Jesus was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? — for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
A dying man bowed his head at mention of the devil in the prayers for the dying. “Why?” asked the priest, greatly puzzled. “Politeness costs nothing,” said the man, “and this is not the time to be making enemies!”
If the devil doesn't seem as frightening as before, it could be due in part to some new translations of the Bible! The power of the King James version of 1 Peter 5:8 (for example) is retained in the NRSV: “Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour!” Such muscular English! All those ‘ow’ sounds almost take you into the jungle! Devour, and you almost see the bloody jaws! The Christian Community Bible and the NIV retain this power, but the JB has the devil “looking for someone to eat!” This kind of language makes the devil seem quite civilised, like someone cruising around looking for a good restaurant, or perhaps politely choosing a cookie from the plate.
Everything fades with time – our characterisation of evil too. The old devils fade, once their cover is blown. But the reality is that there are always new devils. And our translations don't always keep up with them.
Some people tried to say that Jesus had power over demons because he was in league with them. This was calling good evil: it was the sin against the Holy Spirit (Mk 3:29). There is no way back from this, because it turns the signposts around. We don't have to imagine a creature with horns and a tail. This turning of the signposts is much more frightening. It is along here that we should look for new images of evil.
|Back to calendar|