Monday, May 15, 2006

Satan, the Prince of Demons

Lilith Exorcised on a Persian Incantation Bowl

(Read first Mark 3:22-30)

Some people have been accused as "drug lords", or "jueteng lords". A former jueteng lord was even asked by the government to lead the campaign against jueteng because he was supposed to know the "ins and outs" (the operations) of this illegal gambling game.

In time of Jesus, the most notorious leader of the underworld is the "demon lord", or as the Gospel writer calls, "the prince of demons". He has even an alias, "Beelzebul" which could either mean,"Lord of the Flies" or, more exactly, "Master Baal". Baal was Yahweh's nemesis in the Old Testament. The prince of demons, being the master, directs the activities of the demons under him. Demons were thought to cause sicknesses and deaths of children. In cultural world of Jesus, there were more demons or bad spirits than human beings.

One such demon was Lilith known for attacking and killing children especially at night. To ward off this terrible demon, people have to wear amulets, inscribe incantation formula in their dining bowls, and put tassels ("zitzit") in garments. Jesus is said to have even worn such tassels (Mk 5:28; 6:56). In the world that was believed to be overpopulated by evil spirits, exorcism was an in-demand job. The exorcists, people trained to cast out demons, were popular and always on call.

But demons were also powerful and stubborn. They could not be cast out just like that. Even the combined efforts of the disciples could not cast out the evil spirit that had made a boy epileptic (Mk 9:14-29). It would need the demon's boss, the master demon, to terminate his job of possessing the boy. Since, Jesus never had a failed exorcism, people began to think he could be the "prince of demons".

The Gospel above leaves us with a tinge of irony. On the one hand, we readers know clearly Jesus is not the prince of demons. On the other hand, Jesus is Lord, in the sense that he has lorded over, confined, and ovecome the power of evil in the world. The last book of the bible assures us:

Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down . . . Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death (Rev 12:9-11).

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