During Mass today, my 7 yo daughter was reading along in her (Catholic version) children’s Bible about the three wise men. She whispered to me, “Where’s the part about the devil?” I asked her why/what she wanted to know about the devil and she explained that at school, when the class was watching the Polar Express, her teacher said something about the three wise men seeing the star and knowing where Baby Jesus was to be found, and a little boy said, “No, the devil saw the star first and studied it.” or something to that effect. I don’t know how to answer it. I consulted the Bible and it says nothing about that that I could find. The catechism acknowledges that the devil does exist but that his power is limited. Where might this be coming from? We live in an area where we are surrounded my non-Catholic faiths and I need to understand it what this child’s belief system is, so that I can help sort this out for my daughter and answer her question the best way I can. Thanks!
And on a side note, this conversation, interestingly enough, took place in public school.
I’m pretty sure that the devil did know something was up. First of all, it was well known that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. The only reason Herod didn’t know was that he wasn’t a Hebrew, but an Edomite who bought the throne from the Romans. He had to consult his Hebrew scholars when the wise men asked. The devil obviously knows the Bible very well–remember he quoted it to Jesus in the desert.
I guess what I would tell a child that there’s nothing in the Bible about the devil’s role, but he was probably hanging around Herod’s court whispering in his hear. And, with all the angels around Jesus, there’s no way any devils could have been around the stable or countryside. And, I would remind her that there’s lots of angels around her and your family, so she shouldn’t worry. In fact, it might be a good idea to teach her the Guardian Angel’s prayer if she doesn’t know it.
I’m unaware of any tradition in other Christian religions about the devil studying the star. In fact, since most Protestant religions are Bible Alone, I would doubt it was a doctrinal issue. The devil’s role was probably included in a family discussion or even a picture book store. Maybe you could call the mom of the little boy and ask.
I have a seven year old as well and you may want to bear in mind that the child may not be accurately conveying a belief held by his religious tradition, but something that he has sort of cobbled together in his limited understanding of the subject from things he has read and heard (limited because of simple lack of experience and maturity and the developmental level of a seven year old, not to imply some sort of learning disability). I remember when I was about that age that I was utterly convinced that souls had a physical shape that looked like big candy-cane striped shepherd’s crooks with big bows tied around them, bouncing around on clouds.
Now, that said, I seem to remember coming across some folks a while back who referred to the devil leading the Magi to Herod first in an attempt to harm Jesus, but I don’t know if that is considered mainline in any particular Christian tradition or an interpretation of the reason for the slaughter of the innocents. That might have something to do with it, perhaps.
I searched for an hour to see if there was anything online that mentioned anything about the idea that Satan was studying the star just out of curiosity. I didn’t find anything. I think your interpretation is probably right.
I remember when I was about that age that I was utterly convinced that souls had a physical shape that looked like big candy-cane striped shepherd’s crooks with big bows tied around them, bouncing around on clouds.
That’s wild! I wonder what gave you that idea. Maybe you first heard about souls during Christmas?