Reading the Bible it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that the Devil has been unjustly maligned.

From the beginning of time the Devil has been blamed for anything and everything from warts to volcanic eruptions, from haemorrhoids to earthquakes and crop failures to plagues.

* It’s the Devil’s fault.
* It’s the work of the Devil.
* Blame it on the Devil.
* He’s possessed by the Devil.
* The Devil is evil.
* To the Devil with you.

Anything beyond the knowledge of the day was blamed on evil spirits or on the Devil.

His name has been defiled. His character besmirched. His reputation sullied. All without being given the chance to defend himself against those who bore false witness. So it’s about time that someone defends him in the name of justice and present such evidence as is required to clear his name. I believe that far from being evil the Devil was in fact of good character, and an angel of good intent with high ideals who was sacrificed in the interests of political expediency.

Now before we debate the truth of my contention we must accept as fact that the Devil actually exists. God fearing Christians who believe in the existence of a creator God, heaven and angels must, by believing in the existence of supernatural entities, by logical extension also believe that the Devil and hell exist. I will therefore proceed on that assumption.

The most authorative source of information on the Devil and his abode is of course that weapon of mass deception – the Bible, and this shall be my prime source. As the Devil’s dwelling abode is not the subject of this article we’ll simply say that hell is a very inhospitable place.

In the Old Testament our alleged villain was referred to as Satan. Because of the vilification campaign and scurrilous attacks on his character he was forced to change his name and in the New Testament is known as the Devil. He has also been obliged to adopt other aliases such as Beelzebub and Lucifer.

Even back then some sympathisers were aware of the injustices, hence when referring to someone today who has been poorly or badly treated we use the expression “the poor Devil”

Satan is the Hebrew word for “adversary.” Being an adversary simply means having contrary interests or opposing views. It doesn’t necessarily imply evil or malicious intent.

In clearing the Devil’s name I intend showing that the Devil’s adversary is a perverse God who plays mind games and shifts the blame for his own shortcomings on to a third party. God’s attitude towards his adversaries is not exactly benevolent. In the first book of Samuel 2:10 we read, ” the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces and out of heaven shall be thunder upon them.”

The word ‘Devil’ has many connotations, among them, a wicked or sadistic person, an evil spirit, the prince of darkness and a malevolent person. But it must be understood that these are the definitions in Christian theology and therefore represent the fundamental beliefs of millions who have never bothered to rationalise or to seek the truth. So let’s put together a composite of the Devil with quotations from the Bible to ascertain a more benign picture of the Devil’s persona.

In the second book of Peter, Chap 2 verse 4 the Devil is described as “Supremely beautiful and dazzling in brightness.” We also read in Peter “the Devil was God’s super archangel and right hand man who was trained to administer God’s government.” Now although bureaucrats aren’t normally held in very high esteem this one came highly recommended and was hand picked by God himself.

The Devil’s principal charge was to ‘impart knowledge and enlightenment’ So what went wrong in the Garden of Eden?

Genesis chapter 3 verses 1 to 21.
Picture the scene. A balmy evening in the Garden of Eden. A happy carefree nudist couple are strolling hand in hand through their vegetarian ecosystem. No high rise developments, no motorcars spewing pollution, no speed cameras. The birds are singing, bullfrogs serenading among the lotus blossoms, the perfume of many flowers permeating the air, and trees of every description bend under the weight of fruit. Truly a romantic self-sustaining paradise on Earth.

God decrees that the couple may eat of every fruit bar one on the pain of death.

Suddenly from a marijuana patch, up pops Satan wearing a snazzy snakeskin suit. Now this in itself is no mean feat.

Satan approaches Eve saying, “Hey little sister, try a bite of this apple, it’ll flip your lid and give you good vibes.

The Devil was in fact only trying to do his duty to impart knowledge and enlightenment, He tells Eve that she won’t die if she takes a bite, so she goes ahead and then, Oh my God, shock, horror she sees herself naked.

Now remember that God created everything that creepeth on the earth and had it seems the ability to change his super archangel into a long extinct species of talking snake. By forbidding Eve to do one thing and then telling his a creation to tempt her – God was playing mind games. So why should the Devil get the blame?

A further example of mind games can be read in Genesis 22 where God tells Abraham to barbeque his son Isaac. What sort of sick mind are we dealing with? It certainly wasn’t the Devil’s.

That people are prepared to sacrifice themselves or others for a particular belief doesn’t necessarily make that belief true, right or good. Kamikaze pilots died for their emperor god and suicide bombers today have no compunction in killing innocents in the name of Allah. The Nuremberg trials in 1945-46 found the Nazi leaders guilty of crimes against peace, waging wars of aggression and crimes against humanity. Similar atrocities are detailed throughout the Bible and are directly attributed to God.

Nowhere is the Devil objectively cited as the instigator or the perpetrator of malevolent deeds.

Meanwhile back in the garden in a fit of tantrums, God turns it into a thorn and weed covered wasteland, condemns all women to painful childbirth, and tosses Adam and Eve into the wilderness.

Rumour has it, that armed with the knowledge that it is better to conceal than reveal, Eve went to Surfers Paradise where she opened a boutique and sold bikinis.

