Part of my series “A Satanist Reads the Bible,” in which I explore the Bible, Christianity, and other religions and their sacred texts through the lens of Satanism in order to reinvent religion for myself.
I despise Christmas. For a duration fast approaching an entire sixth of the year, the worst aspects of capitalism, religion, music, and human social culture combine and worm their way into individual lives in a way that cannot be avoided if one wishes to participate in society at all, and all under the auspices of a holiday for a religion that is not mine but that nevertheless infuriates me because of the degree to which it’s been appropriated and corrupted. It’s a striking example of the way the Hegemon cannibalizes what it ostensibly holds sacred and distorts the meaning of what it claims are the foundations of Truth so as to serve its own ends.
And given all this, it should come as no surprise that what is said of the birth of the Christian savior by the Hegemon and what is actually said of this in the Bible do not neatly correspond.
I think most of the likely readership of these writings knows that December 25th is not the actual date of the birth of Jesus. The actual date has been lost to time, and it was likely that December 25th was selected because of its correlation with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, after which the days grow longer. This has been of special symbolic relevance to pagan religions: on the solstice, the sun is “reborn” and grows in strength in the world. For Jesus, who is in many places compared to the sun or to light (which correlates Jesus with Lucifer in my interpretation), and whose resurrection is central to the religion, a date close to the solstice seems a fitting birthday. And certainly coinciding holidays would have made the transition from paganism to Christianity easier.
Turning to the Biblical accounts of the event upon which the holiday is founded: I’ve mentioned elsewhere (“Satan the Accuser and the Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness”) that three of the canonical Gospels give similar, largely biographical accounts of Jesus.
Given the timeline, it must have been true that none of the four authors of the Gospels had encountered Jesus directly. All that came to them was at least second-hand, and all that has come to us in English is at least second-hand from that. For what reason did these four (and possibly many others, as in the Apocrypha and the Nag Hammadi scriptures) converge on Jesus as the Messiah of whom they believed prophecy had spoken? All of the four canonical Gospels spoke of Jesus in different ways, emphasizing different things, and the non-canonical scriptures in more ways still.
Luke’s Gospel has the most elaborate narrative of the birth of Jesus, first prefacing that event with the prophecies of the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus, a prophetic encounter between Mary and her friend Elizabeth, the actual birth of John the Baptist, and more prophecy. Then on to the actual events of central interest: the Roman Emperor calls for an imperial census, and Joseph goes with his wife Mary to Bethlehem to be registered, because that’s where his family is from. What seems especially odd in this account is that Joseph and Mary must then go to an inn. Joseph returns to Bethlehem because he has family ties there, but no one who would take him and his very pregnant wife into their home?
In any case, the child Jesus is born of the virgin Mary and there are many signs and portents and voices from heaven.
Matthew tells the well-known tale in more general terms: Joseph and Mary were engaged but not yet married, and Mary, allegedly a virgin, became pregnant. An angel of God appeared to Joseph (directly to Mary in Mark’s Gospel), telling him that all was well, that he should still take Mary as his wife, and that their son will be the Messiah spoken of in prophecy. The prophecy is quoted directly:
Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
Matthew 1:23, NRSV
As per Isaiah 7:14, the prophecy in the Old Testament to which this passage is referring:
…the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
It seems that something has been lost in the translation between the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament: there is no mention of a virgin birth in this prophecy, nor in any other concerning the coming Messiah. This is evidence to the authors of the gospels, or their sources, having adapted the account to fit their own purposes: they misunderstood the prophecy as requiring a virgin birth, and so wrote that into the narrative. Or others did, and this was the account that the authors of the Gospels then heard and documented. “Virgin” (as παρθένος) is the translation of עלמה, almah, in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, with which the authors of the Gospels would have been familiar. But the New Revised Standard Version differs here in a matter which is central to the religion.
