil, sin, evil and the related issue of Angels. Yet as I see it, the whole purpose of true Biblical theology and doctrine is the radical transformation of human life in practice. This is why true understanding is important, because it impacts daily life, leading to what Paul calls "the full assurance of understanding" (Col. 2:2).

It's this "full assurance of understanding" which I try to develop in Chapter 3, taking a break from the theory and seeing how all this impacts human life and experience in practice. Then in Chapter 4 we're back to more theology as it were, investigating the theme of demons, deconstructing the idea that there are actual demons as spirit beings causing sin and evil. We're then in a position to survey most of the Bible verses which speak of the devil or satan, and come to understand them within the framework of understanding we've developed. That's what happens in Chapter 5, leading on finally to the summary conclusions of Chapter 6. Many of the issues raised in our exploration were touched upon in a public debate held in 1992, and the transcript of this is reprinted as an Appendix- there, side by side as it were, the understanding we are presenting can be found compared and contrasted with the more common Christian interpretation of the Devil and Satan. Join me in praying that we will understand, that in our understandings we may come to a deeper faith, hope and love. And that through them we may be able to reach out further, more meaningfully and more compellingly, to others- in the days that remain as we await the return of God's son to provide the final answer and resolution to all our struggles with sin and evil.

Whilst this book is a reflection of my own study, reading, research, reflection and experience, with all the human error factors involved in such enterprises, it also owes much to two fine friends, Ted & Bev Russell. Their contributions are noted in the text, and in some ways this volume is a tribute to them and to our quite extraordinary meeting of minds and experience in so many ways.

Duncan Heaster

(1) Ursula LeGuin, The Language Of The Night (New York: Putnam's, 1979) p. 69.

Chapter 1: The History Of An Idea 
1-1 A History Of The Devil And Satan In Old Testament Times
1-1-1 Israel In Exile: The Babylonian / Persian Influence
1-1-2 Greek Influence
1-2 The Devil After The New Testament
1-2-1 Satan In The Thought Of Justin Martyr
1-2-2 Satan In The Thought Of Irenaeus And Tertullian
1-2-3 Satan In The Thought Of Clement And Origen
1-2-4 Satan In The Thought Of Lactantius And Athanasius
1-2-5 Satan In The Thought Of Augustine
1-3 Satan In The Middle Ages
1-4 Satan From The Reformation Onwards
1-4-1 Satan In Paradise Lost
1-5 The Protestors: Resistance To The Popular Concept Of The Devil
1-6 The Devil And Satan In Recent Thought

Chapter 2: Some Basics Bible Teaching 
2-1 Angels
2-2 The Origin Of Sin And Evil
Digression 2: Romans And The Wisdom Of Solomon
Digression 3 The Intention And Context Of Genesis 1-3
2-3 Satan And The Devil
2-4 The Jewish Satan
2-5 Hell
Digression 4 "The spirits in prison"

Chapter 3: Practical Implications 
3-1 Some Practical Implications
3-1-1 "To be spiritually minded": The Essence Of Christianity
3-2 The Devil And Satan: The Hard Questions

Chapter 4: Demons 
4-1 The Devil, Satan And Demons
4-2 Demons And Idols
4-3 Demons And Sickness
4-4 The Language Of The Day
4-5 God Adopts A Human Perspective
Digression 5 The Teaching Style Of Jesus
4-6 Demons: Why Didn’t Jesus Correct People?
4-7 The Psychology Of Belief In Demons
4-8 Demons: A Summary

Chapter 5: Some Wrested Scriptures 
Chapter 5 An Examination Of The Specific Bible Passages Which Mention The Devil And Satan
5-2 The Serpent In Eden
5-3 Sons of God and Daughters of Men
5-4 Job’s Satan
5-4-1 The Satan In Job: A Fellow Worshipper?
5-4-2 Job's Satan: An Angel-Satan?
5-4-3 The Deconstruction Of The ‘Satan’ Myth In Job
5-5 Lucifer King Of Babylon
5-6 The Anointed Cherub
5-7 Satan In Zechariah 3
5-8 The Temptation Of Jesus
5-8-1 Jesus In The Wilderness: A Study In The Language And Nature Of Temptation
5-8-2 The Wilderness Temptations: A Window Into The Mind Of Jesus
5-9 Unclean Spirits
5-10 The Devil And His Angels
5-11 Satan Takes Away The Word
5-12 Satan As Lightning
5-13 Satan Entered Judas
5-14 Peter And Satan
5-15 Your Father The Devil
5-16 Oppressed Of The Devil
5-17 Child Of The Devil
5-18 The Power Of Satan
5-19 Delivering Unto Satan
5-20 The God / Prince Of This World
5-21 An Angel Of Light
5-22 The Messenger Of Satan
5-23 The Prince Of The Air
5-24 Giving Place To The Devil
5-25 The Wiles Of The Devil
5-26 The Snare Of The Devil
5-27 Turned Aside After Satan
5-28 Resist The Devil
5-29 Chains Of Darkness
5-30 The Body Of Moses
5-31 The Synagogue Of Satan
5-32 Michael And The Great Dragon
5-33 Devil And Satan Bound
Digression 6: "The man of sin" (2 Thess. 2)

Chapter 6: Some Conclusions 
6-1 The Real Devil: Some Conclusions
Legion And The Gadarene Pigs