The Big Picture: The Devil You Know - Part I

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This was a surprising episode this week. Great to see a brief history of the origins of the devil itself. Can't wait to see what part two will bring us. =)

EDIT: I damn near forgot about this. When Bob puts up an image of that one pudgy guy dressed in a devil costume, this video came to mind (foul language, NSFW).

Zorostrianism. Or, more specifically, Zurvanite Zoroastrianism is sometimes attributed for influencing the adversarial relationship between the Christian God and the Devil. There are other Zoroastrian influences that are sometimes pointed to in the book of Isaiah as well. They shared a regional proximity during occupation and exodus from Israel so the influence of Zoroastrianism in Jewish and Christian faiths and vice versa is considered evident. Then Islam's account is also heavily impacted by all of the above (Islam is a relatively new faith, having been introduced in 622 c.e.).

Basically, in Zurvanite Zoroastrianism, there is a good aspect God and an evil aspect God. In the end time, the good aspect God will triumph over the evil aspect God and their equivalent of Hell gets let into Heaven and all decay stops.

Fun stuff. Interesting video but the subject is far larger than Europe. But yeah, as far as the Christian faith it is largely extrabiblical.

Gorrath:

Bbleds:
Yes, it is interesting how the idea how the christian Bible merely mentions a figure and places that have been translated as hell. I think the most interesting pop culture use was Neil Gaiman's Sandman. The "Devil" is actually made of three figures, Lucifer, Beezelebub, and Azael, seemingly drawing from the different figures mentioned in religious writings. And hell wasn't necessarily a place created for punishment, but perhaps a necessary creation by people for people believing they need punishment for their guilt.

Hell was created for the fallen angels and became the place where souls separated from God by sin went. In this incarnation, Hell serves as the ultimate stick in contrast to the ultimate carrot of eternal life. As far as what Hell is like, that differs depending on how you interpret the Bible. The idea of a fiery place of eternal torture is more an amalgamation of several different ideas from different parts of the Bible and contrasts heavily with the idea of simple separation from God. In short, there is no unified idea of Hell even within the Bible and so I think it is hard to pin down a single interpretation of what the place is supposedly like or what purpose it serves.

Couldn't agree more. To clarify just in case there was any confusion, which after rereading my post may be the case, I was speculating on the "hell" of Neil Gaiman's work. Of course an oversimplified interpretation of his writing and hell, but for me it seems encourage readers to think of the reasons why society developed this idea. No good singular answer for that either, but a good idea to chew on. Thanks for the discussion by the way, I enjoy it.

Excellent video, Bob! I like these kind, where it's not tied to a movie, explaining something from one of your movie reviews, or about politics. Just a random thought on anything, and you chose a real doozy of a topic! And you chose some cool images, like that one from Doctor Who's "The Satan Pit" and Elizabeth Hurley (please use that one again next week). Also, for those of you clamoring for a Zoroastrianism reference, maybe he'll throw one in next week's episode.

Falseprophet:

Desenova:
The thing with Christianity is that to them turning something upside down made it evil, the Wiccan star = Pentagram.

Not really. There's not really any demonic associations with the pentagram before Eliphas Levi devised one in the mid-19th century. This is also around the time Wicca and other New Age belief systems are first formulated. The upside-down thing is mostly a pop-culture fabrication: Catholicism doesn't really have any negative associations with the upside-down crucifix, there's one on the front door to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, because by Catholic tradition that's how Peter was crucified.

image

And his last words were: "I'm more metal than you, Satanists!" At least that's what I learned from Cracked.

captcha: gothic church
How strangely appropriate. Their services must be awesome.

Deleted due to double post. The author has been sacked.

Bbleds:

Couldn't agree more. To clarify just in case there was any confusion, which after rereading my post may be the case, I was speculating on the "hell" of Neil Gaiman's work. Of course an oversimplified interpretation of his writing and hell, but for me it seems encourage readers to think of the reasons why society developed this idea. No good singular answer for that either, but a good idea to chew on. Thanks for the discussion by the way, I enjoy it.