Indeed, it seems this is a point of contention. There is a Wikipedia page on Isaiah 7:14, and it describes a schism between religious factions over the translation thereof. In 1952, The Revised Standard Edition, ancestor to the primary translation that I have been using, was published, and featured the translation of almah as “young woman.” As this denies a central tenet of the faith, it can understandably be seen as problematic. It remains even in the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church (Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 3):
HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND WAS BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY
It is also vital to Christians that the historical Jesus have fulfilled prophecy. If that prophecy was not actually there…
This seems a good place to remark on the nature of contradictions in the Bible, some of which are central to my argument of Satan the Accuser and the Dialectic of God, and some of which are either simple mistakes or evidence of the Hegemon’s intentional deceit. How does one determine which is which? The distinction is between intertextual contradictions — contradictions between different texts of the bible — and intratextual contradictions, those which occur within the same text, from chapter to chapter, from verse to verse, or even within the same verse. The above are intertextual, occurring between the Old Testament and the New, separated by language and approximately 900 years, and clearly the result of somebody having mistranslated a word. And as to what the authors of the Gospels said, I can come to no other conclusion but that someone was spinning a tale to fit a pre-existing narrative. But that’s to our benefit: that lie has revealed something about the text that we can use to get closer to the truth.
Mark’s Gospel doesn’t mention the virgin birth, or the childhood of Jesus in any way. But given that these accounts were written half a century after the events they describe, during a time when the methods and resources for forensic history were nothing like they are now, some biographical inaccuracies are entirely to be expected, and that’s assuming that all of the authors were pure in their intent to make an accurate reckoning of the historical events that had transpired. Indeed, little of the purely biographical accounts are to be trusted as historical documents, but I’m far more interested in the mystical content, which is contained mostly within John’s Gospel. In other words, what the authors of the four Gospels said about Jesus is far more interesting to me than whatever this historical Jesus said or did not say, did or did not do, or indeed what Jesus was or wasn’t.
Much of what is written in Mark’s Gospel in particular seems in stark contradiction to the beliefs and behaviors of the modern Christian community.
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Mark 8:27–30, NRSV
And yet John Allen Chau would risk committing genocide by infectious disease in order to tell a sovereign people that Jesus is the Messiah.
The author called Mark writes that Jesus knew that he was the Messiah, but that he had wished to keep this a secret. This is not mentioned in the other two of the Synoptic Gospels, but Mark is quite clear about it. What would be the reason for this? I think that Mark must have intended that Jesus’s message be the subject of focus. He must have recognized a necessity for his audience to recognize the divinity of Jesus, else he would not have written of it at all, but he said also, “Jesus wished that you did not know of his divinity.”
John’s Gospel is markedly different from the Synoptic Gospels, focusing on theology and prophecy. John speaks of the origin of Jesus in abstract, poetic terms:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things come into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was in the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
John 1:1–5, NRSV
Standing in stark contrast to the straightforward narrative prose of the other gospels, the poetic language here is both striking and enigmatic. “Word” here, in the Greek, is Λόγος, Logos. This is a unique appellation; though Logos appears elsewhere in the Bible, nowhere else is God spoken of in this way. Wiktionary gives five definitions for Logos from the Ancient Greek:
- That which is said: word, sentence, speech, story, debate, utterance.
- That which is thought: reason, consideration, computation, reckoning.
- An account, explanation, or narrative.
- Subject matter.
- (Christianity) The word or wisdom of God, identified with Jesus in the New Testament.
All of these meanings reveal nuances in the passage: “In the beginning was the Word, the Speech, the Story, the Debate, the Reason, the Reckoning, the Explanation, the Narrative…” “Debate” is of particular interest to me and my notions of the Dialectic of God, as are “Reckoning,” “Explanation,” and “Narrative.” So we could interpret the above passage into something like the following:
In the beginning was the Story. God was telling the Story, and God was the Story that was being told.
In the philosophy of Ancient Greece, in whose language this passage is written, Logos is the ordering principle of the cosmos, thus “reason” as a possible translation. Thus:
In the beginning was Reason. Reason came from God, and God came from Reason.
One can’t but take from any one of those anything but that God and Narrative are consubstantial, that God and Reason are consubstantial. Admittedly, it really does nothing except to push the horizon of understanding one step further back, but one step is at least something. It’s a horizon that gives us new light from the glare that was our prior horizon.
Logos is an especially polysemous and multiplexed word from Ancient Greek to English: the word has several senses, none of which seems to be conveyed by any one English word, but which rather each encompass several. The point is: the anonymous author of this document, who has been named John, writing in Ancient Greek and understanding its nuances, used this particular word to describe their semiotic understanding of the nature of God, and that correlates with something that was of significance to the philosophy of that language and age, something we may only be very inadequately prepared to approach by translating Logos into just a single word.
I remember a time in my life when a friend of my family had committed suicide. He was a devout Christian of the Protestant tradition, and from what little evidence I have been able to gather about his death, he had been trying to address a period of depression with medication. His widow believed that it was that very medication, whether through its side effects or implications, that had driven him to this act.
