The Faust legend is a morality tale warning ambitious young men to reject the devil and all earthly temptations of power and desires of the flesh.
In German classic literature, a jaded scholar called Doctor Faust makes a pact with the devil, Mephistopheles, signed and sealed with his own blood. He agrees to exchange his soul for worldly pleasure, riches, and knowledge – but when the terms of the agreement expire he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in hell.
Who is Faust based on? The most likely prototype seems to be Dr. Johann Georg Faust (c. 1480-1540), a famous German alchemist and magician.
Why does Faust make this pact? He is a dissatisfied academic who yearns for something more.
How long is his rule on earth? Faust is granted 24 years – one for each hour of the day.
What does the magician do with his new powers? First, he seduces a beautiful maiden called Gretchen. Yet although he destroys her earthly life, she is granted a place in Heaven because of her innocence. Then he plays pranks on people, settles old scores, and meddles in the politics of his day. At one point he demands to see the most beautiful woman ever, and is granted a visit from Helen of Troy. And finally – having sated his lusts and tamed the natural world – he has a moment of utter contentment before the devil appears and rips his body to pieces.
In choosing instant gratification and pleasure, Doctor Faust rejects Christianity and turns away from God. He is a personification of Matthew’s warning: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (16:26-27)
Would you be tempted?
(Drawing: Public Domain)
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