Satan, Devil, and Serpent Were Once Different Persons??

Satan, Devil, and Serpent Were Once Different Persons?? October 30, 2019
Satan as Devil in Popular Imaginings
Photo by Максим Власенко on Unsplash

Satan, and our understanding of him, shows that doctrine develops and theology evolves.

Satan just isn’t what he used to be! The devil (diabolos in Greek) wasn’t always what he is today. At one point, the devil and Satan were two different persons. Moreover, that talking snake of Genesis was still another person. But by the time we reach the New Testament, all these three other-than-human persons had become one and the road was set for a Christian take on the Evil One.

Strange, huh? Not really. Theology develops.

That Mischievous Talking Snake was No Devil!

A long time ago in a Middle Eastern land far, far away, David became king over Israel. His new empire consisted of all twelve Israelite tribes. His people needed many things, and among the most important was a story which explained just how this came about. David’s court storyteller, a man scholars refer to as the “Yahwist” (“J” tradition), collected and edited Israelite traditions and molded them into something new. Around 950 BCE, he brought out the official truth of David’s ascendancy.

This, of course, would become the oral narrative that would give rise, eventually, to the core of the Bible. Within the Yahwist’s story was collected a most ancient idea and personage: Ha’Nachash, the talking serpent.

Originally this spirit wasn’t evil. Ha’Nachash was at first only a mischievous spirit. That he lurks about a tree hints at truly ancient origins. Long before Israelites or even their Habiru forebearers, stories of talking shamanic power-animals like dragons can be traced back 50,000 years ago to Aboriginal myths. Serpents and dragons dwelling about the roots and middle of the World Tree are found in mythologies all over the world.

What About the Devil? Satan?

You might be thinking right now something along the lines of, “Wait a minute! I thought that talking snake was Satan, the Prince of Lies, the Evil One!” Sorry to burst your bubble but not back in 950 BCE. We are too early for that sort of notion.

From our vantage in 2019 AD, we Christians now think of the word satan (from the Hebrew śāṭān) as a proper name (“Satan”) designating the personification of evil. Ask almost anyone in the Church and they will inform you that he is identical with Lucifer, the devil, the fallen angel, the talking serpent from Genesis 3 and primordial Dragon in Revelation (Revelation 12:7-9). They can say that because we stand significantly upriver from a confluence of two thousand years of flowing time, traditions, and theological developments. It wasn’t always so.

The late Biblical scholar Raymond Brown informs us that, prior to the 4th century BCE, belief in a “devil” was lacking among the Israelites. After the Babylonian captivity, however, a tidal wave of Persian influences poured into Israel. From this cultural upheaval came beliefs in hordes of demons and a principle of evil.

Persia—Origin of Satan and Devil

Let’s time travel back to 400 BCE. This is when we first encounter in Israelite writings the two very different ideas and persons, “devil” and “satan.” Like the serpent back in 950 BCE, ha’shatan (literally, “the satan” meaning “adversary”) was not originally an evil person. He just had a sucky profession. Back in the fourth century BCE he was not yet thought of as “the devil” from our doctrine. At that early time, the satan was one other-than-human person, and the devil was a completely different other-than-human person.

Ha’shatan was originally a Persian concept. So were the angels. So also, the devil. They made up God’s constellational fancy entourage in the sky. That part of the world speaks Farsi which sounds a lot like Pharisee, the sect of first century Israelites who accepted the existence of all these sky beings.

The Toughest Job in the Universe

Satan was originally the title of an office of one of God’s sky servants. It described his function. God’s sky court was imagined like the Persian court below on earth. The Persian court had an officer called the satan who acted as a secret agent for the throne. He was the honor-tester of the court who spies on behalf of the Persian ruler. He ventured out disguised as a peasant and tested the loyalty of the king’s subjects.

The satan would then earn the trust of peasant villagers and inquire about their musings on the king. Should a peasant dare respond with something dishonorable concerning the king, the satan would reveal himself as the king’s official, and the poor wretch would be hauled away in shame.

We see this Middle Eastern institution well into our times with King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan. When the new king took the thrown, he disguised himself as a common man, and blended in with the lower classes. He wanted to know their honest opinion of various Jordanian people concerning his government officials. Once told, he revealed himself, and thanked his citizens.

The Enduring Understanding of Satan

The earlier understanding of the satan as God’s official honor tester is important for grasping what Middle Eastern peoples mean when they call the United States “the greater satan” and the Russian Federation as “the lesser satan.” The idea is that God is using these powers to test Iran or some other Middle Eastern country.

The Middle Eastern comedy called “Job” sees God through a Persian lens (see Job 1-2). Like most authors of scripture, the man who wrote Job was not a monotheist but a henotheist. As we have mentioned before, monotheism is rare in the Bible. It evolved slowly.

Satan in Henotheism
Fellow Dying Inmate / All rights reserved

You can find the satan as honor tester in many Scriptures, from Job through the temptation narratives (Mark 1:12-13 // Matthew 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13) in the Gospels. Well after the merger of the satan and devil and serpent, the idea of the satan as honor tester stayed on the forefront of its meaning. When Paul uses the term satan (2 Corinthians 12:7b-9), he means just that, an honor tester. You see the same idea in both versions of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4).

