Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney and the Beast

In the night
the fires are burning bright
the ritual has begun
Satan's work is done
6-6-6 the Number of the Beast
Sacrifice is going on tonight

- Iron Maiden, "The Number of the Beast," The Number of the Beast (EMI, 1982)

Many Christians, including Pat Robertson, seem to think tonight is "Satan's night." As I pointed out last year, the most recognizable aspects of modern Halloween are not rooted in paganism or Satanism, but Christian holy days (let's not forget Reformation Day).

Nonetheless, who was this Satan of the Hebrew Bible who could enter God's presence with the sons of God (Job 1:6-12) and testify in God's court (Zech. 3:1)?

In the OT Satan appears as a member of the heavenly court whose function reflects his name -- the Accuser (see Job 1:6-12; Zech. 3:1). In 1 Chr 21:1 he is depicted as a more active inciter toward evil (cf. the anonymous spirit in 1 Kgs 22:19-23). It is the combination of the mythology connected with the Canaanite gods Mot/Yam and the OT figure of Satan which gives rise to the Christian figure of the devil. By the time we reach the NT this process has transformed a morally neutral legal function in the heavenly court into a powerful, angelic adversary of God -- Paul's "the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4) and the satanic dragon of the book of Revelation (Rev 12:7-9).[1]

Biblical scholar Michael Heiser puts it into layman's terms:

Basically, "the satan" in Job is an officer of the divine council (sort of like a prosecutor). His job is to "run to and fro throughout the earth" to see who is and who is not obeying Yahweh. When he finds someone who isn’t and is therefore under Yahweh’s wrath, he "accuses" that person. This is what we see in Job — and it actually has a distinct New Testament flavor. (We also see it in Zechariah 3). But the point here is that this satan is not evil; he’s doing his job. Over time (specifically the idea of “being an adversary in the heavenly council” was applied intellectually to the enemy of God — the nachash (typically rendered “serpent”) in Eden, the one who asserted his own will against Yahweh’s designs. That entity eventually becomes labeled “Satan” and so the adversarial role gets personified and stuck to God’s great enemy (also called the Devil). This is a good example of how an idea in Israelite religion plays out and is applied in different ways during the progress of revelation.

With that, let us honor Disney's $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm (and consequently future Star Wars films, including 2015's Episode 7) with a little Fantasia Satanism:

1. A. Peter Hayman, "The Wisdom of Solomon," in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, eds. James D.G. Dunn, John W. Rogerson (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2003), 766. See also Cilliers Breytenbach, Peggy L. Day, "Satan," in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible DDD, Revised edition, eds. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter W. van der Horst (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999).

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