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Excerpt from The Ancestral Sin, Chapter 3, Pages 75-84

By Protopresbyter John Romanides 

C. Satan and the Fall

ancestralIn the devil there is no truth.22 He is the very source itself of every form of lie.23 “For the devil has sinned from the beginning”24 and leads mankind astray into sin.25 Satan is not simply a negative concept of evil but, quite the contrary, a real power.26 He has free will,27 “devices,”28 and “wiles.”29 He is a personal force capable of perceiving, even before the Resurrection, that Christ is the Son of God.30 Under his command he has whole legions of demons and invisible powers,31 and among them some are more evil than others.32 The devil and his army of demons have the same teachings.33 Thus, there exists “demonic wisdom,”34 “the wisdom of the rulers of this age.”35 The demons know that there is one God,36 and from their assaults against Christ they perceived His divinity.37 They know who Christ’s true followers are.38 But Christians also know the “devices”39 of the devil. The demons instigated the Crucifixion of Christ.40 They do not know the wisdom of God, however, or they would not have crucified Him.41 Satan, like God, has faithful sons and followers.42 The views that Satan is an instrument of the divine wrath (which is typical of post-Augustine Western theology) or that the present power and energy of the devil is only an illusion43 stand squarely in opposition to biblical and patristic testimonies. According to the thought of the first Christians, Satan continues to be a powerful enemy of God.44 Like a kind of parasite, the devil subjugated creation to death and corruption.45 “He was the man slayer from the beginning.”46 Thus, through the instrumentality of man’s fear of death, the devil became the holder of that power,47 and through that fear drew the world into sin. In other words, “Sin reigned in death”48 because “the sting of death is sin.”49 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear because fear hath torment. He that feareth has not been made perfect in love.”50

Because of the sins that spring forth from the fear of death “the whole world lieth in wickedness.”51 Through falsehood and fear, Satan, in various degrees, motivates sin. In a certain way, he is the god and ruler of this age or world.52 But this does not justify the devil’s claim that to him has been given all authority over the kingdoms of the earth.53 God has never ceased to care for the world. Through laws, prophets, and chosen leaders, He guides and chastens men.54 “If it were possible [for the demons], they would have pulled down everything, even the heavens along with the rest of creation. But in no way are they able to do it.”55 “Certainly the God and Father and Creator of all things has not abandoned mankind but has given a Law and sent holy prophets to teach and proclaim to the human race the return to sobriety and the knowledge that God is One.”56

Despite the victory of the Lord and of the baptized over Satan, the evil spirit is able to move the “heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.”57 Moreover, the “god of this age” blinds “unbelievers’ minds lest the light of the Gospel of Christ rise on them.”58 “For the restraint which human laws could not effect, the Divine Logos would have effected had not the demons, taking as their ally the wicked lust in every man which draws him to all manner of vice, scattered many false and profane accusations, none of which attach to us.”59 With great sincerity, Justin, a former Platonist, writes, “Therefore, we forewarn you to guard yourselves lest the demons we speak against delude you and turn you away from reading and understanding all that we have said.”60 “But I fear,” writes St. Paul, “lest in any way, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your thoughts should be corrupted from the simplicity that is toward Christ.”61 The devil persistently and in every unlawful manner tries to subjugate men.62 To accomplish this, he has effective, powerful, and cunning ways of deception. & If indeed the wrath of God had such agents, it would be hopeless for the human race because the only way to be saved would be absolute predestination.

Athenagoras and Justin write that God “committed the care of men and of all things under heaven to angels whom He placed over them. But the angels violated this appointment and were captivated by women and begat children who are called demons.”64 “The souls of the giants are the demons that wander around the earth.”65 “And furthermore, they subjugated the human race to themselves…and sowed every manner of evil.”66 “Therefore, having believed the deceiving demon, men dared to disobey God and departed from Paradise.”67 “The devil was the cause of his own apostasy and that of others.”68 “Man disobeyed God, having been deceived by the angel who, because of God’s many gifts to man, was jealous and cast a spell on him, thus ruining himself and convincing man to sin through disobedience of the commandments of God…Thus, by his falsehood, the devil was the cause of man’s exile from paradise.”69

