Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A History of the Devil

from Dangerous Minds:
The Devil first appeared in early Christian iconography as a blue angel assisting Jesus on judgment day separating the goats from the sheep, as described the gospel according to Matthew (25, 31-33):
When the Son of Man shall come in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
A 6th century mosaic of the last judgement in Ravenna, in the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Italy, clearly shows Jesus flanked on the right by an angel of light, in red; and on the left by an angel of dark, in blue. This is the Devil, who was seen in early medieval times as little more than a low-ranking bureaucrat, who was working for God.

Gradually, as the Catholic/Christian religion extended its power, the Devil began to take on a more sinister form. The blue angel sprouted horns, and slightly resembled a dragon. Interestingly, Hell at this time was not yet the fiery furnace it is depicted as today, the river of flames would be first painted with the last judgment mural at Torcello Cathedral in Venice, produced during the 11th century

The Devil slowly changed color to red, and took on elements from other mythical gods and creatures: firstly Hades, the Greek god of the underworld, and then another Greek god Pan, who was originally the god of shepherd. (His name meant “to pasture.”) It was Pan who gave the Devil his goat’s legs and cloven hooves. Our vision of the Christian Devil owes more to artists than it does to any descriptive verse in the Bible.

By the 1600s, this horned red Devil was used as a means to oppress and enforce the rule of the Catholic/Christian church. Anyone who spoke out against the church was a heretic and in league with the Devil. For if the church was God on earth, then those against the church were on the Devil’s side. This led to the brutal and horrific slaughter of thousands of innocent people.

Today, the Devil is still used to oppress and inspire fear. Most recently, the American government, under President George W. Bush, declared war on an “Axis of Evil,” while at the head of the US military were men who literally believed they were waging war on the Devil.

This documentary examines the creation of the Devil from mythical gods to source of terrorism and fear.

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