The Devil Made Me Do It Redux

Over three years ago, as part of my “church experience,” I wrote this blog post illustrating how many churches (including the one I was attending at the time) emphasize the influence of an external tormentor who causes them to sin over their own personal responsibility. I highlighted the fact, using multiple examples, that the Bible emphasizes that we are accountable to God for our actions and that blaming HaSatan (the Adversary) is no excuse.

I was reminded of this again while listening to Christian radio this week. All they talk about is Satan, Satan, Satan, and how if we’re not careful, we’ll fall into one of his traps.

But what about the traps we set for ourselves? I don’t think our external Adversary needs all that much help when after all, most people are their (our) own worst enemies. Just food for thought.

Calvin and Hobbes

6 thoughts on “The Devil Made Me Do It Redux”

  1. Yes, this came up in our midrash today… the adversary is a toothless lion that is NOT omnipresent or omniscient. Indeed, our greatest enemy is self.


  2. In researching for my novel, I’ve learned a lot about angels and demons and fallen angels from the Judaic perspective. Looks nothing like the Christian perspective.

  3. This might sound weird, but studying personified evil has consumed my reading as of late.

    After reading the Bible, I had a lingering sense that everything everyone in Christianity told me about “The Devil” as such was flatly untrue. Books on my list include The History of the Devil, Milton, The Birth of Satan, The Devil, a New Biography, The Good and Evil Serpent, and The Origin of Satan, by Elaine Pagels. Plus Faust, Dante, Virgil, Marlowe, and the Temptations of St. Anthony. I’m still very busy.

    My conclusion is that there is not a single, one figure who is the highest poobah of some dark army.

    1. Chronology problems:

    If there were some great war in the empyrean before creation’s first gleaming, why would G-d appoint the selfsame character the babysit the humans. Seraphim at that time were serpents and sentinels, and so it makes little sense for G-d to appoint a recent rebel to guard his possessions.

    The Mt. Hermon incident where the elohim descended and betook themselves to ravish the mortal females (briefly mentioned in Genesis) records yet ANOTHER fall of sorts. How is a satan cast out of Heaven, the Eden, and then Heaven again in his rebellion? Enoch skirts this problem by mentioning the Hermon incident in history but vaguely touching on Eden itself so as not to draw too much attention to the contradiction.

    Fall before creation > Fall in Eden > Fall at Hermon

    It seems like a single satan has to pick one and be content. But nevertheless, this chronological problem – though a yawning fissure – is glossed over entirely by a Christianity that seems to blame everything on a one character who is never really mentioned.

    2. Redundancy:

    In “Satan,” you have this one scapegoat character that has to be rejected and die for the sins of Man.

    But then Jesus did his job for him. If his job was to become a scapegoat and die, Yeshua did it.

    One version of David’s temptation recounts that Satan tempted David to run a census, but then the other…

    …G-d did it. If it’s his job to tempt…welp…it looks like G-d did it.

    Satan supposedly corrupts the world, but then again…

    Man corrupts the world. Of adulterating existence is Satan’s job, Man does it nicely himself.

    There is so much overlap it seems like Satan is more of a costume that everyone else slips on when they need to do something that evinces the deviant principle.

    3. Personification:

    Belial was supposedly a fallen angel in Jewish mystical texts by the time of the Second Temple, but throughout the Tanakh, the word belial is simply an adjective for something being worthless. It’s used simply as a modifier throughout the Hebrew Bible. Jephthah’s troops were deemed worthless men. Hannah insisted to Eli that she was not a worthless woman.

    And yet by the time of the NT we see that an adjective congeals into a vivid persona.

  4. One might like to add “Demons and the Making of the Monk”
    — by David Brakke —
    to possible explorations of Christian history here.

    I want, also, to mention a documentary-type show I saw last night (although it’s not new), some food for thought:
    Decoding the Ancients (from Amazon),
    episode 3/Vesuvius and the Fear of God
    (This isn’t about demons, but is, while flawed I think, [more] interesting. And Jewish persecution is usually [in Jewish circles, etc.] portrayed as the work of Hasatan or the Devil.)

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