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The Serpent And Satan


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Anyone knowledgeable of serpent symbolism? How old is it? Is the serpent more ancient in religious symbolism than the hebrew religion? Was the hebrew religion's hate towards the serpent a reaction to the serpent worship many other people had?

 

I'm asking because I recently saw someone link Masonry with satanism because a certain lodge (yeah, was it scottish rite of accepted freemasonry? the one with infamous Albert Pike) had serpent symbolism explained and used in their pseudo-religious writings. The masons seem to have a thing for religious symbolism as far as I've read aboiut them. DOn't mean they worship Satan though or kill babies in rituals to further their black magick.

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Wikipedia has a decent article on this.  It certainly predated Jewish scripture, which did not always portray it in a negative light (think about Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness for healing).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpent_(symbolism)

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Another thing could be said for the correlation between Eve and ancient female goddesses. Then you can view the story of Adam and Eve as a metaphor against following female/goddess worship.

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Apparently there are parallels between the serpent in Genesis and the Leviathan, an ancient chaos sea dragon that Yahweh is said to have conquered when creating the earth. I also read (sorry, I forget exactly where I read it but you can research this) that there were priests who worshipped a serpant deity, so the garden story could very well be written from that perspective, whereas Genesis 1 is obviously written later, from a much more pro-Yahweh perspective.

 

I don't know how much of this is supported by mainstream scholarship, but it is an interesting framework.

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Well Satan does not appear at all in the OT and when the bible referred to Satan as "that old serpent" it probably was talking about Satan being a sneaky and treacherous character, not the snake in Eden.

Though the serpent is supposed to symbolize wisdom, as the bible even tells us to be "as wise as serpents."

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Ophidiophobia is the most prevalent fear in primates.

 

 

Intense snake fear is prevalent in both humans and other primates. Humans and monkeys learn snake fear more easily than fear of most other stimuli through direct or vicarious conditioning. Neither the elicitation nor the conditioning of snake fear in humans requires that snakes be consciously perceived; rather, both processes can occur with masked stimuli. Humans tend to perceive illusory correlations between snakes and aversive stimuli, and their attention is automatically captured by snakes in complex visual displays. Together, these and other findings delineate an evolved fear module in the brain.

 

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/cd/12_1/ohman.cfm

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Well Satan does not appear at all in the OT and when the bible referred to Satan as "that old serpent" it probably was talking about Satan being a sneaky and treacherous character, not the snake in Eden.

Though the serpent is supposed to symbolize wisdom, as the bible even tells us to be "as wise as serpents."

 

While most places that people point to don't actually spell out the name, "Satan." The name is actually used for the accuser in Job.

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Serpent worship is ancient.. it is a symbol of wisdom, rebirth and regeneration (sheds it's skin and renews itself) the ouroboros is a very ancient symbol.. it denotes infinity, and the circle of life. There are serpents carved on Gobleki Tepe, and throughout neolithic art. The Minoan priestesses/goddesses had serpents wrapped around their arms. The chinese venerated serpents as dragons. Tiamat of Sumerian fame was a great dragon or serpent… 

 

Apophis and Set are represented by serpents…one of the symbols of Egypt is the Cobra, Wadget the goddess.  Snake cults were popular in Canaan before the Hebrews. The Hittites had snakes in their theology… as well as the Babylonians and Assyrians. The Greeks have much serpent symbolism in their mythology. The far east and south eat has it's share of snake symbols and deities in their theology, as well as many north and south native peoples. The Aztecs have Quetzecoatl - the feathered serpent, and their hero and saviour.

 

The Nordics have the World Serpent...

 

The theme od the serpent is everywhere and all through almost every tradition. I've touched on a few.

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The serpent in the Garden of Eden has absolutely nothing to do with The Satan (an angel of YHWH). Christians "innovated" that stupid idea. 

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Blood, may I ask what does the serpent in the Garden of Eden represent in your opinion? 

 

I'm simply curious as throughout my entire life as a Christian I have always assumed and it has consistently been taught that the serpent was the devil/Satan tempting Eve. I'd be curious to hear an alternative view point, any sources would also be appreciated.

