June 19, 2008

Who's This Satan Guy, Anyway?

I loaned out my Walter Wink (who had a highly enlightening chapter on this very question) so I'll need to wing it...

But another source tells me that "a satan" was a sort of political undercover cop for the Persian Empire. Basically, the word translates into English, where we first find it in Job, as "The Accuser." His role there is one of ferreting out disloyalty to God, using entrapment & abuse in his efforts, but with some restraint by God, who knows Job is innocent. Does Job? Where did this "satan" get his anonymous tip? Who fingered Job in the first place? I think it was Job himself, who had not been suffering and wasn't clear in his own mind whether he was "really" devoted to God, or just to the rewards he'd been receiving.

In other words, this accuser seems to depend on our fears for his influence. If we're very young, and haven't had anything too dreadful happen to us, we are paradoxically afraid of the possibility, so much so that we almost "need" some suffering, just as reassurance that it will not destroy us. Hence, I imagine, the appeal of scarey movies, to those who like them.

Anyway, Satan in the 'Old' Testament plays the role of God's enforcer, an angel delegated to probing for & punishing human sinfulness. As we read toward & into the Christian scriptures there's more a sense that this is a spirit exceeding its authority, a prosecutor who as Jesus says, "Always was a liar." That is, the guilt we personify as this spirit is not, and never was, truly deserved.

So here we have this element of our psyche chained up, and restrained by satanic-type torment, for 1000 years, whereupon "he must be loosed for a little while."

Hmmmm.... extremely "Hmmmm!"


At 10:27 PM, Blogger Chris M. said...

I have my Wink but it's in the other room. That sounds about right to me. I never heard the datum that a satan being a spy for the Persian empire. I do recall the image of Satan as God's district attorney or prosecutor in the heavenly court. And didn't "ha-satan" mean "the accuser"?

To the degree that "Satan" is uncovering sinful behavior that really is alienating us from God, he has a role to play as one of the Powers That Be. He shines the Light where we prefer it not be shone.

When he oversteps that role, as you write, that's a problem.

And we play that role for ourselves and others over and over, don't we? Hence Jesus admonishes us not to judge, to leave that to God. He had a pretty sharp tongue.

At 7:47 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Yes, at one time I was told that that was Jesus's # 1 message for me!

I found the Persian secret-police reference in Malina&somebody's _Social Science Commentary on Revelation_. Now--since the Bible is supposed to have been largely assembled during the exile in Babylon, from materials written then or earlier--The author of Job would have been using the name before the Persian Empire grew to dominate the area. Maybe the Persians got it from Jewish religious sources & then used it as a word for their snoops?

I know a woman with a degenerative nerve disease, one of those probably-auto-immune things. After long-term treatment with steroids she's recovered enough sensitivity that her doctor will let her exercise again. That had been too dangerous at first; she had in fact injured herself a few times without knowing it. So I imagine the value of negative experience (which must have some value, given that God permits it) is like the sort of "feedback" she was lacking, but on a spiritual level.

Overall, people have come to associate the name "Satan" with everything painful in the world, as the personification of all the harm that can come to human beings. The authors of the Hebrew scriptures had been sure that anything that happened, good or bad, was ultimately under God's power, including whatever some destructive spirit might do... but then later, after a Judean temple-state was set up under Persian authority, Zoroastrian ideas of Good-God vs Ahriman seem to have influenced Jewish concepts of the situation--probably increasingly so as time passed and their lands passed under more hostile foreign rulers. By the time of the author of Revelation, he doesn't have anything nice to say about Satan at all!

Even so... This passage implies we can do without Satan for 1000 years--but then, for whatever reason, Satan has to be released.

By your idea of Satan's function, that 1000 years might be a period when no-one is sinning, nobody's behavior is distracting them from God. & then--(after the less respectable Dead reawake?) God has work for him again!

I've read a lot of Wink and a lot of Stringfellow, and I'm still not entirely clear, what such "spirits" really "are"! Stringfellow said, if I have this right~ "created by God for His own glory." But human creative powers (including the power of 'misunderstanding' an earlier concept!) seem to be at work in shaping them! I gather there's no actual "them" there, to suffer if they are chained in a cosmic basement for 1000 years, or to rejoice if they are released. A certain mode of human experience is occuring for awhile, and then it isn't.

So is it the more general sort of trouble that gets eliminated here, or the more specific suffering of guilt, temptation and blame? Or (even though the descriptions differ) are these ultimately the same?

At 8:15 PM, Blogger comedic_logic said...

So where does satan fit in the beginning ? and sin for that matter . this article provided a completly different perspective on satan and who he is . i was under the impression him and god are foes , some say that his mission is to get man to walk away from god . I Would have to disagree with that concept if there were ever such being . I would thnk that it would make more sense for this entity to convince god to walk away from man . hence he only has convince on being in order to bring the entire house down .


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