“the devil does not exist,” declares jesus christ.
RACHEL Friends of Emisoras Latinas, in our last interview Jesus Christ stated that hell does not exist and has never existed. Since then we have received hundreds of phone calls and e-mails, and our website is registering thousands of hits. Many people are astounded by these declarations. For example, I have here the message of a woman who is a faithful listener. She asks if hell doesn’t exist, where does the devil live? Now, Jesus, I ask you that question – what’s your answer?
JESUS I think that the answer falls by its own weight, like ripe figs. The devil lives nowhere.
RACHEL What do you mean, nowhere?
JESUS Hell doesn’t exist, and neither does the devil.
RACHEL Hold on, wait a minute. I imagine that right now our listeners must be calling our lines, more dumbfounded than ever. I’m going to shut off my cell phones. Let’s see now. You say that the devil doesn’t exist either, but you often spoke of him.
JESUS Yes, that’s true.
RACHEL So do you believe in the devil?
JESUS I used to believe in him.
RACHEL You used to believe in him? Could you please explain yourself a little better?
JESUS Like all my fellow Jews, I believed in the Devil. That’s what they had taught us. I also thought the world was flat and that the sun revolved around it. Look at how mistaken we were!
RACHEL But you yourself were tempted by the Devil in the desert, and you even spoke with him! Or don’t you remember? “Tell these stones to become bread.” And you answered him. And then the Devil took you to the pinnacle of the temple, to have you throw yourself down from up there so that the angels would save you.
JESUS The pinnacle you’re talking about is that one you see over there. Look at it.
RACHEL That one?
JESUS Yes. Do you see it?
RACHEL Our mobile unit continues to transmit from the Valley of Gehenna, and we actually can see the pinnacle of the temple from here. It is the highest point on the ancient walls of Jerusalem, the place where the Devil took Jesus Christ so that he would throw himself down from there.
JESUS The fact is I never went up there, Rachel. Perhaps that was another invention of some gospel writer? Maybe it’s one of those “comparisons”?
RACHEL You never went up to the pinnacle of the Temple?
JESUS No. Besides, I suffer from vertigo. I would have gotten dizzy and fallen easily.
RACHEL Let’s get back to the devil. You say that he doesn’t exist, but in the Bible he appears everywhere. They call him Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Fallen Angel, the Adversary, the Ancient Serpent, the Malignant One, the Prince of Darkness…
JESUS Yes, in the Bible and no doubt in other ancient books … I think that almost all peoples have believed in the evil spirit, the tempter. And do you know why?
RACHEL Because they felt his wicked presence in some way.
JESUS No. We believe in the devil because that way we can blame him for what we do ourselves. We say the devil tempted me and I couldn’t resist; the devil got into me. In reality, the devil is you when you’re doing something devilish. I think that each person has to be responsible for his or her deeds.
RACHEL We have a call… Hello?
MAN That guy talking there on your station is a charlatan, an impostor! He’s possessed, possessed by the devil!
RACHEL Any reaction to this call, Jesus?
JESUS No, not really. They were saying the same thing about me in my time, that I had a demon. Let him be.
RACHEL There are more calls. Can we continue to talk about this topic which is so controversial?
JESUS Of course we can, but let’s do it somewhere else, Rachel. It’s so hot here in this valley [breath indicating discomfort] that I’m going to end up believing in hell again!
RACHEL Well, let’s look for some shade far from here. Leaving behind the Valley of Gehenna, outside Jerusalem, this is Rachel Perez, Emisoras Latinas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
Tempted by the devil
Three of the four gospels (Matthew 4,1-11; Mark 1,12-13; Luke 4,1-13) include the narrative of Jesus spending forty days in the desert, where he was tempted by the devil. The narrative is completely symbolic.
The people of Israel believed that the desert was territory cursed by God – for that reason its lands were sterile. In the desert only wild animals and demons could live. It was also a dangerous place, a place where human beings were tested and could succumb to temptation. For forty long years the Israelites had wandered through the desert, undergoing one test after another, until they reached the Promised Land. It is within this symbolic framework that we should understand the gospel narrative of Jesus’ temptations. The religious culture and the literary style of the time when the gospels were written made it necessary for the narrative to include a Tempter, someone who personified temptation. The tests to which he submitted Jesus are likewise symbolic: all three reflect back on the history of the Hebrew people’s journey through the desert (Deuteronomy 8,3; 6,16; 6,13). The people gave in to the three temptations of doubting God, accumulating wealth and feeling arrogant. Jesus rejected the temptations and remained faithful. In making this contrast, the evangelists wanted to show that in the personal history of Jesus the collective history of his people was being rescued and restored.
“The Devil exists”
The Bible is full of allusions to the Devil, and a variety of titles are ascribed to him. Like all his contemporaries, Jesus spoke of the devil and believed in his existence, but belief in the devil was by no means at the core of Jesus’ message. It was simply a foil that provided a contrast for the good news that Jesus was preaching. The real essence of his message was that there is an all-good God in whom we can trust completely, and so overcoming fear constitutes the way of “salvation”.
All peoples have believed, and most still believe, in the existence of the Devil, and in many cases they also believe that the Devil has an army of demons that do his bidding. In Christianity the existence of the Devil was established in the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), and it is a belief that both the Catholic and the Protestant churches maintain up to the present day. In 1974 Pope Paul VI stated: The devil exists, not only as a symbol of evil, but as a physical reality. The following year, in the face of growing theological currents that were putting this ancestral belief “in its place”, the same Pope declared: Anyone who refuses to recognizes the Devil’s existence is outside the pale of biblical and church teaching, as is anyone who explains him as a pseudo-reality or as a fanciful conception personifying the unknown causes of our misfortunes.
Another theology: the Devil is a myth
There are many Catholic and Protestant theologians who have with solid argumentation called the devil’s existence into question. Among them is the German Catholic priest and university professor Herbert Hagg, a specialist in the Old Testament. Desirous of “building bridges between the Bible message and the people of today”, he wrote one of the basic books on this topic, The Devil: the Problem of his Existence (in Spanish: Editorial Herder, 1978). In this book he concludes that the story of the “fallen angel” is a myth and promotes a theological vision in which guilt and fear are viewed from a different perspective, one that is more constructive and transformative. Haag also documents the horrendous historical fruits which “faith in the devil” has produced in the course of human history, and especially in the course of Christian history.
Nowadays we often hear about groups of young people who are “dangerous” because they embrace “satanism”. Youth gang members have “diabolical” images tattooed on their bodies, graffiti with references to the Devil appear on city walls, and musical groups produce “satanic” music. An example of this music is one of the songs of the Puerto Rican hip-hop/reggaeton group “Calle 13”. When they launched their first disk in 2005, it was immediately popular with Latin American young people. One of their songs has a tango beat and the following refrain:
All the uncouth people / come to dance on volcanic lava / turn up the volume on the satanic music / we’re going to burn in fire with the resident devil / the greatest exponent of sin … And the song concludes: I feel a pain / deep inside my heart / if loving you is a sin / then I’ll stay in hell / at your side / my poor child / we’re going to burn together in hell.
There are religious groups today which still sow the fear of hell in people as a mechanism for controlling consciences; they still present the Devil as a real, fearful, dangerous being. Of course, they reject this kind of music and warn people not to listen to it; they consider such music clear proof of the diabolical power that is abroad in our world today. Those who sow fear reap fear, but sometimes they also reap resistance. These cultural expressions reveal, perhaps unconsciously, signs of youthful rebellion and a decisive rejection of these deep-rooted ideas, which may be ancient but are not for that reason any less absurd and anti-Christian.