Is There Really a Devil?
By George Elerick
When I was five, I had this recurring nightmare that a huge mouth with short legs would chase after me. It sounds comical, I know, but in my dream it literally scared the hell out of me! I would wake up crying and hoping to never see it again; it made me fear the idea of sleep.
It created unhealthy paranoia.
But, it was just a dream, wasn't it?
The ancient Jewish people were poets and dreamers. They spoke a lot of the time in metaphor. I might even say metaphor was their first language; it defined a lot of how they understood the world they encountered around them. The devil is one such metaphor. When the Israelites were in Babylonian exile they borrowed a few things, and not just the occasional cup of sugar -- they borrowed beliefs from the Zoroastrian star-searchers. The Zoroastrians believed in three major things (among many others): 1) in a place above them that they would go to when they died, if they were believers; 2) in a devil; 3) in a place below them where those who didn't believe would go if they died. Notice the similarities? The ancient Jewish writers saw evil as something we were all capable of. The creation of the devil as a red guy with a pitchfork creates paranoia and irresponsibility.
The personification of evil wasn't a new idea; it was a borrowed one. If we see the devil through the eyes of the ancient world it wasn't that an evil spirit anti-god existed, it was a metaphor for the destructive potential of all of mankind.
We could all be the devil. It's a choice we make every day.
We've heard it said that darkness lurks in every corner, what we fail to realize is that the corners lie in our heart.
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George Elerick is a cultural theorist, human rights worker, and author of soon-to-be-released Jesus Bootlegged (January 1, 2011). He likes climbing tall mountains and wishes he could leap them in a small bound. He lives in the UK with his wife and his incoming baby boy.