Three Merge into One

Eventually all three other-than-human persons merged into one. By then the mischievous talking serpent had grown into a colossal sky dragon, consisting of the constellations Libra (seven heads) and Scorpio (tail). Along with this a sky lore had evolved concerning this evil sky dragon, now properly named Satan. Apparently he had attempted a coup d’état at the beginning of time. That’s the explanation as to why the serpent wound up fallen to the Garden on earth in Genesis 3.

This tradition of the fallen serpent got picked up in other New Testament writings besides Revelation. Look at what the Lukan Jesus observes over in Luke 10:17-20. All these concepts evolved over a long period of time.

Satanic Takeaway

Modern Christians carry around a library of scriptures evolved over a thousand years. This is coupled with a set of beliefs layered with leftover baggage from henotheistic times. Partly this has been carried forward to help explain evil and suffering without attributing these sufferings directly to the One God. Why do the superhuman avalanche of social ills and grave injustices persist?—Satan as Devil helps explain that in a way that does not dishonor God.

Satan found among Angels and Devils, evolved from Henotheism
Fellow Dying Inmate / All rights reserved

Make no mistake! The Church does officially teach the existence of the devil (CCC 391-95). Belief in the devil is considered serious and normative for Catholics. The devil’s existence is normally thought to be infallibly taught Catholic doctrine. Nevertheless, it’s still quite modest as Church teachings go. This is so despite how Hollywood movies popularize the devil, and despite what devotional fanatics and Vatican exorcists obsessed with Harry Potter tell us.

The Church’s doctrine on Satan never describes the devil in detail. No specification of the devil’s plurality is given. Catholics are not obligated by the teaching to accept popular and often horrific characteristics espoused by so many Christians.

Unlike our biblical ancestors in the faith, we Western Christians do not attribute every sickness event to personal causes. We have also come to understand that Kingdom of Reign of God is something far more than an Israelite-only theocracy. Nevertheless our proclamation of the final Kingdom is inexorably tied to resistance to injustice and all evil. We are still called to cast out devils as it were, even if they haunt unjust social structures that even our fellow Catholics espouse.

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  • Dave G.

    “We are still called to cast out devils as it were, even if they haunt unjust social structures that even our fellow Catholics espouse.”

    Actually, I’d suggest we first start with ourselves and cast out devils that haunt any unjust social structures we, ourselves, espouse. Then I’d say focus on ourselves in general, resisting those devilish temptations to do what we want or find ways to make sure God’s callings and our personal desires always happen to coincide. Then, of course, cast out any devils that can twist and turn a righteous cause into a decidedly demonic one. Finally, we can get around to casting out devils that might haunt things espoused by others, Christian or otherwise. That’s how I would take it at least.

  • Micho Lambwe

    Thank you servant of the Lord.
    Have learnt alot.God bless you.

  • fractal

    As Christianity overtook Europe, Christian leaders took some of the most beloved male Pagan deities, and used their likeness as one of Satan.

    The cloven-hooves, tail and pointy ears are all about those nature deities like Pan and Bacchus—have to make them EVIL to chase people into monotheism.

    And yes, early Judaism was heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism, which had this intensely dualistic struggle between Good vs Evil going on in their tradition.
    Good for rousing support for the Empire; not necessarily a useful tool in spiritual growth.

    As sun worshipers, they feared and hated darkness—I think we can all see how that amateurish world-view has kinked all the Abrahamic Triad traditions.

    Projecting your unwanted traits outward and onto a supernatural force is certainly an easy “get out of jail free” card—Satan made me do it!

  • Desperate Ambrose

    It had always been my understanding that the Devil/Satan was a the Hebrews’ take on Ahriman or Angra Mainyu, the Zoroastrian evil counterpart to Ormazd or Ahura Mazda.

    I find the notion of “honor tester” intriguing. Anyone have a referral to some source material on that?

    ” Theology develops.” Yes. Over the years, I have come to regard the Bible as the story of God’s evolving relationship with His people.

  • Desperate Ambrose

    “As Christianity overtook Europe, Christian leaders took some of the most beloved male Pagan deities, and used their likeness as one of Satan.”

    And made other pagan deities into saints.

  • fractal


    Anything to insert Christianity where it didn’t really belong…

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    Regarding the Snake: In a lot of pre-Christian religions, serpents were thought to represent knowledge, so the Snake may have represented ‘non-approved” knowledge (“non-approved” by the Priests, that is). Now, if Adam and Eve lacked the “Knowledge of good and evil” how were they any different from the other animals in the “Garden”? In a real sense, it is the Serpent who made these sub-human animals into reasoning beings, i.e. Humans. So the human race is actually the product of the Serpent, not Yahweh. Actually, I consider this a story of “Childhood’s ending” with a dig at women by the still-semi juvenile males of the day and little more. We are who we are, reasoning beings, because of that Snake! Had the Lord of Genesis had His way, we’d still be naked primates and little more.
    Hmmm….does this make the Serpent/Snake the hero of the story?

  • Ame

    Or we were made good and not meant to know evil. Adam and Eve seemed just fine developing knowledge of other good creatures, coming up with names of all created things, and having stewardship over them. But they were enticed to believe that they, who were created in the image and likeness of God, that they should not be satisfied unless they became like gods.

    We’re not talking about knowledge as synonymous with the faculty reason, but a function of the faculty of memory, of having an immersive, intimate, experiential understanding of a thing or action.

