Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Fall of Satan

I maintain that Genesis 3 records not only the fall of man but also simultaneously the fall of Lucifer. Satan's fall is his temptation of Adam and Eve. Called to serve mankind, this high-ranking angel chooses instead to seduce mankind to serve him. This seems to me to make the most sense of the record. Everything was very good at the end of the 6th day of creation. Then on the seventh day we have the fall of Satan and Adam intertwined.

The angel Satan, who was created with the rest of the angels to serve man (Heb. 1:14), rebelled against his God-given role in creation and become man's tempter. That was the fall of Satan. The judgment in Genesis 3 against Satan is God's judgment against his original sin. Genesis 3, therefore, documents the fall of Satan and man.

Consider also Christ's comment in John 8:44 regarding Satan: "He was murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own, for he is a liar and the father of it." Satan is Satan in virtue of his dual role as the first "murderer" and as the "father of lies." Where do we see him do these things? At the temptation of Adam and Eve. It is an attempt to bring death upon mankind (murder) by means of a lie. Just the opposite of the purpose for which he, as an angel, was created.

The idea that Satan fell sometime before Adam and Eve’s fall originated with the Church Father Origen in the 2nd Century AD. Origen, then, seems to be the primary source for the "standard, accepted view" of the fall of Satan. Origen places the fall of Satan and his angels prior to the creation of the world, motivated by pride directed against God (De Principiis 1.5.5, 1.8.3; Homilies on Numbers 12; Homilies on Ezekiel 9.2; Commentary on Luke 30.2; Gregory of Nyssa seems to have followed Origen here (see A.J. Philippou, "The Doctrine of Evil in St. Gregory of Nyssa" in Studia Patristica: 9:251-256). This same version of the story is repeated by St. Augustine of Hippo from which it becomes the standard view in the Latin west (On the Free Choice of the Will, Book 3; City of God 11.10, 13, 15; 14.27; Commentary on Genesis 3.10, 11.13-30). Augustine is, of course, followed by most other Latin writers (St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Thomas Aquinas, etc.).

This is one of those times that tradition got it wrong, I believe. It make so much more sense to read Genesis 3 as the record of the original sin of Satan and the fall of man.

6 comments:

Terry W. said...

Mr. Meyers,

This is a great post. This very thing occurred to me about 3 years ago. I was preparing for a sermon that I preached at a little missionary baptist church close to where I live. The sermon was from Genesis three dealing with the fall of Adam. I mentioned it during the sermon and have discussed it with a few friends since from time to time. The responses I have gotten are usually on the line of, "that's interesting, never thought of it that way....etc." I am glad to see some confirmation from you brother. I agree with you that it just seems to make so much sense.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John said...

I think you're right, Jeff.

To spell out something you mention, the judgment in Genesis 3 says that the reason the serpent is cursed from all beasts and goes on his belly and eats dust is because of what he has done in tempting Eve ("because you have done this").

The traditional view assumes that Satan had already fallen and was already cursed for sins that had nothing to do with man, and then that he was cursed again in Genesis 3. But that isn't supported in the text of Scripture, which explicitly links the curse on Satan (the only curse we know about) to his activity in the Garden.

I suspect, too, that Satan's fall always had something to do with man. Man was created a little lower than the angels but was intended to be crowned with glory and honor, exalted over the angels.

As JBJ says, it's like the army: the guy who is one day going to be an officer starts out under a drill sergeant, who makes him get up early in the morning and orders him around. But one day, that training is complete and then the drill sergeant salutes the officer. Now, the officer is above him.

It's a bad drill sergeant who resents his success in training officers and who resents those officers for becoming his superiors.

But it can happen, and the angel who fell in the Garden was a bad drill sergeant, who uses his office not to train man but to tempt him, probably because he didn't want man to become superior to him.

Jonathan Bonomo said...

Rev. Meyers,

Yes! I've thought the same thing for quite a while but was always wondering if I was out of my mind since no one else I know or have read shares my opinion on this topic.

It's good to see someone who knows what he's talking about voice a similar opinion.

KJB said...

I've always found the traditional readings of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 less than satisfying. Rather, I think these chapters coordinate with Psalm 82. As such, they perhaps supply us with a correlation of the fall of Satan with the fall of kings/princes/prime judges.

Philip said...

Hi Jeff

Not sure if you'll get notification of this post but I'll give it a go. I found this post of yours when searching for information regarding an essay I am writing on the origin of evil. I'm trying to find sources of things written about the origin of evil, fall of satan etc. I found the Origen and Gregory of Nyssa sources you mentioned in the post. Do you know of any other sources for this kind of discussion from various points of view? Any you can suggest would be gratefully recieved. My email address is phil(at)philgallagher.info

Thanks very much
Phil Gallagher, London UK