Adam, Satan, God, and Sin: Working the Puzzle

In this post, I’m going to introduce a line of investigation that could take me years to complete.  It’s an expansive puzzle, and I embark upon it having little idea how foolish it may one day seem to me–just as I have no idea just how right it may someday prove to be. So, at the risk of embarrassing myself, I’m going to put forward an hypothesis I’m considering.   I’ll show you the various puzzle pieces in a moment, but first, let me get right to the gist of what I’m investigating:

HYPOTHESIS:  Adam had made a deal with Satan, in writing, and this is the “handwritten code that was against us”—that Jesus canceled by his perfect sacrifice, “nailing it to the cross.”  (Colossians 2:14)

Now, I promise to tell you everything I know about this at length, but first, I’m going to set the stage with a few puzzle pieces in order to demonstrate why I think this hypothesis is worth pursuing.  Here are a few questions that I have never heard any traditionalist answer to my satisfaction.

  1. We read in explicit terms that Eve ate the forbidden fruit before Adam did.  How is it, then, that the entry of sin and death into the world is charged to Adam (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22), and not to Eve?  Could it be that some sin other than the eating of the fruit is what is in view here?
  2. God is the forgiving sort, right?  Just look at how he dealt with people like Abraham, Moses, and David!  So, if humankind was in need of forgiveness from God, why would God have to make a sacrifice to himself in order to do it?  Do you have to make sacrifices to yourself in order to forgive those who sin against you?
  3. It’s a famous fact that God is the true Creator and that he is above every created being.  Further, God had appointed man to “subdue” the Earth and to “have dominion” over every living thing on it. (Genesis 1:28) How is it, then, that Satan had come to be known as “the ruler of this world”?  Jesus called him that three times in John’s gospel.  (John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11)  Who had handed over the rule of the world to Satan, when did it happen, and under what circumstances?  Was that rule ever to come to an end?  And if so, how and when?
  4. The Law of Moses did not come until long after Adam and Eve’s sin.  And the Law of Moses was not given to the Gentiles, but only to the Jews.  How can that “handwritten code that was against us” (Colossians 2:13-14) have been the Law of Moses?  And if it wasn’t the Law of Moses, then what was it, and where was it written?

I’ll probably discover more issues like these as time goes by, but these are plenty to demonstrate that common Christian belief doesn’t have a very good handle on topics of this nature.  So now, I’ll get to a quick list of evidences that I believe may support the hypothesis above. Here they are in no particular order.

The Handwritten Code

The King James and several other translations are careful to state that whatever this document was, it was handwritten.  You can compare many translations here.  You’ll see why this is important next, but for now, let’s be careful to note that many translations rendered it explicitly in the same way the KJV does here:

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

The Greek word translated as “handwriting” here appears only once in the Bible.  It is cheirographon (χειρόγραφον).  You can read all about it here.  I’ll get into its significance here in some other article some day when I have more time.  But for now, let it suffice to say that Paul used special care to distinguish handwriting from regular writing.  But why?

Writing With Ink and Paper

Here’s the crux of the hypothesis I’m exploring.  It’s from a widespread Ancient Near Eastern book called The Book of Enoch, or 1 Enoch.

1 Enoch 69:9 He [a fallen angel-type named Penemue] taught men the art of writing with ink and paper, and through this many have gone astray, from eternity to eternity, and to this day. 10. For men were not created for this, that they should confirm their faith like this, with pen and ink. 11. For men were created no differently from the Angels, so that they might remain righteous and pure, and death, which destroys everything, would not have touched them; but through this knowledge of theirs they are being destroyed and through this power death consumes them.

Notice here that it wasn’t the mere act of writing that was considered a sin, but “that they should confirm their faith like this, with pen and ink.”  What was that all about?  And whatever it was, note that it has something to do with death.  Had this particular act of writing not commenced, it is stated that death would “not have touched them”.

So, again, what was this all about?  There’s no obvious reference to any sort of writing in the Genesis 2-3 account of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden.  Is this Book of Enoch just some bogus book, then?  Is it that easily settled?  Well, if it’s that easy, then how do we explain why the New Testament quotes 1 Enoch, and why a great many allusions to 1 Enoch appear in it?  The book was widely circulated and known in the First Century among believers.

Given that, you can choose either to shut down this investigation, or to look further into it.

