Pseudo-Paul 1: 1-2 Timothy, 2 Thessalonians

 

5.1) Pseudo-Paul 1:  1-2 Timothy, 2 Thessalonians: 

Satan and/or Devil

 

Now let us look at other epistles in the New Testament that are purportedly by St. Paul, but which are probably not by him but by his Disciples.  First, we will consider the two letters addressed to Timothy.

In the First Epistle to Timothy, Paul–or Pseudo-Paul–presents himself as addressing Timothy as his representative left behind in Ephesus to take care of the church there.  As we noted above, in his genuine epistles Paul refers to Satan only as Satan, never as Devil.  But 1 Timothy speaks of both Satan and Devil.

Question:  Are Satan and Devil regarded as the same spiritual power, or are they thought of as two different figures with different functions?

We have seen that in the Gospels, Mark uses only “Satan,” but in Matthew, Luke, and John, “Satan” and “Devil” are interchangeable.  It has been suggested that this double usage in the Gospels may represent different layers of tradition:  “Satan” (ho Satanas) being from older Aramaic strands, with “Devil” (ho Diabolos) coming from newer Greek bodies of material.  A plausible argument along similar lines could be made for 1 Timothy:  the Satanic nomenclature being Pauline, and the Diabolical material being non-Pauline.

There are two references to “Satan” in 1 Timothy.  First, the author has Paul tell Timothy to fight the good fight by adhering to faith and a good conscience.  He adds:

By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith.  Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander.  I have

 

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handed them over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to speak reviling words [blasphemein].  (1 Tim. 1.19-20)

This, of course, is reminiscent of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5.5:  a guilty man is to be handed over to Satan for punishment (“the destruction of his flesh”), with a view to his reform.

However, in the present case there is no mention of punishment.  It may be then that Hymenaeus and Alexander have simply been “excommunicated,” that is, banished from the community of Christians and sent to the community of unbelievers, considered as being under Satan’s leadership or control.  It is not clear what their offense is.  The Greek verb, blasphemein, has given rise to both “blaspheme” and “blame” in English.  The latter meaning is more suggestive of the wide range of the term in Greek.  English-speakers tend to restrict “blasphemy” to injurious words spoken against God, but blasphemein could apply to purely human situations as well—and, as we will see when discussing the Epistle of Jude, it can even be considered offensive to “blaspheme” Devil.  If “Satan” here does indicate a community of unbelievers, it is not clear how being exiled among them will teach Hymenaeus and Alexander to reform.

But the other reference to Satan in 1 Timothy might be taken to indicate just such a community or population—that is, the collectivity of those people who have rejected Christian 63belief, or at least who have never accepted it.  “Paul” has been talking about the advisability of restricting the Christian community’s “order of permanent widows” to older women.  For, he explains, younger widows are easily inclined to marry again, thereby breaking their commitment.  Or, at least, they tend to become idlers and busybodies.  He concludes:

I therefore wish the younger women to marry, bear children, and rule their households, so that they give no occasion to the Adversary for reproach.  For some have already turned aside after Satan.  (1 Tim. 5.14-15)

 

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The term used here for “Adversary,” Antikeimenos, is one of the words used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word satan (see chap. 1.4).

The author is clearly referring to a particular Adversary, who is in the business of criticizing Christians for their wrongdoings.  And he seems just as clearly to be distinguishing this Adversary from Satan, who appears to be in charge of apostates and non-Christians.  The only likely candidate for this Adversary is Devil, who appears earlier in the epistle, in Chapter 3.  There he exercises a “reproach-function.”

Here’s the context.  In the course of an instruction on what the qualifications are for being a good “bishop” (episkopos), Timothy is told two things involving Devil:

1) He must not be a recent convert.  For he might become puffed up, and thereby fall into the judgment of Devil.

2) It is also necessary for him to have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he will not fall into reproach, and into a snare of Devil.  (1 Tim. 3.6-7)

“Judgment” in the first sentence is usually taken to mean “the same judgment as that by which Devil was condemned”; and “reproach” in the second sentence is often translated as “disgrace,” meaning the punishment suffered by Satan as the result of “his condemnation.”

Whoa, wait a minute!  What condemnation are we talking about?

So far we have heard of only one judgment made against Satan.  That’s the one in the Gospel of John:  the Paraclete has judged the Ruler of this World (John 16.7-11).  But the Paraclete’s judgment against the Ruler is not the condemnation of Satan that such interpreters are talking about.  It’s too recent, and still has to take effect–like Satan’s envisaged fall like lightning in Luke 10.18.  (There is also the consideration that the Gospel of John may well have been written after the First Epistle to Timothy.)

No, these interpreters are the people I warned against at the beginning.  They are conscious or unconscious RETRO-SMUGGLERS.  They have got ahead of themselves, and are assuming a too early currency of the idea that God had kicked the rebellious Satan out

 

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of heaven, and that it happened a long time ago, way back before the creation of Adam, or at least in time for Satan to dress up as the Serpent.

No way, José.  Not yet, Josette.

In my translation of 1 Timothy 3.6-7, given above, I understand Devil to be not the “judgee,” but the judge, and not the one reproached but the reproacher.  He also engages in dirty tricks, for he sets snares.  He is a proactive District Attorney who arranges set-ups and practices entrapment.  Not a nice person at all.  Maybe almost as bad as Satan, if he is not in fact Satan.

