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From: "Peter T. Cash" <PTCash@ibm.net>
Subject: (urth) Re: Digest urth.v019.n026
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 23:21:30 

Mark Milman wrote:

I, Sergeant Rock,  wrote this???
>> "How about "pagan" instead of "extra-
>> Christian"? I don't think this darkness
>> is anything new; perhaps after the 19th
>> century it becomes "neo-paganism",
>> that's all. I would argue that any work
>> that doesn't have a Christian dimension
>> but does deal with supernatural evil is
>> pagan; any dualism is strictly secondary
>> and quite uninteresting. (I'm not saying
>> that pagan works necessarily lack value
>> or interest, of course.)
>While I'll grant you that Islamic and Zoroastrian
>works aren't typically of great importance in our
>culture, Sergeant, I'd hesitate to suggest that
>Judaism is either pagan or contains Christian

Well, OK, this is one of the dumbest things I've written in a long, long
time. I apologize for my egregious blunder. If I keep this up, I'm going to
lose my stripes. I could mumble something about having really meant
"Judaeo-Christian", but I'd rather pretend my dumb twin wrote that
paragraph. No, I'd rather pretend that my cat wrote it.

>If you want to argue that supernatural
>evil in Judaism is a relic of pre-Jewish Semitic
>paganism, I'll agree with you;

Actually, I'd be very interested in learning more about that. Where would
one look to find supernatural evil in Judaism? I'm not sure I can find it in
the Old Testament, though it's present in the New. Sure, you've got the
talking "serpent" in the Garden, but he was just a mischievous dragon, as
far as I can tell. You've got the "Accuser" in Job, but he seems part of the
heavenly crowd, sort of God's prosecuting attorney. If you're talking about
modern Jewish literature, then the supernatural evil couldn't possibly be a
pre-Semitic survival, could it?

It's in the New Testament that you get the real Good/Evil polarity, the
notion of a Judgment, and the belief that if you pass the Judgment, then
eternal life is your reward. I don't even think they have the same concept
of "sin" in the OT. Christ casts out demons, and speaks of an "evil one" who
wants to destroy the harvest. From the fact that he spoke like this, I must
assume that the concept of "Satan" was not foreign to Jews of the time. But
what was its origin? Did it creep in somehow between the Old Testament and
the New? This has puzzled me for a long time.

> but then I'll insist
>that Christian supernatural evil derives from a
>much wider variety of assimilated and co-opted
>pagan sources.

Sure, Christianity did a lot of assimilating and co-opting. That's what made
it so successful. As you point out, the assimilation is mostly on the level
of folk-belief. However, the notion of an Evil One is pretty much part and
parcel of official Christian belief, and the old devil has caused a lot of
trouble for theologians.

>Sergeant Rock continued:
>> If Satan exists, he's void, in the sense
>> of having no substance--I believe the
>> common metaphor is say he is like a
>> shadow. (Hmmm....shadows in Wolfe's
>> works...not an uncommon theme.
>> Hmmm.)
>If Satan is void and without substance, there's
>a strong implication that all the other members
>of God's heavenly hosts are as well; the book
>of Job makes Satan's existence, if not his
>exact role, quite explicit.

As I said above, I'm not certain that the Accuser in Job fits the Satanic
job description. One could argue that Job is best grouped with Ecclesiastes,
the Psalms and the Song of Solomon as not being the same type of literature
as the Pentateuch or the Prophets--nobody sensible thinks the Song is any
sort of historical narrative, for instance. But I note with respect your
argument that if Satan is void, then so are the angels from among whom he
fell. I'm not sure which direction I want to go on that one.

I must conclude that only my cat is sure what kind of stuff Satan is made
out of. Perhaps I can get him to post again about it some time. At this
point, I'll just limit myself to observing that Satan being a void is a
theological necessity, otherwise you get in Big Trouble, fall prey to
theological dualism, and get burned at the stake. It's sort of like the

Sgt. Rock (almost busted to corporal again)

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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