God as the devil

In Christian heresiology, there have been historical claims that certain Christian sects worshipped the devil. This was especially an issue in the reaction of the early Church to Gnosticism and its dualism, where the creator deity is understood as a demiurge subordinate to the actual, transcendent God.

Satan in the Hebrew Bible

Main article: Satan

In the Hebrew Bible God is depicted as the source of both light and darkness, as in Isaiah 45:6-7.[1] This concept of "darkness" or "evil" was not yet personified as "the devil," a later development in Jewish thought.[2]

The author of the Books of Chronicles is thought to have first introduced the notion of "divine intermediaries", which was not found in the earlier parts of the Hebrew Bible. The main evidence adduced by theologians to support this is 1 Chronicles 21, a reworked version of 2 Samuel 24.

This change is made most evident in the Chronicler's treatment of 2 Samuel 24:1:

And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

which, in 1 Chronicles 21:1, becomes:

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
King James Version

In the Book of Samuel, YHWH himself is the agent in punishing Israel, while in 1 Chronicles an "adversary" is introduced. This is usually taken to be the result of the influence of Persian dualism on Israelite demonology.

Scholars are divided on whether in Chronicles, "the adversary" had already become a proper name, "the Adversary" (Satan). The traditional opinion has been that this is the case, arguing from the absence of the definite article in שטן "adversary". S. Japhet in her The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and its Place in Biblical Thought (1989) argued against mainstream opinion in suggesting that שטן still had the generic meaning and only became the proper name "Satan" at a later date, by about the 2nd century BC.[3]

Ancient Christianity

Marcion of Sinope, right

Tertullian accuses Marcion of Sinope, the first major heretic of Christianity in the 1st century, that he "[held that] the Old Testament was a scandal to the faithful [...] and [...] accounted for it by postulating [that Jehovah was] a secondary deity, a demiurgus, who was god, in a sense, but not the supreme God; he was just, rigidly just, he had his good qualities, but he was not the good god, who was Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ."[4] The Church condemned his writings as heretical.

John Arendzen (1909) in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) mentions that Eusebius accused Apelles, the 2nd-century AD Gnostic, of considering the Inspirer of Old-Testament prophecies to be not a god, but an evil angel.[5]

Hegemonius (4th century) accuses the Persian prophet Mani, founder of the Manichaean sect in the 3rd century AD, identified Jehovah as "the devil god which created the world"[6] and said that "he who spoke with Moses, the Jews, and the priests [...] is the [Prince] of Darkness, [...] not the god of truth."[7]

According to their critics, these heretics referred to the Abrahamic God variously as "a demiurgus",[4] "an evil angel",[5] "the devil god",[6] "the Prince of Darkness",[7] "the source of all evil",[8] "the Devil",[9] "a demon",[10] "a cruel, wrathful, warlike tyrant",[11] "Satan"[12] and "the first beast of the book of Revelation".[13]

Medieval Christianity

Nicholas Weber in the Catholic Encyclopedia article Albigenses (1907) notes that the enemies of the Albigenses, a Christian sect in 12th- and 13th-century France, a branch of the Cathari, accused them that their doctrine held that "the creator [...] of the material world [...] is the source of all evil [...] He created the human body and is the author of sin [...] The Old Testament must be either partly or entirely ascribed to him; whereas the New Testament is the revelation of the beneficent God."[8] They ultimately came into conflict with both the civil order and the Church which led to the Albigensian Crusade.

See also


  1. Peter D. Quinn-Miscall Reading Isaiah: poetry and vision p93 2001 - 224 "I make peace and I create evil. I the Lord make all these things. (45:6-7) "I create evil" is a shocking statement that is usually softened in translations, except for KJV."
  2. Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible DDD p245 ed. K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst - 1999 "The value of this complex dualism and eschatology for some factions of post-exilic Judaism was that it provided an ... the source of both opposites: "I form light and I create darkness: I make wholeness and I create evil" (Isa 45:7)."
  3. Divine Intermediaries in 1 Chronicles 21: An Overlooked Aspect of the Chronicler’s Theology by Paul Evans in Biblica, 2004
  4. 1 2  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Marcionites". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  5. 1 2  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Gnosticism". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  6. 1 2 Manichaeism by Alan G. Hefner in The Mystica, undated
  7. 1 2 Acta Archelai of Hegemonius, Chapter XII, c. AD 350, quoted in Translated Texts of Manicheism, compiled by Prods Oktor Skjærvø, page 68. History of the Acta Archelai explained in the Introduction, page 11
  8. 1 2 Albigenses by Nicholas Weber in Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907
  9. Martin Luther by Oswald Bayer in The Reformation Theologians: An Introduction to Theology in the Early Modern Period, edited by Carter Lindberg, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002 (partial text available at Google Books). See The Evil One; God as the Devil; God's Wrath, page 58..9.
  10. The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, 1794, Part I, Chapter VII, Examination of the Old Testament
  11. A Book of Blood: Biblical atrocities on Ebon Musings, undated
  12. Walter L. Williams, private correspondence (quoted here with permission), March 19, 2009, referring to The Essential Teachings of Jesus and Mary by Walter L. Williams, unpublished manuscript, December 24, 2008, excerpts available at The Community Of Jesus And Mary
  13. The Old Serpent Chained by "Son of man", Author House, 2006. (Full text of book available by clicking "Free Preview", then "Download the free eBook".)
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