Now the hypocrisy of this story is that God, having implied that covering one’s nakedness was wrong, he then makes the couple coats of skin (verse 21).

The poor Devil, alias the snake, having been made the fall guy, was then cursed and condemned to eat dust for all of the days of his life.

In that episode it can be seen that the Devil is portrayed as the guilty party when in fact he was the innocent tool of a third party. Right from the beginning of creation therefore the Devil has been unjustly maligned. What’s more, having blamed the Devil and cast him out without any right of appeal, God condemns himself out of his own mouth. In Isaiah 45:7 God says, “I make peace and create evil, I the Lord do all these things.” In Nehemiah 13:18 we read confirmation of God creating evil where it says,” did not our God bring all this evil upon us?”

In a fit of bad temper and self-recrimination for the mess he’s made of creation God says in Genesis 6 verse 7, “I will destroy man whom I have created and will send wild beasts among you which shall destroy you and your cattle”.

And we’re told that the Devil is the bad guy?

So scared of the truth coming out God even threatens debaters. In the second book of Romans, chapter 1 verses 29-32 we read that according to God “debaters are worthy of death.” So much for the seekers of truth.

Now there’s one interesting aside to the Garden of Eden story, which goes to show that the Devil’s intent to wise up Adam and Eve was of more value to human kind than God denying them knowledge.

In Numbers 21:8-9 we read, “The Lord said unto Moses, “Make thee a serpent of brass and set it upon a pole and it shall come to pass that any one that is bitten — when he looketh upon it – shall live.” I put it to you, if you were bitten by a poisonous snake would you put your faith in the Devil’s knowledge of anti-venin or God’s brass snake on a pole?

Now you may remember that the Devil was condemned to eat dust for the rest of his days. This would no doubt have clogged up his vocal chords and made speech extremely difficult. However like a character in a soapie who dies this week and comes back to life the next the Devil evidently gets his voice back. In Job chapters 1 and 2 we read.

“Job was man of substance. He owned 7000 sheep, 3 000 camels, 500 oxen and 500 asses. He also owned a very large house on a vast tract of land. He was perfect and upright and feared God.” By all accounts. a great man in the East. Every feast day he would get together with his wife, seven sons and three daughters and offer burnt offerings to the Lord. One day God called in Satan and asked for his opinion of Job saying “there is none like him on Earth, he is perfect and upright and feared God, what do you think?”

Satan, evidently now with full voice, gave a truthful answer by pointing out that God had given Job everything and that Job had nothing to fear.

Then out of the blue, God burns all Job’s sheep and servants, sends the Chaldeans to carry away Job’s camels and creates a cyclone to blow down his house killing all his sons. Naturally Job was a little peeved; he tore his clothes, shaved his head and fell to the ground. Instead of cursing God for doing this to him he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Not satisfied, God then commands Satan to smite Job with boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

Now it can be seen that once again the Devil gets the blame for doing the dirty work and yet in fact he was only carrying out God’s instructions.

Most of you would agree that germs, bacteria and viruses cause disease. God created them all along with everything else that creepeth on earth. According to the Bible however, the Devil is the one who caused illness, sickness, infirmity and malformation. Luke 13 v 11-16 for example refers to a woman “whom Satan hath bound.” Throughout the New Testament the cause of many diseases is attributed to the Devil and the various forms of mental maladies were all spoken of as being possessed by the Devil.

In the case of the plague or Black Death which took the lives of millions world wide it would seem that God must have cloned many devils. We now know that rats and fleas both of which were created by God carried the plague. But once again the Devil and his mates got the blame and so were unjustly maligned.

By giving us the means to attain knowledge the Devil has allowed mankind to achieve the standard of life we now enjoy. God on the other hand has presided over the worst excesses. The wholesale slaughter of the Midianites. (Numbers 31) The massacre of the whole nation of Heshbon. (Deuteronomy 2) The total destruction of the seven nations of Canaan. (Deuteronomy 7) The massacre at Jericho. (Josh 6) The assassination of Sisera. (Judges 5) and the murder of 185,000 Assyrians (2nd book of Kings) The list is endless.

When the Crusaders plundered and pillaged the Middle East they did so in the name of God, not the Devil. The Inquisition tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands in God’s name, not the Devil’s. Before suicide bombers press the button to kill innocents they praise God. not the Devil. More crimes against humanity have been committed by God or in God’s name than any other entity in history.

In summary, throughout history the Devil has been made the fall guy for God’s indiscretions, mistakes, shortcomings and crimes. He has been slandered and his character sullied in the most defamatory and libellous ways. He has been denied the right of reply. The right to defend himself. The right to debate. The right to state his case. The right to a fair trial and the right to free speech. Even Saddam Hussein accused of crimes against humanity and with the blood of thousands on his hands has been given the right to a fair trial, Why not the Devil? After all, his only ‘crimes’ have been to offer mankind wisdom and knowledge.

I appeal to you as understanding, tolerant and forgiving beings and in that great Australian tradition of giving a bloke a fair go, to grant absolution to the Devil, one who has without a doubt, been unjustly maligned.

By Harry Edwards