    Knowledge of evil is not science, not philosophy, not wisdom or any other endeavour of reasoning. Knowledge of evil is violence, abuse, possessiveness, manipulation, envy, wrath, lust. It is knowledge of difference. Racism, sexism, classism, ablism, and all institutions that separate us into those who have and those who have not, of us versus them.

  • Desperate Ambrose

    Didn’t know there were criteria as to where it did and didn’t really belong.

  • davidt

    Sorry for the long rambling post you brought something very important to mental illness..

    The devil is like a house of mirrors oof the intellect with an organic infinite set of paths enfolding into itself as we walk and thus it is self referential and self affirming.

    Mental illness is interesting in that regard. We can see an individual who no longer even shares with others in that house of mirrors any common sense of reality. The intellect has completely spun into itself in complete disassociation from itself at the simplistic act of and the experience of to breathe.

    I had an on going conversation for 10 years with an skizoeffective individual who murdered his wife in a psychotic state believing she was the devil. I was curious to his hyper numinous aspect while being totally convinced it was the devil made him do it. A bit like being a mystic with a southern Baptist understanding of his experiencing. Whacko dangerous for him and everyone around him if not medicated.

    I finally had to tell him he was being the devil when he murdered his wife and he is being the devil in denial I i finally figured out exactly what was going on with him and I said it was him who is responsible for murdering his wife. he flipped out into a complete meltdown of anger hostility and a complete melting of his “Christian facade. It was like taking a rock and smashing the mirrors of the intellect he just could not face himself honestly.

    The intellect is a funny thing. It can become a wonderful thumb to express or it can become a house of mirrors of self reference. That’s what happens to those who go insane they forgot they breathe. the intellect is dependent upon that not the other way around. Nietzsche forgot he breathes.

  • davidt

    “overtook Europe, Christian leaders took some of the most beloved male Pagan deities, and used their likeness as one of Satan”

    What aweful crime did they do exactly? . They said the past is mythology nonsense we are smarter highly evolved and they are stupid primitive backwater morons Living in a fantasy there is no pan…

    seems highly educated and extremely modern actually. I see zero difference between what WE did back there and what is constantly said here in this forum constantly and everywhere for that matter
    Please don’t imagine that it’s THEY back there and US up here in time literally separate my. That’s totally disconnected from even.modern evolutionary understanding for what it is which is limited.


  • davidt

    Ha. In a sense yes or reclothed them.

  • davidt

    Are you distinguishing the text from the institution?

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    Well, since this universe is a “digital” universe – yes/no, light/dark, wet/dry in absolute terms, having only a knowledge of “Good” would be like having a knowledge of Light without the knowledge of Dark. Without dark, shadows. contrasts, we are effectively blind. Lacking a knowledge of “yes/no” we lack morality. I see where you are coming from, wherein Mankind would be similar to the Angels in this respect, but even Angels rebelled against God (in legend). Knowing only good effectively means knowing nothing at all, since Good/Bad or Good/Evil are comparative values. Even absolutes must have a counter or they are without meaning.
    This entire universe is based on a two-state existence; hot/cold, near/far, attract/repel…and to operate in this universe one must accept this universe’s structure, Even atomic particles have opposites in Matter/Antimatter. So while your view is valid for somewhere, someplace, having a single phase (only Good) would render one either incapable of acting or would render the person involved into a Sociopath (Sociopaths see only their own interest and nothing else). Was Adam a sociopath? Was Adam a moral being after eating the apple? Was there even an apple to begin with, or was the Serpent’s gift the knowledge of how to be good and avoid being evil. Prior to this instance, before the “Apple”, Adam and Eve (opposites again!) would have been in a state referred to as “Nirvana” by the Buddhists.
    Hmm. The fact that the story tells of God creating a “not Adam” by making Eve further cements the two-valued nature of the Creation, further indicating that the Serpent actually completed the act of Creation by giving Adam and Eve the tool necessary for survival – knowing what to do and what to avoid.
    Now the knowledge of Evil may not be a science (and in fact mutates with every generation and every change of habitat) but this knowledge is a vital tool for survival of the individual and of the species. We are helpless if we don’t know what to avoid.
    Perhaps the Serpent was working with God to finish the Creation and allow this new species called Humanity to go forth and populate the world that had been made for it. There is that possibility…

  • fractal

    A middle east religion from the bronze age didn’t need to be in Europe.
    They had their own ways, and their own gods.
    It wasn’t like they were lacking for spiritual ideals.

  • fractal

    Considering that none of them could read—what is the point of the text?
    Having some Roman cherry-pick verses to subjugate them and destroy their indigenous religion and way of life?

    Christianity and Islam are Imperialistic religions that support imperialistic colonization.

  • fractal

    Sounds like heresy committed against their religion, to me.
    How would you like it if Hindus made Jesus and Mary into Hindu Deities with blue skin and riding leopards?

  • fractal

    Who exactly is “they”?

    And how was their “fantasy” any different than your Bronze age one of burning bush gods and fathers attempting to sacrifice (murder) their children?

  • fractal

    Projection is the most primitive of defense mechanisms.
    And psychotics often seem to bounce between extreme religiosity and extreme sexuality.