Woops, after re-reading your post that makes far more sense. I'd have known what you were on about if I was familiar with Gaiman's work. I should have realized the Hell you were speaking of was the one from the work you were talking about. My fault. I agree that the development of the idea of Hell by society is fascinating. The several versions of it throughout the Bible are quite interesting, as the idea seems to evolve over time, especially between the old and new testaments. There is even mention of Tartarus in the New Testament, which if you read the work as literal truth, would mean that the Greek idea of The Pit is Biblical cannon as well. Fascinating stuff!

Well that was easily one of the most interesting pieces of social history and historiography that I have come across in a while. Six minutes is way too short. Considering that you are dealing with:-
Judaic Canon
Christian Canon
Greco-Roman interpretations of Judeo-Christian scripture
Further reinterpretations during the early and high Medieval period
State and social reactions to such reinterpretations during the early-modern period
Short reference to two key fictional works that have massively shaped popular belief
And finally some very bad history carried out in the early 20th Century that really has quite a lot to answer for.

And this is speaking as someone that loved the original Wicker Man.

JenSeven:
Bob, not sure on your sources on the Witchhunts and persecution.
Terry Gilliam gave a much better and more logical explanation in his Medieval Lives: The Damsel.

Thanks for the link - but wrong Python. Sorry to be such a raging pedant. It's Terry Jones.

Barciad:

JenSeven:
Bob, not sure on your sources on the Witchhunts and persecution.
Terry Jones gave a much better and more logical explanation in his Medieval Lives: The Damsel.

The important bit comes in at about 19 minutes into the video.
The rest is also interesting, but that's where the point is.

Thanks for the link - but wrong Python. Sorry to be such a raging pedant. It's Terry Jones.

Oh crap, you're right.
Why is Terry Gilliam in my mind then? And why did that pop up when I tried to search it?
How could I have missed that....
Well.... I guess I'll alter that and hope nobody else notices it.
Terribly ashamed.

Well, guess my mind does sometimes misfire. I watched that a few years ago and when Bob mentioned the witchhunts it clicked with my memory of watching that episode. Guess I got the wrong Terry there, although the animation and such is very Terry Gilliam like. Guess they just mimicked his style and that might explain why I thought it was him.

Ok Bob, there's whispering at about the 2:15 mark. Very funny. Satan = creepy whispers in videos/audio media. So stereotypical.

See this is what I love about Bob's content. Just trivia/history of geek culture is and always has been his best stuff. Wish he would drop the political soap boxing, just in favor of this kind of stuff.

First episode I've watched in a while, and I'm happy at the content.

The book is a fabrication? As in does not actually exist?

Dammit! I kind of wanted to read that when you mentioned it.

Desenova:
The thing with Christianity is that to them turning something upside down made it evil, the Wiccan star = Pentagram. But it is always interesting to learn about this stuff and the history of such a prominent figure in human existence.

Actually, the pentagram was originally a Christian symbol dating back to the early Medieval period. It wasn't until the Renaissance that it started to be associated with magic, and the inverted pentagram didn't really take off in popularity until the mid-nineteen hundreds, largely thanks to a French magician named Eliphas Levi. And you can thank Anton LaVey for its popularity in modern occultism and later Wicca.

This is a really cool topic for videos. The origins of religious traditions are always fascinating to study.

fnartilter:
The book is a fabrication? As in does not actually exist?

Dammit! I kind of wanted to read that when you mentioned it.

No, no, the book exists, but the content (which was supposed to be a true story) is in all likelihood false. I actually think I have a copy kicking around somewhere, which is nice: new copies sell for like $250 on Amazon, and even a used copy will run you $50. I may have to dig it out, now.

OT: I find it funny that this episode popped up not long after The Devil and Corvo Attano piece that I read ... last week, was it? I don't know whether it was on purpose or not, but it's still pretty cool, because taken together (plus the second part when Bob posts it next week, I presume) they form a really nice picture of the representation of the devil in popular culture.

Odd, did he miss that the Hebrew word for Saturn and Satan are the same word. That's usually a big starting point on discussions about the origin of Satan. Oh well, interesting enough.

