The Prince of Demons

I mentioned last week that a few months ago, before the release of Reviving Old Scratch, I gave guest lecture about the Devil to my son's English class.

As I mentioned last week, at the start of the lecture I took the class on a tour through some of the names we use for the Devil.

Satan. The Devil. Lucifer.

And Beelzebub.

In the Synoptic Gospels Beelzebub is often described as the "Prince of Demons," and this prince is associated with Satan. For example:
Mark 3.22-23
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?"
Beelzebul is described here as "the prince of demons" and Jesus seems to assume that Satan is this prince. So Beelzebul (or Beelzebub in some translations) becomes another name for the Devil.

The origins of the name Beelzebub, we think, are comical.

In 2 Kings Ahaziah, king of Israel, is injured in a fall. Rather than turning to YHWH, Ahaziah sends his messengers to secure the favor of a different god:
2 Kings 1.2b
So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.” 
2 Kings (1.2-3,6,16) is the only time the Philistine deity of Baal-Zebub is mentioned in the Old Testament and the character of this god is a source of speculation. On the surface, the name Baal-Zebub means "Baal of the flies" or "Lord of the flies."

Obviously, "Lord of the Flies" is a strange name for a god, and there are two bits of speculation about the origins of the name Baal-Zebub.

One theory is that if flies are associated with plagues and sickness it seems reasonable for the ailing Ahaziah to call upon the god who "masters" or "lords over" the flies and plagues. 

The other take is that the name Baal-Zebub is a comical insult inserted into the text. Some have argued that the real name of the pagan god in question was Baal-Zebul, "Baal the prince." By switching from Zebul ("prince") to Zebub ("flies")--calling the god by the wrong but similar sounding name--the writer of 2 Kings may have been intentionally making fun of the god of Ekron.

The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament often used by the New Testament writers, renders Baal-Zebub as Baalzebub. Some have argued that this--Baalzebub, the Lord of the Flies--is the source for the New Testament Beelzebub--the Lord of the Flies becoming associated with the Prince of Demons.

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