[lit-ideas] Re: The Problem of Evil

  • From: Eric <eyost1132@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2006 13:46:49 -0500

[The Devil as God's] Prosecutor?

Yeah, sort of. The word "Satan" comes from the
Septuagint translation. It can mean either an
accuser or adversary in a legal court.

In Jewish Scriptures, the Devil has no independent
evil power. He doesn't rule an evil kingdom. He
isn't headed for Celestial Regime Change at the end of time. No horns, etc.

Consider good old Zechariah 3:1–10.  Satan is at
God’s right hand when he accuses Joshua the High
Priest, only to have his accusation rejected. In
Job 1–2 Satan creates suspicion about Job’s
faithfulness, before God in the midst of the
heavenly court setting.

The turn in Satan's character to author of all
evil starts late in post-exilic writing. It may
have been a way of explaining the conquest of
Israel/Judah by foreign powers, and Satan's shift
to a purely evil character may be influenced by
Persian myths. The first real turn occurs in 1
Chronicles 21:1--which, based on internal evidence
is a late post-exilic book. Satan gets David to
sin by taking a census.

This 1 Chronicles turn is important. Here's where
the tradition tends to separate temptation from
God and assign it to Satan. In the earlier version
of the census story, God, not Satan, is the
tempter (check out 2 Samuel 24:1).

As far as a convincing narrative evasion goes,
this is a pip. God isn't the source evil; he has
an Iago up there in the sky. The gradual
transition from Heavenly District Attorney to
Supernatural Bad Guy would make perfect sense to
readers of Milton, who see the Byronic antihero of
the early books turn into the dull slug of the
later books.

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