The Book of the Secrets of Enoch (2 Enoch) presents a motive for Satan to be vying against Adam.  In the following passage, God is the speaker:

2 Enoch 31:1 Adam has life on earth, and I created a garden in Eden in the east, that he should observe the testament and keep the command. 2 I made the heavens open to him, that he should see the angels singing the song of victory, and the gloomless light. 3 And he was continuously in paradise, and the devil understood that I wanted to create another world, because Adam was lord on earth, to rule and control it. 4 The devil is the evil spirit of the lower places, as a fugitive he made Sotona from the heavens as his name was Satanail (Satan), thus he became different from the angels, (but his nature) did not change (his) intelligence as far as (his) understanding of righteous and sinful (things). 5 And he understood his condemnation and the sin which he had sinned before, therefore he conceived thought against Adam, in such form he entered and seduced Eva (Eve), but did not touch Adam.

So, God had conceived a plan to make a second world, in addition to the Earth.  He had put Adam in charge of the Earth.  Satan, however, being already condemned for his sin and confined to the Earth, plotted against Adam.

The Second World

Now, regarding that second world, we are told more in 2 Esdras 7.

2 Esdras 7:[50] For this reason the Most High has made not one world but two. [51] Inasmuch as you have said that the righteous are not many but few, while the ungodly abound, hear the explanation for this. [52] “If you have just a few precious stones, will you add to them lead and clay?” [53] I said, “Lord, how could that be?” [54] And he said to me, “Not only that, but ask the earth and she will tell you; defer to her, and she will declare it to you. [55] Say to her, “You produce gold and silver and bronze, and also iron and lead and clay; [56] but silver is more abundant than gold, and bronze than silver, and iron than bronze, and lead than iron, and clay than lead.’ [57] Judge therefore which things are precious and desirable, those that are abundant or those that are rare?” [58] I said, “O sovereign Lord, what is plentiful is of less worth, for what is more rare is more precious.” [59] He answered me and said, “Consider within yourself what you have thought, for the person who has what is hard to get rejoices more than the person who has what is plentiful. [60] So also will be the judgment {Syr Arab 1: Lat [creation]} that I have promised; for I will rejoice over the few who shall be saved, because it is they who have made my glory to prevail now, and through them my name has now been honored.  [61] I will not grieve over the great number of those who perish; for it is they who are now like a mist, and are similar to a flame and smoke–they are set on fire and burn hotly, and are extinguished.”

This second world, therefore, was to be for those that God would consider to be “the righteous.”  He was going to separate them out from the rest of humans, putting them in this second world.  Satan, however, had opposed this, and by some scheme, had held captive the spirits of the dead.

The Captives/Prisoners

Here are some brief evidences that the dead were considered “captives” and “prisoners” in Sheol/Hades.  And note further that the righteous among them were expecting to be delivered by God at some point.  But how had they gotten into this prison?  By what law?  By what decree?

Psalm 68:18 You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.

Isaiah 49:8 Thus says the Lord:
“In a time of favor I have answered you;
in a day of salvation I have helped you;
I will keep you and give you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages,
9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’
to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Job 3:11 “Why did I not die at birth,
    come out from the womb and expire?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
    Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet;
    I would have slept; then I would have been at rest,
14 with kings and counselors of the earth
    who rebuilt ruins for themselves,
15 or with princes who had gold,
    who filled their houses with silver.
16 Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child,
    as infants who never see the light?
17 There the wicked cease from troubling,
    and there the weary are at rest.
18 There the prisoners are at ease together;
    they hear not the voice of the taskmaster.
19 The small and the great are there,
    and the slave is free from his master.

Psalm 79:8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
    let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
    for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name’s sake!
10 Why should the nations (That is, the dead of the nations who are around us in Sheol) say,
    “Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
    be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners  come before you;
    according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
    the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
    will give thanks to you forever;
    from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Revelation 6:9  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
NOTE: Those in view here are obviously martyrs, as per verse 9.  They should not be mistaken, however, for the whole set of the faithful in Sheol.  1 Enoch 22 details four areas of Sheol, in which “the spirits of the souls of the dead should assemble….till the day of their judgment and till their appointed period, till the great judgment comes upon them.” (1 Enoch 22:4)  Two of those areas were for the unrighteous, one for the righteous, and the fourth for those like Abel, who “make their suit, who make disclosures concerning their destruction, when they were slain in the days of the sinners.”  (1 Enoch 22:12)  It is this area that seems to be in view in Revelation 6:9, and not the area for those righteous having no disputes.  While these in view here had been declared righteous (“given a white robe”), they were still in waiting.   