 

Thanks!

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There is no scriptural basis for serpent=Satan. It is a borrowing from the Sumerians, that Ravenstar has described upthread.

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Anyone knowledgeable of serpent symbolism? How old is it? Is the serpent more ancient in religious symbolism than the hebrew religion? Was the hebrew religion's hate towards the serpent a reaction to the serpent worship many other people had?

The Serpent is Yahweh, who is also a fire-breathing god in the OT. In the Book of Revelation (12:9 New American Standard Bible) "And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."

 

In the Garden of Eden, the Serpent was the alter ego of Yahweh. Moses worshipped Yahweh, which is why Moses lifted up the Serpent. Moses was a Serpent worshipper. Yahweh is a flying serpent, or dragon.

 

I've come across a couple books on this subject. I'm exploring it.

 

 

Er.. not quite.  BUT serpent worship was fairly common and serpents are traditionally associated with healing, wisdom, immortality, etc.  Yahweh is more of a storm/mountain/war deity, with a fire variation in some traditions, but not at all reptilian in nature.  I think you can infer from contemporary ANE mythology that the serpent is the same as the Leviathan who was defeated by Yahweh in other creation myths which are referenced briefly in Job and a few of the prophets.. so in this version of the story you can imagine the serpent as an older, deposed deity licking his wounds and trying to get his revenge on Yahweh.  

 

The idea of Satan actually comes from Zororastrianism, which is a whole other ball of wax entirely.

 

I started another thread on this but it never really took off:  http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/62567-leviathanrahab-mythology/?hl=leviathan  It is pretty fascinating, really.

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Blood, may I ask what does the serpent in the Garden of Eden represent in your opinion? 

 

I'm simply curious as throughout my entire life as a Christian I have always assumed and it has consistently been taught that the serpent was the devil/Satan tempting Eve. I'd be curious to hear an alternative view point, any sources would also be appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

It doesn't represent anything but itself. There were no other humans around, so the author needed an animal or reptile to encourage the humans to eat from the tree, and he came up with the serpent because "it was more crafty than any beast in the field" and thus seemed a logical choice. It was not The Satan, who is an angel of YHWH. 

 

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and a talking serpent just a talking serpent. 

 

Read any Genesis commentary for more info. 

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The serpent story reads like an Aesop's fable. Why do snakes crawl on the ground and flit their tongues? Well kids, a long time ago...

But the story doesn't explain why all snake species crawl and flit. According to it, one snake did the act and was cursed. Not a very well written fable. And there is nothing in Judaism to link the snake to the character of the devil or the accuser in Job. Christianity does that (Rev 12:9).

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Well Satan does not appear at all in the OT and when the bible referred to Satan as "that old serpent" it probably was talking about Satan being a sneaky and treacherous character, not the snake in Eden.

Though the serpent is supposed to symbolize wisdom, as the bible even tells us to be "as wise as serpents."

Hi Cianna200,

 

Thanks for commenting. How about Satan in the Book of Job?

Would you tell some more about what Wiccans and pagans think about the Serpent and Satan?

 

Human

 

Hi human, in the book of job, the term Satan is supposed to mean adversary or accuser and even fallen nature.

Wiccans and pagans understand that Satan is supposed to be a evil supreme ruler in the judeo-Christian religions but most of us do not believe he exists which debunks the whole witchcraft, Wicca and paganism is Satan worship misconception; we also believe serpents represent strength and wisdom.

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The serpent story reads like an Aesop's fable. Why do snakes crawl on the ground and flit their tongues? Well kids, a long time ago...

But the story doesn't explain why all snake species crawl and flit. According to it, one snake did the act and was cursed. Not a very well written fable. And there is nothing in Judaism to link the snake to the character of the devil or the accuser in Job. Christianity does that (Rev 12:9).

So true; one of the stupidest things I ever read is the story of mankind's fall from grace.  Dog said the serpent will now slither on the ground, and that Eve will now have pain when an eight-pound baby comes out of her, and Adam now will not find it very fun to toil in the fields.

