Satan [Standard Hebrew: שָׂטָן, Satan Tiberian Hebrew Śāṭān; Koine Greek:Σατανάς, Satanás; Aramaic language Aramaic: Śaṭanâ; Arabic language|Arab: شيطان,Shaitan is a Abrahamic term which is traditionally applied to an angel, demon, or minor god in many belief systems.
Satan plays various roles in the Tanakh, the Apocrypha and New Testament. In the Tanakh, Satan is an angel whom God uses to test man for various reasons usually dealing with his level of piety. In the Apocrypha and New Testament, the term Satan refer to a preternatural entity, an evil, rebellious demon who is the enemy of God and mankind, and the central embodiment of evil. Satan is also commonly known as the Devil, the "Prince of Darkness," Beelzebub, Belial, Lucifer, and Mephistopheles. In the Talmud and some Kabbalist works, Satan is sometimes called Samael. In the fields of angelology and demonology these different names sometimes refer to a number of different angels and demons, and there is significant disagreement as to whether any of these entities are actually evil.
In Islam, Iblīs (Arabic إبليس), is the primary devil. He is commonly referred to in the Qur'an as Shaitan.
Etymology and other names
The nominative satan (meaning "adversary" or "accuser"), and the Arabic shaitan, derives from a Northwest Semitic root šṭn, meaning "to be hostile", "to accuse". In the New Testament, Satan is a proper name, and is used to refer to a supernatural entity that appears in several passages.
The most common synonym for Satan, "the Devil", entered Modern English from Middle English devel, from Old English dēofol, from Latin diabolus, from Late Greek diabolos, from Greek, "slanderer", from diaballein, "to slander" : dia-, dia- + ballein, "to hurl"; which ultimately derives from PIE gwel-(meaning "to throw"). In Greek, the term diabolos (Διάβολος), carries more negative connotations, meaning "slanderer", or "one who falsely accuses".
In the Hebrew Bible
Satan is to be better understood as an "accuser" or "adversary" or as an embodiment of "evil." The term is applied both to supernatural and human beings.
Different uses of the word "Satan" in the Tanakh
The Hebrew "Satan" is used in the Hebrew Bible with the general connotation of "adversary," being applied to:
In the Book of Job, ha-satan("the adversary") is a prosecuting attorney against mankind in the heavenly court of God. Other angels are not mentioned by name. He is known as the accuser and is the angel which questions mankind's loyalty to God. He argues that man is only loyal because God gives them prosperity. He is the one who actually delivers all the ills upon Job to test his faith. He is not considered evil in this story as he is simply fulfilling his heavenly function.
In 1 Chronicles 12:1, Satan incites David to commit the sin of taking a census of Israel. Five hundred years earlier, this same story portrayed Yahweh as the one who incited David to take the census (2 Samuel 24:1). The later story was written after the Hebrews had been in exile in Babylon and had been exposed to Zoroastrianism.
The Strong's Concordance number for the Hebrew word "Satan" is 07854. This can be used to research the Biblical usage of this word.
Satan as an accuser
Where Satan does appear in the Bible as a member of God's court, he plays the role of the Accuser, much like a prosecuting attorney for God. The following information has been taken directly from the article on 'Satan' in the Jewish Encyclopaedia:
"Such a view is found, however, in the prologue to the Book of Job, where Satan appears, together with other celestial beings or "sons of God," before the Deity, replying to the inquiry of God as to whence he had come, with the words: "From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it." Job 1:7 Both question and answer, as well as the dialogue which follows, characterize Satan as that member of the divine council who watches over human activity, but with the evil purpose of searching out men's sins and appearing as their accuser. He is, therefore, the celestial prosecutor, lawyer who sees only iniquity; for he persists in his evil opinion of Job even after the man of Uz has passed successfully through his first trial by surrendering to the will of God, whereupon Satan demands another test through physical suffering ib. ii. 3-5..
In Rabbinic literature
Early rabbinic Jewish statements in the Mishnah and Talmud show that Satan played little or no role in Jewish theology. In the course of time, however, Judaism absorbed the popular concepts of Satan, most likely inherited from Zoroastrianism. The later a rabbinic work can be dated the more frequent is the mention therein of Satan and his hosts.