It is clear from the above that the dominant thought of the Fathers and writers in our study is the biblical view that Satan is the primary cause of transgression, sin, and death. Of course there are certain variations in statements,70 but this in no way alters the essence of the biblical teaching regarding the devil’s contribution to the fall of the human race. Thus, Justin and Athenagoras can speak about the intercourse of angels with women on earth,71 indicating in this way that the demons acted to perpetuate the fall among men after Adam (as if to say that mankind did not fall automatically with the first-made humans), and about the serpent leading Adam astray,72 and about the deceiving of Eve.73 The Apostle Paul speaks about the fall of Adam74 and at the same time writes, “The serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness,”75 and “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and fell into transgression.”76

Bodily death, as the Scriptures tell us, did not take hold immediately after the transgression of Adam and Eve. Indeed, after the disobedience they lived for many years.77 First, “Through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin”78 came spiritual death (the loss of grace) and, after a period of time, bodily death. Theophilus writes regarding the first-made men after the transgression, “Then Satan saw that not only were Adam and his wife living but were even bearing children, and he was unable to kill them by his malice. Seeing, therefore, that Abel was pleasing to God, he acted upon his brother Cain and caused him to kill his brother Abel. And thus, the beginning of death was made in this world, and it continues up to the present in every generation of men.”79

Satan would very much have wished to kill all of mankind in one sweep, but he is not able to do this because God gives life to all things. The devil brings death only indirectly, through sin and the resulting separation of man from God, which brings death. “So he who was made in the image of God became mortal since the mightier Spirit parted from him.”8® “All those who, by their own choice, stand off from God are visited by separation from Him…and separation from God is death.”81 “The wages of sin is death.”82 Therefore, this is how the passage that says the demons “gave the laws of death over to men”83 ought to be understood. St. Irenaeus’ declarations that Satan is the cause of death must be interpreted in the same way.84 The devil is the primary cause of sin, which distances man from God and results in death. According to the testimonies cited, man is both the victim of the evil one’s deception and the accomplice in sin.

Writing on the expulsion of men from paradise, Justin refers strangely to yet another cause, polytheism, in addition to disobedience, “When they came out of paradise, they remembered the names of gods, being no longer taught of God that there are no other gods…Thus, having been cast out of paradise and thinking it was for the transgression alone that they were expelled, and not knowing it was also because they believed there were other gods, they passed down the names of gods to the people who came after them. This first false imagining about gods has its origin in the father of lies. God, then, knowing that the false doctrine of polytheism is like a disease that plagues the souls of men, and wishing to remove it and overturn it, appeared first to Moses and said, Ί am Who is’.”85 Similarly, Tatian writes, “By means of prohibitions, God became the blocker of wickedness and the praiser of those who persist in virtues. And men attached themselves to one who, because of his being first born86 [of the angels], was more skillful than the rest. And men and angels declared him to be God, who was a rebel against the law of God.”87 The soul that is separated from the Holy Spirit “is unable to behold things that are perfect and, while seeking after God, it fashions for itself many gods, following the sophistries of the demons.”88 So the wicked energies of Satan and the demons were not limited to the deceiving of Eve alone. On the contrary, they extend throughout the course of world history under a variety of forms. The demons have never ceased to work their deceptions in men,89 as O. Cullmann believes,90 even after Christ.

It would be a great mistake to think that the first Christians regarded the devil merely as a whisperer of bad suggestions in men’s ears. Satanic energy is not something that is apparent only in the wicked thoughts of men. In addition to influencing men’s thoughts and will, the devil acts in nature, and he acts ontologically. The spiritual and natural dimensions of the energies of Satan are not divided. On the contrary, they are inseparably coefficient.