2 Enoch 40:9  And I measured out the whole earth, its mountains, and all hills, fields, trees, stones, rivers, all existing things I wrote down, the height from earth to the seventh heaven, and downwards to the very lowest hell, and the judgment-place, and the very great, open and weeping hell. 10 And I saw how the prisoners are in pain, expecting the limitless judgment. 11 And I wrote down all those being judged by the judge, and all their judgment (and sentences) and all their works. 41:1 And I saw all forefathers from (all) time with Adam and Eva (Eve), and I sighed and broke into tears and said of the ruin of their dishonour: 2 Woe is me for my infirmity and (for that) of my forefathers, and thought in my heart and said: 3 Blessed (is) the man who has not been born or who has been born and shall not sin before the Lord’s face, that he come not into this place, nor bring the yoke of this place.  42:1 I saw the key-holders and guards of the gates of hell standing, like great serpents, and their faces like extinguishing lamps, and their eyes of fire, their sharp teeth, and I saw all the Lord’s works, how they are right, while the works of man are some (good), and others bad, and in their works are known those who lie evilly.

Regarding this last passage–and particularly the part highlighted in green–let us note that Enoch understood that one did not have to go to Sheol/Hades if he were sinless.  But again, where is this written in any decree from God that is recorded in the Bible? I have never found such a decree.

Now, in that first of the captives/prisoners passages above (Psalm 68:18), we see that Jesus was eventually to let the righteous out of Sheol.  But if he was supposed to let these people out, how had they come to be there in the first place?  Remember, Sheol/Hades was the realm of Satan:

2 Enoch  31:4 The devil is the evil spirit of the lower places, as a fugitive…

By the time that Jesus arrives, however, Satan is being called “the ruler of this world”—and not only of those lower places (of Sheol/Hades).  How had he got control of not only what was below the earth, but what was on it?

The Accuser/Adversary

There is considerable legal language used in the texts about all these things.  I won’t go into it all here.  Indeed, I have not even studied it all exhaustively myself.  But let me point out just a little bit of it here:

Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Job 31:35 Oh, that I had one to hear me!
    (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
    Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
    I would bind it on me as a crown;
37 I would give him an account of all my steps;
    like a prince I would approach him.

Regarding the Job passage, it’s important to note that Chapters 1 and 2 tell us explicitly that Satan was the one accusing Job before God.  This “indictment” to which Job refers causes one to wonder whether there had also been an indictment or some other legal document in the case of Adam.

Now, considering this general topic of legal language, let’s reconsider the passage that started this entire discussion:

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Whatever was this “handwriting of ordinances”, I doubt very seriously that it had originated with God, but with the accuser, the adversary, Satan.  Note how 2 Esdras (just below this paragraph) says that evil was “sown” into Adam’s heart, and how it has since corrupted many.  Whatever the particular evil in question was, who shall we suppose had “sown” it into Adam’s heart?  Surely it was not God who did it.   And how strange it would be for us to conclude that Adam had sown it into his own heart.  The short list of remaining suspects, therefore, is Satan.  So let’s look at what 2 Esdras says would come from this sowing:

2 Esdras 4:30 For a grain of evil seed was sown in Adam’s heart from the beginning, and how much ungodliness it has produced until now–and will produce until the time of threshing comes! 31 Consider now for yourself how much fruit of ungodliness a grain of evil seed has produced.

He went out of his way to point out that it had had a very large effect of ungodliness.  Interestingly, the 1 Enoch passage about the writing with ink and paper makes a similar statement.  Note the blue highlight here:

1 Enoch 69:9 He [a fallen angel-type named Penemue] taught men the art of writing with ink and paper, and through this many have gone astray, from eternity to eternity, and to this day. 10. For men were not created for this, that they should confirm their faith like this, with pen and ink. 11. For men were created no differently from the Angels, so that they might remain righteous and pure, and death, which destroys everything, would not have touched them; but through this knowledge of theirs they are being destroyed and through this power death consumes them.