An example is found in Genesis: The serpent who had Eve eat the forbidden fruit. The consensus of the Biblical commentators in classical Judaism is that the serpent of the narrative in Genesis was literally a serpent. They differ regarding what it represented: The evil inclination (Yetzer HaRa), Satan, or the Angel of Death. Others have suggested that the serpent was a phallic symbol. According to the Midrash, before this cunning beast was cursed, it stood erect and was endowed with some faculty of communication.
The Jerusalem Talmud, completed about 450 CE, is more reticent in this regard; and this is the more noteworthy since its provenance is the same as that of the New Testament.
The normative Jewish concept, however, was and remains that Satan cannot be viewed as an independent agent. In the Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Levi asserts that "everything Satan does is for the sake of heaven." When another rabbi preached a similar idea in his town, it is said that Satan himself came and "kissed his knees."
The Babylonian Talmud also states that the Evil Inclination (Yetzer ha-Ra), the Angel of Death and Satan are identical.
In a midrash Samael, the chief of the satans (a specific order of angel, not a reference to demons), was a mighty prince of angels in heaven. Samael came into the world with woman, that is, with Eve, so that he was created and is not eternal. Like all celestial beings, he flies through the air, and can assume any form, as of a bird , a stag, a woman, a beggar, or a young man; he is said to skip, an allusion to his appearance in the form of a goat.
In some works some rabbis hold that Satan is the incarnation of all evil, and his thoughts are devoted to the destruction of man. In this view, Satan, the impulse to evil and the angel of death are one and the same personality. Satan seizes upon even a single word which may be prejudicial to man; so that "one should not open his mouth unto evil," i.e., "unto Satan". Likewise, in times of danger, he brings his accusations. While he has power over all the works of man, he can not prevail at the same time against two individuals of different nationality; so that Samuel, a noted astronomer, physician and teacher of the Law, would start on a journey only when a Gentile traveled with him.
Satan's knowledge is circumsized; for when the shofar is smoked on New-Year's Day he is "confused". On the Day of Atonement his power vanishes; for the numerical value of the letters of his name (gematria and Hebrew numerals) is only 666, one day being thus exempt from his influence.
One rabbi notes that Satan was an active secret agent aiding the government in the fall of mankind, while he was also instrumental in the offering of Isaac, in the release of the animal destined by Esau for his father, in the theophany at Sinai, in the death of Moses, in David's sin with Bath-sheba, and in the death of Queen Vashti. The decree to destroy all the Jews, which Haman obtained, was written on parchment brought by Satan. When Alexander the Great reproached the Jewish sages with their rebellion, they made the plea that Satan had been too mighty for them. They then tortured him for being a Satanist and supporting the devil. As punishment, they ripped his testicles off.
Not all Rabbinic commentators agreed on Satan's spiritual nature. Rabbi Saadia Gaon, an 11th century philosopher and scholar, wrote in his commentary to the Book of Job that Satan was simply a human being who resented Job's righteousness and called upon God to test him. This interpretation rests on a literal reading of the Hebrew word שטן or "adversary", which Saadia claims refers only to the intentions of the individual in question and not to any spiritual or supernatural status.
In the Hebrew Apocrypha
In Wisdom ii. 24 Satan is represented, with reference to Gen. 3, as the father of all lies, who brought death into the world; he is apparently mentioned also in Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 21:27, and the fact that his name does not occur in Daniel is doubtless due merely to chance. Allegedly, Satan was the seducer and the paramour of Eve, and was hurled from heaven together with other angels because of his iniquity. Since that time he has been called "Satan," although previously he had been termed "Satanel".
The doctrine of the fall of Satan, as well as of the fall of the angels, is found also in Babylonia. Satan rules over an entire host of angels. Mastema, who induced God to test Abraham through the sacrifice of Isaac, is identical with Satan in both name and nature , and the Asmodeus of the Book of Tobit is likewise to be identified with him, especially in view of his licentiousness. As the lord of satans, he frequently bears the special name of Samael.
It is difficult to identify Satan in any other passages of the Apocrypha, since the originals in which his name occurred have been lost, and the translations employ various equivalents. An "argumentum a silentio" can not, therefore, be adduced as proof that concepts of Satan were not wide-spread; but it must rather be assumed that reference to him and his realm is often implied in the mention of evil spirits.