The fall was not limited to the human race but extended to reasonless animals and reasonless nature. “The animals are named wild beasts [θηρία] because they are hunted [θηρεύβσθαι], not as if they were made evil or venomous from the first, for nothing was made evil by God, but all things were good, indeed very good; human sin, however, brought evil upon them. For when man transgressed, they also transgressed with him.”91

“For creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but because of Him Who subjected it, in hope that creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that all of creation groaneth and travaileth together until now.”92 So Satan is the primary cause of corruption93 and temporarily has the power of death.94 For this reason, the devil is called “the god of this age”95 and the “ruler of matter.”96 “The demonic movements and actions proceeding from the adverse spirit produce these disorderly sallies and, moreover, move men as individuals and as nations, some in one way and some in another….Others who are of no mean reputation, therefore, have thought that this universe is constituted without any definite order, driven hither and thither by irrational chance.”97 According to Paul, the devil is also the “ruler of the power of the air.”98

Despite the fact that marvelous order and harmony prevail in the cosmos, clearly demonstrating that all things are governed by God, nevertheless, there exists in it a kind of parasite that is manifested by death and consequently by disharmony in the societal relations of men and nations. The evils that are produced by death are not from God. “For God created not death.”99 As a result, this world which is in subjection to death and corruption cannot be considered natural, if by natural we mean the world as God intended it to be. In other words, the world is abnormal, but this is not because of its own nature but because a parasitic force exists in it at present. “For it is not by God that things are moved against nature…But God is perfectly good and is eternally doing good.”100 The parasitic force in the world shall be completely destroyed at the Second Coming. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”101 “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more.”102

According to the later testimonies of Judaism and the earliest ones of Christianity, the devil and his demons are not only the cause of death, they are also agents of illnesses.10^ Replying to the head of the synagogue, the Lord said, “Thou hypocrite, this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”10* “He is the Lord of all…and He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.”105 The casting out of operative demons from sufferers is equal to a cure of bodily and spiritual ills.106 “There are indeed diseases and disturbances of the matter that we are made of. But when such things happen, the demons take note and approach a man whenever weakness lays hold of him. And there are times when, in a wanton tempest, they themselves disturb the working of the body. But being smitten by the power of a word from God, they depart in terror, and the sick man is healed.”107

“In these books of the prophets, then, we found that it was foretold that Jesus would come and mature…and heal every illness and every infirmity…”108 “He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were ill in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet may be fulfilled, saying, ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases’.”109 The casting out of demons through the Holy Spirit is proof that “the kingdom of God has come upon you,”110 and the curing of the ill is proof that Jesus is the awaited Christ. In reply to the question “Are you the expected One,” the Lord said, “Go and report to John what ye have seen and heard: the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Blessed is he who is not offended in Me.”111 “If one is healed by matter through trusting in it, much more will he be healed by having recourse to the power of God…Even if you be healed by drugs (I grant you this out of leniency), it behooves you to attribute the cure to God.”112

The accusation that Christ heals and “casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons”113 does not hold up because “no demon can open the eyes of the blind.”114 “Demons do not cure but by cunning make men their captives.”115 “How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand…and if Satan rises up against himself, he cannot stand, but he is finished.”116 All of this clearly presupposes that the cause of infirmities is not God but the devil. Precisely “for this purpose did the Son of God appear, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”117 “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”11» Totally baseless is the view of Western theologians that Satan is nothing but an instrument of divine wrath. “What fellowship is there between righteousness and iniquity? What communion is there of light with darkness? What harmony has Christ with Belial?”119 The destruction of Satan and the demons by God is planned even to the exact hour. “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? Art Thou come here to torment us before the time?”120 “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”121 Christ did not come to teach vague ideas about a transcendental world and a sentimental love as imagined by the schools of Abelard, Schleiermacher, and Ritschl. “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.”122  Christ is the destruction of the devil, and He is the salvation of the righteous held under the devil’s sway from the ages. God appeared in the flesh in order “to abolish him who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”123 Between God and Satan there is no compromise. On the contrary, a great war rages.

