21 March 2014

Jesus and Satan, same person? Not far-fetched after all

Several years ago, 1997 to be specific, I wrote a poem with a rather lengthy title (link below) at the end of which I suggested, after drawing a few comparisons from passages in the Bible referring to each of them separately, that perhaps Jesus and Satan were the same person.  It had nothing to do with Process Theology, about which I know very little except that it makes the same claim, as I found out later.

However, I just recently learned that such a comparison is not necessarily unheard of, at least not in the realm of Qabbalah, Jewish mysticism.

There are two words translated into English as “serpent” in the Tanakh/Old Testament:  Seraph, or “Fiery One”, and Nachash”, or “Shiny One”.  Yes, seraph as in singular of seraphim, the highest order of angels; it’s the same word.

The first scene in which the word Nachash appears is in the Garden of Eden, as the tempter of Eve while Adam is standing immediately by her side.  Here, he invites Eve to eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  In this case, “Knowledge of Good and Evil” does not mean being able to discern the difference between Right and Wrong or to see the line between the Light Side and the Dark Side, but is rather an idiom in Hebrew with the meaning “Infinite Knowledge”.  The counterpart of the Tree of Eternal Life.

Keep in mind that this whole story is an allegory, not a historical account.

Christianity identifies the Nachash of the Garden of Eden with Satan, aka the Devil.  Judaism does too, at least in a roundabout way, but with an entirely different outcome.

Remember, Judaism lacks the dualism of Christianity.  It does not have two sides, one light, one dark, one good, one evil, one ordered, one chaotic.  In Judaism, all things come from God and are of God.  Satan is not the nemesis of God and humanity, but is in fact God’s most loyal servant and humanity’s best friend.  In brief, his purpose is to test humans strength of character and thereby provide them with choice, making free will possible.  Satan does these things not in opposition to God but in obedience to him.

Another Nachash makes a significant appearance in the passage known in Judaism as Parashah Chukat, Numbers 19:1-22:1.  This includes the story of God sending fiery snakes (nachashim in the passage) to plague the Israelites after they complain about being hungry.  When Moses appeals, God has him make a bronze pole serpent (Nachash Bareach) to hold up before the whole nation when the seraphim attack, so that all those bitten who look at it will not die.

The Sefer Yetzirah, the earliest full Qabbalistic work (the Merkava, with which St. Paul was familiar if not adept, was earlier but not fully “Qabbalistic”), mentions the “Teli” around which the stars and everything in space revolves.  The rabbis identified the Teli with the Nachash Bareach.  A later Qabbalistic tract, the Bahir,  further equates the Teli to the Moshiach (Messiah), who is often called Nachash ha-Kodesh (Holy Serpent), which is the same entity as the Nachash Bareach.

Moshiach is the Hebrew word for the more commonly known, among Christians anyway, title of Christos, meaning “Anointed One”.

It is not too difficult to draw a line from the Nachash Bareach to the Nachash of Eden.  Gnosticism did, in fact, make that analogy, for its adherents saw the Nachash as the Redeemer.

Various midrashim equate the Nachash with the Tanakh figure called Leviathan and with the Shekinah, the Divine Presence in the world, the latter also identified in several places with the and the Moshiach (Messiah).

Credit for much of this info belongs to: http://www.ha-nachash.info/

See the poem to which I referred above, “Random Thoughts: the day after a really weird night that I spent at Kilroy's Coffeehouse, and no, I'm not on acid”, at: http://notesfromtheninthcircle.blogspot.com/2011/08/random-thoughts-day-after-really-weird.html


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