The Principle Of Personification
Some may find it difficult to accept the explanation of the personification
of the devil because the devil is so often referred to in the Bible
as if it were a person and perhaps this confuses some people. This
is easily explained by pointing out that it is a recognized feature
of the Bible that inanimate or non-living things are personified,
such as wisdom, riches, sin, the church, but only in the case of the
devil is some fantastic theory woven around it. The following examples
will illustrate the point:
Wisdom Is Personified
“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth
understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise
of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. SHE is more precious
than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared
unto HER” (Prov. 3:13-15).
“Wisdom hath builded HER house, SHE hath hewn out HER seven pillars”
These verses, and indeed the rest of the chapters in which they
appear, show that wisdom is personified as a woman, but because
of this, no one has the idea that wisdom is a literal beautiful
woman who roams around the earth; all recognize that it is a very
desirable characteristic which all people should try to acquire.
Riches Are Personified
“No man can serve two MASTERS: for either he will hate the one,
and love the other: or else he will hold to the one, and despise
the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
Here, riches are likened to a MASTER. Many people strive very hard
to gain riches and in this way they become their master. Jesus is
here telling us that we cannot do that and serve God acceptably
at the same time. The teaching is simple and effective, but no one
assumes from this that riches is a MAN named Mammon.
Sin Is Personified
“...Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (Jn. 8: 34).
“Sin hath REIGNED unto death” (Rom. 5:21). “Know ye not, that to
whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, HIS servants ye are to
whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”
As in the case of riches, sin is likened here to a master and those
who commit sin are its servants. No reasonable reading of the passage
justifies assuming that Paul is teaching that sin is a person. Notice
that there are times when sin is personified as a woman- “all iniquity
shuts her mouth”, or as a prostitute in the book of Proverbs.
When sin is elsewhere personified as a man, this likewise cannot
be read literally. The world is personified (Jn. 15:19)- so why
cannot this persona be called ‘satan’, the adversary, or the ‘devil’,
the false accuser?
The Spirit Is Personified
“When HE, the Spirit of truth, is come, HE will guide you into
all truth: for HE shall not speak of HIMSELF...” (Jn. 16:13).
Jesus is here telling His disciples that they would receive the
power of the Holy Spirit, and this was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost,
as recorded in Acts 2: 3-4, where it is stated that “there appeared
unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of
them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”, which gave
them remarkable power to do wonderful things to prove that their
authority was from God. The Holy Spirit was not a person, it was
a power, but when Jesus was speaking of it He used the personal
The Nation Of Israel Is Personified
“Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O VIRGIN OF
ISRAEL: thou shalt be adorned with thy tabrets...” (Jer. 31: 4).
“I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning HIMSELF thus; Thou hast chastised
me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke:
turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God”
The context of these passages reveals clearly that the prophet
is not referring to a literal virgin or to Ephraim as a person,
but to the nation of Israel, which in this instance is personified,
in a similar manner as Great Britain is sometimes personified as
“Britannia” or “John Bull”. There are no such persons as this woman
and man, but when they are referred to in books or portrayed in
pictures everyone knows that Great Britain is meant.
The Believers In Christ Are Personified
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge
of the Son of God, unto a PERFECT MAN, unto the measure of the stature
of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). “There is one BODY” (Eph.
4: 4). “Ye are the BODY OF CHRIST, and members in particular” (1
Cor. 12: 27). “...Christ is the head of the church: and He is the
saviour of the BODY” (Eph. 5:23). “He (Christ) is the head of the
BODY, the church...who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and
fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my
flesh for his BODY’S sake, which is the church” (Col. 1: 8 &
24). “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you
as a CHASTE VIRGIN to Christ” (2 Cor.11: 2). “...the marriage of
the Lamb is come, and HIS WIFE hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:
All these verses obviously refer to the community of people who
were the true believers in Christ, sometimes referred to as “the
church”, though this must not be confused with any of the present
churches, which have long since ceased to be the true believers
The true believers, that is, those who hold and believe the true
doctrines taught in the Bible, are referred to as a “chaste virgin”,
indicating the purity of the lives they should lead; and as a body,
a suitable figure because just as a natural body has many functions,
so the true church has many responsibilities and performs various
When the church is referred to as a “body”, no one mistakes it
for some individual, nor would they mistake the devil or satan for
some grotesque monster or fallen angel if the words had been properly
translated, or if men and women had not acquired wrong ideas derived
from the false churches in days gone by.
Adapted from “Christendom Astray”
By Robert Roberts.