Biblical Errancy and Contradiction:
Christian Archetypes for Tarot Key XV The Devil
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2004
"When you meet any devil, be respectful and keep your distance."
"For Satan doth sow dissensions among them: for Satan is to man an avowed enemy."
"We must always remember there is no devil except of our own creation."
from "Mastering the Tarot" by Eden Gray
Key 15 The Devil
The coming of Jesus Christ represented the end of the age of Moses and the sign that God's kingly rule was coming. God's kingly rule represents an act of mercy and forgiveness which meant that people would be able to love God and be obedient to his law, and to love their neighbour as well as their enemy. This was God's new covenant as opposed to the covenant he had with Moses and the people of Israel.
Some of the other Old Testament prophets offer us different perceptions on the nature of their God, who was called Yahweh. At the time of these prophets, Yahweh was not largely accepted and His followers were scattered and few in number. It was viewed as a pagan cult of Yahweh and was a long way from usurping the power or influence of the other gods and goddesses. The role of a prophet of Yahweh was a solitary experience and required total obedience to His will. All of the prophets interpreted their experiences with God in a different ways and developed their own image and personification of Him. The images of God as presented in the New and Old Testament are all too often contrary or contradictory and creates confusion.
"If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having, neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is ... you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that he is."
from "Pensees" by Blaise Pascal 1623- 1663
The God of Isaiah was a moody and ambivalent God who wanted His people to show compassion instead of offering abhorrent sacrifices to Him. The God of Amos cared about the downtrodden, the unheard and the powerless suffering of the poor. The God of Hosea was more like the jilted lover who still longed for a tender reconcilation with His beloved people, willing to forgive all transgressions. The God of Jeremiah brought two extremes of feeling to the prophet. The first was a powerful attraction to God and was like surrendering to an appealing seduction. The other felt like a brutal rape that broke his heart and carried him forward against his will. The God of Ezekiel was very disconnected from people. God created huge anxiety within Ezekiel, refusing to let him mourn the passing of his wife, and called upon him to do many strange things including eating excrement. On a better note, Ezekiel had been given a scroll to eat which contained The Word of God. By consuming the scroll, with tasted like honey, The Word was instilled in him.
"I will suppose, then, not that there is a supremely good God, the source of truth; but that there is an evil spirit, who is supremely powerful and intelligent, and does his utmost to deceive me. I will suppose that sky, air, earth, colours, shapes, sounds and all external objects are mere delusive dreams, by means of which he lays snares for my credulity. I will consider myself as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, no senses, but just having a false belief that I have all these things. I will remain firmly fixed in this meditation, and resolutely take care that, so far as in me lies, even if it is not in my power to know some truth, I may not assent to falsehood nor let myself be imposed upon by that deceiver, however powerful and intelligent he may be."
The God of Moses was an angry, wrathful and vengeful God, and Satan in the New Testament is described in similar terminology. It would appear that neither of them cared much for the commandment of love which represented the new kingdom which Jesus prophesied in his preaching. Moses is often depicted artistically with horns on his forehead. It is felt by religious scholars that this may be due to an ancient translation of the Hebrew verb qaran, which means to shine, and the noun qeren, which means horn. It is also an interesting contradiction to note that the Ten Commandments were written by God (Exodus 24:12) or by Moses ( Exodus 24.4). The original tablets were smashed by Moses. We are then faced with another contradiction as to whether God (Exodus 34.1) or Moses (Exodus 34:27-28) rewrote them.
"Either God wants to abolish evil and cannot, or he can but does not want to,
or he cannot and does not want to, or lastly he can and wants to.
If he wants to remove evil, and cannot, he is not omnipotent;
If he can, but does not want to, he is not benevolent;
If he neither can nor wants to, he is neither omnipotent nor benevolent;
But if God can abolish evil and wants to, how does evil exists?"
Aphorisms of Epicurus 300 BC
The use of the term Satan in the New Testament as the name of God's archenemy is accepted in Western culture. The word satan in the Hebrew Bible referred to anyone who was an accuser or an enemy. Satan is also called the prince of demons, the tempter, the evil one, Beliar and Apollyon. The name Lucifer gained common usage during the Middle Ages. The ideas of authors and theologians of the Medieval Age created many of the characteristics of Satan as he is depicted today. Gnostic Christians believed that the God of the Old Testament had qualities similar to Satan.
"All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes."
from "The Age of Reason" by Thomas Paine
Satan and his minions are said to have extraordinary powers. They may enter people in order to incite evil actions and cause illness. Satan can be an angel of light and is the ruler of the air. The phrase Prince of the Power of the Air is used in Ephesians 2:2. Air represented the sphere of demonic activity between Heaven and Earth. Satan was the spiritual ruler of this realm of demons, if you were not in Christ you would also be subject to this power. He is the accuser of the faithful, day and night, before God. Once a purely spiritual being has turned its back on the Divine and its relationship with the Divine, as Satan and the fallen angels did, no amount of reflection on their part will bring them back to their previous state of grace with God or to a state of redemption.
"...we must remember that the Devil was not a redeemed creature, and, therefore, could sin, but we who are redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, when we have received our resurrected bodies will be beyond all possibility of sinning. Remember that heaven, too, is going to be purified."
from "508 Answers to Bible Questions"
by M.R. DeHaan
In closing, here are some example of Biblical contradictions that are certainly worth pondering, in particular in light of the way Christian Fundamentalist extremists rely heavily on scriptural determination and literalism in their faith and condemnation of others. It leaves me once again wondering if the God of the Old Testament is even the same God of the New Testament or if it is God before He created cosmetic psychopharmacology.
New Testament "God so loved the world" (John 3:16)
Old Testament: "I will wipe mankind ..from the face of the earth." (Gen. 6:7)
New Testament "The acts of the sinful nature are ... jealousy." (Gal. 5:19)
Old Testament: "The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exod. 34:14)
New Testament "The blind receive sight, the lame walk" (Matt. 11:5)
Old Testament: "Who makes him deaf or mute? Who ..makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" (Exod. 4:11)
New Testament "It is I. Don't be afraid." (John 6:20)
Old Testament: "Should you not fear me? Should you not tremble in my presence?" (Jer. 5:22)
New Testament: "God of peace" (Rom. 15:33)
Old Testament: "man of war" (Exod. 15:3)
New Testament: "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)
Old Testament: "I ..create darkness." (Isaiah 45:6-7)
New Testament "Do not steal" (Matt. 19:18)
Old Testament: "You may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves" (Josh. 8:2)
New Testament: "Do not commit adultery" (Matt. 19:18)
Old Testament: "I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you" (2 Sam. 12:11)
New Testament: "Do not murder" (Matt. 5:21)
Old Testament: "I will kill your firstborn son." (Exod. 4:23)
New Testament: "Deliver us from the evil one" (Matt. 6:13)
Old Testament: "I ..create evil" (Isaiah 45:6-7)