I kinda wished Bob had focused more on the fact that the devil is more of a middle-management underling to God, who exists to be a tempter and distraction to people and that there was no grand evil opposite to God until the Book of Revelation (which is such utter crap, but very fertile ground for various television shows....).

Satan was NEVER an independent operator, God was the one who sent him to do all the (admittedly very few) things mentioned in the Bible.

This is why I laugh at fire and brimstone christians, people who have never fully read nor critically think about their own holy book.

That's very interesting. Very interesting indeed. I had no idea that the Devil as we know him was largely conceived of outside of biblical scripture.

Err, well a couple of corrections.

For starters the whole "Michelle Remembers" thing tends to come down to whether you believe in regression hypnosis, the basic idea that a trained psychiatrist, can use hypnosis to access your deep memories and allow you to remember, or convey, things that you do not consciously remember without it. The idea being that pretty much everything you see, think, or experience is stored there somewhere, even if you can't always access it. There were a number of cases during this period of backlash where these techniques were used to uncover a lot of "evidence" of satanic activity, inflicted on children. This lead to questions about whether or not the whole technique works, or if it does, how many of these psychiatrists were actually accessing memories, or implanting them. There were allegations that a lot of these psychiatrists looking for fame from having a "victim patient" for the news created this, and basically tortured their victims by implanting memories that they claimed were actually recovered... and well it's a big mess, and one of the reasons why hypnosis isn't more heavily used in criminal proceedings.

For my part I believe that probably 90% of the stuff from the period is true, with a few constructions by attention seeking head shrinkers. The reason is simply that most of what is alleged doesn't really go much further than what you see in ordinary child molestation and such. What's more "Satanism" for a lot of people generally speaking comes down to fancy ways for them to justify sociopathic behavior, or just to provide trappings to add some excitement to kinky sex or other things they would likely be doing anyway. So yeah, I'd imagine there have been plenty of abusers who got organized (like we see busted in kiddie porn production rings and such) donned satanic trappings for fun/atmosphere and pretty much did their thing. Do I think it was organized on a global level? Not really, because of the simple reason that the more people that need to be involved the less practical it becomes to keep something like this under wraps. That said the whole sex tourism/slavery business which has been getting more exposure than ever, means that someone with a kid they can abuse sexually might very well sell the rights out to others. So of course if your doing your satanic child molestation thing to get your rocks off, and feel enterprising, you might very well start producing porn, and then invite regular consumers to come molest the kid(s) too the same way in exchange for money. To a victim, especially a young one, something like that might seen like an international conspiracy, especially if everyone shows up getting off on the same basic trappings and playing the same "games". Simply put with all of the things busted over the years that have been confirmed real, it actually seems even more plausible that it could have been going on as far back as the 1980s especially seeing as some of the big child-porn players were apparently active back then.

As far as the whole pagan/neo-pagan thing, one thing I have to keep reminding people of is that according to strict Christianity there are only two real forces, god and the devil. God pretty much identifies himself clearly and sets down very specific rules for him to be worshipped and guidelines for his people. The Devil to get your soul needs to turn you away from god, he doesn't necessarily need to turn you to full blown evil. As a result he can "win" by appearing as a benevolent entity who simply isn't god, and getting you to follow that instead. As a result it should be noted that the church really didn't NEED to engage in a ton of propaganda for it's hard core believers. Arguably it could justify torturing people until they "found god", and then killing them (to send them to heaven before further temptation) as being a humanitarian act by it's own standards. The argument being that your not supposed to pursue vengeance, but in the case of witches (ie anyone not following god, since any other philosophy or religion comes from The Devil in another face) your "shalt not suffer them to live", which can be interpreted as killing them before they can spread their poison and also effectively end their own earthly suffering by saving them through torture and execution.

That said, I do not doubt that many artworks showing The Devil depicted him as being similar to other non-Christian deities, but largely because to a Christian that is exactly what those deities were, The Devil in another guise or wearing a mask. The artwork simply shows him sort of "unmasked" as he is doing his thing, rather than adopting the attributes of other religions directly for purposes of propaganda.