Had this fallen angel, here called Penemue, also given Adam the idea to write some particular sort of thing?  That is, isn’t what’s in view here more than just learning the skill of writing?  Doesn’t the problem in this passage lie in exactly what they were writing?  Aren’t we told that it had something to do with “confirming their faith”—whatever that was supposed to mean?

Had Adam been suckered into some sort of rash contract?  Had he made some sort of boast on behalf of all his progeny to come?  He had somehow bound all of his descendants over to some sort of legal arrangement by which Satan would become the master of all who would act outside of faith with God?

These are just speculations, of course, for so far, I have not discovered any of the details of this “writing with ink and paper” that had caused such a problem.  The reason I speculate as I do, however, is that it took one perfect person to nail this handwritten code to the cross.  Up until Jesus, nobody had been worthy to do it.

I want to be careful not to overstate myself here, but this brings to mind the language of Revelation 5, concerning the unsealing of a certain scroll:

Revelation 5:And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”…..And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

I say I want to be careful, because I’m not certain that this particular scroll that was being opened was this “handwriting of ordinances that was against us”.  The reason I cite this passage, rather, is because Jesus’ perfection and his conquering of evil had made him worthy to do a thing that nobody else could do.  And this brings me back to the Colossians 2 passage we have been considering all along.  Look how Jesus is said to have humiliated those certain “principalities and powers” that seem to have had something to do with this ‘handwriting of ordinance that was against us”:

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

For the record, I believe that this “triumphing over them” was quite likely the “binding of Satan”, and that it happened on the very weekend that Jesus was resurrected.  I believe that Satan and his various rebel cohorts (divine beings) were bound in the pit–held captives in their own jail–until they were let out at about 66AD “for a little while.”  It was only then that Peter would write of Satan:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Was it an oath?

Several times as I have pondered what might be the nature of whatever ill thing had been set into handwriting, I have wondered whether it might have been some manner of boast or oath.  These passages come to mind:

2 Enoch 49:1 I swear to you, my children, but I swear not by any oath, neither by heaven nor by earth, nor by any other creature which God created.  2 The Lord said: There is no oath in me, nor injustice, but truth.  3 If there is no truth in men, let them swear by the words, Yea, yea, or else, Nay, nay. 4 And I swear to you, yea, yea, that there has been no man in his mother’s womb, (but that) already before, even to each one there is a place prepared for the repose of that soul, and a measure fixed how much it is intended that a man be tried in this world. 5 Yea, children, deceive not yourselves, for there has been previously prepared a place for every soul of man.

Matthew 5:33 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Had Adam fallen under condemnation by way of an oath?  If not Adam, then where would we find the basis for such passages?  And how shall we understand the nature of the evil involved in such oaths.  Indeed, Jesus says (Matthew 5:37) that anything beyond yes or no “comes from evil”.  Oh?  Well, we can certainly take his word for this; after all, he should know.  But why is it evil?  One gets the feeling that there’s probably something behind this—some story.  But where’s the story?

Was it a boast?

I’ve also considered a couple of boasts from scripture, and whether Adam’s handwriting incident might have been something similar in nature.  Here’s what I have in mind:

Jephthah.  Judges 11:29-40.  Jephthah makes a rash vow to God that he’ll if God will do such and such, Jephthah will sacrifice the next thing that walks out the door to his house.  What was he thinking?  He probably was not thinking, actually, for what family man would have (being clearly minded and careful) risked such a vow?  Yes, he might have been mindlessly expecting some animal to come out, but did he not know, or should he not have known, the risk that a human might have been involved?

Peter.  This one, I’ll simply paste here in its entirety, for it reminds me more of something that Adam might possibly have done.

Matthew 26:30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

With this one in particular, I wonder about the state of Adam, who had possibly had little experience with himself.  In Peter’s story, he directly contradicts Jesus’ predictions—not just once, but twice!  Obviously, Peter is either overestimating his own loyalty and strength of conviction, or is underestimating the pressure that will be brought to bear upon him–and possibly both.  Even so, he makes the boast, not just once, but twice.  And we know the story; we know that he fails to keep this promise.

Might this have been something similar to what happened with Adam?  Might he have overestimated the righteousness of humankind, and bound them into some contract of subjection to Satan if they should fail to be righteous?

