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but on the third, the Father sends forth his Son, clothed with supreme power, who puts to flight Satan and his forces, and drives them to the outer verge of heaven. There the abyss of hell opens before them, into which they plunge in order to escape from the pursuing foe.
Soon after this event, earth and man are created. Satan is sent by the rebel host to plot the destruction of Adam and Eve and, through them, of their posterity. Assuming the form of a mist, he enters paradise and incorporates himself in the body of the serpent, which animal he considers best adapted for purposes of temptation on account of its subtlety. The serpent did not then move prone upon the earth, but his body rose in graceful coiling folds, above which towered his head and splendid neck. In this form Satan at first addresses Eve with words of flattery, and when she wonders at his being endowed with human speech he tells her that he became possessed of this power by eating of the fruit of a certain tree in the garden. Eve asks to see the tree, and the serpent guides her to the Tree of Knowledge. She tells him that she is forbidden by the Creator to eat of the fruit of this tree; but by many sophistries,—especially urging that since he, a brute, has gained reason and speech, she, of so much higher nature, cannot but receive godlike powers,—he finally persuades her to taste the fruit. She is pleased with the taste, and carries some of the fruit to Adam. He at once perceives that, by her transgression of the divine command, she is lost; but he resolves to perish with her, and so partakes of the fruit. They wake to a conscious loss of innocence which fills them with despair. The Son of God descends and pronounces judgment, first upon the serpent, and then upon Adam and Eve. Our first parents are driven from paradise, and Satan carries back to hell the tidings of his success.
This is the substance of the account which Milton gives of Satan and his agency in the fall of man.
In its main features, it probably represents the average opinion of the “evangelical" Christian churches.
Our picture of Satan, however, cannot be complete, without embracing the more tangible, outward form with which the popular mind has invested him. The vulgar idea has been that of a monster resembling, in many respects, the Greek satyrs or the god Pan; and to this source may be traced the cloven foot with which Satan is commonly represented. Bunyan thus describes him under the name of Apollyon : “ Now the monster was hideous to behold: he was clothed with scales like a fish, and they are his pride ; he had wings like a dragon, feet like a bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke, and his mouth was as the mouth of a lion.” Reginald Scott presents him to us “ with hornes on his head, fier in his mouth, a huge tayle
., eies like a basons, fangs like a boar, claws like a tiger, a skin like a bear, and a voice roaring like a lion.”
Much grander was Milton's conception of the fallen angel. When, after his expulsion from heaven, he lay upon the burning lake, his monster shape covered many a rood, equal in size to the giants which, in ancient times, made war upon Jove. But when, in the council of the infernal peers, he had put on all his majesty, he
And God-like imitated state." But, as in the middle ages, Satan was supposed to have the power of changing his shape at will, now assuming the form of a cat, now of a goat, now of a priest, now of an angel of light; so Milton represents him as at one time taking the form of a stripling cherub, at another that of an aged man, and again, as we have seen, resolving himself into a dark mist, and entering the narrow body of a serpent. In his proper form, he has the wings of an angel, and such an ethereal body as other angels have, not subject to death, but only to annihilation.
Dante, in his visit to hell, finds in the centre of the last circle of Cocytus, the arch-traitor Satan, and thus describes him : “ The Emperor of the dolorous realm from mid breast stood forth out of the ice, and I in size am liker to a giant than the giants are to his arms. Mark now how great that whole must be which corresponds to such a part. If he was once as beautiful as he is ugly now, and lifted up his brow against his Maker, well may all affliction come from him. Oh! how great a marvel seemed it to me, when I saw three faces on his head! The one in front, and it was fiery red ; the others were two, that were adjoined to this, above the very middle of each shoulder ; and they were joined up to his crest; and the right seemed between white and yellow; the left was such to look on, as they who came from where the Nile begins his valley. Under each there issued forth two mighty wings, of size befitting such a bird ; sea-sails I ever saw so broad. No plumes had they, but were in form and texture like a bat's; and he was flapping them, so that three winds went forth from him, whereby Cocytus all was frozen. With six eyes he wept, and down three chins gushed tears and bloody foam. In every mouth he champed a sinner with his teeth, like a brake ; so that he thus kept three of them in torment. To the one in front, the biting was naught compared with the tearing; for at times the back of him remained quite stripped of skin.”
These descriptions of poets and allegorists, although not received in all their minuteness of detail, have yet formed the staple of the popular belief on this subject. The ignorant have contented themselves with the caricatures of Bunyan and Scott, while the more intelligent have blindly considered Milton a true interpreter of the sacred record, and the most inspired of uninspired poets. No one can fail to see the inconsistency of these several pictures with each other. Beyond a very few general features, they have nothing in common. Let us now see what light a direct appeal to the Scriptures can throw upon a subject into which the theologians have introduced such confusion.