I'm also a big believer that a lot of the pagans were generally speaking not nice people themselves. Us European barbarians wound up freaking out the Romans with the crap we got up to, and really that is what the Christians were still dealing with after the fall of Rome. Basically the situation probably wasn't helped by all the non-Christians basically killing and skinning people and wearing them like capes, building shrines out of skulls, murdering people on stone slabs, and whatever else. You generally weren't dealing with a bunch of peaceful "wise women" dancing in the moonlight and nothing else. That sells well to the new age crowd, but when you start looking back at the crap barbarians were up to back then, and understand there really wasn't a dividing line, it paints a different picture. Every once in a while you see shows on TV where they show caves full of bashed in skulls, depictions of bloody rituals, and similar things, not to mention going off about how the Vikings went around ripping people's rib cages open to make "the blood eagle" as a sign of appreciation to Odin (a pagan deity) for a long time. So really there was kind of an element of "you kill our people horribly, we kill yours" at the end of the day though the Christians by and large won, and did so by killing or converting all of their rivals.

Big_Willie_Styles:
Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, what have you is an interesting character in Biblical literature. I also like the depiction of the topic in "Supernatural."

I prefer to say he can be made interesting, and there is nothing wrong with such interpetations or using them to ask questions. At it's core though I think who he is, and what he stands for, is rather straightforward and unambiguous. As a Christian I defend (and enjoy) things like Sandman, Persona, Supernatural, etc... and encourage others to do the same with the careful understanding that it's fantasy and understand that the sides in reality are far more clear and well defined despite the questions... at least if your a Christian. But then again I'm not really a very spiritual Christian despite how it might sound at times.

That said, I was actually liked Supernatural's version of Death better than their version of The Devil. It seemed to be channeling a serious Neil Gaiman vibe without having it turn out to be a cute goth girl.

Also in the context of their story, I've kind of been waiting for it to pull a "Preacher" and turn into Sam and Dean putting more of an effort into actually finding god with the intent of putting a boot up his ass for more or less walking away from his creation and letting this stuff happen. Of course that might be rough because they would have to find some way of justifying giving them the power to make it practical. If your going to turn the mythology on it's head and do weird things with it, with most of the players not being anything like the traditional versions, to me "Preacher" sets the gold standard, especially the ending with the "Saint Of Killers" and why he did it. :)

Only thing I gotta say about this is that I was slightly bothered about Bob trying to words things so as to not offend people who actualy believe in this stuff. But thats my rampant atheism talking.

bor3ds0ul:
Is it alright if I ask for links to sites or books with more information about the origin of the Christian devil? It seems like a very interesting topic of study.

I have to agree.
Footnotes, source citation, and supplemental information for this presentation would be extremely interesting.

bor3ds0ul:
Is it alright if I ask for links to sites or books with more information about the origin of the Christian devil? It seems like a very interesting topic of study.

SeeDarkly_Xero:
I have to agree.
Footnotes, source citation, and supplemental information for this presentation would be extremely interesting.

Actually, I recommend Wikipedia. They have some very good pages on the history of the terms/characters of "Satan" and "the Devil" - not necessarily the same thing, particularly if you're reading up on the Jewish version.

For instance, "Satan" in the Hebrew version of the bible, refers not to an individual, but to a position assigned by "God". The position is basically that of a wetworks specialist. The Angel who screwed over Job was a "Satan" - not the devil. The Angel who killed all the first born during Passover was a "Satan". Basically, when God needed something mean done, he'd appoint a "Satan" to do it. The position gave that angel the right to do bad things in the service of God (like, say, murdering Job's family).

I'm wandering off topic - the point is, Wikipedia has a lot of info on this, and lots of great links to sources. Check it out.

Edit: I've always found Christian Mythology fascinating. It's one of the (many) reasons I love the Xenogears/Xenosaga games so much.

Anybody out there know what the movie/tv show being shown at the 5:05 mark is (the one before Rosemary's Baby)? I swear I've seen it before, but can't put my finger on it...

On the topic of the video, wow. That's a tonne of info crammed into a short space, and I imagine you could have done a two-parter based on this part of the topic alone; can't wait to see what fun stuff you're going to bring up next episode!