Perhaps a hint of this exists in the following passage from 2 Enoch, wherein God recounts what happened in Eden:

2 Enoch 30:And I appointed him a name, from the four component parts, from east, from west, from south, from north, and I appointed for him four special stars, and I called his name Adam, and showed him the two ways, the light and the darkness, and I told him: 14 This is good, and that bad, that I should learn whether he has love towards me, or hatred, that it be clear which in his race love me. 15 For I have seen his nature, but he has not seen his own nature, therefore (through) not seeing he will sin worse, and I said After sin (what is there) but death?

I don’t know.

At this point in my investigation, I simply don’t know the exact nature of whatever grievous thing had been written.  It was not, however, something insignificant, for its cancellation is tied to the very crucifixion of Jesus—one of the greatest events in all of history.  If it was not the Law of Moses that was canceled, and if it was not this contract with Satan that I’ve been speculating about, then what was it?

I have written here about “captives” of Satan, and have asked the question of how it was that they got this way.  Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but earlier in the very paragraph we have examined again and again, there is a reference to captivity:

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Note that this particular captivity is not merely one of misguided human activity, but also one of what the ESV here calls the “elemental spirits of the world”. You can examine the language of the verse yourself, and you’ll see that “elemental spirits of the world” seems to be a stretch of translation.  There is no Greek word in the sentence that we would normally translate as “spirits”, so boo on the ESV for doing that.  Indeed, they don’t render the same word, stoicheîon (στοιχεῖον) in the same way elsewhere.  Here (below) are all six instances of stoicheîon in the New Testament.  As you read, note that some form of the word “element” appears in each case, yet the second word in red (where there are two) is not directly from the Greek, but is inserted in interpretive fashion:

Galatians 4:3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.

Galatians 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ

Colossians 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

An entire book could (and should) be written about stoicheîon, but there’s no room for that here.  While the ESV struggled badly enough with rendering it in the first five instances, the last two are quite ridiculous.  2 Peter 3 already has a context of the destruction of the ungodly–and smacks considerably of the language of 1 Enoch, which book tells a great deal about how these corrupting angel-types who had intervened upon the Earth, causing great moral destruction, were going to be judged.  Even so, the ESV ignores all of that, and translates a word that works just fine as “elements” as “heavenly bodies” instead.  But there is not one iota of linguistic evidence in the Greek that supports such a choice.  Rather, the ESV is grasping at straws for a way to understand this passage, and opts to make it an end-of-the-world matter, rather than and end-of-Satan matter, which is what I believe Peter intended.

With the end of Satan would come the end of angel-types teaching evil principles to humankind.  No longer would humans be ensnared/enslaved by these worthless principles—at least not from being persuaded by angels to that end.  No, if humans were going to be ensnared thereafter, it would be completely their own doing–from their own evil desires.  And I want you to note the words in orange that appear in the first four (of seven) passages above.  They all mention this enslavement in one way or another.  If this is mere coincidence, what a coincidence it is that it would happen in 4 of the 6 stoicheîon passages!

Indeed, the coincidence may be even greater than that, for Hebrews does mention enslavement and escape a few times, including a very intriguing mention in Hebrews 2:13, which may have further relevance to this present topic.  And meanwhile, there’s an even stronger case to be made for the context of the 2 Peter passage above, for it mentions such enslavement in the chapter immediately preceding the 3rd chapter discussed above.  It speaks of people having been enslaved, and enticing others into such enslavement.  Look at the language here:

2 Peter 2:17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

The “fiery” end that was to come was the end of this sort of entanglement, whereby evil angels, who taught to humankind what ought not be taught had rule over the Earth.  Our question, of course, is how all that had gotten started in the first place, and it seems more complicated than that Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit on a whim one day.

We simply do not know the whole story.  But I’m not done looking, for it is almost certain that more remains to be gleaned from the Ancient Near Eastern texts (including the Bible) than what I yet understand about all this.  I look forward to getting to the bottom of this—if its bottom can be gotten to.  And if my speculation about some sort of “deal with the devil” is wrong, I look forward to replacing it with something more plausible.


Please pardon the unpolished nature of this article.  It was suppose to be a 10-minute project just to outline the idea, but it turned into a live study session.  (And that was about 5 hours ago.)  So goes my life!








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