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andyjj

Judaism And 'the Devil'

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Is the character of 'The Devil' part of modern Judaism? I'm not necessarily talking about the satan (adversary) mentioned in the OT. Presumably 'The Devil' was a big deal in 1st century Pharisee circles? If he isn't part of modern Judaism, what happened to him? Or is he just a christian innovation, based on the folklore of the Book of Enoch?

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Well, in the OT, Satan was an angel of God used to test his followers to see if they were worthy. How Satan became synonymous with the Devil and Satan becoming the arch enemy of God is debatable. Some link it to the Jewish people's exposure to Zoroastrianism during the captivity which caused Judaism to adopt its dualistic tendencies. This in turn resulted in the 'demonized' character of Satan to appear in the apocrypha which as a result affected Christian understanding of the OT and resulted in the maturity of the Devil's persona in the NT. In the Septuagint, "the adversary" is translated as "the slanderer". This is interesting but I don't know why the name changed. It could also be related to outside influences but since my Bible software isn't working at the moment, I cannot check for more details. This is perhaps more of MWC's arena though :)

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This is a good question and one that I've never really considered. I can't say I've seen much in the way of "The Devil" in mainstream Rabbinic style Judaism (at least that I can recall off the top of my head). I'm sure I've seen the reference but it would have been in the literal sense of the word "devil" meaning "evil one." This would make it different from the more xian usage which is akin to Hades making the Devil the ruler over a kingdom we call Hell (like Hades ruled/rules the kingdom of the underworld). Of course the xian Devil does more than just rule over Hell but is essentially the embodiment of all things evil and has a varying amount of supernatural powers, etc. so they're not exactly the same in all ways (which is not my point for the comparison).

 

It would seem that Jews would be able to, if they choose, have a "devil" or even The Devil, since there is nothing in the Hebrew Bible to prevent them from doing so. It would be much like how Jews have a rather open interpretation of an afterlife and any number of theological concepts. It generally lies outside the mainstream but it's not strictly forbidden (you might say it lies in the realm of speculation and argumentation which is usually encouraged). Some Jews might be open to talking about such a thing while others might just shut the conversation down as pointless. I imagine if you tracked down a decent Rabbi they would engage this topic although I would think they would dismiss it if you only wanted to discuss a xian devil and its trappings. In this sense I would imagine that someone like a Hitler would be a Jewish Devil (an "evil one") and anyone else who perpetrated great "evil" (most likely on the Jews but really anyone I guess) would be a devil. While Satan is a supernatural "angel" that works for their god. I doubt very much a devil would ever come from their god and, as such, could ever be supernatural (excluding the possibility of it ever being an "angel").

 

So there could be a Jewish Devil since the Hebrew Bible doesn't explicitly state otherwise but its details can only be speculated about which means it would be something most Jews would probably not bother with as a matter of course.

 

mwc

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