The word “ Devil,” in the singular number, does not occur in the Old Testament, but is peculiar to the New. The word “Satan ” occurs in the Old Testament nineteen times; once in first Chronicles, fourteen times in the book of Job, once in the Psalms, and three times in the prophecy of Zechariah. These are the only passages where there is any mention made of Satan, or any direct or indirect allusion to him. It will doubtless immediately suggest itself to many, that Satan is represented as tempting our first parents through the instrumentality of the serpent. He is thus represented by Milton, and the Koran, and popular belief, but not in the book of Genesis. No mention is made of any such being as Satan, neither is anything said which even remotely implies that there was such a being concerned in the fall of man. The conception of Satan, as a fallen angel and the chief of rebel spirits, was not introduced among the Jews until a much later date, and does not appear in
the sacred record until after the Babylonish captivity. From Babylon they brought back a knowledge not only of the history and attributes of Satan as known among the Persians, but also of the names and rank of the angels who minister around the throne of the Supreme.
It is not pertinent to our present purpose to examine minutely the Scripture account of the garden of Eden, and the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve; yet, in passing, we may just refer to the opinion of the most eminent Scripture critics of the present day, who believe that the account of Moses is wholly allegorical, and quite inexplicable on any other hypothesis. Neither is this a modern idea; Josephus and Philo held the same opinion. Josephus gives an account of the fall of man without introducing any other agency than the serpent; and, from a remark which he makes in his preface, it seems quite clear that he considered the Mosaic account allegorical. Philo, speaking of the same account, says that “these things are not mere fabulous inventions in which the race of poets and sophists delights, but are rather types shadowing forth some allegorical truth according to some mystical explanation. And any one who follows a reasonable train of conjecture, will say with great propriety, that the aforesaid serpent is the symbol of pleasure; and then he goes on to give a very minute and cirstantial explanation of the whole account, developing its intended and hidden meaning. The words of Swedenborg, (who, among the moderns, has most closely followed this mode of interpretation,) strikingly resemble those of Philo, when he says that by the serpent, in the Mosaic account, is “signified the sensual principle of man.” In other parts of their expositions, also, the modern seer and the Jewish
For our present purpose it is sufficient to say, that if Moses had known of the existence of such a being as Satan, and that he was concerned in the fall of man, he could not have failed to express so important a fact in unmistakable terms. Omission in such a case is equivalent to denial; and there is no theory of a succeeding age which could not be deduced from the words of Moses, if we are to infer from the third chapter of Genesis that he knew anything of Satan. Moreover, in all his five books, embracing a history of the world for more than two thousand years, he makes no mention of such a being.
To return to those passages of the Old Testament in which Satan is mentioned, the first is the following, which commences the twenty-first chapter of first Chronicles and reads thus : “ And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." The same circumstance is narrated in the twenty-fourth chapter of the second book of Samuel, in these words : “ And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” What in the former passage was ascribed to Satan, in the latter is ascribed to the Lord. The following considerations, however, seem to remove the apparent discrepancy. The book of Samuel, (in which the Lord is represented as influencing David,) was written not long after the occurrence of the events which it describes; the book of Chronicles was written many centuries afterwards — after the Babylonish captivity, as most scholars think. If the discrepancy between the two passages were irreconcilable, we should naturally say that the earlier account was the more authentic ; but, knowing, as we do, the belief of the Persians and Chaldees, we can readily conceive that the author of the Chronicles, adopting those ideas of Satan which the Jews had learned in their captivity, should ascribe to his instigation, rather than to that of the Deity, an act which, according to both accounts, the Lord considered criminal, and which he severely punished. It seems natural that the Chronicler, not understanding, perhaps, in what sense the statement that God urged David to this deed could be accepted without making God the author of evil, - and, on the other hand, hesitating to make King David alone responsible for the act, should avail himself, not very intelligently, perhaps, of the Persian Satan, who represented to him the source of all evil. Thus the discrepancy between these two accounts is simply one of phraseology, caused by the later writer exchanging the Jewish monotheistic idea for the dualistic idea of the Persians. The author of the headings of the chapters in our English version disposes of the whole matter more summarily, and cuts the knot by introducing the original account in Samuel thus: “ David, tempted by Satan, forceth Joab to number the people.” This is, word for word, the caption of the chapter which contains the corresponding passage in Chronicles.