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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:
There’s no choir or choir director in this chapter either, and no reference to Satan.

Here’s what we do know about Satan:
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.

So. This is a bit like the game “Telephone.” Somebody just made up the idea that Satan was a choir director, as follows: 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.

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