The Origin Of Evil: The Devil

The Origin Of Evil: The Devil

November 10, 2019 20 By William Hollis


You might not be religious, but you’ve likely
had to deal with a fair bit of Satan in your life. The pesky devil has shown up on the shoulders
of cartoon characters, acting as a counterweight to a good decision that appears as an angel
on another shoulder. He’s starred in numerous movies, getting
into the minds of innocent girls that had to undergo excruciating exorcisms, and he’s
been depicted in artform as living in a fiery underworld where wrongdoers spend eternity
wishing they hadn’t stolen that everlasting gobstopper when they were just eight years
old. On a more serious note, back in the day if
you were accused of being in league with this guy you were likely going to suffer greatly. What most of you don’t know is where Satan
comes from, so that’s what we’ll discuss in this episode of the Infographics Show,
The origin of Satan. First of all, why do we often use the word
Satan as another word for Devil? Well, it’s complicated, but a devil, which
is really a manifestation of evil, is what you could call a darker side of humanity. You might say the devil is chaos, our dark
for our light, the dualistic wrong for our right, and this is not something that only
the Christian religion came up with. After all, people that lived in brutal times,
whether experiencing famine, war, disease, or just horrific toil, needed a reason why
there could be good in the world and also horror. Devils and dark spirits run through most religions
and beliefs. Satan is just one devil character, although
we often refer to Satan as The Devil. That’s just because you’ve been brought
up Christian, or around Christianity. Mr. Satan, aka, The Prince of Darkness, comes
from what we call the Abrahamic religions, which are monotheistic (one God) religions,
which includes the big three: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We can trace Satan back to the Old Testament,
and he first appeared as a subordinate to God, or Yahweh. This devil wasn’t equal in power to God,
but the entity did mess with God. Abner Weiss, a psychologist and the rabbi
at the Westwood Village Synagogue in Los Angeles, told Live Science that indeed people wanted
a reason for why there was so much pain in the world; they needed a villain, and so one
emerged. “They hypothesized a kind of demonic, divine
force that was responsible for evil, arising out of the notion that a good god could not
be responsible for bad things,” he said. And so, the Old Testament included some of
these bad characters, possible usurpers of God’s power who were intent on creating
chaos down below where occasionally nothing grew, and animals got sick. We had such a character in the Book of Job. Job starts off living the life Riley, he has
wealth and a happy family. Then Satan, known as “the accuser” asks
God if he thinks Job would be so pious even if he had this happy life stripped from him. This accuser says that if Job suddenly found
himself a down and out with nothing, he would retract his belief in God. God of course likes a good challenge, and
he tells the accuser to take away Job’s happiness, kill his children, his servants,
and even cover him with boils. Job, left with nothing, muses, “Shall we
receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?” This is the beginning of the great dichotomy
of good and evil. Perhaps this evil was there to test us! We won’t go through the entire book of Job,
but you get the picture. A kind of Satan existed in the Old Testament,
a dark for all the light, but the dark was certainly no match for the light. The story of Satan being a fallen angel isn’t
in the New Testament. We get this story from the ancient Jewish
Book of Enoch. In this tract, 200 angels are given the task
of watching over humans; they are known as The Watchers. They don’t do a very good job and end up
sleeping with human women, while spreading sin around on Earth. They end up being forsaken by God and living
in dark caves. In the Jewish book of Jubilees, you have “Mastema”,
who is thought to be a Satan character, but again he is more of a tempter than he is outright
evil. He becomes a tester of humans, and he gets
the thumbs up from God to do this. Mastema also enlists some of those fallen
angels to do his work. There are many interpretations, but let’s
just say that this guy was a tempter of humans more than an adversary of God. Then you have the Second Book of Enoch. Enoch was a descendent of Noah, from the thriller
story about a flood and a giant animal-carrying ark. In that book you have a character called Satanael,
who is also one of those fallen angels. However, in the New Testament this terrible
fall of the angels just goes missing. There are lots more instances of a Satan-like
characters in the ancient texts, but we must move on and meet a more modern kind of devil. And so, came Satan as we know him, as depicted
in the New Testament. A Satan character appears in the story of
Matthew, wherein he tries to tempt Jesus away from his devotion to God. It’s similar to the Satan in the book of
Job, as the devil is up to his old tricks again and questioning piousness. But this is far from being a pitchfork-wielding
entity who gets on the nerves of holy men. The newer dichotomy presents this evil character
again as a tempter, although theologians tell us that this new character wasn’t a kind
of aid to God that was on God’s payroll to tempt people away from the Almighty. The devil now becomes a kind of opposite to
God, a ying for the yang, because if there was good in the world God created it, and
if there was bad, which there certainly is, then it must have been the work of something
else. Perhaps even, unlike the Old Testament, something
with almost as much power as God. One religious scholar tells us that this character
is often said to have been one of those fallen angels, although this is not clear. You have to remember we are talking about
