Some scattered comments of my own:
1.) For those who haven’t read the pdf yet, Michael Heiser is a Christian of some sort (who believes Jesus is God Incarnate, though he seems to take the plural references of God, including in the opening chapter of Genesis, as being a divine council of angels rather than distinct persons of a singular God. Maybe. Other things he says may indicate otherwise, and I haven’t read elsewhere on his website about “the divine council” yet, though he clearly thinks Satan was a rebel on the council.) That may not be altogether pertinent, but some people may want to know before reading the essay.
2.) Incidentally, I recently ran across a related point in Keener’s commentary on GosJohn, to the effect that in Eastern religions serpents were typically regarded as being brassy in color. This was in his remarks on John 3:13-14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may have eternal life.” (NASB 1977). This is in regard to the bronze/brass serpent incident of Numbers 21:9. (I was a little surprised Dr. Heiser didn’t mention that.)
3.) Actually, there is plenty of evidence that serpents used to have limbs (something that would have been difficult for ancient people to have known about beforehand, except as a lucky guess); the more ‘primitive’ species (the boas and similar constrictors) still occasionally sprout a vestigal hind leg. One was found recently in China (if I recall correctly) hanging on a woman’s wall in her bedroom by its vestigal hind leg. (Not that I’m saying this has anything to do with the Eve story; that’s just how the incident happened. For readers with a high creepy-threshold, I found the article again. ) Moreover, the typical association of Satan in scripture is not to what we would think of as snakes, but to what we would think of as dragons. Were there ever giant legged reptiles of high intelligence which eventually became serpents somehow? Well… actually… yeah, a very large number of scientists currently think there were. Except the vast majority of them also think those creatures died out millions of years before mankind came along. (In some horrible cataclysm. Which managed not to kill off other reptiles. Like for example snakes. Somehow. Despite the surviving reptiles not seeming to be anywhere near as well-adapted for survival in changing ecological conditions as those other reptiles which died off. Details are kinda sketchy. Including, as it happens, metric tons of details throughout human history hinting strongly that at least some of those extinct large legged reptiles survived into relatively modern times and maybe even today.)
4.) Speaking of Job, God in that story was expecting the ‘satan’ in that story to be learning something from Job. The ‘satan’ (rather spitefully) wants to lead Job into rebellion against God instead of learning whatever it is he’s supposed to learn from “regarding” Job.
5.) And, oh, by the way, “Leviathan”, a sea dragon of some kind, shows up as a topic in the story of Job as well. Job and his friends are quite sure that Leviathan is only doomed to destruction by God as a rebel against God. God, on the other hand, talks about the taming of Leviathan (and Bahamut, another cosmic dragon entity, more ‘neutral’ in religious character), even making covenant with him.
6.) I’ve always thought it was interesting that the Nephilim are not entirely wiped out by the flood. Because they show up occasionally later (Goliath being the most famous example). Was one of the wives Nephilim, too? Did the rebel sons of God start over again later? (More likely the flood wasn’t quite as global as the story’s perspective understands it to be.)
7.) Later (post-Christian) rabbinic teaching sometimes gives the impression that the “evil impulse” in men (Christians would call it original sin) derives from the first human woman having been physically seduced by Satan. (The term in Hebrew is apparently similar.) Then again, they also have a tradition that the first human woman left the first human man (over a sexual argument no less) to become the consort of Satan and the mother of monsters, as well as a seducer herself (i.e. the Lilith legend).
8.) Judeo-Christian sometimes represent the tempting serpent in the garden as being half-woman. (Probably connected to the “lamia” in other religious traditions: a half-serpent sexually seductive creature usually hostile to humanity.)
9.) Of course, lots of folklore have traditions of dragonish creatures able to shift form to human, and even to breed with humans. (The dragons are not always evil, either, at least in some cultures.) Even more interestingly, a number of folklore traditions feature winged reptilian creatures going after the blood of a woman’s womb at night even when only acting like a feeding animal. (Even weirder: a few scattered folklores have a tradition of some kind of creature, often femaleish, which flies around with entrails behind it feeding on humans in various ways. In one case the creature looks female-human during the day, and separates at night to fly around and do this! Freaky… Then of course there are the sirines, harpies, eryines, furies…)
Some of these can be explained by known psycho-physical sexual pressures, combined with half-awake dream hallucinations etc., of course. But from any positively agnostic-ish folklorist’s perspective, it’s interesting to ponder just how far these things interconnect back with one another to entities we know used to exist (which artistically we have lots of evidence for continuing to exist in human history in various ways), the scientific theories for which are in fact a lot sketchier than that side of popular culture would usually have us believe.
10.) A very amusing Halloween entry from a cryptozoology site. (It has some topical relation to this thread, which will become apparent later. I thought of it a minute ago while free-associating some folklorist connections. )
11.) It should be noted that just because we haven’t officially identified flying animals of various sorts reported throughout history, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And if they exist, that doesn’t mean they’re actually shape-shifting (or otherwise demonic) spiritual entities. It doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent either, though. Nor that they couldn’t be borrowed for representing real spiritual entities in folklore art (due to similar behaviors). But, from an agnostic position, I like to keep my options open until and unless I have good reason to close them. Also, it’s just more fun to do so.