Devil in Christianity
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In mainstream Christianity, the Devil is a fallen angel who rebelled against God. The Devil is often identified as the serpent in the Garden of Eden, whose persuasions led to the two corresponding Christian doctrines: the Original Sin and its cure, the Redemption of Jesus Christ. He is also identified as the accuser of Job, the tempter of the Gospels, Leviathan and the dragon in the Book of Revelation.
- 1 Christian teachings
- 2 Sources of Christian teaching
- 2.1 Old Testament
- 2.2 New Testament
- 2.3 Extra-Biblical material
- 3 History of Christian teaching
- 4 Modern Christian teaching by church
- 5 Characteristics
- 6 Theological disputes
- 7 See also
- 8 References
In Christianity, the title Satan (Hebrew: הַשָּׂטָן ha-Satan), "the opposer", is a title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Jewish Bible. "Satan" later became the name of the personification of evil. Christian tradition and theology changed "Satan" from an accuser appointed by God to test men's faith to God's godlike fallen opponent: "the Devil", "Shaitan" in Arabic (the term used by Arab Christians and Muslims).
Traditionally, Christians have understood the Devil to be the author of lies and promoter of evil. However, the Devil can go no further than the word of Christ the Logos allows, resulting in the problem of evil.
Liberal Christianity often views the devil metaphorically. This is true of some Conservative Christian groups too, such as the Christadelphians and the Church of the Blessed Hope. Much of the popular lore of the Devil is not biblical; instead, it is a post-medieval Christian reading of the scriptures influenced by medieval and pre-medieval Christian popular mythology.
Sources of Christian teaching
Christian teachings about the Devil in the Old Testament include these passages:
The Serpent (Genesis 3)
In the view of many Christians, the devil's first appearance in the Old Testament is as the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The serpent tempts Adam and Eve into eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which God had forbidden them to eat, thus causing their expulsion from the Garden and indirectly causing sin to enter the world. In God's rebuke to the serpent, he tells it "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:14-15)
Christian scriptures are often interpreted to identify the serpent with the Devil. The deuterocanonical Book of Wisdom says, "But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world and they who are in his possession experience it." (Wisdom 2:24) Satan is implicitly identified, in the New Testament, with the serpent in Eden, in Revelation 12:9: "This great dragon — the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world — was thrown down to the earth with all his angels."
Job's adversary (Job 1)
Christian teaching about the Satan (Hebrew שָׂטָן, Adversary), to whom God proposes his servant Job is that he appears in the heavenly court to challenge Job, with God's permission. This is one of two Old Testament passages, along with Zechariah 3, where Hebrew ha-Satan (the Adversary) becomes Greek ho diabolos (the Slanderer) in the Greek Septuagint used by the early Christian church.
David's satan (2 Sam 24. & 1 Chron. 21)
Christian teaching about the involvement of Satan in David's census (a practice explained in Exodus 30:11–16), varies, just as the pre-exilic account of 2 Samuel and the later account of 1 Chronicles present differing perspectives:
- 2 Samuel 24. 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah"
- 1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.
Zechariah's vision of recently deceased Joshua the High Priest depicts a dispute in the heavenly throne room between Satan and the Angel of the Lord Zechariah 3:1. Goulder (1998) views the vision as related to opposition from Sanballat the Horonite.
Azazel (Leviticus 16)
Some[who?] see the Scapegoat (Hebrew Azazel) : Leviticus 16:8 "And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat (NIV) / for Azazel (ESV)." Also, Leviticus 16:10 Leviticus 16:26 as relating to Satan.
Isaiah's Lucifer (Isaiah 14)
Since the time of Origen and Jerome some Christian concepts of the devil have included the Morning Star in Isaiah 14:12, which is translated Lucifer "Light Bringer" in the Latin Vulgate, and directly from Latin into the KJV as a name "Lucifer"
Cherub in Eden (Ezekiel 28)
New Testament references include:
- The Devil - (Greek ho diabolos) : Following the use in Job and Zechariah in the Septuagint this title, "the Accuser", is ascribed to Satan 32 times in the New Testament. The three other uses of the word are for humans - Judas, and gossips.(Revelation 12:9).
