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Give the Devil (and Judas) their due

Give the Devil (and Judas) their due

NEIL BLEWITT, who died in 2009, found it odd that two gentlemen to whom Christianity owes its very existence are shown no gratitude whatsoever.

 

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude…

Nowhere is Lord Amiens’ observation in As You Like It better illustrated than in the attitude of Christians to the Devil. And, I may add, to Judas Iscariot as well.

Despite the fact that Christianity owes its existence to these two gentlemen, not a single church is dedicated to them, no Feast Day is prescribed for them in the Prayer Book – nor, as far as I know, has a Service of thanksgiving ever been held in appreciation of their part in the Christian story.

It is not that Christians are unaware of their roles; Judas graces several books of the New Testament while the Devil has parts in Genesis and Revelation with several guest appearances in the intermediate books.

I have seen only one record of an interest being shown in the well-being of the Devil and that is in The Devil, a pamphlet Freethinker editor Chapman Cohen (1868 – 1954) wrote nearly 90 years ago.

He recorded that at a prayer-meeting a lone, sympathetic voice called out:

Let us pray for the Devil.

Unfortunately, Mr Cohen was not told of the response to this demand, but I suspect that the person making it was hastily ejected from the meeting and fervent prayers offered for his return to normality.

One can admire the gentleman’s courage, if it was not a sense of mischief, but it would have been far more relevant if he had said instead

Let us give thanks for the Devil.

For consider the version of the Adam and Eve story in Genesis 2 and 3. If the Devil, in the form of a serpent, had not beguiled Eve and she, in turn, persuaded her husband into eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, they would have retained their primal innocence and it is likely therefore that the world’s population would have remained at two and there would have been no sin transmitted from the couple to future generations – by, as Augustine would have it, concupiscence.

And no sin would have meant that there was no necessity for Jesus to come into the world to make atonement and, incidentally, no necessity for the Holy Ghost to sire him – even if the Virgin Mary had miraculously appeared. So there would have been no Christianity, none of the religious wars that followed in its wake, no persecutions, sectarian violence ncr hell and damnation.

Jesus-talking-to-Adam-and-Eve

The pity is that there would have been only two people to appreciate the situation .

Now I know that the serpent in Genesis is not described as the Devil there. But what else could the serpent have been?

As Jesus said:

By their fruits ye shall know them.

In any case the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church confirms the serpent’s identity. Added to which what respectable ophidian would make improper suggestions to a lady on their first meeting, particularly if they had not been formally introduced? And I think we can go one step further and conclude that the Devil would have cast his disguise before God’s punishment took effect.

It would have been degrading for someone of the Devil’s status to spend eternity being kicked by man and crawling on his belly (the nature of his earlier preferred form of locomotion need not concern us here). He had certainly dispensed with his disguise by Job’s time and by the end of the New Testament he was appearing as a roaring lion and a dragon. Clearly theMoriarty of his day.

It may be argued that God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. But that was in the first version of the story. In the second, their primal innocence, before the advent of the Devil, was such that it is highly probable they would not have known how to multiply even if God had drawn them a diagram.

After they succumbed to the Devil’s temptation they must have become aware and went at it with a will. They begat, as Genesis says, sons and daughters. The world then was populated by incest and although God had a commandment forbidding such conduct it did not come into force until after this time and it seems it was not meant to be retrospective.

It is interesting to note, and I digress a little here, that God relented on his threat to Adam. He had said:

The day you eat of the fruit of that tree you shall surely die.

Adam ate the fruit but lived to 930.

Years of age, that is, not pm, on the day of his sin.

And, as G W Foote put it in “Eve and the Apple” in his Bible Romances:

Adam and Eve ate the apple and we suffer the stomach-ache.

But, of course, it was in God’s interest that Adam and Eve should have sinned, lost their innocence and been in a position to set about the task of populating the world. For a deity who thrives on worship, a potential congregation of millions would be bound to be much more satisfying than two. It would also later be appreciated by priests – particularly in the matter of church collections.

As for Judas, it is recorded in Luke’s gospel that the Devil entered into him to betray Jesus by identifying him to the minions of the high priests and elders. Quite why he had to be identified is something of a mystery given that many thousands of people within and without Jerusalem had witnessed the extraordinary events of his career. His face must have been one of the best-known in the land.

But attempting to solve that mystery belongs to another day. The important point is that Jesus was betrayed by the Devil and Judas jointly.

But if he had not been, there would have been no crucifixion and no resurrection and, as Paul explained to those in Corinth who chose to read his epistles, if Jesus did not rise from the dead then nor would anybody else.

As for Jesus himself – an unresurrected one that is – he may well have continued his nomadic life casting out an evil spirit here and uttering a homely saw there until he drifted into senility and death, leaving little behind him that would be worthy of notice by future generations.

For who would want to commemorate a superannuated god who had not the wit to organise, on his own behalf rather than relying on a betrayer, a death, resurrection and ascension as so many other gods and sons of gods had done before him? So, whether God allowed Judas to die by suicide, a fall, or being crushed to death (the accounts differ) what a poor reward for services to Christianity.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind indeed!

It follows that if there had been no resurrection, Paul would not have had his Damascus moment nor a reason to found Christianity and there would have been only an ancient, minor Middle-Eastern deity of somewhat bloodthirsty habits left to worship; and for those who chose to do so a veritable strait-jacket of otiose commandments to climb into.

And think, without the Devil and Judas, what would happen to the Prayer Book? It would be virtually redundant. Imagine, for example, the centre-piece, the Apostles Creed. It would be reduced to:

I believe in God The Bachelor Maker of heaven, and earth.

Services would make few demands on votaries’ time. Christians should not simply echo the cry of the man at the prayer-meeting in Chapman Cohen’s essay and pray for the Devil. They should worship him on bended knees and ensure that, as their benefactor, all their churches should be dedicated to him. Except, of course, those that had Judas Iscariot their patron.

Jesus is not entirely blameless in this matter. He should have set an example by falling down and worshipping the Devil when he was invited to do so at the Temptation.

Jesus should have known of the debt that had accrued and would accrue further to him – and if he did not know, his father, who had had a longer acquaintance with the Devil, should have briefed him

3 responses to “Give the Devil (and Judas) their due”

  1. […] the May, 2010, edition of the Freethinker, we carried a piece by the late Neil Blewitt, who pointed […]

  2. If anyone wants to know why Judas betrayed Jesus, they should read my book ‘The Rise and Fall of Jesus’.

  3. David Anderson says:

    Steuart Campbell: No thanks, I think Kipling’s Just So Stories are far more interesting.