    Obviously, there is some connection between the two…

  • Ame

    We’ll, orthodoxy Christianity doesn’t believe in dualism. This isn’t The Last Jedi we’re talking about here. Evil is the absence or deficiency of Good, and in its wanting, it tries to lord over the Good.

  • Leighton Cooper

    Christianity has become a faction for republicans ONLY. The devil blesses their reliigous freedom (DISCRIMINATION) AND their ANARCHIST JESUS, ANARCHIST CHRIST serves as permission to pass judgement and have enemies about everyone who isn’t exactly themselves. Originally these meanings would have been used to try to teach and, or, not, xor those types of things. But all of science and alll of mathematics is TABOO FOR THE EVANGELICAL AND BAPTIST CULTS. I have zero intent or interest in reverting back to a ridiculous hateful church setting.

  • Leighton Cooper

    OK I have some time so I’ll (call out the Evangelical and Baptist’s lessening into underwhelming, poisioning and understating the legitimate collective spirituality not existing in the Evangelical or Baptist slum. Another mistatement is this idea that old wine is not poured into new wineskins. New things don’t replace old things they extend and they expand. The lessening and retrogress of this new that tosses out the bathtub and the bath water replaces an extension and an expansion conversation with Nothing but a slogan as a barrier. and an easy to say lack of any progress, more akin to just say NO! and part ways. but God created Science is an example of a slogan that holds nothing.

  • Leighton Cooper

    Another aspect I strongly suggest’s pushes religion into a decline is the ARROGENCE THAT ONLY OUR SOCIETY HAS HAD PUBLIC READING ABILITY and the idea of a Press. The tower of Babel isn’t about when the different countries got their own languages. IT’S NOT ABOUT THAT AT ALL!!! It is a society inwhich the written words were more richer and deeper and extended and expanded more often than the everyday language did. So to some extent you had a set of scientific mathematical and progressive specialized languages and then you had the general technological math and science languages. Which were written. Satan is the bearer of the translation interface developed and written into a public vs circuit project system. It’s as if you wanted to take Walt Whitman, Oops I forgot can’t incorporate him, because he was gay!! Alan Turing ! Oh Shit! I can’t use him. So instead The devil by the Evangelicals and Satan by the Baptist’s mean Satan was the testor who laid down the preliminary Math’s like Basic math, Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2. Trigonometry, Geomoetry Calculus, Differential equations, both ordinary and partial. All these ideas are in the domain of Satan and cannot be used . If you believe in the Evangelical and Bapatist lies. Also original Sensefulness. I give sinfulness over to the Evangelical Sheol offer the plantation style slogan linguistics to the Baptist’s. Who would like to eradicate public schools. A a basic rigfht to see a Doctor. Which I believe in. I have zero inclination to see a PASTOR!

  • Leighton Cooper

    i also see that Henotheism is positive because circuit projects contain multiple kinds of circuits. And Math perceptions exist because a person is able to hod power on and power up a circuit. Religion has gotten ridiculous Why am I able to read the Bible in a progressive manner and it’s obvious my interpretations improve my life and carry so much fundamental disagreements with the movements causing a degeneration and decline and a shrinking of henotheism into really easy to say bombastic slogans. God is always good. Meanwhile they refuse to take a stand on kids locked in cages. Christianity you are right has rolled up it’s carpet into a anarchistic Jesus Christ genie fit into a one size fits all bottle. I am completely free of and antithetical, incompatible of Christianity. It has zero influence on me. None of the triggers work on me. I can’t be shamed by an idiot pastor. I’m proud to call myself an apostate, and I could identify (the closest I get to Religion is Alan Watts) but I could with confidence claim I am henotheist. But because University Press books are out there for people to read. I’ll spend the bulwark of my time reading that stuff and neglect the tiny-minded one size fits all, One explanation creep me out hateful For All have sinned and should be ashamed blasphemy. I would be speaking Blasphemy to consider myself a christian and so I don’t. A PROUD APOSTATE EX WHO IS NEVER DYING EVANGELICAL, BAPTIST CATHOLIC OR PENTECOSTAL.

  • Leighton Cooper

    The problem with the evangelicals and baptist’s exist because so many legitimate vias of resources are non-existing to those ilks. I can’t talk subconscious, unconscious (they are different from each other. Collective soul. I deny and decline a belief in a personal soul. So the concept of No self or loss of identity or I find my identity in everything around me. Those aspects that could help are absent and obliterated in evangelical and baptist christianity. Because of their refusal to read math science philosophical and psychological and statistic books none of these subject matters exist. and they cannot be discussed. Christianity is a big ripoff of your mind. No one can save it!!!

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    “Evil is the absence or deficiency of Good, and in its wanting it tries to lord it over the Good.”
    Thank you for making my point. You just described a dualistic situation:a classic plus and minus situation.

  • Ame

    Your logic is stunning.

  • davidt

    Well christianity does have a huge problem it’s made up of normal folks. They didn’t invent stupid but they certainly attempt to perfect it at times but that’s normal.

    Christianity really at it’s textual level works on one word love. Everything else is commentary. We don’t evolve very quickly and writing itself can be extremely problematic since our literacy fixation addiction arose up through Christianity itself. We can become incredibly anti intelligent intellectually.

    To understand the Bible there are three places to avoid in culture.
    3. The university
    2. Church
    1. Everywhere else.

    There that’s simple enough!