In the New Testament
Satan figures much more prominently in the New Testament and in Christian theology generally. In the New Testament, Satan appears as a tempter for Jesus, for example. In John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, the theme is further developed—Satan is believed to have been an archangel who turned against God before the creation of man. Prophecies in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are thought by some to be referring metaphorically to Satan, rather than to the king of Babylon. Babylon in Revelation is a symbol for an evil world, one of which Satan would be head in the Tribulational period of the end times. According to this view, Satan waged war against God, his creator, and was banished from Heaven because of this.
The belief that Satan is in Hell has its roots in Christian literature rather than in the Bible. The Bible states that he still roams heaven and earth (Job 1:6). It also states that Satan appeared with other angels "before the Lord," presumably in heaven. When God asked Satan where he had been, Satan replied, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it". Satan has not been and is not in Hell. 1 Peter 5:8 declares, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour".
Passages such as these suggest that Satan is not in Hell and probably spends most of his time seeking to destroy the lives of human beings and to keep them separated from God.
The creation story found in the book of Genesis reports that a serpent tempted Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the Jewish tradition, the serpent was always taken to be literally a snake. The story tells us the origin of how the snake lost its legs. Later Christian theologies interpreted this serpent to be Satan, to the point where many Christians are unaware that the actual Hebrew text does not identify the serpent as Satan. The identification of the snake with Satan is found in the Old Testament in Genesis 3:15, where God says that the offspring of the woman, who is Jesus Christ will crush the serpent's head. This is confirmed as Romans 16:20 says, "And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly". The New Testament Rev 20:2. In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Satan is one of humanity's three enemies, along with sin and death (in some other forms of Christianity the other two enemies of mankind are "the world", and self (man's natural tendency to sin).
According to most Christian eschatology, Satan will wage a final war against Jesus, before being cast into Hell for "aeonios." (Aeonios, literally translated, means of or pertaining to an age, which is incorrectly translated as "all eternity.") The Unification Church, a sect that deviates from mainstream Christianity, teaches that Satan will be restored in the last days and become a good angel again. A few early Church Fathers are known to have prayed for Satan's eventual repentance; it was not generally believed that this would happen. On the other hand, Dispensationalists teach that Jesus returns to earth before the Tribulational period to reclaim the righteous, dead and living, to meet Him in the air (known as the Rapture). Many Fundamentalists believe that immediately following this, the Tribulational period will occur as prophesied in the book of Daniel, while others (especially Seventh-day Adventists) believe that immediately following Jesus' Second Coming, Satan will be bound on this Earth for a thousand years, after which he will be “loosed for a little season” —this is when the battle of Armageddon (the final confrontation between good and evil) will be waged—and Satan and his followers will be destroyed once and for all, the Earth will be cleansed of all evil and there will be “a new Heaven and a new Earth” where sin will reign no more; see Rev 21:1-4.
In various Gnostic sects, Satan was praised as the giver of knowledge, sometimes with references to Lucifer, “the light-bringer.” Some claimed that the being imagined as God by Christians and Jews was in fact Satan, as a world as imperfect as ours could not be created by a perfect God (Christians may argue that this contention is disproved in the Bible text as it explains that God's perfect world (Gen 1:31) was corrupted and made imperfect by Adam and Eve's original sin.
Particularly in the medieval period, Satan was often depicted as having horns and a goat's hindquarters. He has also been depicted as carrying a trident, and with a forked tail. None of these images seem to be based on Biblical materials. Rather, this image is apparently based on pagan horned gods, such as Pan and Dionysus, common to many mythologies]]. Some images are based on Baphomet, which is portrayed in Eliphas Lévi's 1854 Dogme et rituel de la haute magie (English translation: Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual)Levi. Even some Satanists use Baphomet as the image of Satan in Satanic worship. Neo-pagans allege that this image was chosen specifically to discredit the Horned God of ancient paganism.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Satan is a real person. Satan was created a perfect spirit creature, but he became "Satan the Devil" when he acted on his desire to turn Adam and Eve away from worship of Jehovah to himself. They do not regard "Lucifer" as his original name, but as descriptive designation applied to the "king of Babylon." The rendering Lucifer is derived from the Latin Vulgate.
