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Is Satan mad at the choir because he used to be the director? How did this rumor begin?
During a break at the Church Music Summer Seminar, another student told me that "The reason we have so much trouble in the choir is that Satan is getting back at us." When I looked puzzled, she continued, "He's mad because he used to be the director of the choir. He's always after musicians." I laughed heartily, but she persisted. She even brought someone over to confirm the story. He said it was clearly written in Isaiah. Of course that sent me off to the Bible and the internet. All I could find was that it's not scriptural at all. But I do wonder, how on earth does something like that get started? Have you a thought as to how or where this particular rumor began? (7/31/2010)
Well, our recent study of 1 and 2 Chronicles certainly showed that church musicians and church music are critically important in worship services, so maybe Satan does make a special effort to subvert them. You cannot prove this from scripture, however, and you also cannot show that Satan was a choir director, either in heaven or hell.
Probably the best evidence that Satan was a choir director are the lyrics to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Roger Miller played this fiddle tune on some television program years ago, and I have to say that it was a privilege, sir, a real privilege
, to hear it! If the devil is anywhere near as good a fiddle player as Roger Miller, then he is pretty damned hot indeed. Unfortunately, I can’t find the performance on the web, not even on YouTube.
But anyway, back to the scriptural basis: Zero. The two passages that are cited in support of this idea are Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.
Isaiah 14 is clearly directed at the king of Babylon
: “When the LORD has given [the people of Israel] rest from [their] pain and turmoil and the hard service with which [they] were made to serve, [they] will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon
: …[long taunt]… I will rise up against them," declares the LORD of hosts, "and will cut off from Babylon
name and remnant, descendants and posterity," declares the LORD” (vss. 3-4, 22). There’s no choir in this chapter, no choir director, and no reference to Satan.
Ezekiel 28 is more promising. It at least uses the word “cherub,” which is (roughly speaking), a type of angel, and refers to the Garden of Eden and to somebody being cast down from somewhere. This passage is clearly directed at the king of Tyre
, however, and not to any kind of angel:
1-2 The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD: "Because your heart is proud, and you have said, 'I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,' yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god--
9 Will you still say, 'I am a god,' in the presence of those who kill you, though you are but a man, and no god, in the hands of those who slay you?”
11-12 Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; ….
14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
(English Standard Version, courtesy of the American Bible Society)
There’s no choir or choir director in this chapter either, and no reference to Satan.
Here’s what we do know about Satan:
- He’s a tempter (Genesis 3; Matthew 4, et al.),
- He’s a liar (Genesis 3; John 8:44),
- He disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and
- Satan and his angels were (or will be) thrown down to the earth (Revelation 12:9).
Nowhere does the Bible say Satan is musical.
Now, as to the real question, “How on earth does something like that get started?”: that’s a good question. The answer seems to be that somebody made it up.
I tried to follow the trail, and it’s not easy, possibly because I don’t have the right references and have never taken a course in angelology (a real subject). Milton (“Paradise Lost,” published 1667) has a lot to answer for, but his Satan is not a choir director. Some websites say that St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) wrote about “choirs of angels” and referred back to St. Augustine. I gather, however, Aquinas’s choirs are more like battalions of the army, or wholly owned subsidiaries of a corporation, or maybe even like ranks in the military, than like groups of singers. I could easily be mistaken, because I couldn’t actually find what (if anything) Thomas Aquinas wrote about Satan.
St. Augustine (354-430) wrote quite a bit about angels in City of God
. Augustine is not my favorite author, but I skimmed through all the sections on angels. Once (Book 11, Ch. 34) he uses the term “angelic choirs,” but he doesn’t seem to have any sort of singing group in mind. He mentions Satan once and the Devil several times; never in connection with music or choirs.
This is a bit like the game “Telephone.” Somebody just made up
the idea that Satan was a choir director, as follows:
- From roughly the time of the Exile, the Jews started talking and writing about angels.
- Somewhere along the line, the Christians got into the discussion.
- Somebody decided that some angels were bad and some were good.
- Somebody concluded that the bad angels got thrown out of heaven.
- Somebody decided that both good and bad angels are organized into higher and lower echelons.
- Somebody failed to read the scripture carefully and decided that Isaiah and Ezekiel were talking about Satan.
- Somebody decided that Satan was the chief of the bad angels.
- Somebody used a Latin word that later got translated into the English word “choirs” to describe the echelons of angels.
- Therefore somebody concluded that Satan was the choir director in heaven, and now he’s always after musicians.
Our fellow-reader’s response – hearty laughter – was appropriate. A few carefully chosen words of rebuttal would also be good. You got to read this stuff for yourself, people, and challenge silly ideas before they go any farther.
Copyright 2010, 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by Deanna Rains.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
St. John’s United Methodist Church,
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Traditional worship services are held Sundays at 8:15 and
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are held monthly on the second Saturday at 5:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. St. John’s feels especially called to the worship of God and to the service of our neighbors through our music program
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