The following day Larkin, Jones and Baker made their way into the Library Annexe in the middle of the afternoon. Dr Quinton was expecting them, and bade them pull up their chairs near to his table.
“Now, who’s going to be first?” he said, shutting Farrar’s ‘Eternal Hope’ with a bookmark.
“Perhaps I’d better start,” said Baker, “because my contribution is probably the smallest. . . . I was looking at the beginning of Job, and saw that when the sons of God, the angels, presented themselves to the Lord, Satan was among them. Now clearly this was a long time after the Eden event. The Lord asked him where he’d come from, and his answer was, ‘From going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.’ This doesn’t seem to be thebehaviour of a snake on its belly, does it? Snakes don’t walk up and down, do they? Therefore I concluded that the Genesis story is purely symbolic, as we said yesterday. In the New Testament, the Devil is depicted masquerading as an angel of light, then a roaring lion, and even a dragon, so symbolism seems to be a large factor in Biblical hermeneutics.”
“For your small contribution, Baker, I think you have made a most profound statement. The picture of a ‘snake in the apple tree’ seems to be evaporating from your minds quite rapidly, don’t you think?”
“Yes, sir. It’s taught me a lesson,” continued Baker. “I see that you have to get behind the Hebrew mind to know how they expressed themselves. After all, picture language is common to all races of mankind, so you have to steep yourself in the whole literature, in our case the Bible, in order to pick up the way in which figures are used. In our present enquiry, we have now learned that it was Satan who stood before Eve in the Garden and spoke to her. She wasnot listening to a snake, but to Satan’s voice, but his message was as subtle, scheming, and cunning as the proverbial snake.”
“Now I really think that ought to be put down for posterity. What a splendid summary. I do hope you lads will write up all your findings, and make a folder for the library. This is most important stuff, you know.”
“Larkin and I decided to look at the other two passages that speak about Satan, to see what we could learn,” said Jones. “I chose Isaiah 14 about Lucifer, and he took Ezekiel 28 about the King of Tyre.”
“Are you aware that many American Christians have decided to change their identities?” said Doc. “They now believe that both passages refer to Adam.”
“But that’s incredible,” said Larkin, hardly able to contain himself, “but let Jones have his say first.”
“Lucifer fell from heaven, Doc., and Adam was on the earth, so even from this one simple contrast, I cannot see how the Americans made that mistake. . . . I looked up Lucifer in the Hebrew and found it to be HéLéL, from the same root as Hallelujah. So Satan as Lucifer must have been connected with praise. The whole expression was HéLéL ben SHACHAR. I’m going to suggest it means something like “Praise-master, son of the early dawn.” I felt this to be acceptable because mention was made of his musical instruments in verse 11. The bit about ‘early dawn’ is yet another figure. It refers to the time when he was created. SHACHAR is sometimes translated ‘darkness’, and if we think about the first glimmer of light to herald the dawn, it speaks of the earliest beginning of God’s creation. He must have been one of the first spiritual beings to be created, and his purpose was to organise praise to God. A being as magnificent as that must have been known to Adam and Eve, and hence his ability to misuse his power when he spoke.”
“My word, . . . you young fellows are really using your time here to good advantage. I’m quite excited. Now let’s hear Larkin’s account before saying anything further.”
“The early part of Ezekiel 28 speaks about the Prince of Tyre, and the Lord distinctly says, ‘You are a man, and not God.’ But when he comes to the King of Tyre, the Lord says, ‘You are the Anointed Cherub who covers, and I have set you so.’ In other words, Lucifer, the Praise-master, is a being of heavenly origin, not human like the Prince, or like Adam and Eve. So that scuppers the American theory at a blow. . . . Now, I have found a reference to musical instruments as well. Mention is made of his drums. So hidden beneath the surface is a whole load of useful information about Satan in his earliest days. But the biggest discovery is connected with his identity as one of the Cherubim. Everyone knows about the other four Cherubim in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation, but here is another, a completely distinct Cherub. My conclusion from all this is that Satan was a Cherub embodying a Headship over one section of God’s creation, namely the Reptiles. The other four were over Wild beasts, Clean beasts, Humanity, and Birds. So when the Lord addressed the Serpent as being wiser than all the beasts of the field, He was in a figure saying that the Serpent Cherub was wiser, more wonderful, than any of the other Cherubim, not a comparison with animals. Ezekiel speak of him as ‘full of wisdom.’ How does that sound?”
Doc removed his glasses, and sat looking at them for a moment before speaking. His face was a picture of amazement and profound admiration, and his eyes sparkled. “Thank you, Larkin. I hardly know what to say. I must thank all of you for applying yourselves so splendidly to the task I set you. You see, I haven’t had to say a thing, have I? You found it all for yourselves, and as a result you can enjoy that inner sense of achievement you rightly deserve.”
“So you think we have made a useful contribution, Doc?” asked Larkin.
“Yes, and I’ll repeat what I said before. Write it up as a specific study, and hand it to the Librarian. . . No, wait a moment. Before you do that, I’d like to see it myself, and I think I’ll pass it on to Professor Dunstan to read.”
“You think the Prof. would like to see it?” asked Jones, referring to the Head of the College.
“Yes, I’m sure he would. . . . Now let me say a brief word to round this off. It is clear from all that you have found, that Adam and Eve were accosted by a very wonderful being on that dreadful day. They must have seen him in quite a distinct form to themselves. After all, the description we’re given of the other Cherubim is in some ways quite frightening, what with their flashes of fire, their many faces, their wings and wheels, and so on. I’ve never been able fully to visualise them myself. . . . But on that day, the Lord saw what His Cherub was about to do, and spoke about him as a Serpent. It seems that this was to be the day of his downfall, as well as that of the human pair, because judgment was then pronounced on him as well. Perhaps he had been tending in that direction for a long time before he actually sinned. We are told that he was perfect originally, but he was lifted up because of his beauty. Like Narcissus of the Greek legend, he fell in love with himself. That sort of process never comes about in a few moments. . . . Finally, the other Cherubim were placed at the entrance to the Garden to prevent neither the human pair nor the Serpent Cherub from entering again. . . . Now, when you first came here, laughing about the snake in the apple tree, you were of course absolutely correct in your judgment. I knew that. But now that you have been given a glimpse of the reality, you’ll be able to help others to see that reality as well. Thank you once again. I have found your study quite stimulating and refreshing.”
“Thank you, sir, for insisting we did a bit of research. We have enjoyed it as well as learning a lot,” said Larkin.