…to be continued

(Some what organized. Needs editing)  FOOTNOTES:

Barnabas, XVm, 1,2.
In. 8:44; Irenaeus, op. at., 5, ΧΧΠ, 2; ΧΧΠΙ, 1,2; XXIV, 1,2.
Ibid., Justin, 1st Apology, 23,25,54,58,62; 2nd Apology, 13; Dialogue 7,69-70,82; Homily of Counsel, 21; Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians VII, 1; Shepherd of Hernias, Commandment XI, 3; Tatian, op. at., 12, 14; Athenagoras, Embassy, 26; Theophilus, op. at., 2,8; Irenaeus, op. at., 1, XLI, 3; XXI, 1; 5, XXVI, 2.
Jn. 3:8.
Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14; Gen. 3; Wis. 2:23-25. 26. Tatian, op. cit., 16.
27.2 Tim. 2:26; Justin, 2nd Apology, 7; Tatian, op. cit., 7; Irenaeus, op. cit., 5, XXVI, 2. 28.2 Cor. 2:11.
Eph. 6:11.
Mt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-3.
Mt. 8:28-34; Mk. 5:1-20; Lk. 8:26-39; Eph. 6:12; Col. 2:15; 1 Tim. 4:1-4.
Mt. 12:43-45; Lk. 11:24-26; Irenaeus, op. cit, 1, XVI, 3.
2 Tim. 4:1-4.
Jm. 3:15.
35.1 Cor. 2:6.
Jm. 2:19.
Mk. 3:11; 1:24; Lk. 4:34; Irenaeus, op. cit, 4, VI, 6.
Acts 19:11-14.
39.2 Cor. 2:11.
Lk. 22:2-4; Jn. 13:2,27; Ignatius, Trallians, 11; Justin, 1st Apology, 63.
The West’s Tertullian, Cyprian, and Lactantius believe that the “rulers” in 1 Cor. 2:8 are human rulers and not demons. Cf. M. Werner, op. cit, pp. 243-244. Werner’s comment is obviously in error as regards an alleged contradiction between two different traditions, whereby one says that the devil was ignorant of the divinity of Christ, and the other says that the demons recognized Christ’s identity as the Son of God (ibid., p. 245f.). Werner overlooks the fact that Satan at times saw in the works of Christ the energy of God and at times human weakness, so that it was impossible for him to form a firm opinion regarding the true nature of Christ. Accordingly, Christ did not deceive the devil as Werner and others interpret the Greek Fathers on this matter (ibid.); rather the devil was self-deceived not knowing the wisdom of God.
Jn. 6:70; 8:44; Acts 13:10; 1 Jn. 3:10; Irenaeus, op. cit, 4, XLI, 2, 3.
O. Cullmann attempts to prove that the Church still has a mission to the world because even the demons submitted to Christ and, thus, now have only an appearance of power. Christ et le Temps, pp. 137-153.
Mf. 13:19; 38-39; Mk. 4:15; Lk. 8:12.
Rm. 8:19-22; Heb. 2:14-15; Tatian, op. cit, 15; Irenaeus, op. cit, 3, ΧΧΠΙ, 1,2,4,7; 5, XXI, 1; John Chrysostom, Commentary on 1st Corinthians, Homily 39, Ch. 5, P.G.
46. Jn. 8:44.
47. Heb. 2:14-15. In general terms, this is the interpretation of Chrysostom,
Commentary on Hebrews, Homily 4, Ch. 4, P.G. 63,41-42.
Rm. 5:21.
2 Cor. 15:56. 50.1 Jn. 4:18. 51.1 Jn. 5:19.
Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1 Cor. 2:6, 8; 2 Cor. 4:4.
Mt. 4:8-9; Lk. 4:5-7.
Irenaeus, op. cit, 5, ΧΧΠ, 2; ΧΧΙΠ, 1,2; XXIV, 1,2.
Tatian, op. cit, 16.
Theophilus, op. cit., II, 34
Acts 5:3.
2 Cor. 4:4.
Justin, 1st Apology, 10.
Ibid., 14.
2 Cor. 11:3.
Ignatius, Magnesians, 1; Romans 7; Justin, 1st Apology, 14, 58; 2nd Apology, 1; Irenaeus, op. cit., 5, XXI, 3.