  • davidt

    Some psychotics. Many are highly intelligent lost in that. I know of an actual former rocket scientist
    For GE. Very bright has voices constantly plaguing him. Medication helps him deal with them not eradicate them.

  • davidt

    I think we are cross talking. I live on the Oregon coast. Our local pre European tribal traditions held that the raven is the creator. As such the raven is both the creator and is the trickster. This is an excellent creation story. There I actually a lot to it that is worthy of discussion. From a European settler view it’s pure absurd nutty fantasy. Not unlike most “science” minded folk see Christianity.
    So yes I agree with you Christianity behaved identical to ancient story like many do today to christianity. But I might say there is actually an ancient philosopher named heraclitus who said “nature loves to hide. ” And in the local native story the creator and the created are deeply intertwined. Unlike most voices in Christianity and science today. Both take an extremely dead depersonalized view of nature and debate minor details is all.

    My first concern is enviromental focused. Why do we see nature as we do. I have more in common with John Muir than not. I hope that makes it a bit clearer where I am coming from.

  • davidt

    The text arose in Jewish culture and spread into Greek culture. So you are talking 300 years later? Literacy is fundemental in Jewish culture 2000 years ago. So the notion that somehow it spreads in an illiterate community is false. The entire new testament is written in Greek in it’s earliest versions we have. The ancient greeks aren’t European backwater goat herders. That comes much later. In a sense Europeans are the first indigenous of Christianity. That becomes Long forgotten by the time they arrive in the Americas. In a sense Europeans bump into themselves from an earlier period as they arrive here. They are Also Convinced that local natives aren’t even human actually. How bizarro is that! Literacy is funny that way.

  • Jane Ravenswood

    so, your religion is just full of nonsense. We have the snake, who was either let into the garden by this god or this god was too stupid to keep it away from two entirely naive human beings and this god throws a tantrum for humans doing exactly what was expected. Then we have this god showing off for another being, and allowing it to murder a family (Job). Then we have another being tempting JC and showing that the bible authors are sure that the world is flat since that’s the only way one can see the entire world from a mountain top (Mark and Matthew have this, wasn’t important enough to John or Luke it seems). And finally, we have the being in Revelation that this god forces humans to work with (Revelation 17), and then after this god kills every non-christian, this god allows this being free to corrupt Christians (Revelation 19-21).

    Wow, what a mess. It’s no surprise that each Christian makes up their religion in their own image, ignoring the stuff that doesn’t make sense or they don’t like.

    And why does a omnipotent omniscient being need to test anything?

  • Lark62

    How could any action have been a “sin” before adam and eve had knowledge of good and evil?

  • Lark62

    Our merge a pagan spring fertility celebration honoring the goddess Oestre with a commemoration of blood sacrifice and get a holiday full of chocolate torture devices mixed in with chocolate bunny rabbits.

  • fractal

    I was talking about western/middle Europe, where the Romans marched in, and Christianity soon followed.
    Funny, I never think of Greece as European, though it is…

  • Ame

    They knew that they were forbidden to “eat from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”. We know this because of the arguments Eve had with the serpent. Then she and Adam decided to disobey anyway.

  • fractal

    Yes it does.
    I have more in common with Alan Watts.
    One of his many lectures, The Nature of Consciousness Part 1 (youtube) describes the “Eastern” view of creation.

  • Ame

    Hazel Motes already came up with the Church of Christ Without Christ. Find your own material.

  • fractal

    In other words, they developed self-reflective consciousness—that which makes them fully human and able to think abstractly. Really, that part of the story is about the development of language—without it one cannot think abstractly.

    Your version of the story is just a set-up.
    Like sitting a tray of cookies in front of a 3 year old…
    But we all pay for it.

    Everyone has their own interpretation of this fable.
    I think the deeper meaning is that descendants always pay for the sins of their ancestors—we have original sin because of what A&E did wrong.

    Kinda like climate change.
    We sin; our grandchildren will curse us, as will their descendants.

  • Ame

    They did not develop this self reflection after eating the fruit. They already possessed beforehand. What is with people mistaking reason with knowledge of evil? You mistake the modern definition of knowlege as that of how the Scripture writers originally did. Must the mystic know evil? Must a scientist know evil? Really? Then rejoice in your comraderie with Hitler and Mengele.

  • fractal

    The universe is not about duality—that is your abstract mind talking.
    The universe is about spectrums—shades of gray and sliding scales.


    Amino acids, one cell organisms, microbes, invertebrates, vertebrates, reptiles etc…
    Humans didn’t just get hammered together by some deity.

    Your ability to develop abstract notions lends itself to fantasy ideas and ideals.
    Like “how many angels can fit on the head of a pin”.

    PS—Nirvana is not a primordial mental state like Limbo.
    It is a highly developed state of consciousness that REQUIRES the entity first have self-reflective consciousness, before spiritually developing beyond that ego state and into a state of pure consciousness that doesn’t require “self” identification.

  • fractal


    Three year olds have self-reflective consciousness.
    And they are DESTINED to eat the cookie.
    Because they have not yet developed an understanding of the need for self-restraint or the understanding of possible consequences beyond their experiential base.

    I don’t know what you mean by “evil”.
    That seems to be some horrific dualistic notion developed by Zoroastrians who were wildly dualistic in their abstract thought—the Jews picked it up from them.

    Don’t believe in it.
    Think its just a way to dehumanize the “other”.