 

So I have absolutely no idea what the serpent is supposed to represent, because there is no description of what it was before it was a serpent: except for the fact that it apparently had legs.  Right around the time childbirth tickled.  

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I. In MT the generic word for a venom- ous snake or serpent is nahas (31 times). In Semitic the only certain cognate noun is Ugaritic nhs, 'snake' (numerous times in KTU 1.100 and 1.107), with a possible cog- nate in Arabic hanas, 'snake' (via meta- thesis and an altered sibilant). The origin of the word may be onomatopoeic, derived from the hissing sound of a snake. Other words for snakes in MT include peten (cf. Ug btn, Akk basmu and bsn in Deut 33:22; -►Bashan), §ardp (lit. 'burning one'), siponi, 'ep'eh, 'aksub, qippoz, septpon, and tannin (which can also mean 'dragon'). It is difficult to correlate these names with the numerous species of snakes native to the region. It is likely that all of these were regarded as venomous snakes, a common attribution in traditional cultures. The Hebrew noun nahas also has the apparently related meanings of 'divination' (Num 23:23 and 24:1) and 'fortune, luck' (attested in numerous personal names). The denomina- tive Piel verb niheS means 'to practice divi- nation' (attested also in Aramaic). Occa- sionally nahas and other, words for snake can be applied to mythical dragons (-►Dragon, -^Leviathan). The snake is commonly associated with selected deities and -*demons and with magic and incantations in the ancient Near East. The latter association is found particu- larly in connection with the cure or avoidanceof snake bites. The most common symbolicassociations of the snake include protection, danger,healing, regeneration, and (less frequently) sexuality. 
II. In Mesopotamian mythology and iconography the snake can be associated with a range of deities and demons. Depic- tions of a god whose lower body is a snake may represent the deity Nirah, chief minister to lshtaran, the city-god of Der, on the bor- der with Elam. The frequent reliefs of snakes on kudurru's (boundary-stones) may represent Nirah in the role of protective spirit. Perhaps related are the frequent Elam- ite images of a high god seated on a throne of coiled snakes. The symbol of the under- world deity Ningishzida is a venomous horned snake, which is depicted rising from his shoulders. Ningishzida is named in incantations as a guardian of underworld demons, and is a guardian of the gates of -►heaven in the Adapa myth. The female demon Lamashtu is depicted grasping snakes in both hands, while the male demon Pazuzu can be depicted with his exposed phallus as a snake. In these divine represen- tations the image of the snake suggests asso- ciations with fear, danger, and death or with a protective power, depending on whether the snake is the emblem of an adversary or a benefactor. Another dimension in the Mesopotamian symbolism of the snake is found in the Gil- gamesh epic; the animal steals away Gilga- mesh's plant of rejuvenation (XI:279-289). This episode shows not only the futility of Gilgamesh's quest for immortality, but also explains in folkloric fashion why snakes shed their skin and rejuvenate. The knowl- edge of this plant is described as a 'secret of the gods*. In Egyptian mythology and iconography the snake is a dominant and multivalent symbol. The snake can appear in many roles: as an adversary or a protector, a deity or a demon, and can signify life and regeneration or death and nonexistence. 
A venomous snake (the Uraeus serpent) protects kings and gods; the king has the snake as part of his being, and so is immune to snake bites and can heal others. Fierce snakes are guardians of the twelve gates of the underworld. The ba's of all the gods live in snakes, and the -►dead in the Netherworld become snakes. The sun-god in his nightly passage through the primeval waters of Nun is rejuvenated inside the body of a snake before his reappearance at dawn. The pri- meval gods at the beginning of time are cm- bodied as snakes in the primeval waters, and time itself can be depicted as a snake. At the end of time -*Atum and -►Osiris return to snake-beings in the eternal waters. The deadly and the regenerative powers of the snake occur in varying proportions in these instances; hence the complexity of the snake symbol. 
