Origin of the Myth of Satan
Jesus said "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18).
The word for Satan in the Old Testament Hebrew was ha-satan which meant "The adversary." In the Old Testament, Andrew Collins tells us that "this term is used exclusively to describe either the enemies of God or the enemies of the Israelite race in general. Never is the Devil referred to as the evil one. Not until the advent of the New Testament...does the term ha-satan take on the all important role. At this point, Satan becomes an angel fallen from grace and expelled from heaven" (1).
Dr. George Lamsa, now deceased Aramaic scholar, also confirms that the term Satan simply means adversary or evil intent. It was NOT a literal person. It started out as a term to describe anyone who was an enemy or in an adversarial relationship, and was finely honed down into a literal being in the New Testament.
In previous studies we have learned that the story of the Watchers in Genesis chapter 6 and in the Book of Enoch, the story of the sons of God impregnating the daughters of men, was a mythological version of the actual descent of the Watchers of Kurdistan into the valley where the early tribe of humans lived. We learn that they were not actually angels, but men with striking physical characteristics which made them appear as angelic beings. They were portraited as evil because of the forbidden knowledge that they brought to the people. There is a great deal of overlap between the story of the Watchers and the Garden of Eden creation myth in early chapter of Genesis. If Satan is the presumed individual who took on the form of the snake and seduced Eve, it stands to reason then that the Garden of Eden story from Genesis Chapter 2 and 3 is the same story as is related in Genesis chapter 6, but from a different standpoint. Since Satan was considered a "fallen angel" and the Watchers were also considered fallen angels, then it is the events of Genesis chapter 6 which are drawn upon to produce the mythological story of the fall of man in chapter three.
How could an event that happened in Chapter 6 be fodder for the creation of the story in Chapter 3? Here is the scenario. The early tribe of man was living in the valley below Mount Hermon. Suddenly, these angelic looking beings come down from atop the mountain, which is a sacred mountain. They bring with them sacred but forbidden knowledge. This knowledge is embraced by many of the humans, and the Watchers, as they are called in Aramaic, take wives from among the human women. Because the knowledge which the Watchers bring is forbidden (why it was forbidden, we don't know) they are looked at as fallen angels, and evil. As a result, they are associated with the concept of ha-satan, anyone who is an enemy of the people or God. There was probably not one particular watcher who took on THE role of satan, but the group as a whole was seen as being a threat. As a result of cohabitating and consorting with these watchers and embracing their forbidden knowledge, the people felt that they had been "thrown out of paradise" because they were no longer the pure, ignorant, innocent race they once were. From this, the Genesis myth was born. Contributing to the creation of the myth was the fact that all the other societies around them also had similar mythological creation stories, and these were of course known of and considered relevant to what was happening to this particular tribe of man at the time. Egyptian and Sumerian tribes had constructed their creation myths hundreds of years before, because their societies are much more ancient than the Biblical societies familiar from traditional Bible readings.
As we learned in a previous study, the forbidden knowledge the Watchers brought was simply knowledge of metal working, of making and applying cosmetics, knowledge about the weather, astrology, use of herbs and spices for cooking, and use of medicinal herbs. Yet, these types of knowledge, which offered mankind ways of understanding and controlling his life and world, were obviously forbidden. It is hard to understand why this knowledge would have been foridden, for God had given mankind dominion over the earth, to control it and to subdue it, and this kind of knowledge would have offered assistance in maintaining that dominion.
Nevertheless, this helps us to understand the mistaken origin of the idea of Satan as a literal being, and helps us to understand that the undeveloped nature of civilization at this time nurtured many false ideas. The questions that beg to be asked are these: How did the society of the early Bible develop from the more advanced and permissive societies that existed before written Biblical history? Were these people simply afraid of knowledge and the advancement it would bring? Perhaps one man and his family, or several families, decided they did not want to embrace a more knowledgeable, freedom-oriented society, and withdrew from the society they lived in, retreating to the valley below Mount Hermon and building a reclusive, separatist kind of society which feared and avoided knowledge and advancement. Reminds me of the separation one can see today in the religious world. Some would say, "My drug problem is so severe, the only thing that will deliver me from it is God" and they sit back and wait for him to magically take away the problem for them. Other would say, "I know that God will deliver me from this problem, through the use of the power, abilities, skills, and knowledge that he has given me, and is available to me at any moment in time." These people recognize that it is not arrogant to say "I can lick this problem myself" because God is the one who has equipped you with the power to do it, so when you use that power, you are still giving him the credit and the glory, it's just that he used your mind, your body, and your spirit as the tools to accomplish that feat.
I do not want to be one of those humans, hiding in the valley, refusing to embrace knowledge. And those early Bible stories are simply a record of what one civilization did. They do not represent a model for what we should do. They are history recorded through mythology. Can we learn from them? Yes, if we realize they are not literal, and that the canvas of spirituality is much broader than that portraited in these man-made, human renditions of what is believed to be divine.
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Andrew. (1996). From the Ashes of Angels: The
Legacy of a Fallen Race. London: Signet Books, p. 42.
Judie C. Snelson and The Center for Unhindered Living