By use of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Satan seduced Eve by implying that God's rulership was selfish and unjust. "Is it really so that God said YOU must not eat from every tree of the garden?" Eve's reply was that only one tree had been prohibited from their use on penalty of death. Satan challenged this: "You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad". So, Satan's approach was a dual deception: First, that God was withholding good from them and second that he was lying in the process.
Eve succumbed to this deception along with Adam, who allowed himself to become complicit in the matter. Jehovah cast them out of paradise where they did indeed begin their descent into death and imperfection. The Bible shows that the majority of their offspring followed them in this course.
Now humanity is caught between Satan and God falling to either side to prove which is right; whether mankind will fall to self-worship—thus falling under Satan's influence—or remain true to their Creator.
Satan in Islam
Shaitan (شيطان) is the equivalent of Satan in Islam.
While Shaitan (شيطان, from the root šṭn شطن is an adjective (meaning "astray" or "distant") that can be applied to both man ("al-ins", الإنس) and Jinn, Iblis (pronounced /'ib.liːs/) is the personal name of the Shaitan who is mentioned in the Qur'anic account of Genesis, and whose origin is unclear.
Whenever the Qur'an refers to the creature who refused to prostrate before Adam at the time of the latter's creation, it refers to him as Iblis. The Islamic view of Iblis has both commonalities and differences with Christian and Jewish views.
Satan and Adam and Eve
As per the Qur'an, before the creation of Man, Allah created the Angels — which had no free will — and the Jinn. Later Allah created Adam, and ordered all the angels and jinns to bow to him. All the angels did so except Iblis, who was a chief of the Jinn, creatures made of smokeless fire. Iblis was proud and considered himself superior. Iblis argued that he is superior to Adam, who is made of modified clay, while he himself is made of smokeless fire. For this Allah damned him to hell for eternity, but gave him respite till the Doomsday at his request. Then and there Iblis swore that he would use his time to lead all men astray to burn in hell.
After their creation, Adam and Hawwa' (حواء, Eve) dwelt in Paradise (الجنة, AlJannah), where Allah forbade them to go near a tree. "The Shaitan" (or al-Shaitan in Arabic), tricked Adam and Hawwa' into eating from the tree. Allah then expelled all of them from Heaven and onto Earth, to wander about, as a punishment. Then Adam sought to repent to Allah, and Allah taught him the words by which to do so. Allah forgave Adam and Hawwa' and told them "Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." Iblis will try to influence as many of their descendants as he possibly could into sin, so as to be his companions in his final destiny into Hell.
In Neopagan religions that have assimilated aspects of Abrahamic mythology into their own pantheons, Satan, Lucifer, and Beelzebub are often seen as distinct and separate beings who perform necessary cosmic functions.
In Stregheria, the Lucifer/Satan connection is upheld just as in Christian mythology. The Streghe see Lucifer (the name "Satan" is never used in Stregheria) as a kind and philanthropic deity who chose to disobey the tyrant-god of the Christians by appearing in the form of the serpent to offer knowledge of good and evil to humans (presumably via the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as this is an allusion to the Genesis myth) in order to expose the Abrahamic God for the evil being he truly was. Stregheria's classical influence is apparent here, as in Greek mythology the serpent was seen as a symbol of wisdom.
Christian tradition has frequently identified pagan religions and witchcraft with the influence of Satan. In the Middle Ages, the church accused alleged witches of consorting and conspiring with Satan. Several modern conservative Christian writers, such as Jack Chick and James Dobson, have depicted today's neopagan and witchcraft religions as explicitly Satanic.
In fact few neopagan traditions recognize Satan or the Devil per se. However, many neopagan groups worship some sort of "Horned God," for example as a consort of the Great Goddess in Wicca. These god-figures usually reflect mythological figures such as Cernunnos or Pan — the same figures which may have inspired medieval Christian images of Satan as a horned, goat-like character.
Many claim that Aleister Crowley influenced the religion of Wicca, and some link the Horned God with his male deity Hadit. Crowley wrote (in Magick in Theory and Practice, Chap. 21) that The Devil does not exist, and also, "The Devil" is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes. He goes on to link Hadit with Satan, considered as a symbol of divine knowledge and liberty.