At the reception for his funeral, I overheard the widow rehearsing part of her speech with her pregnant daughter and her son. This was the very passage she cited, though from the King James version:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
I have to apologize here if I have been in the past dismissive of the King James version of the Bible. For all that this may be a corruption of the original text, it still reveals the translators’ understanding, and in that sense it is remarkable. It’s really quite beautiful as well.
My point is, within that moment, I was privileged to, though inconspicuously, an intimate knowledge of what they considered sacred. Surely these three people were privileged to an intimate experience of death: that noble and honorable mainstay in their lives had ended his own, thus terminating what they had seen as unending, or at the least, of a duration that would match or supersede their own. And in this realization they had turned to God, saying only that there is some grand correlation of things to which they are contingent, and that they recognized his death in the face of that.
In the face of the finite, it seems we can always find at least one greater duration. And I, eavesdropping, overheard of them speaking of the One that they had found. And if I can say that there is anything at all unending, I can at least say that I have found God. In God I have found Satan, and I have never had such belief before in my life as I have in Satan.
At the same time, having known these people for my entire life, I knew that they were probably all Trump-voters, young earth creationists, people who, I believe, are completely missing the point. Indirectly but somehow deliberately through their choices, they have hurt or intended to hurt people that I love, and I find it difficult to forgive them for this. And yet, I cannot deny that they were, in that moment that I secretly witnessed, a party to answers to questions that I have been asking my entire life. They receive the metaphors therefrom and have mistaken these signs for their referents, and so vote an avowed rapist into office, for example. And I think that what hurts me most in all of this is that they have weaponized mysticism, turned even that into a weapon against us. Their mystical experiences are as real as mine, as ineffable and as noetic as mine. When I hear them speak of the Word of God, I hear something that reflects me like a mirror, something that I have experienced through what is fundamental to the ground of my Being. And they have shattered this mirror and pushed its shards up against my throat.
Let us continue with the analysis of the passage, keeping the broadest possible understandings of Logos in mind. The above is another passage in the text referring to the beginning of Creation, the first being the opening chapters of Genesis, and again we find a depth of semiotic meaning revealed by the intratextual contradictions: God is with Logos, and God is Logos. We find more revelation of this nature in the writings of Saint Ignatius:
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passable and then impassable — even Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, 1st century CE
And also, from Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria: “He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God. He manifested Himself by means of a body in order that we might perceive the Mind of the unseen Father” (The Incarnation of the Word of God, 4th century CE). Generally, it can be assumed that statements like this refer specifically and uniquely to Jesus Christ. But:
If we see the world as consubstantial with the Divine, then it must be that, as humans come to know themselves through the Dialectic, so does God come to know Themselves. If we are made in the image of God, and if we must come to know ourselves, then as above, so below. Jesus is, then, exemplary in this fashion, rather than unique. To such a degree as Logos can be translated as “Debate,” to which “dialectic” is closely related, the nature of God is the coming-into-awareness of the Self, the instrument of which is Satan the Accuser, and the synthesis of which is Jesus Christ. Thus we are like Satan in that we seek to know our Selves and we are like Jesus to such a degree as we are Self-knowing. And indeed we see correlations between Jesus and Light (in the above passage and in Genesis), which is Satan, the first-created. Lucifer means “lightbearer,” and early hymns refer to Jesus as Lucifer.
As well, we see Jesus correlated with Life, which is dynamic and thus in turn correlated with Evil, as per William Blake. And Jesus certainly stood in opposition to the Hegemon of his day. He was a threat to the status quo, to the power of the priesthood, and to the colonial Roman government.
Knowing this, we are free to see in ourselves what Athanasius saw in Jesus alone, and know that there is some truth to it. I have heard fundamentalists speak of the corruption and sinful nature of the body, but through the body we experience all things, including such things as scripture, the interpretation of scripture, and personal experiences of the sacred. So what is left to us to know of God if we cannot know of God through our own bodies? Fundamentalist proclamations against the body are at least consistent in that regard: the body is the manifestation of divine Process which seeks to know itself, and is therefore of Satan the Accuser. But if we are made in the image of God, then as we come to know our own minds, then so do we come to “perceive the Mind of the unseen Father.” As above, so below.
Originally published at asatanistreadsthebible.com on December 22, 2018.