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Christianity And The Witch Hunt Era (11/12)

* 1794: William Ashdowne published ‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, an enlarged edition of his previous pamphlet ‘An enquiry into the scripture meaning of the word Satan’ (1770).

Ashdowne addressed specifically the ‘angels which sinned’ in 2 Peter 2:4, and Jude 6, arguing that these were the ten unfaithful messengers sent to spy out the land of Cannaan, punished by death and reserved for judgment at Christ’s return. In his exposition he made the following important points:

* That the Greek and Hebrew word translated ‘angel’ simply means ‘messenger’ and can refer either to a heavenly being or a mortal man

* That the ‘chains of darkness’ in Jude are a reference to dead men being held in the grave (Ashdowne provides examples from Psalms and Proverbs of chains being used metaphorically in this way)

* That the only ‘evil angels’ in Scripture are the ‘destroying angels’ of Psalm 78:49 (obedient angels sent by God to punish Egypt)

Ashdowne demonstrated a familiarity with previous expositions of the subject, showing that there was a recognised continuity of authors and works opposing the previously unchallenged ‘orthodox’ beliefs:

‘The Notions concerning Dæmons, about our Saviour’s time, have been collected, from the best authorities, by Dr Lardner, in his Tracts; by Dr Newton, in his Dissertations on Prophecy; and lately by Mr Farmer, in his Dissertations on Miracles: It only remains, that we should search the Scriptures, and point out some Errors in the application of known Truths.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, page 40, 1794

The next part of Ashdowne’s work addresses the issue of satan directly, and again the standard arguments against ‘orthodox’ beliefs are found.

Firstly the numbering of the people by David is dealt with:

‘In 1 Chron. xxi. 1. it is written that “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.”

We have a parallel to this scripture. 2 Samuel. Chap. xxiv. 1.–where we read that “The anger of THE LORD was kindled against Israel, and HE moved David against them, to say, go number Israel and Judah.”’

‘The compiler of the first Book of Chronicles informs us that, “SATAN stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” THE LORD, therefore, moved David, to number the people, BY SATAN — who was the instrument or means in the hand of the Lord.

Thus much we certainly know, that the word Satan signifies an adversary of some sort or other.
And,

When Solomon’s strange wives had drawn him into Idolatry, it is said, that, “The Lord stirred up an adversary unto him, Hadad the Edomite:” and again, that, “He stirred up another adversary, Rezon the Son of Eliadahg.” In the Septuagint this occurs in one and the same verse –which runs thus “And the Lord raised up Satan to Solomon, Hadad the Edomite, and Rezon the Son of Eliadah — and they were Satan to Israel all the days of Solomon.”

-notes-

g I Kings xi. 14–23.

h Vide LXX. I Kings xi. 14.

Here the word Satan evidently means, an Adversary, or Adversaries, at war with Solomon and his people Israel. And there can be no reasonable ground of doubt, but that the Satan, who provoked David to number the people, was an Adversary of the same sort — an Adversary whom the Lord had raised up, threatning him, and his people, with war. Such an Adversary, especially if a powerful one, would naturally suggest to David the thought of numbering his people — that he might know his strength, and what force, he could, on occasion, bring to the field.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, pages 47, 59, 60-61, 1794

Next Ashdowne uses the LXX translation of the book of Esther in a less commonly used but powerful argument to demonstrate that even the phrase ‘the satan’ in Scripture does not refer necessarily to one specific single person or being, and is certainly not a proper name:

‘The Greek word [Greek omitted] has, in scripture, the same sense or signification as the word Satan. This is evident from Esther vii. 4, and viii. 1. for Haman, who is called [Greek omitted], was an Adversary or an Enemy unto Israel: the above passages are rightly translated in our bible — “The Enemy (or Adversary) could not countervail the King’s damage;” and “Ahasuerus gave the house of Haman the jews Enemy unto Esther the Queen.”

-notes-

m See the Septuagint. Esther vii. 4. ‘[Greek omitted] and viii. 1. [Greek omitted] ‘A [Greek omitted].’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, pages 74-75, 1794

With this background as a foundation, Ashdowne next addresses satan in the book of Job:

‘THE word Satan next occurs in the 1st and 2nd chapters of Job: where, if a different sense, from that already attained, should seem necessary, it will then be fit to examine the context with the greater care and attention.’

We have already seen that the Adversaries or Enemies of Israel, or of the Lord’s people, are Satan: such were Hadad the Edomite, and Rezon the Son of Eliadah of Zobah, in the days of Solomon: and as this is the only sense of the word, which we have, as yet, been able to ascertain, it will be proper to try how far it will go, in the present case.’

The Sons of God, or his Angels, or Messengers, represent the worshippers of the one true God, and Satan is the representative of their Adversaries: The parties are brought into the presence of God to instruct us that his providence directed, and why, and what, he did direct.’