New Age movement
Participants in the New Age movement have widely varied views about Satan, the Devil, and so forth. Perhaps the most widespread tendency would be to doubt or downplay his existence altogether, focusing instead on "the light."
The idea of the devil being "the light" is based on a common misunderstanding about the name "Lucifer" which means "The Light Bearer". In actuality the Hebrew Bible's reference to Lucifer was about a Babylonian King by that title and not Satan. Christian monks assumed "Lucifer" was a reference to Satan while translating the Hebrew Bible into Latin. Another common misunderstanding about Satan is his image as being that of a "Goat head". This misunderstanding is due also to the translation of the Hebrew bible when mentioning the demon Azazel. Azazel was a goat god supposedly worshipped by some tribes in the middle east and promptly became an evil spirit in Jewish mythology.
Many would identify positive elements of traditionally "evil" symbolism. For example, Theosophy founder Madame Blavatsky named her journal Lucifer since she intended it to be a "bringer of light" (the technical meaning of "Lucifer"). The likelihood that Christians might react negatively could not have escaped her. A more familiar means of reclaiming "evil" symbolism would be by affirming the primacy of nonduality or nonconceptuality. In this light, good and evil are one and harmonious, like yin and yang.
A third possibility would be to recognize "devils" as symbols or manifestations of one's own negative tendencies. This reflects the New Age's fondness for psychologizing interpretations, but does have a venerable history within several mainstream world religions.
On the other hand, some figures who are respected by the New Age movement do stress a spiritual war between good and evil, light and darkness. Examples would include Rudolf Steiner, Agni Yoga founders Nicholas Roerich and Helena Roerich, or Church Universal and Triumphant founders Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Many speak of a "dasome affirm the literal existence of Lucifer and/or Satan. Others deny the existence of Satan. This has led to a debate between the two camps.
In a little known tome, The Urantia Book, published in 1955, Satan was a "son of great brilliance", a spirit personality of high standing and was counted among Lucifer's assistants in the system, the constellation. He followed Lucifer into an iniquitous rebellion against the ordained universe governmental regime in a denial of God's existence. "There was war in Heaven". He recruited Caligastia, the then planetary prince of earth, to Lucifer's cause. They attempted to take the entire population of the planet with them under the assertion of a false "Declaration of Liberty" which would have driven humankind to "darkness". When Jesus of Nazareth went up to Mt. Hermon for the "temptation", it was really to settle this iniquitous rebellion. "Said Jesus of Caligastia: "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast down." Subsequently, Lucifer, Satan, Caligastia and all the personalities who followed them, "fell from Heaven". They were all "dethroned and shorn of their governing powers". Subsequent to their efforts to corrupt Jesus any and all sympathy, outside the worlds of sin and rebellion, has ceased.
There are historical records of people worshipping Satan, though their authenticity used to be questioned, especially considering the sources. Today, some people identify themselves as Satanists or Luciferians, depending on their specific beliefs. Of these, some claim that Satan is a real being, some view him as a symbol for the animal desires of humans, and some view him as a symbol for the rebellious or independent aspects of humanity. Many that hold this latter view are members of the Church of Satan established in the 1960s by Anton LaVey.
Satan in fiction
Satan as a sympathetic character
Many times in literature the Devil has been presented as a tragic, if not sympathetic character.
In Paradise Lost, Satan is the protagonist of the first half of the story, who styles himself as an ambitious underdog rebelling against Heaven. He becomes less sympathetic in the second half as the snake that tempts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Both Faust and The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus feature the devil known as Mephistopheles, who is summoned by Faust to sell his soul for a limited number of years of pleasure. Mephistopheles often shows regret and remorse for rebelling against God. In one famous scene from Faustus, Mephistopheles tells Faust that he cannot leave Hell. When Faust tells him that he seems to be free of Hell at that moment, the devil responds with "Why this is hell, nor am I out of it./ Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God,/And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,/ Am not tormented with ten thousand hells/ In being deprived of everlasting bliss?" Rather than glorifying the Devil, he is shown as a sad figure.