In the Greek New Testament the word for devil is diabolos (el diablo in Spanish); the basic meaning of the word is “slanderer,” or “one who throws accusations around.”
In the Hebrew Bible the character ha-Satan makes a very rare appearance in the book of Job (the descendants of Jacob didn’t spend much time thinking about the devil).
Satan in Hebrew means “the adversary.” He does appear in Job in an adversarial, accusing role. He slanders Job, saying the holy man only serves God for selfish motives. The Lord defends Job’s honor by letting the slanderer tempt Job–and Job said “thanks a lot!”
In the book of Revelation the devil appears once more as the one who “accuses the brethren day and night before God.” The devil is most true to his name when he is slandering someone. So it makes sense to say that slanderers are serving the devil.
Last month when I went to a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls at a seminary in Kansas City, it was the weekend after a pastor in Illinois was murdered. He was an alumnus and adjunct professor at the seminary. A group of picketers showed up to slander him. This particular group of slanderers loves to quote from Romans chapter 1. But they skip over the verse about “slanderers” or “revilers” as the King James Version has it, who are condemned as sinners, along with the “insolent” and the “ruthless.”
Of course that family of picketers is well known for their ruthless publicity stunts. They are the ones who threatened to picket at the funeral of the Amish girls who were murdered in Pennsylvania a couple years ago.
What bothers me is that otherwise well-meaning, kind and gentle people engage in the sin of slander, in the form of spreading rumors without checking the facts. A current rumor goes like this: a famous fashion designer admitted on the Oprah show to giving a percentage of the profits to the church of Satan.
Snopes.com is a good source for checking out rumors and urban legends. Since–as anyone who knows me will gladly tell you–I know nothing about fashion or fashion designers, I went to Snopes. It turns out the the designer in question has never been on the Oprah show.
Why would I trust Snopes rather than some other internet source? I can give two answers.
1) They document their sources.
2) Suppose I didn’t know who was telling the truth? I would still have to say, “If I don’t know for certain, I have no right to slander someone based on something I read on the internet or heard over coffee with a buddy.”
So if you are worried about people worshiping the Devil, at least don’t serve him yourself by doing his work for him. Don’t pass on rumors. If you hear something that concerns you, check it out from some reliable sources. Why not go to your local library and ask the reference librarian for help?
Filed under: critical thinking |