  • Ame

    German and English speaking Christians are the anomaly in that regard. The rest of Christendom (yes! It’s bigger than Europe and the US!!!), rightly refers to the feast of the Resurrection of Christ as some form of “Pascha,” because of the Jewish roots of Jesus, or simply “Feast of the Resurrection.”

    I get the feeling that most of the people commenting here are not regular readers of Mr. Fellow Dying Inmate.

  • Ame

    Destined to eat the cookie? Even children ought not to be reduced to being Pavlov’s dogs.

    No, in Christianity, the only predestination is being destined for the beatific vision and union with Christ. But for orthodox, non-Calvinist Christians, destination =/= determination. You certainly can choose a different path than the will of God.

    But no, that Judaism and Christianity believe that Evil is the fall from Grace does not mean they are dualistic. They are very decidedly non dualistic. It’s religions of the likes of Gnosticism and Daoism that are so. Daoism always tries to achieve that elusive “balance” of the two so that that neither extreme reigns. And classical Gnosticism goes as far as to equate matter with Evil, thus to be overcome, even sex and the body to be hated. All. The. Time. The scrupulous sense of modesty of the more neurotic members of Judaism and Christianity got nothing on that, and is forever trying to suppress such hatred without going the hedonistic route.

  • fractal

    Silly girl,

    They did studies and experiments.
    Yes, the three year old is destined to eat the cookies—hating science doesn’t make the results different.

    The rest of your comment is blather.
    Your fairy tale of creation shows that Yahweh is an asshole who sets humankind up for failure and punishment.

  • Ame

    Um, seriously?

    1) those psychological studies that you’re referring are not at all about knowledge of good vs. evil like you’re implying

    2) the experiments are riddled with design flaws with conclusions that are not generalizeable and not supported with statistical significance, some researchers would go as far as to call it “junk science”

    3) only pop psychology media goes about inflating the conclusions as something meaningful beyond BEHAVIORALISTIC theories of psychology, nothing valuable to say about cognition, reason, or conscience

    4) even the researchers involved get nauseated from having to correct people who miss the point of their experiments

    So before telling me that science proves your theory, at least learn how to play on the same chess board as me.

  • fractal


    You are saying that A&E knew and understood the consequences of their actions, the intent of the serpent, and in addition, had no real reason for doubt or curiosity?


    In addition,
    Does the punishment of original sin for all of humankind really fit the crime of eating a forbidden apple?

  • Desperate Ambrose

    “Torture devices”, Gracie?

  • Ame

    1) Yes, not baloney.

    2) Yes, choosing to have knowledge, as the intimate, experiential understanding of of an action or thing as the Scripture writers viewed knowledge (not as a faculty of reason or science or accumulation of facts; ie like the expression “I knew her” when a biblical man talked about having sexual relations, or even rape, of a woman) DOES have the cosmological consequence of the Original Sin and all the evil and suffering (as a state of awareness, not saying that we never knew pain before then) that came to us thereafter

    3) knowledge of evil IS NOT the same as use of reason

    4) the studies are about studying the formation of DELAYED GRATIFICATION and how it’s development leads to apparently successful behaviors to develop strategies to make people even more successful. In behavioral sciences, that’s a different phenomenon than conscience. A responsible behavioral researcher would tell you that moral theology is above her paygrade.

  • AntithiChrist

    Prior to this episode, had A&E ever experienced punishment?

    Did either of them either hear the word “punishment” before or have any inkling of the punishment concept?

    Does the creation story (whichever version we’re talking about) ever even mention the mental ages of these two magical wonderkinds? What was their emotional maturity? How strong was their judgment? Had right vs wrong ever been discussed with them, or modeled for them?

    Ignoring the absurdity of a creator deity who is evidently completely against the idea of its creations ever knowing the difference between good and bad, right vs wrong, one would think a benevolent creator wouldn’t use as an example, intense torture of each and every woman who ever gives birth, throughout history, anywhere, forever, in order to gently introduce the concept of what “punishment” means.

    And all of that torture and misery that A&E “bought forward,” comes from their very first offense, at anything, ever.

    By making up additional details, or by twisting meanings around, in order to allow ourselves to accept the god in this as “good,” we actually help make the point the author is trying to make.

    You can re-write any myth of any age you want, until it suits your tastes. It’s literally fan-fiction that evolves over time, just like fiction always does.

    It’s all in the re-telling.

  • Ame

    Whether you choose to interpret the Genesis accounts figuratively or literally, whether you think the God of Abraham is real or not, I think the point the Scripture writers were trying to make is that A&E had it good, they had everything they needed, they were made in the image and likeness of God (including the use of reason) but they were convinced into not being satisfied. They had to KNOW evil too, because they thought that knowledge would make them powerful. In the Scripture writers’ mind, in order to know evil, you have to know good. And then reject the good, reject what was protecting us from knowing evil.

    We can’t read into the Scriptures our culturally formed ideas of what knowledge is. And that’s the gist of what Mr. Fellow Dying Inmate’s blog is all about.

