Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Response to Henry Ansgar Kelly “Satan the Old Enemy: A Cosmic J. Edgar Hoover” (1990)

Henry Ansgar Kelly argues in “Satan the Old Enemy: A Cosmic J. Edgar Hoover” (1990) that the mythos of Satan as rebelling against God before creation does not have biblical sources, but rather is based on the work of Origen and that Neil Forsyth has misread Kelly’s work on the subject. Kelly constructs his argument by stating that the above statement is his greatest contribution to demonology, points out what Forsyth misunderstood, what he believes to be the flaws in Forsyth’s arguments and concludes with stating his intention is to “purify Christian doctrine by eliminating belief in the devil as an essential dogma” (83). Kelly’s purpose appears to be pointing out all the myriad ways that Forsyth has misunderstood Kelly’s work in order to show that Forsyth is not the expert on the origins of Satan that he purports to be. The intended audience is one that is intimately familiar with Forsyth’s work, and with Kelly’s work both as a Jesuit and a folklore scholar.
Kelly’s argument that the first origin of what most people think of as the character of Satan, is not one I had heard before and many of the sources he cites would contribute to my topic. The fact that Kelly approaches the topic as a folklorist is interesting and opens other avenues of research for me, as I had been looking at the character of Satan through major literary works that led up to Milton. Also, his historical knowledge within the different religious texts points out places to look for more specific textual evidence, as well as what texts can be avoided. As a whole, this is an excellent source for my project even though I don’t agree with his approach.
However, Kelly’s argument seems buried beneath his desire to prove that he is smarter than Forsyth. This article is unique in that it is in response to Forsyth’s review of Kelly’s work. Kelly opens by coming to terms with what Forsyth said and then immediately begins to counter Forsyth’s argument by pointing out the gaps. Kelly forwards several other scholars in creating his own argument, and usually uses it as a way in, but always returns to countering Forsyth’s argument. He does it in both the structure of his argument, and his phrasing, using words such as “misunderstood” (77), and “misread” (80). Kelly goes so far as to say that he did not say certain things and that Forsyth “came to my essay late” (79). In the end, the argument that Kelly makes is a very interesting one however, the tone he takes when responding to Forsyth’s criticism turns the audience off from his meaning.

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