MEANING of the TERM “DEVIL”
BY: JONATHAN MITCHELL
In Heb. 2:14 we read,
“Since, then, the young children have participated in and commonly shared existence of blood and flesh (= humanity), He also, nearly alongside [them], shared theirs in common (partook of the [ingredients] which comprise them), in order that through means of death He might render useless (or: deactivate; idle-down; discard) the one normally having the strength (or: the person presently holding the force) of death (or: which is death; or: whose source is death), that is, the adversary (or: that which throws folks into dualism with divided thinking and perceptions; or: the one that throws something through the midst and casts division; the one who thrusts things through folks; the slanderer who accuses and deceives; or, commonly called: the ‘devil’).”
The Son became human so that He could die. In listing one of the things accomplished by His death as, and in union with, the first Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) and His burial of the first Adam/humanity (Rom. 6:3-8), the writer of Hebrews makes the following affirmation:
“The one normally having the strength (or: the person presently holding the force) of death (or: which is death; or: whose source is death), that is, the adversary” was “rendered useless.”
It was NOT destroyed, but it just went out of service because of having become useless. The parenthetical expansion indicates that this verb could also be rendered “deactivate; idle-down; discard.” What was it that was deactivated, discarded and rendered useless through the coming of the Messiah? What was it that had “the strength” of death? Again we get insight into this enigmatic statement from Paul, in 1 Cor. 15:
56. Now the sharp point and stinger of (or: the sting, thus, the injection from) the Death [is] the Sin (the mistake; the error; the failure), and the power and ability of the Sin [is] the LAW.
So we see here that “the person presently holding the force whose source is death” is Moses, or the person that uses the Law. These who represented and used the Law were now “rendered useless, deactivated, idled-down and discarded.” This meant that the old covenant, the sacrificial system, the priesthood, the purity codes, etc., were all rendered useless. Again, recall Paul in Rom. 7:
5. For when we [= Adam/Israel] were existing within the flesh (or: = in the old alienated Adamic existence, with the flesh sacrifices and markers of the Law), the effects, impressions, emotions and impulses from the experiences, passions and suffering of the failures (the sins; the deviations which caused misses of the target) – the things through means of the Law [the Torah] – were continually operating (working within; energizing and effecting) within our members into the condition to produce fruit by Death (in death; to death; for Death).
6. But now (at the present time), we [= Israel] are (or: were instantly) rendered inactive (brought down to living without labor, released from employment, made unproductive; discharged) away from the Law (= the Torah; [some MSS add: of Death]), dying within that in which we were constantly being held down (held in possession and detained), so that it is [for] us to be habitually performing as slaves within newness of spirit (a newness pertaining to spirit and has its source in the Breath-effect; freshness and new quality of attitude) and not in oldness (obsoleteness; outdatedness) of letter (or: not in outwornness of what is written).
Notice what God was going to do to this “one” through the death of Christ: “might render useless (or: deactivate; idle-down; discard).” It had been of use, in its time, age and arrangement, but now no longer. The Law has been rendered useless and is deactivated and discarded. It had brought “fear of death” (15) and “held [them] within slavery” (cf Galatians, on the topic of slavery) and thus was an adversary to folks who were powerless to keep it. Let us pause here to look at the parenthetical alternative renderings of this word (dia-bolos).
This substantive comes from the verb “ballo” which means “to throw, cast or thrust.” The noun “bolis,” which is derived from this verb, is a “missile weapon, dart, javelin, arrow, or anything thrown.” The verb, when prefixed with “dia-” thus means “to throw, cast or thrust [something] through” an object – be it a person, or a group of people. What was thrown could be words, so that an associated meaning of this verb meant to slander or calumniate or defame – even inform against (Lu. 16:1). Our text uses a substantive of this compound verb: “diabolos.” Paul used this term in the second chapter of his letter to Titus:
3. Old (or: Aged; Older) women, similarly (or: likewise), [are to be] women in a state and resultant condition proper and fitting for being engaged in the sacred (suitable in demeanor for serving the temple; or: = living a life appropriate [for] a person [being] a temple), not folks who thrust-through or hurl [a weapon, or something hurtful] through [someone] (or: not devils nor slanderous adversaries which bring division and hurt), nor women having been enslaved by (or: to) much wine.
So, as you can see, this word (although traditionally translated “devil”) can refer to people or systems within this life. Paul also used this word about people in 2 Tim. 3:3 right in the middle of a laundry list of vices and negative human qualities,
“without natural affection, unwilling to make a treaty (implacable; not open to an agreement), DEVILS (adversarial slanderers; folks who throw or thrust something through people to hurt or cause divisions), without strength (without [self-] control), uncultivated (wild; untamed; ferocious; fierce), without fondness for expressions of good or aspects of goodness (or: without affection for good people; unfriendly; averse to virtue…”
In our present text, the term can mean the following:
a) the one that throws something [e.g. an idea; a concept; a rule; a doctrine] through the midst and casts division;
b) that which throws folks into dualism (the root idea if “dia” is “di,” “two”) with divided thinking and perceptions; the Law itself created such a division – us, and them; right and wrong; good and evil; sacred and profane; clean and unclean; Jew and Gentile; the Law was an adversary to unity among peoples;
c) the one who thrusts things through folks;
d) the slanderer who accuses and deceives.
The high priest used the Law to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. The Jewish leadership used “their Law” (John 19:7) to make use of the Romans to thrust nails and a javelin through the body of Jesus. The false witnesses used the Law to accuse Jesus at His trial. The teachings of the scribes and Pharisees used the Law to thrust “sinners” out of their “holy” society and make them outcasts. And so it has continued, in religion, until this day. Rules become the adversary to humanity and are often the things that thrust-through the heart of love, bringing prejudice. We see Paul addressing the “rules of table fellowship” that brought division within the covenant community at Antioch (Gal. 2).
Jesus used the term “diabolos” to refer to Judas in John 6:70, Jesus considered and gave answer to them,
“Do I Myself not select and pick you out – the twelve – for Myself (or: Did I not choose you twelve Myself)? And one from among you men is a person who thrusts things through [people] (or: a devil)!”
Jesus also used the word “satan” when speaking to Peter in Mark 8:33. John, in Rev. 12:9, connects the words “satan” and “diabolos” with the apocalyptic terms “the dragon” and “the serpent.” Both John the immerser (baptist) and Jesus referred to the Sadducees and Pharisees as offspring of poisonous serpents (Matt. 3:7; 12:34). These words were metaphors of people who were adversarial and harmful – in various ways.
MEANING OF THE TERM-DEVIL [Jonathan Mitchell] 1