  • Leighton Cooper

    Thanks, I had never heard of Hazel Motes. Her subject matter sounds interesting. Too much right now religious denial, makes most of their faith based arguments falling flat. and other reliigous based arguments that could go deeper, to be honest I am unwilling to give the time to. I can understand science and math and I much more prefer and make sense with the University Press books. Actually I discovered I had about 9 books written about her. She sounds like an author who imagined characteristics that Christ could be embodied as not perfect but with a discussion of opposition towards hurtful folks. See sounds like a Christian Identifying discovery writer. Character studies of what Christ is in various actions. The problem is, that isn’t the time we are in. We are deep in the neck of anarchism. The president cutting food stamps and removing family planning services isn’t just a little oh me issue. They intend to be-hurtful to as many people who live in poverty and the general public, needs to do just that. Speaking Nicey Nice never gets me listened to. and praying that bellies are full is a nothing service. At this point I am so far away from a religious mindset, that I feel comfortable staying away and straying on to evidence based subjects.
    But I was looking at character studies by the 1920’s and 30’s comic book writers who wrote kind of a generic comic strips but then when they sold it could come along and personalize it with the appropriate characters. Western, detective, super hero’s, adventure and thus would render it to the appropriate audience. I wanted to look at a generic detective story, because I have all of these adventure games which involves you writing the plot that characters can take. They were great thoughtful games, and that type of study would improve my ability to think on an everyday level. . And adventure games force you to figure out what whims go applied to strengthen certain roles. (ie character development.)

  • Ame

    Would you please Google the name and edit your reply. I didn’t mean to make you look foolish. I thought you’d get the literary reference. Sorry.

  • AntithiChrist

    “…I think the point the Scripture writers were trying to make is that…”

    “…They had to KNOW evil too, because they thought that knowledge would make them powerful”

    “…In the Scripture writers’ mind, in order to know evil, you have to know…”

    Your entire response here, is based on conjecture.

    None of your own ideas (or maybe those of a preacher you know), about what is “in the scripture writer’s mind”, or that “they had to KNOW evil too” are supported in the organic text.

    Congratulations. You’re a fan fiction writer.

    Enjoy a fulfilling career of re-imagining a malevolent Old Testament supernatural monster into a kind and loving creator deity.

  • Ame

    Okay, pay attention to the blog writer here. He is a biblical professor specifically of the Context Group of biblical analysis. He and I have plenty to disagree about concerning Scripture, and I let my disagreement as well as agreement known in his other posts, but one thing he an I can agree on:
    you can’t fully know what you’re arguing for or against concerning Scripture unless you consider how the Scripture writers used language to explain their beliefs or in revealing the mysteries of God.

    For example, if you really don’t understand that a literal translation of “hesed” refers to passions considered seated in the depths of one’s bowels, then you’re not going to understand that the word is used to describe God’s “loving kindness.”

  • Jim Jones

    You’re welcome.

  • Steven Watson

    Its in good part the Ottoman overlay; just look at the cuisine. Otherwise where does the narrative come from? The Greeks themselves. There were two periods BC when there was a great deal of Greek interaction with and taking on board Asiatic influences: the Mycenaean and Archaic. National/Ethnic narratives tend to accentuate differences over similarities.

  • Steven Watson

    It has already happened. I listerned to an Irish Hindu guy on BBC Radio Four thirty-odd years ago. He went to a Catholic school and this class he was in was being taught by a nun. She asked him to tell the class about a Hindu god; so he begins telling the story of “Issa” (not sure if spelling). She got royally pissed when it dawned he was talking about Jesus. He was a follower of Krishna; so this isn’t altogether suprising that Jesus should be adopted into the Hindu pantheon: the Krishna myth already bears a great resemblance to that of the Christ.

  • Steven Watson

    The literacy rate in Palestine two millenia ago was at most 5%.

  • AntithiChrist

    I get it, again. Fan-fiction. “God” comes off as a malevolent monster. What’s a good Christian to do? Come up with semi-reasonable sounding reasons why god isn’t a prick after all. Some call it apologetics. Some call it pretzel logic. Call flooding an entire planet and murdering nearly everyone on earth a good thing, with cute animals and rainbows. Sure.

    Here’s one more brief example of fan-fiction or apologetics.


    Looks like “God’s kindness” comes from deep inside “God’s bowels.” Passionately.

    Are we sure we aren’t trying to put the good old Christian positive spin on the act(s) of a God vigorously $hitting all over everything and everyone?

  • Lark62

    You’ve never seen a chocolate cross? They sell them at Target.

  • Lark62

    Duh. By definition they did not know the difference between good and evil before eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil because eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is how they got knowledge of good and evil. Right? I agree the myth is totally illogical, but that is how the myth goes.

  • Ame

    Not knowing the difference between good and evil is not the same as not knowing good at all. Do not mistake “knowing” with the faculty of reason when the Scripture writers, as Hebrew speakers, intend “knowing” to mean having an intimate, experiential understanding of an action or thing.

  • Ame

    Except the blog writer is not an apologist. At all. There are Catholic readers who question the guy, “Are you even Catholic?” Try coming to this conversation as someone who understands that his biblical analysis is far more skeptical and secularist than how certain atheists and noncatholics here are interpreting Scripture. A lot of your arguments against beliefs concerning the Bible only make sense if you chuck out cultural and linguistic context. Iow, you don’t really know what it is you’re arguing about.

    But instead of blowing off these considerations as Christian willy nillyness, Google “Hebrew meaning hesed” and see what Jewish websites come up. As for the tree of knowledge of good and evil, English translations just don’t have a handle on the complexities of the Hebrew language:

  • Lark62


    Your myths are illogical and the make believe deity in them is petty, vengeful and irrational.