Does Devil have any natural or “supernatural” assistance, any hench-men or hench-spirits, to help him in his dirty work?  It is interesting to see that “Paul” goes on to caution the “deaconnesses” (deacons’ wives or female helpers) in the church not to be “devils,” or “diabolical,” diaboloi, but rather to be grave, sober, and faithful in all things (1 Tim. 3.11).  This word, diaboloi, which is of common gender, as discussed above (chap. 3.4), is usually translated as “gossipers” or “slanderers,” but it should doubtless be given the “accusatory nuance” attending ho Diabolos (Devil).

Whether the references to “deceiving Spirits” and the “teachings of Demons” in the next chapter (1 Tim. 4.1) have any reference to the supra-human world of spirits is not clear, but no overt connection is made to Devil or Satan.

Oh, yes, one more thing.  I promised above (end of chap. 3.4) to tell how Deutero-Paul in this Epistle refers to Adam and Eve.  It’s as part of a discourse about women knowing their place, especially about keeping their mouths shut:

Let a woman learn in silence with full submission.  I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.  (1 Tim. 2.11-15)

 

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I cite this passage for another reason:  like Paul, Deutero-Paul shows no sign of identifying Satan, not to mention Devil, with the Serpent who deceived Eve.

 

The Second Epistle to Timothy has a more personal tone to it than First Timothy.  It is sent from “Paul,” who is represented as being close to death.  But a number of themes are carried over from the first letter (there are some scholars, in fact, who think that 2 Timothy was written before 1 Timothy).

Of most interest ot us, Hymenaeus and Alexander are still making trouble. Apparently, Satan has not performed his expected function, heralded in 1 Timothy, of reforming them.  Or, at least, the state of having been handed over to Satan has not caused them to stop saying bad things. Moreover, they still seem to be members of the Christian community.  Alexander, if he is indeed the same person, is now identified as a coppersmith, who, Paul says, did him great harm.  But Paul offers no remedy against him, saying only that the Lord will “give it” to him according to his works.  He warns Timothy to be on guard against him, because he greatly opposed Paul’s words (2 Tim. 4.14-15).

Earlier in the letter, we see that Alexander’s former colleague in deviation, Hymenaeus, now has another partner, a man named Philetus.  Their problem is that they are in with a crowd who indulge in profane and vain babblings.  Specifically, “they have missed their aim concerning the truth” by saying that the resurrection has already occurred.  The result is that they have shaken or overturned the faith of some of their fellow-Christians (2 Tim 2.16-18).  The only course of action that Paul suggests against Hymenaeus and Philetus is to avoid them.

He further tells Timothy to avoid stupid and senseless controversies, which give rise to quarrels.  The Lord’s servant must use mildness in teaching those who oppose him.  Then God may give these opponents a change of heart, so that they come to recognize the truth.  By so doing, perhaps:

They may return to soberness, having escaped from the snare of Devil, from which they are snatched alive by Him (God), [or:  in

 

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which they had been caught alive by him (Devil)], at His (God’s) desire [or:  at his (Devil’s) desire].

(2 Tim. 2.26).

The “snare” of Devil here is probably the metaphor of the net of a “fowler,” that is, a bird-catcher.  The last phrase reads, literally, “to that one’s desire,” and, as I indicate in my translation, “that one” can stand for either God or Devil.  If it means God, then the sense is either:  1) that God has willed their escape from Devil; or 2) that, once escaped, they can begin to do His will again.  But if it refers to Devil, then it means that they were captured 1) at Devil’s will, or 2) in order to do Devil’s will.

Whatever the exact meaning of the text, it is clear that Devil is in the habit of luring Christians away from their faith and trapping them.  Why?  Just to test/tempt them, to see if they are worthy of being Christians?  Or does he have some ulterior purpose in mind?  We can’t be sure.

“Paul” goes on to list the great variety of sinful people who will proliferate “in the last days,” namely, right now, and they include diaboloi, opposers (2 Tim. 3.1-3), like the female diaboloi of the previous epistle (1 Tim. 3.11).

There is no mention of “Satan” in 2 Timothy.

But speaking of Satan and the last days, both are present in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, which is allegedly a letter by Timothy (along with fellow-authors Paul and Silvanus).

The triumphant return of Jesus will not take place until the falling away (apostasia) occurs and the Man of Lawlessness, the Son of Destruction, is revealed.  This Man of Lawlessness, or MOL for short, is also called “the Adversary” (ho Antikeimenos) (2 Thess. 2.3-4), which is sometimes a title of Satan’s.  But this figure is definitely a man (anthropos), not Satan.  However, Satan has something to do with his coming:

His [MOL’s] arrival is according to the working (energeia) of Satan, with all power, signs, and wonders of a falsehood, and with every kind of wicked deception for those who are on the way to

 

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destruction, because they refused to love the truth and be saved.  For this reason, God sends them a working (energeia) of error, to believe the falsehood, so that all who have not believed the truth but have taken pleasure in injustice may be judged.  (2 Thes 2.9-12)

It seems very much as if Satan and God are working hand in glove with each other for the same purpose, to “energize” disbelief among the disbelievers, thereby guaranteeing their condemnation.  We have seen that Paul claimed such a function (misleading misbelievers) for himself, and for God in the Old Testament, and that Isaiah was ordered to do the same thing, and Jesus imitated Isaiah in following suit (see above, chap. 3.3 and 4.1).

In short, Satan has been enlisted to coordinate the “operation” which God has ordered.  We have been told that the Mystery of Lawlessness is already “at work” (energeitai).  But there is “one,” someone or other, holding it back for the time being (2 Thess. 2.7).  Who can this be?  God?  Satan?  Who knows?  But whatever lies behind the mysteries of 2 Thessalonians, it seems clear that Satan has retained his old position as God’s retainer.  The same is true of Satan in 1-2 Timothy—and also true of Devil.  Whether or not Devil is the same person as Satan, he seems to have free rein.