The semantic range of the snake in Egypt is well-illustrated by the contrast between two cosmic snakes: Apopis and Ouroboros. The Apopis serpent is the cosmic adversary of the sun god, each day attempting to con- sume the sun and to return the cosmos to primeval chaos and darkness. Apopis is destroyed each day by powerful magic, yet cannot be killed; it returns eternally as the force of chaos and non-existence, ever threatening to erase the order of being. The Ouroboros ('tail-swallower') is the world- encircling snake who marks the boundary between the ordered cosmos and the endless chaos around it. In the contrast of Apopis and Ouroboros the snake appears as both exponent of and limit on the powers of chaos and non-existence. In Canaanite and Phoenician mythology and iconography the symbolism of the snake is less diverse than in Egypt or Mesopot- amia. There arc numerous images of snakes in various media, at times curled around the openings of vessels in a protective pose, but other meanings in other contexts remain obscure. In the so-called Qudsu iconography the snake is associated with a goddess, probably -*Asherah, the mother of the gods in Ugaritic mythology. In this pose the goddess is depicted naked, standing on a lion, and 
holding snakes in one or both hands, some- times also holding flowers in one hand. There are numerous examples of this image in Syro-Palcstinian and Egyptian figurines and plaques from ca. 1700-1200 bce. A goddess-epithet from the Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions, dt btn ('The One [fern.] of the Snake'), has also plausibly been associated with the goddess Asherah. Whether the snake in its association with Asherah con- notes rejuvenation, rebirth, protection, sex- uality or some other nuance or conjunction of meanings is unclear. In a Ugaritic mytho- logical incantation against snakebites (KTU 1.100) the god -*Horon is the chief dispeller of snake venom and at the end presents a brideprice of snakes (nhSm) to a minor god- dess. In Syro-Palcstinian cylinder seals the snake is sometimes depicted as an enemy of the warrior-god, probably representing some of the various chaos-monsters of Canaanite mythology. A Hellenistic period recapitulation of Phoenician mythology (from Philo of Byblos) presents our only direct commen- tary on snake symbolism from a non-biblical West Semitic source (including an admix- ture of Hellenistic influences): "Taautos himself regarded as divine the nature of the serpent and snakes... [it is] fiery and the most filled with breath of all crawling things... It is also exceedingly long-lived, and by nature not only does it slough off old age and become rejuvenated, but it also attains greater growth. When it fulfils its determined limit, it is consumed into itself, as Taautos himself similarly narrates in his sacred writings. Therefore, this animal is included in the rites and mysteries" (Euscbius, Praep. ev. 1.10.46-47; trans. Attridge & Oden 1981). III. In the Hebrew Bible the snake is associated with -*Yahweh or with magic on several occasions. The most notable in- stances are the stories of the Garden of Eden (Gen 3). the Egyptian plagues (Exod 4 and 7). the bronze serpent (Num 21 and 2 Kgs18), and possibly Isaiah's initiatory vision 
(Isa 6). The snake symbolism in the stories of the Egyptian plagues and the bronze serpent is representative of traditional Near Eastern associations with the snake. In Exod 4:1-5 (JE) and 7:8-13 (P) as a sign of Yahweh's power, Moses' and Aaron's rod turn into venomous snakes (ndhas and tannin, re- spectively). In the JE story the magical transformation serves to show the Israelites that Yahweh has indeed revealed himself to ->Moses, while in the P story the transfor- mation is a sign to Pharaoh of Yahweh's might. The common Near Eastern resonance of this scene is shown in the P story when the Egyptian magicians also transform their rods into snakes; Yahweh's greater might is demonstrated only in that his snake devours the Egyptian snakes. The association of venomous snakes with magic is part of the implicit sense of these passages, an asso- ciation with which Israelite authors seem familiar (e.g. Ps 58:5-6). In the story of the bronze serpent in Num 2 1 :4-9 (JE), Yahweh commands Moses to construct a snake statue mounted on a standard to cure the deadly bites of the terapim (lit. 'burning') snakes. When the Israelites see the statue, their bites are healed. Here also is a traditional associa- tion of the snake in its symbolic use in healing rites for venomous snake bites. Yahweh is the deity responsible for healing through the sym- bolic instrument of the bronze snake (nehas nehoset — note the assonance in the ritual phrase). Due apparently to a revaluation of the ritual objects associated with Yahweh, Hezekiah destroys the bronze serpent in 2 Kgs 18:4. In this passage the snake image is associated with idolatrous, non-Yahwistic worship, though it is more likely that the snake was a traditional sign of Yahweh's healing power (->Nehushtan). In Isaiah's initiatory vision in Isaiah 6, the prophet sees serapim (lit. 'burning ones') in Yahweh's heavenly temple. These creatures have faces, legs, and six wings; they fly and chant praises to Yahweh. It is possible that these are winged snake- beings, 