    No decent person would find the actions of this deity praiseworthy.

  • Desperate Ambrose

    Oh, OK. I am accustomed to thinking of the cross as a means of execution (albeit a long and agonizing execution), rather than an instrument of torture a la the rack. Just clarifying.

  • Desperate Ambrose

    Neither Attila nor Genghis Khan “needed” to invade Europe, either. Neither did the Aryans “need” to invade the Indian subcontinent and drive the Dravidian peoples south.

  • davidt

    Soooooo Jews just sat around and hatld the text read to them? Funny there is indication that they were well versed in their own texts. Europe definitely goat herders in early Christianity no doubt but Jewish culture is the definition of a book cult as well as Christianity.

  • fractal

    What’s your point?

  • fractal

    Childhood Krishna myth does sound like Jesus.
    But when is the last time Jesus made love to milk-maids in all the ways they secretly most wanted?

    Krishna never got crucified and started a victim mythology.
    Krishna never stated that HIS WAY was the ONLY WAY.
    Krishna couldn’t care less whether you believed in or followed him—and never threatened anyone with hellfire for not doing so.
    Krishna was happy to acknowledge other Deities, and wasn’t a jealous God.

  • Ame

    You’re having an entirely different conversation than what I am having here. I at least hope that my contribution brings some insight to someone reading. Have fun acting like a smug 17 year old.

  • Ame

    Eastern Orthodox Churches had a non-imperialistic way of evangelization. I think the imperialism rubbed onto Western Christianity from the Romans.

  • Ame

    We’ll, with the Hebrews and Israelites (and early Christians), the oral tradition comes first, then Scripture.

  • Steven Watson

    It’s unfortunate but that is what the research tells us. Literacy might climb towards 10% in a major city like Alexandria or Rome; in the boonies you would be lucky if it was 3%. You do understand what all those references to scribes mean in the Gospels don’t you?

  • Steven Watson

    And that has what to do with the price of fish, exactly? Hindus can be just as despicable as Xtians. See BJP, Hindutva, the Golden Temple, destroying mosques, etc. There are versions of the Jesus mythology that do away with all you mention. G.Mk doesn’t actually have a resurrection; Jesus’ God and Father in G.Jn isn’t Yahweh; Judaic religion in the First Century was quite happy to have gentiles onboard and keeping their own gods. G.Th doesn’t have a passion narrative or a crucifixion, nevermind a resurrection. There are toxic variants of all religions; just as there are benign ones. Just as there are toxic atheisms and skepticisms. Its the people, not the steeple that are the problem.

  • fractal


    I was just stating a fact; the analogy of Krishna and Jesus only goes so far.

    But the teachings can be a real problem; the teachings shape the culture and impresses itself upon the impressionable.
    And some cultures are less psychologically healthy than others.

    The Sufis say that all religious teachings degrade as time passes, and necessitates a new prophet, saint guru… to bring spirituality to the present culture in a way that makes sense to them.

  • davidt

    Well that’ intersting a whole entire book cult and no one read. So if a book cult is more well read are you proposing the literate book cult really understands? And what does a literate book cult have over an illiterate book cult? Phds? Who cares? Phds.

  • Steven Watson

    I wasn’t speaking of analogy; Jesus HAS been adopted as a Hindu deity/avatar, Krishna or no Krishna. 🙂

    I agree with the Sufis; and can see how that might be accomplished in the case of Xtianity. There would still be holes but it would stand up a lot better than what they are running with at the moment; and have been for the last two millenia.

  • Steven Watson

    Not sure what you mean but that until the Reformation and a long time after, you were dealing with a nearly one hundred percent illiterate faithful can be seen from what was created after Paul. You can’t read his epistles without the Gospels and conclude he is writing about a real person rather than, as we would understand, a figment of his and the other apostles imaginations; nor would we, without the Gospel narrative, place Paul, the other apostles, or their cult(s) thirty years after Pontius Pilate’s prefecture: Paul in telling his conversion story, places himself about a hundred years prior to Pilate and bfore the advent of Roman imperium in Syria. Christianity exists as it does because, even at its highest levels, its proponents are semi-literate.

  • fractal

    Easterners recognize the OBVIOUS mysticism that Christ was teaching; don’t expect them to get all up into arguing about the literal meaning of the bible and his words though—they really couldn’t care less about belief theology or Christian notions that “his way is the only way—or hellfire!”.

  • Steven Watson

    We are at cross-purposes (sorry for that, :-)!)here. Paul wasn’t teaching anything mystical, he really thought the end was nie. If Xtians couldn’t make head nor tail of what the apostles were actually teaching closer to the time of the teaching, I doubt Easterners would be better informed a couple of centuries after them!

  • fractal

    Hindus and Buddhists and Taoists aren’t going to give a rat’s arse what Paul has to say about anything.
    Those that consider Jesus to be ONE of their deities, read His words only.
    They really don’t consider the bible in general to be any sort of literal truth.

    And I don’t think any of the apostles ever understood mysticism.
    Jesus kept trying to teach it and explain it, but it was lost on them—really, mysticism sounds like gobblygook until you have the requisite experiences.
    Then suddenly your perspective widens, and you grok what Jesus was trying to teach.