many books written by many people over a very long period of time. This is why studying religious texts takes
up so much time and still people disagree. You also have the story of a devil we call
Lucifer, which for some is just another Satan. Lucifer, sometimes interchangeable as Satan,
rebelled against God and with other fallen angels waged war against God. You also have Beelzebub, a flying demon who
might also be Satan in one form or another. Yes, it’s confusing, but let’s just understand
that in at least the Christian religion, we have a lot of dark characters appear that
are an adversary of God or of goodness. These characters appear in other religions
as we said, but today we are talking about the Satan most of us know from early morning
evangelist TV or even those cartoons and movies we mentioned earlier. This tempter could also have been the serpent
in the Garden of Eden who tempts Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil
and so start a lifetime of woe for the rest of us that followed. For their sin the fledgling couple were banished
from the garden. Not only is the existence of such a couple
highly dubious in the name of science, but scholars of religion have different takes
on the tale. Nonetheless, we have a serpent who could be
said to be Satan, despite the serpent never explicitly being called that. Then of course you have this tempter working
to put Jesus Christ on the wrong track, but he isn’t as successful as he was in the
garden of Eden. You also have the Great Red Dragon, which
appeared in the Book of Revelations, which also goes toe-to-toe with God. But how did all this turn into a guy with
a pitchfork or a girl with a head that can spin 360 degrees? Well, the belief in an evil force didn’t
ever go out of fashion, as didn’t an adversary of God and good. You could say we just melded all the ancient
stories of evil and put one face to them, but a face that could embody lots of other
entities. Throughout history enemies could be said to
embody this evil force, as could anyone who went against the state or its prescribed religion. We’ve all seen politicians talk about God,
and then bomb people apparently not on the good side. To some extent, the opposing side is supposed
to be Satan, even in these times. People with mental problems were often said
to have been overtaken by this evil force, so we certainly stretched the devil as far
as we could. When women became naturally lustful, perhaps
they could have been said to have been a victim of evil. In the Middle Ages, Satan was active in the
minds of people, but his story didn’t have all that much power. In the 15th century Satan got some feet with
all those witchcraft trials that happened, and now this tempter of the past was someone
who could verily live down your street. In 1611, we got the English-language King
James Bible, which had Lucifer as a starring figure, literally as he was the “Morning
Star”. Satan was depicted as having cloven hooves,
which was related to the Greek God Pan, an erotic kind of God. We had works such as “The Divine Comedy”
and “Paradise Lost”. In Dante’s Divine Comedy we have descriptions
of Hell as Inferno, then descriptions of Purgatory and also Paradise. We started getting very creative with Satan,
and what was an evil nebulous force from the past started to take on a form we could look
at and fear. In the 16th century we had depictions of the
devil by great artists, such as Agostino Musi’s “The Skeletons” or Cornelis Galle I’s
“Lucifer”. The latter shows the devil as a horned monster
with wings, busily eating men. A lot more devil paintings would arrive, but
the artists had nothing to go on really. They were just being creative, and relying
on this story of a fallen warring angel rather than an entity that in times past did his
tempting at the behest of God. All said, we started creating a very scary-looking
devil, one that didn’t look that much different from ourselves, albeit if we were part beast. So, while the books of the bible don’t explicitly
describe hell with a Satan figure with wings and two horns that carries a pitchfork around,
we got creative with the story. He doesn’t always carry a pitchfork, and
it’s said that this depiction comes from the Greek God, Poseidon. In medieval art he took many forms, and later
we started portraying the devil to look almost like us, sometimes being able to embody us. To conclude, this thing we call Satan is a
mishmash of many different ancient stories. We have also put our own spin on Satan over
many hundreds of years. He has almost always been a tempter of humans
to go to the dark side, but in later periods that didn’t just mean not believing in God
but perhaps lying, cheating, stealing, or even dancing too hard like in the movie, “Footloose.” He changed from being not just the reason
why floods or famines or wars happen, but also a kind of boogeyman that inhabits the
minds of non-believers. Many Christians don’t believe in heaven
and hell, or even the devil, but might talk about the better angels of our nature and
being led astray by our self-destructive vices. To some he is a metaphor, not an actual entity. The devil, after all, might be best depicted
for some as that cartoon character that sits on the shoulders of another character who’s
about to do something bad or turn away from the bad deed. There are of course many others who believe
in a great reckoning when God beams the good guys to heaven and the rotten ones are left
below to their vices. We also see the devil in some depictions as
a necessary evil, artistic chaos for reason, as British artist and poet William Blake depicted. After all, surely bad needs to exist for good
to flourish, and surely cold, stern order comes out of scary, creative chaos. But that’s another story. What do you think about this? Tell us in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other video
Why Are We Afraid Of Friday the 13th. Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.