‘We have now seen the power or powers that prevailed against Job: and if you would know in whose hand they originally are, take the information from his own mouth. These are his words. “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, pages 75, 80, 84, 90, 1794

The next passage to be examined is Psalm 109:6:

‘We shall now proceed to,

Psalm cix. 6. where we read “Set thou a wicked man over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand.” Or as it is elsewhere translated “Set thou an ungodly man to be ruler over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand.” It is not clear to me what prevented the translators of our Bible from interpreting the word Satan in this passage: they certainly knew that it signified an Adversary; and if it had been so translated no body would have been at a loss to understand it: for as the devoted person, has a wicked man given him for his ruler, it will be universally allowed, that another may do for his Adversary — especially when set so near as “at his right hand” — ready to resist and molest him on all occasions.

In the Septuagint version, the word Satan is translated [Greek omitted] — without the article: this points out the most limited and restrained (or, at least, the most simple) sense of the word: in English, an Adversary.

The passage is too clear to need enlarging upon: I shall therefore only observe further — that Adversaries in matters of legal strife, are said to have stood, formerly, at the right hand of the person accused by them; and if so, the phrase “Let Satan, or an Adversary, stand at his right hand,” may be supposed to point out such an Adversary.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, pages 109-110, 1794

Appropriately, Ashdowne then moves to Zechariah:

‘ONCE more only in our English Bible, doth the word Satan occur. This is in the prophecy of Zechariah, Chap. iii. 1. 2.’

If we turn to the book of Ezra, which contains a short history of these times, we shall find the vision explained by facts.’

That Satan ought, here, to be understood of Tatnai, who is called Governor on this side the river, of Shethar-boznai, and his companions (Deputy Governors I suppose who acted in conjunction with them) will not admit of any reasonable doubt.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, pages 111, 112-113, 115, 1794

At this point Ashdowne summarises his case, and insists that this is the correct background for understanding satan in the New Testament:

‘It only remains that we should collect the information we have gained, and that we should take it along with us to the New Testament.’

Upon the whole, there is no reason to believe, that the word Satan is ever used in the old Testament, to denote a fallen angel, or a real, evil, separate spirit; but there are good reasons to believe the contrary, for it is clearly proved in many instances.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, pages 118, 122, 1794

In the second half of his book, Ashdowne made an excellent case against the ‘orthodox’ beliefs in demons, and addresses a number of passages regarding satan which he had omitted to expound earlier. Demons are shown from Scripture to be the false gods of the heathen:

‘THE first text in which the former word is mentioned is, Liv. xvii. 7. And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto Devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. —That by Devils is meant, the idols or objects of idolatry only, is plain, from Deut. xxxii. 16, 17. They (the Israelites) provoked God to jealousy with their strange gods; they sacrificed unto Devils,* not to God; to gods whom they knew not; to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.

Of Jeroboam, it is related, 2 Chron. xi. 15. That he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the Devils, and for the calves which he had made. –They sacrificed to the calves, I Kings, xii. 31, 32. He made other gods and molten images to provoke God to anger. xiv. 9.

* Dr. Taylor, in his Hebrew Concordance, saith, “It signifies hairy, or a goat, so called from its shaggy hair. The deities worshipped, in Egypt, such as oxen, dogs, wolves, monkeys, goats.” It may just be observed, that the word Devil doth not once occur in the Old Testament.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, page 124, 1794

Importantly, Ashdowne also proved that this same definition was used in the New Testament by the apostles:

‘Of the Heathen, the Apostle saith, The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to Devils; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with Devils. I Cor. x. 20. viii. 7. 10. Deut. xii. 30, 31. Rev. ix. 20.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, page 125, 1794

After making the excellent point that no one in the book of Job attributed Job’s sufferings to anyone but God (certainly not to ‘satan’), Ashdowne addressed the vision of the ‘lying spirit’ in 1 Kings 22:

‘The vision will be easily discerned, and also allowed to be not a relation of a fact, which then took place, but only a representation made to the Prophet relative to Ahab and Jehoshaphat’s going to besiege Ramoth Gilead.’

‘I may still add, that whoever will be at the pains to look at the numerous texts in the Old Testament, particularly in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, wherein mention is made of the false prophets, will not find the least hint that they were stirred up, or excited to prophesy falsely, and thereby deceive the people, by an evil spirit, i. e. a fallen angel. But those writings have assigned very different and apparent causes, from whence they were induced or excited to deceive the people by their prophesying false things, as the prophets did we have mentioned.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, page 130, 131, 1794

Likewise, Ashdowne dealt intelligently wit the incident of the ‘evil spirit’ which afflicted Saul, proving from the text itself that none of Saul’s servants imagined him to be ‘possessed’, but suffering rather from some mental or emotional affliction:

‘I presume it will be allowed there is not the least evidence in the context from whence we may justly suppose, that Saul’s servants believed the power of the musical harp could possibly expel a fallen angel from Saul, had they understood it to be such a being. But it was not an improper expedient to relieve his mind, under its present disordered state; especially if we may suppose that he was rather fond of that kind of music.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, page 133-134, 1794

Ashdowne repeated the substance of this argument when addressing the ‘evil spirit’ sent by God between Abimelech and the men of Shechem:

‘There is another text in Judges chapter ix. 23. where it is said, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem.’

