Again, the passage begins with the denunciation of a man
who is no more than a man—indeed he is condemned because,
being a man, he makes himself god, not for being an exalted
spiritual creature who makes himself god: "Because thine heart is
lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God,
in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though
thou set thine heart as the heart of God . . .They shall bring thee
down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are
slain in the midst of the seas." (Ezekiel 28:1-8). But by the time
we get to the 'covering cherub,' we seem to have moved on from
there. However, even realizing that Satan was an exalted, beautiful
creature who fell into evil, how can this serve to rehabilitate the
pagan pantheons? We must keep moving. . .
On to the demons. Paul informed the Gentiles their gods were
in the final analysis nothing but demons:
"But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils
[daimons], and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils."
(1 Corinthians 10:20-21).
How would pagan readers have responded to hear this demotion of their adored deities?
Modern readers are prone to read Paul's words as a neutral statement
of taxonomy: what kind of thing are the pagan gods? They are
daimons. This is how it is read by many modern readers, but ancient
pagan readers would have been indignant. In their celestial hierarchy,
demons were far lower than gods. Paul is pushing their objects of
veneration down the ladder, even in pagan terms, much less in
Christian terms. In condemning these beings
whose fraudulent imposture kept the whole pagan religious system
humming, the Christians consigned the demon-gods to a shrinking island disappearing
beneath the flood of Christian moralism. The moral worth Christianity
was willing to allot to these beings is minimal. Those who were worshipping the
beautiful, powerful being Athena did not think, in bending to hear her whispers to
her acolytes, they were breathing in the foul, unclean breath of
evil demons. In other words, Paul is telling his pagan readers, if
any there be, that the gods they are worshipping are not anything
like what they envision, they are altogether different. He is
defining them out of existence.
However the guiding idea of the Renaissance synthesis of the two
theological systems, the Christian with the pagan, is that they are already
almost identical, because the demons are by nature just exactly what the
pagans thought 'gods' were. The pagans did not mistake their objects of
worship: these beings were exactly as the pagans thought they were.
The pagan system requires only a bit of tweaking at the top, merely
to elevate the status of 'Jehovah' above that of the subordinate
gods, to a greater extent than the pagans already understood 'Zeus'
to be on high. We learn in the Bible that angels are creatures of
great beauty, might and power: "Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that
excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the
voice of his word." (Psalm 103:20). Where, in the Bible, do we ever
learn that demons are anything like this? We do not. The chasm over
which we wish to travel can only be traversed on pagan highways. We
can learn from the Iliad that the pagan gods are mighty, we can
learn this from the Aeneid, but we can never learn this from the
Bible. The Bible stresses over and over the nullity of the pagan
gods, not their power and sublimity:
"Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.
Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you."
At this there is a parting of the ways: some can go on with
Charles Taze Russell and John Milton, melding the two systems
together because there is much they treasure in both, others cannot.
The connective tissue binding this system together must come in from
paganism, it can come from nowhere else. Someone reading the Bible
says, 'these angels, mighty in strength, sound just like gods!'
Well, they sound like the pagan gods as described where? In pagan
literature,—not in the Bible. The triple equation
demanded by this composite system: demons=fallen angels=pagan gods,
is a leap across an abyss. The fact that, for many years, little
American school-children were taught a poem built upon this
framework, is one of those unaccountable oddities of life, not a
datum of theology.