In history there are perhaps 4 major streams that give us a “history” of Evil and the Devil.
The first is from Babylon, they have two sister goddesses:
- Inanna (good), queen of the earth and sky [aka Ishtar, Astoreth]
- Ereshkigal (bad) queen of the underworld – there are tales of people visiting the underworld [which is like a walled prison], but once there Erishkigal would not let you leave and demand you find someone to rest in your place. These are tales to reassure that there are boundaries between the dead and the living, and that the living won’t return to haunt us.
The second thread would be Egypt: they believed there was life after death, but only for those morally upright, everyone else ceased to exist. The land of the dead, called Tuat was more like another country then a “place below.” The two Gods were:
- Anmon-Re (good)
- Osiris (bad) – she requires that you are judged when you die, according to the maat [a code of honor] You heart is removed and placed on a scale. If your heart is heavier than a feather you are allowed to stay, but if the feather is heavier your heart is eaten by a God with a crocodile head.
The third thread is the Zoroastrians [precursor to Hinduism and Buddhism] two major Gods:
- Ahura Mazda (good)
- Angra Mainyu (evil) – when a person died their spirit hovered over their corpse for 3 days until the angel of justice judged you [Rashnu] along with another angel named Mithra. Eventually at the end of time there is a battle between good and evil and evil looses and a Savior named Soshyans goes to hell and saves all those who are penitent. Hell and those left there are destroyed
The fourth thread is the Greeks – Homer wrote about the land of the dead in his Odyssey. Another grim place where both the good and the bad live and nobody escapes. Hades is in the west somewhere where the sun sets. This is where we find the river styx and a land of the dead called Tartarus.
Even all major religions today have a concept of Hell. The Koran has 7 layers of hell that contains the fallen in physical form as they tray to navigate the narrow bridge to paradise.
Hinduism has 21 hells that souls pass through during their path to reincarnation.
Buddhism has 7 hells which includes fire and torture and a swamp of quicksand.
African and Asian faiths also have their own hells
Today, our pictures of Satan come straight out of the pages of these cult and pagan religions. The Canaanite evil Habaya had horns and a tail. The Egyptian evil Set had a forked tongue and a tail. Hades from Greece, and Humbaba from Mesopotamia were both fearsome and gruesome demons and hairy monsters.
Every culture that had a “bad guy” just became another name and another image for the devil.
So what happens when you’re a monotheistic culture like the Jews, who believe all things good and bad come from the same God – and then one day your city is destroyed and your temple is burned and all of your surviving people get hauled off to Babylon?
That’s what happened to the Jews in 597. For years they were slaves, living in a foreign land and subjected to foreign gods and cultic religion. The Babylonian and Persian views on the after life got mixed with their own. And slowly the mythos of the devil began taking a new shape. And that’s really what we have
So when the Jews finally return home and begin to find their roots again, we have 2 religious groups that sprout up – two denominations. The Sadducees became the purists and they rejected the ideas of angels, and heaven and hell, but a second group, called the Phairisees had adopted all of this pagan mythology, including – elevating the role of the devil to becoming this “super bad guy” who is the embodiment of evil.
Because how else how do we account for their imprisonment? Surely God (a loving God) would not have allowed this suffering. Surely a loving Father would not have allowed good men and women to be martyred. Right? You’ve probably heard this same questions asked in your own time.
So even though these Sadducees only worshiped one God, they still felt that God needed an opponent, a mortal enemy who was thwarting his plans.
So the devil became a schemer. He became the “bad guy.” And ever since then, his power and his story have grown….