‘From this relation, it appears plain, to me, that by an evil spirit is not to be understood a fallen angel; but, that God, in the course of his Providence, raised, or stirred up an enemy to Abimelech and his adherents: as, verses 56, 57. to punish them for the wicked act of slaying the sons of Jerubbaal his brother, who had rendered signal services to his people against their enemies in the time of Gideon their father.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, page 134, 135, 1794

After repeating his argument concerning the ‘evil angels’ of Psalm 78:49, Ashdowne addressed the New Testament:

‘I will now examine the New Testament to see whether any thing occurs therein to corroborate the commonly received opinion of Fallen Angels, or Satan and the Devil.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, page 137, 1794

Expounding the ‘angels which sinned’ in Peter and Jude as he had previously, Ashdowne made much of the absence from the New Testament of common beliefs regarding satan and demons. He skilfully identified the inconsistency of the translators in rendering DAIMONIA ‘devils’ in some places, and only ‘slanderers’ in others, and asked how it could be possible for Christ to be tempted by a ‘fallen angel’ in the records of the wilderness temptation (pages 143-145).

Ashdowne rightly insisted on the correct harmonising of the Old and New Testaments, and rejected any idea that the New Testament could not or should not be understood on the basis of the Old:

‘I must again intreat the reader to consider, that neither John nor Luke could have received, from the Old Testament, the least knowledge of Satan as a fallen angel, or of his having put into the heart of any man evil thoughts, by which he tempted him to sin; or, that he ever entered into any one to effect it. Neither is there any proof, in the evangelists, that they had received from Jesus the last knowledge of either; and, and indeed, this is the only account, in the Bible, of Satan’s having entered into any man. For all the instances recorded in the New Testament of men’s being possessed by an evil spirit, or spirits, are, of a demon, or demons, and not by Satan as a fallen angel.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, pages 145-146, 1794

Ashdowne explained both satan entering Judas and sifting Peter as wheat by means of Christ’s parables, explaining that these were references to the troubles, persecutions, and cares of life entering into them and inciting them to sin (pages 146-153). He used the same explanation of satan entering into Ananias ( pages 158-160), and explained satan as ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), as a false apostle representing himself as true (pages 160-163).

Later Ashdowne cited Farmer’s work (‘I shall here subjoin Mr. Farmer’s explication of some texts where the words Devil and Satan occur’, page 183), and intelligently asked how satan could be understood in the ‘orthodox’ sense in the passages where the congregation is to turn a member over to satan:

‘To an attentive and unbiassed man who reads thess words and the context, I believe he will find it extremely difficult to form a just conception in what sense the person was to be delivered unto, or put in the power of Satan, if understood to be an invisible spirit, especially to answer the end there mentioned; for it cannot consistent with reason be supposed, much less believed, that a malevolent spirit, being the avowed enemy of man, as is generally believed he is, would exert his power over him, to effect that salutary end; but on the contrary, try his utmost to continue his impenitence perpetual, that he might not be saved.

If we may be permitted to suppose, that by his being delivered unto Satan, means not only his being separated from the congregation, equally as he was before his conversion; but also excluded from the benefits he enjoyed as a member of Christ’s body; and that this would have a very probable tendency to bring him to a true sense of his crime, that he might be saved.

It will, I presume, be the most natural and rational explication of the Apostle’s general meaning, and which seems to be confirmed from the effect it produced, as mentioned by him, 2 Ephes, ii. 5, &c. vii. 12.

Somewhat similar to the incestuous Corinthian being delivered unto Satan, &c. is what the Apostle mentions, 1 Tim. iii. 20, of his conduct towards Hymencus and Alexander, whom he had delivered unto Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme.

But can any rational man really believe, that if they had been delivered into the power of a malignant spirit, the supposed enemy of man, that he would have exerted it to reform them from their wicked conduct, that they might not in future blaspheme, but act consistent with their Christian character?–I presume he cannot believe this of him, but, on the contrary, that he would have exerted his influence over them to continue it. Whatever therefore the Apostle meant by the word Satan, he cannot in reason be understood to intend a malignant apostate angelic spirit.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, pages 184-185, 1794

Ashdowne ends his work with an appeal to the reader to look within for the cause of their temptation and sin, not without:

‘Since the publication of this Tract, it hath been objected that the opinion therein maintained is injurious to practical religion, by inducing men to believe that they have no other enemy to encounter with, but what arises from themselves and the snares of the world;–I know of no better answer to it, than the Apostle James hath given, in the words already cited. That every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed, &c. See Matt. xiii. 21, 22, 23. Mark iv. 17, 18, 19.

And this is unquestionably confirmed from the experience of every sinner, at this time, and in all past ages, and also from the testimony of all history, both sacred and prophane.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, page 187, 1794

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