Bara_no_Hime:
Wikipedia has a lot of info on this, and lots of great links to sources.

Well, Wikipedia is many things, but it isn't a "seminal peer-reviewed" source. It's an aggregator at best. And while it might lead to such sources in the citations on the entries there, and I've no objection to furthering research along that avenue, (with apologies if I was unclear,) I think you've misunderstood my meaning; which was that I'd like to see the sources directly relevant to Bob's specific presentation cited. Not just general research sources on the topic.
In an expository summation of a topic like this, it would be interesting (for me at least) to see the list of researched materials.

It's probably not all that likely he'd even have the time to provide that sort of thing. It would still be interesting.
Of course, if he were to tell us he researched it directly from Wikipedia (and I would be a bit surprised and disappointed if he did) the point would be moot. :P

That said... looking forward to part two!

Bible Translations According to Bob:
Greek - Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Roman - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Medieval Western European - Monty Python's The Holy Grail

I cannot find fault with any interpretations.

SeeDarkly_Xero:
Well, Wikipedia is many things, but it isn't a "seminal peer-reviewed" source. It's an aggregator at best.
Of course, if he were to tell us he researched it directly from Wikipedia (and I would be a bit surprised and disappointed if he did) the point would be moot.

Generally, on non-political or science articles, Wikipedia is the most accurate encyclopedia in the world.

Now, as you say, encyclopedias are not "seminal peer-reviewed" - but you need a basic understanding of a topic before you can make use of more esoteric sources.

Having done a lot of research on this topic on Wikipedia (and then gone to more detailed primary sources therefrom), I can say that, on the topic of Christian mythology, Wikipedia is quite detailed and reflects a good deal of current research on the matter.

Science (particularly "disputed" aspects of it) and politics are the areas where you have to be careful of vandalism.

I think my favorite devil in media would have to be the devil from Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny.

Yes, if you take the OT "accuser" in a vacuum, he's not that bad.

HOWEVER, it does not mean that he was retconned by Christianity or that Christianity somehow changed his identity to become the personification of evil.

THis might be the most fascinating and informative "Bigger Picture" episode thus far.

Bbleds:
Yes, it is interesting how the idea how the christian Bible merely mentions a figure and places that have been translated as hell. I think the most interesting pop culture use was Neil Gaiman's Sandman. The "Devil" is actually made of three figures, Lucifer, Beezelebub, and Azael, seemingly drawing from the different figures mentioned in religious writings. And hell wasn't necessarily a place created for punishment, but perhaps a necessary creation by people for people believing they need punishment for their guilt.

Interesting nerd-culture fact, in regards to your last bit there.

The movie Dogma mentioned a similar interpretation for Hell. Per the movie, Hell was originally just nothingness for Angels. For those who'd been in the presence of God, to be alone and without Him was punishment enough. But then humans started with the "we are not worthy, we deserve punishment and fire and brimstone," and so it came to pass.

But maybe I'm jumping the gun here ... Bob will be covering current media references next week.

Therumancer:

Simply put with all of the things busted over the years that have been confirmed real, it actually seems even more plausible that it could have been going on as far back as the 1980s especially seeing as some of the big child-porn players were apparently active back then.

The book was published in 1980 and the events which Michelle "recalled" during her psychiatric sessions started when she was 5 years old in 1955. The book is bunk and attempting to tie it to modern day sex tourism is a stretch at best.

Also, I would like to see what evidence there is of "all the non-Christians basically killing and skinning people and wearing them like capes, building shrines out of skulls, murdering people on stone slabs, and whatever else." I am not saying that these pre-Christian people were awesome, I just haven't read anything that suggests they were any worse than the Christians that followed them.

The TL;DW version: The devil is completely made up.

Not a lot I didn't know already, although seeing it all together and given a shared context makes for some interesting insights.

*checks last frame* holy shit. Darkheart from Care Bares II! that takes me back.

So... a giant collection of fanfiction used to near-literally demonise people and religious iconography of other faiths and anyone the church didn't like the look of... yeah that sounds about right.

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