ML 13:19, 38-39; MA:. 4:15; Ik. 8:12; 2 Cor. 2:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:14; 3:6-7; Justin. 2nd Apology, 5; Dialogue, 88,94,100,103,123,124; Homily of Counsel, 21; Barnabas, XII, 5; Theophilus. op. cit, 2,20,28; Tatian, op. cit., 7; Irenaeus, op. cit, 3, XXIII, 5, 7; 4, pr. 4; XLI, 2,3; 5,1,3.
Justin, 2nd Apology, 5; Athenagoras, op. cit, 24. Cf. also Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 18. Regarding the Jewish origins of this deluded and, therefore, inadmissible tradition, cf. L. E. Fuller, Religious Development of the Intertestamental Period, “Abingdon Bible Commentary,” p. 205. Thus, he shares the customary view that later Jewish angelology is a product of a unilateral emphasis on the transcendence of God. The latter made necessary the introduction into strict Jewish monotheism of the existence of demigods as intermediaries between God and the world. Ibid., p. 204. G. F. Moore rejects this view, op. cit, Vol. 1, pp. 401-413.
Athenagoras, op. cit, 25.
Justin, 2nd Apology, 5.
Justin, Homily of Counsel, 21; Dialogue, 88,94,100.
Irenaeus, Refutation, 4, XLI, 2,3.
Irenaeus, Proof, 16.
K. R. Hagenbach, op. cit., p. 104f.
Justin, 2nd Apology, 5; Irenaeus, Proof, 18.
Clement of Alexandria writes, “There is one deceiver who toppled Eve down and now takes the rest of men down to death.” K. e, op. cit, p. 120, n2.
Justin, Dialogue, 103; Irenaeus, Refutation, 3, ΧΧΠΙ, 5, 7; 5,1, 3.
Rm. 5:12f. 75.2 Cor. 11:3. 76.1 Tim. 2:14.
Gen. 5:lf.
Rm. 5:12.
Op. cit, 2,29.
Tatian, op. cit., 7.
Irenaeus, Refutation, 5, XXVII, 2. “For equally as he stood apart from life, he drew nearer to death. For God is life; the loss of life is death. Thus, Adam prepared death for himself through his separation from God../’ Basil the Great, Homily that God is not the cause of evils, 7, P.G. 31,345.
Rm. 6:23.
Tatian, op. cit., 15.
Refutation, 3, ΧΧΙΠ, 1,2,4, 7; 5, XXI, 1.
Homily of Counsel, 21.
Gen. 3:1, dyyeXoc πρωτόγονος.
Tatian, op. cit, 7.
Ibid., 13. Cf. also Justin, 1st Apology, 5; Athenagoras, Embassy, 26; Tatian, op.
cit, 12,16.
Cf. Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians, 7; Theophilus, op. cit, 2, 8; Justin, 1st Apology, 23, 26, 54, 57, 62; 2nd Apology, 13; Dialogue, 69-70, 82; Tatian, op. cit, 14; Irenaeus, Refutation, 1, XVI, 3; 5, XXVI, 2.
Christ et le Temps, pp. 137-153.
Theophilus, op. cit., 2,17.
Rm. 8:20-22.
Tatian, op. cit, 15; Irenaeus, Refutation, 3, ΧΧΙΠ, 1,2,4, 7; 5, XXI.
Heb. 2:14.
95.2 Cor. 4:4; Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1 Cor. 2, 6, 8; Eph. 6:11-12; Barnabas, XVIII,
Athenagoras, Embassy 24,25.
Ibid. 25.
Eph. 2:2.
Wis. 1:13.
100. Athenagoras, op. cit., 26.
101.1 Cor. 15:26.
102. Rev. 21:4.
L. E. Fuller, op. cit., p. 206.
Lk. 13:15-17.
Acts 13: 36,38.
Mt. 8:23-34; 9:32-37; Mk. 5:1-20; Lk. 8:26-39.
Tatian, op. cit, 16.
Justin, 1st Apology, 31. Cf. Mt. 4:23; 9:35.
Mt. 8:16-17; 7s. 53:4.
Mt. 12:28; Lk. 11:20; Mk. 3:27-29.
Lk. 7:18-23; Mt. 11:2-6.
Tatian, op. cit, 18,20. All healing of the ill takes place through the restoration of balance to things. Without the basic balance and order, the cause of which is God, not only cures but even the existence of the world would be impossible.