Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Satan 8

continued from yesterday
Jesus' exorcist ministry not only illustrated his love for people and the good news he brought to the enslaved.  It indicated the end to Satan's rule over the world. Over the centuries, we as Christians have filled in some of the gaps of this story-line. Satan was an angel who rebelled against God along with many other angels. They were kicked out of heaven and now wreak havoc on the earth in the form of demons.

The New Testament may presume this story, although it is interesting how little of it is actually in the Bible. The Old Testament says nothing of the fall of Satan.  Genesis 2-3 do not mention Satan, although Jews around the time of Christ began to equate the serpent with him. [1]  Isaiah 14:12, "How you have fallen from heaven," says nothing about Satan but in context is clearly about the human king of Babylon (14:4). We do hear of evil spirits in the Old Testament in a couple places, but we are told nothing about what they are or where they came from.

Satan himself arguably does not appear until the latest layer of the Old Testament, long after Israel returned from captivity in Babylon. If you compare 2 Samuel 24:1 with 1 Chronicles 21:1, you see that Israel's understanding of temptation has expanded from God tempting David in 2 Samuel to Satan doing it in 1 Chronicles. While the story of Job seems to picture the time of the patriarchs, this says nothing about when it was written. It appears in the third and arguably latest section of the Old Testament, the "Writings," and it is even possible that the first chapters that mention Satan date later than the story itself.

Satan's role in the prologue to Job is as tester of loyalty to God.  He seems to work for God, going out to test people's faithfulness to their divine king. In that sense, he does not seem even here yet to be the fallen angel of Jewish understanding around the time of Christ. The first hints of this understanding come around 200BC in the book of 1 Enoch, a book that Jude 14-15 quote, and even here he is not called Satan.

Further, the fallen angels in 1 Enoch fall not at the time of Adam but around the time of the Flood. 1 Peter 3:19-20 may allude to this story when it tells of Jesus preaching to disobedient spirits imprisoned around the days of Noah.  Similarly, 2 Peter 2:4-5 and Jude 6 also seem to allude to this story in 1 Enoch when the fallen angels were judged around the time of the Flood.

None of these stories are explicitly told in the New Testament. In fact, even the two passages that sound like they are about Satan's "fall" from heaven arguably were originally about Satan's defeat because of Christ. Jesus says that Satan has fallen from heaven like lightning (Luke 10:18), but he is talking about the fact that the demons have become subject to his disciples and the fact that they are able to cast out demons.

In context, therefore, Jesus is not talking about the distant past but about what was happening right then in his ministry, the final defeat of Satan. His disciples are able to cast out demons because the kingdom of God is arriving on earth and Satan is defeated. Similarly, Revelation 12:9 speaks of Satan and his angels being hurled down to the earth, but it is talking about something that was happening after the birth of Christ as part of the final conflicts between good and evil.

Nevertheless, we do find Jewish literature that located demonic forces in the lowest "heaven," the lowest sky immediately above the earth.  This situation is arguably presumed by the New Testament, even though the New Testament does not explicitly spell it out.  A writing called the Testament of Levi...

[1] The first known instance where Satan is equated with the serpent is in a Jewish writing from the first century BC called The Life of Adam and Eve.

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