The Blind God
By John A. Tvedtnes

When Jesus said, “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch,” he was not speaking of physical blindness, but of spiritual. From the scriptures, we learn that spiritual blindness comes from the devil. When Satan blinds the eyes of mortals, they become captive to his will (1 Nephi 14:7; Moses 4:4), harden their hearts against the word of the Lord (Mosiah 11:29), and “reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds” (Alma 13:4).

To the people of the city Ammonihah, Amulek inquired, “O ye wicked and perverse generation, why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes, that ye will not understand the words which are spoken, according to their truth?” (Alma 10:25). Describing the fate of the Jaredites, Ether wrote that “the Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power over the hearts of the people; for they were given up unto the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of their minds that they might be destroyed” (Ether 15:19).

Even after seeing the heavenly signs of Christ’s birth, the unbelieving among the Nephites

“. began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen –
Imagining up some vain thing in their hearts, that it was wrought by men and by the power of the devil, to lead away and deceive the hearts of the people; and thus did Satan get possession of the hearts of the people again, insomuch that he did blind their eyes and lead them away to believe that the doctrine of Christ was a foolish and a vain thing. (3 Nephi 2:1-2)

The devil’s blinding power is reflected in one of his traditional names, Samael. Two of the Gnostic Christian texts discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, interpret this name as meaning “god of the blind” or “the blind god,”[1] evidently understanding the name to be comprised of the Aramaic root sm’, “to be blind,” and the word El, “god.” Another Nag Hammadi text, Apocryphon of John II.1.11, indicates that the devil is an angel who is called Saklas, “fool,” and Samael, “the blind one.”

Whenever the Slavonic version of 3 Enoch has the name Satanael (“opponent of God”), the Greek has Samael (e.g., 3 Enoch 14:2; 26:2; 94:25-26). The same is true of 3 Baruch 4:8; 9:7, where it is Samael who brings about the fall of Adam. The devil is called both Beliar and Sammael Malkira (“the blind god, king of evil”) in Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah 1:8-9, while throughout most of the book he is called Sammael. [2] In 11:41, he is called Sammael Satan. In Wisdom of Solomon 2:21-24, the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve is compared to blindness. The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran consider the devil (called Simiael in Mandaean Prayerbook 354) to be a demon of blindness.

Two of the pseudepigraphic Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs speak of the “prince of error” blinding the speaker (Testament of Simeon 2:7; Testament of Judah 19:4). The concept is also found in Moses 4:4 and D&C 78:10. Speaking of the first idolators, Book of the Rolls f.119a says “the Devil blinded their hearts and left them in darkness without light.” This latter passage is similar to a statement made in a modern revelation: “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men” (D&C 93:39; cf. D&C 10:20-21; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Moses 7:26 informs us that Satan’s “great chain” veils the earth with darkness. [3] Elsewhere, he is considered to be the founder of secret combinations and works of darkness.[4]

“Hatred blinds [the] soul,” declared the author of Testament of Gad 3:3 (also 6:2). His words remind us of 1 John 2:11: “But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” Testament of Dan 2:2 notes that “there is blindness in anger,” then elaborates: “For the spirit of anger ensnares him in the nets of deceit, blinds his eyes literally, darkens his understanding by means of a lie, and provides him with its own peculiar perspective. By what means does it ensnare the vision? By hatred in the heart, it gives him a peculiar disposition to envy his brother” (Testament of Dan 2:4-5).

This personification of “the spirit of anger” is evidently intended to refer to Satan, whose use of snares is attested in a number of passages of scripture. The snares that blind the eyes in Testament of Dan 2:4-5 can be compared to the Book of Mormon’s “temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary [which] overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Nephi 15:24).[5] This was how Nephi interpreted the blinding “mist of darkness” seen in vision by his father, which caused people to stray from the path (1 Nephi 8:23, 30-32). “And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost” (1 Nephi 12:17). One of the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q243-245), which mentions the demons of falsehood, also speaks of those who wander in blindness. Similarly, in Jubilees 10:1-2, we read that demons blinded Noah’s grandchildren and led them astray.

Among the blinding tools of Satan, Testament of Judah 18:2-3 mentions “sexual promiscuity and love of money, [which] blind the direction of the soul.” “For two passions contrary to God’s commands enslave him, so that he is unable to obey God: They blind his soul, and he goes about in the day as though it were night” (Testament of Judah 18:6). Testament of. Reuben 2:8-9 speaks of “the spirit of procreation and intercourse” that “leads the young person like a blind man into a ditch and like an animal over a cliff” (cf. 3:8; 4:6). [6] Testament of Joseph 7:4-5 notes that the Egyptian woman who tempted Joseph was troubled by “the spirit of Beliar” and was “blinded by sin.”