like the Sdrap-snakts of other passages (note the 'flying' wrap-snakes of Isa 14:29 and 
30:6, and cf. Herodotus 2.75 on flying snakes in the Arabian desert). While depic- tions of the winged Uraeus serpent are com- mon in seals of this period, it may be more likely that these 'burning ones' in Isaiah's vision are variants of the 'fiery' lesser dei- ties found in other passages who. are members of Yahweh's divine assembly (-►Angel(s), Host of Heaven). The closest parallels are to other divine fiery beings such as 'his servants, -*fire <and> -aflame' (Ps 104:4), the creature relep (lit. 'burning', cf ->-Resheph) who accompanies Yahweh, and the enigmatic 'flame of the whirling sword' who, with the -*■ Cherubim, guards the way to the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:24). Also related may be Ezekiel's vision of fire moving among the heavenly Cherubim and God's fiery presence in Ezek 1. Since the 'burning ones' of Isaiah's vision are not overtly depicted as snakes (note that all the attestations of &jrap-snakes are explicitly marked by other words for snakes), and since the prophet remarks on other features of their bizarre appearance, it is perhaps more likely that they are fiery beings than snake-beings. The most interesting biblical snake with mythological associations is the snake (nahiis) in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3). This snake is identified as belonging to the class of 'creatures of the field that Yahweh God had made', though it is distinguished from the other animals by his greater 'cleverness' (Gen 3:1). This clever animal plays the role of the trickster in the Eden story, skilfully deceiving the Woman into disobeying the divine command concerning the fruit of the Tree of Life. Cross-cultural studies have shown that trickster figures characteristically are ambiguous figures who cross or blur the accepted categories of existence. The snake in Eden is true to his trickster identity in crossing or blurring the boundaries between the categories of animal, human, and divine. While the snake is defined as an animal, he is also different from them with respect to his knowledge or cleverness. In addition, 
like a human, the snake has the power of speech (cf. Gen 2:19-20 in which the power 
of naming clearly differentiates human from animal), and he tricks the Woman through this characteristically human ability. Unlike the humans, but like God, the snake knows that the humans will not die upon eating the forbidden fruit, but will become 'like the gods, knowing good and evil' (Yahwch God acknowledges that this is the case in Gen 3:22). Hence the snake is an animal, but is like humans with respect to the power of language, and is like the gods with respect to secret knowledge. The snake's identity partakes and combines, in complex measure, characteristics of these three distinct cate- gories of being. The effect of the snake's actions are correspondingly coloured by multiple meanings and ambiguity. While the human transgression is depicted as sinful, it also brings the human a greater, divine-like knowledge: their eyes arc indeed 'opened' (though what is gained — knowledge of nakedness — seems ironic and obscure). Like tricksters of other traditions (cf. Prometheus and Epimetheus of Greek tradition), the boon of the trickster is both a benefit and a loss, for which humans pay the price. The choice of a venomous snake for this trickster figure seems predicated on traditional Near Eastern associations with the snake: asso- ciations with danger and death, with magic and secret knowledge, with rejuvenation and immortality, and with sexuality. It is also possible that the snake's association with the nude goddess in Canaanitc iconography lies behind the scene of the snake and the naked woman (who is called in Gen 3:20 'Mother of all Life', seemingly a goddess epithet) in the divine garden.  

- Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible

 
 
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