The Devil Did Not Make You Do It!

by Tim Phillips

There are many studies on the origins of the Devil who figures so prominently in Islam, Christianity, Eastern Religions, and most indigenous religions. This is not a redundant study on how Western Civilization became under the shadow of a malevolent being.

I am often challenged by novitiates to Evyonut (Ebionitism) about the existence of a Satan (the so-called, "Devil"), and I am sure they are frustrated with my answers that ramble through ancient paganism, Zoroastrianism, and gnostic dualism. But here I will take another approach to the problem, a much more simple and positive answer that does not point to bad religious influences. We'll give those folks a rest this time round.

Evyonut and Total Monotheism

As Ebionites and Jews we are monotheists in the extreme. Simply stated, Yahweh is our God; Yahweh alone. Yahweh is the First Cause. He is the Source of everything, both good and bad. But technically, good and bad are just concepts relative to our own situation.

In our thinking and according to the Torah (the instructive books Genesis to Deuteronomy---that is from B'reshiyt to Devarim) this universe is good, and, in fact, kiy tov, very good. Yahweh 'Elohim created mankind like Himself with free will to make choices. According to the ancient story, this freedom of choice includes the freedom to disobey.

In the story this curious disobedience is assisted by a mythological creature, a nahash which superstitious people assign to be the arch-demonic enemy of mankind. Instead of the man and woman choosing to test their choice and imagining gaining the attributes of God---a quest that is so typically a part of human nature and history---we are told to interpret this as "the Fall" of mankind, and along the same line of reasoning, we must assume that the serpent was the dualistic Satan who the first humans chose to obey rather than God.

I wonder if this makes Adam and Eve satanists? And here then we have two supernatural beings contesting for infuence over mankind.

This is not true. The serpent is merely a prop borrowed from the ancient semitic folk characters. The story is not an eyewitness account, but an explanation of a human nature the storytellers knew firsthand. There was no "Fall" and no "original sin." It is a monotheistic tale, not a dualistic sensational thriller of occult origins that only Jesus could "save" us from.

Instead the story acknowledges Yahwism and monotheism. It tells of a good world, a perfect creation that would remain so as long as man chose to obey Yahweh and operate within the parameters of that world freely. We are told throughout the prophetic writings of Israel that the ultimate goal for the world and mankind is to attain that paradise, the Gan 'Eden, again.

The storytellers clearly saw that the world they knew was not a paradise where all needs grew on trees and welled up from the ground  or where there was nothing to fear. The world was entered by travail and life continued to be a struggle from that first breath to the last.

Nothing is there about the serpent winning the souls of Adam and Eve. The world was not given over to this mythological being because some lady ate an apple (another subject dealing with Latin and Christians).

At the end of the tale we have Yahweh in control to do as He pleases; mankind is left to the consequences of their own choice to disobey or obey, just as any child chooses a time when they know better than their parents; and Adam and Eve move out into the wide world as we all do to make our way.

The monotheist says, 'We once had it all and we should have listened when we had it good.'  And they now make a better effort to listen.

The dualist says, 'That goddamned snake! It's his fault! If he wasn't around (because they have immortalized him), we would still be perfect.' And they develop a theology that looks for a perfect person to substitute for the first man who sinned. (But a woman sinned first, didn't she?)

By blaming every bad thing on this incident, they have deified both sin and the creature to whom they shift all the blame, and in fact declare it as the ruler of part of Yahweh's creation.

Ebionites, being monotheists, know that all creation belongs to Yahweh, and have no power to deify men or snakes.

Why Ebionites Cannot Believe in a Devil

Monotheism has no room for the belief in a usurper of God. But there is mention of heavenly competitors, rebels against God, other-worldly tempters who lead the world astray.

The literalist can find boogermen in the Tanak (the Hebrew Bible, called Old Testament by Christians), and it will make no difference if I tell them that these passages come from a time during the Babylonian Exile and after when Jews were exposed to dualistic religion. So I will take a more practical, Yahwistic approach.

Why would anyone look for the Devil, Satan, and demonic beings? We are commanded to acknowledge no other gods. And any being who can force or coerce men to do their  bidding must, for all intents and purposes, be considered gods. So even if we could argue that there was a Devil, that should be meaningless in regard to our faith. Even if there is such a creature, we have no business acknowledging anyone or thing as influencing our lives. This is a form of idolatry. Extreme and true monotheism has no room for a malevolent being capable of ruling us.

Acknowledging such a being usually entails a tendency to shift responsibility for our trangressions and denies our total responsibility as free agents as YHWH has created us with free will. This is the most attractive thing about believing in a devil---we can say "the devil made me do it!" Are people saying, 'I am perfect, but just caugt in an evil world where malevolent beings make me bad.'? Oh, please. Quit passing the buck. Are you here for anything!? Demons make you sin, a savior god makes you good. You might as well be  mop.

We must decide if we believe that we are impotent pawns in a game or fleshly robots to be possessed by competing deities, or instead we are part of a good and godly creation with the intellect and independence as a thinking partner of Yahweh. We are more than a movie with a canned ending, surely.

A devil is an antithesis of good and God. This can only be understood as a cosmic state of dualism, and creation must therefore be interpreted according to good and its antithesis. But it also denies that YHWH created the universe as good, and our free choice to isolate  ourselves from good. Everything in the universe without end is created in a good, purposeful  way, and there are no mistakes, no evil. The only evil is a form of human denial or ignorance  of that purposefulness, and abuse of what was intended for us.

The Tanak indeed speaks of other gods. They are gods belonging to other peoples. But do you believe that these gods really exist? It speaks of monsters and haints. Do you believe in them? Are they not just personifications of a bad day or all those guys you would like to throttle?

The devil is used as a control tool for people who do not have the proper control tool---the Torah. How many of us have been told that whenever we did something momma did not approve of that the devil would "get us?" Doesn't some religions still use the devil as an enforcer?

But the prophets and Yahshua spoke of doing good because of people entering in covenant with Yahweh freely and His commandments would be written on their hearts. Ebionites voluntarily embrace this, and the control is internal, not external.

If someone has to make you be good, the whole point has been missed. "Do this, or we will kill you; do this, or the Devil will get you; do this, or burn in torment forever." Whoever says things like this has not only missed the boat, but the ocean as well.

Isn't time you grew up and accepted the responsibility for your actions? My mother used to ask, 'Who did this?' and we never would admit to doing it because we couldn't bear not being perfect, and the possible consequences of not being perfect. She said, 'Oh, the ghost did it, I suppose!'

She was also fond of letting the Devil have us. We never learned to be too awfully good, but we sure learned that we could come up with excuses to dodge blame for our own actions. Can you believe that there are several major religious systems based on this childish behavior?


Zoroastor

 



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