Testament of Judah 18:3 says that sins “distance you from the Law of God, blind the direction of the soul, and teach arrogance.” A similar thought is found in Testament of Levi 13:7-8: “Nothing can take away the wisdom of the wise man except the blindness of impiety and the obtuseness of sin.” According to Wisdom of Solomon 2:21, wickedness blinds. Conversely, Testament of Benjamin 4:2 declares that “a good man does not have a blind eye.”

In many passages of scripture, we read of spiritual blindness that takes away understanding and is often paralleled by hardness of heart. [7] Similarly, in Testament of Judah 11:1, we read, “but youthful impulses blinded my reason.” Testament of Judah 18:6 speaks of “two passions contrary to God’s commands” that enslave man and “blind his soul, and he goes about in the day as though it were night.” The passage reminds us of the words of Alma the younger, speaking of the spiritual experience leading to his conversion: “I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God” (Mosiah 27:29).

According to Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 53:14, all are in a state of blindness until God enlightens their eyes. [8] Alma 14:6 speaks of “the blindness of the minds” of those who have believed lies. The early first-century A.D. Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, also wrote of blindness of the mind (De Ebrietate 108) and noted that those who choose darkness instead of light are blind of intellect (De Specialibus Legibus I.54).

I have often thought of the devil as a blind guide leading the blind until they both fall into the chasm. He prompts us to follow him on life’s journey even though he was never a mortal and doesn’t know the way. He tries to persuade us that he knows how we should act, speak, and even think. Following the devil’s advice is like hiring a guide to take us through the jungle or the desert where he himself has never been. After all, Satan has never experienced mortality. He can’t possibly know that foul language and thoughts are good for us. He tries to tempt us to do things he has never done, like engaging in premarital and extramarital sex and stealing the property of others. How can a being who has never had a mortal body tell us that drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances are all right?

On the other hand, Jesus Christ passed through mortality and on to glory. He knows and teaches the way of eternal happiness. He went “forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” and he has “take[n] upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he [has] take[n] upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12).

Well might we ask of ourselves as Samuel the Lamanite did of the people in the city of Zarahemla, “How long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?” (Helaman 13:29). Will we trust Satan, leader of the blind, or shall we turn to Christ, the light and the life of the world?

[1] Hypostasis of the Arcons (II,4) 86-87; On the Origin of the World (II,5) 103.

[2] Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah 2:1; 3:13; 5:15; 7:9. In 1:11, where the Ethiopic text has Sammael, the Greek reads Satan; in 1:9, Ethiopic has Beliar but Greek has Satan. The term Beliar is used in 2:4; 3:11, 13; 4:2, 4, 14, 16, 18; 5:1, 4, 15.

[3] The expression “chain of darkness” is also found in 2 Peter 2:4, Moses 7:57, and Wisdom of Solomon 17:17. The imagery in Moses 7:27 is very similar to that found in the Ethiopic Apocalypse of Peter, where, at judgment day, “darkness and obscurity shall come up and clothe and veil the whole earth.”  Cf. Moses 7:61, which speaks of the heavens being darkened and a veil of darkness covering the earth.

[4] 2 Nephi 26:22; cf. Moses 5:51, 55. The devil is called the founder of secret combinations of murder in 2 Nephi 9:9; Helaman 6:26-30; 3 Nephi 6:28-29; Ether 8:15, 25; 10:33. The Lord will bring the secret works of darkness into light (Alma 37:23-25; cf. D&C 123:13), will judge the workers of darkness and secret combinations (Alma 37:30-31), and will destroy the secret works of darkness and murder (2 Nephi 26:20, 22).

[5] The “fiery darts of the adversary,” also mentioned in D&C 3:8, should be compared with “the fiery darts of the wicked” in Ephesians 6:16 (cited in D&C 27:17).

[6] This seems to be based on Jesus’ remarks in Matthew 15:14 (=Luke 6:39), though a similar thought is found in Psalm 7:15.

[7] Matthew 15:14; 23:16-17, 19, 24, 26; Luke 6:39; John 9:39-41; 10:21; Romans 2:19; Ephesians 4:18; 2 Peter 1:9; 1 Nephi 7:8; 12:17; 13:27, 32; 9:32; Jacob 4:14; Jarom 1:3; Mosiah 8:20; 11:29; Alma 13:4; 14:6; 48:3; Helaman 9:21; 13:29; 3 Nephi 2:1; 7:16; Ether 4:15; 15:19; D&C 19:40; 58:15; 76:75; 123:12.  Satan’s control of the hearts of the wicked is noted in Mark 4:15; 1 Nephi 22:15, 26; 30:18; Mosiah 27:9; Alma 8:9; 10:25; 12:1; 27:12; Helaman 6:21-23; 3 Nephi 1:22; 2:2-3; 6:16-17; 4 Nephi 1:28; Ether 8:26; D&C 10:10, 20, 32, 63; 45:55; 63:28; 78:10; 86:3; Moses 6:15.

[8] In D&C 88:6-13, we read that it is the “light of Christ,” “which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God” that gives life to all things and that enlightens both man’s eyes and his understanding.


2005 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.