- Satan - (Greek ho satanas): Luke 10:18 "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." See also Matthew 4:10 Matthew 12:26 Mark 4:15 Luke 22:31 Acts 26:18 1Corinthians 5:5 2Corinthians 11:14 1Thessalonians 2:18 1Timothy 5:15 Revelation 3:9 Revelation 20:2
- Beelzebub - (Greek Beelzeboul) : In Matthew 10:25, Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22, and openly in Luke 11:18-19 there is an implied connection between Satan and Beelzebub (originally a Semitic deity called Baal, and referred to as Baal-zebul, meaning lord of princes). Beelzebub (lit. Lord of the Flies) has now come to be analogous to Satan.
- The Wicked One - (Greek ho poneros) : Matthew 13:19--"Then cometh the wicked one." Matthew 6:13, 1 John 5:19. This title suggests that Satan is one who is wicked himself. Abrahamic religions generally regarded sin as a physical manifestation of opposition to God, and therefore evil; dissent only comes from the topic of 'where does sin come from?'
- Prince of this World - (Greek ho Archōn tou kosmou toutou, Latin Princeps Huius Mundi) : in John 12:31 and John 14:30.
- The Tempter - (Greek ho peirazōn) : Matthew 4:3--"And when the tempter came to him." Also, 1Thessalonians 3:5
- Liar and father of lies - (Greek psěustēs) : John 8:44--"When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
- Belial - (Greek Belial) : in 2 Corinthians 6:15 "What agreement does Christ have with Belial?" may be a reference to the Devil, or to eating idol meats. In the Old Testament, rebellious people and nonbelievers are sometimes called 'sons of Belial'. See also Deuteronomy 13:13 Judges 20:13 1Samuel 2:12 2Samuel 23:6 1Kings 21:10 2Chronicles 13:7
- The god of this world in 2 Corinthians 4:4.
- The prince of the power of the air in Ephesians 2:2.
- Your adversary - (Greek antidikos) : in 1 Peter 5:8--"Your adversary the devil." In the Christian worldview, Satan is the adversary of both God and the believers.
- The Dragon - (Greek ho drakōn) : in 2 Revelation 20:2
- The Ancient Serpent - (Greek ho ophis ho archaios) : also in 2 Revelation 20:2
The Devil figures much more prominently in the New Testament and in Christian theology than in the Old Testament and Judaism. The New Testament records numerous accounts of the Devil working against God and his plan. The Temptation of Christ features the Devil, and is described in all three synoptic gospels, (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13), although in Mark's gospel he is called Satan. In all three synoptic gospels, (Matthew 9:22-29, Mark 3:22-30, and Luke 11:14-20), Jesus' critics accuse him of gaining his power to cast out demons from Beelzebub, the chief demon (often identified with Satan in mainstream Christendom). In response, Jesus says that a house divided against itself will fall, so, logically speaking, why would the Devil allow one to defeat the Devil's works with his own power?
There are numerous incidences of demonic possession in the New Testament. Satan himself is said to have entered Judas Iscariot before Judas's betrayal. (Luke 22:3) Jesus encounters those who are possessed and casts out the evil spirit(s). A person may have one demon or multiple demons inhabiting their body. Jesus encountered a man filled with numerous demons in Mark 5:1-20.
Acts and epistles
According to most Christian eschatology, Satan will wage a final war against Jesus, before being cast into Hell for "aeonios." 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.
History of Christian teaching
In various Gnostic sects, the serpent of Eden was praised as the giver of knowledge, sometimes with references to Lucifer, “the light-bringer,” being created by the goddess Sophia. The serpent is presented as an antinomian figure rebelling against the tyranny of the Archons; in the Nag Hammadi texts, he is even called "the Beast". However, this being is never explicitly referred to as Satan. Like their Cathar ideological descendants, they used the terms "devil" and "demon" to refer to the Judeo-Christian God, whom they called Yaldabaoth.
Particularly in the medieval period, Satan was often shown as having horns and a goat's hindquarters (though occasionally with the legs of a chicken or a mule), and with a tail. He was also depicted as carrying a pitchfork, the implement used in Hell to torment the damned, or a trident, deriving from the regalia of the sea-god Poseidon. Occasionally more imaginative depictions were illustrated: Sometimes the Devil was depicted as having faces all of over his body, as in the painting of a Deal with the Devil. Depictions of the Devil covered in boils and scars, animal-like hair, and monstrous deformities were also common. None of these images seem to be based on biblical materials, as Satan's physical appearance is never described in the Bible or any other religious text. Rather, this image is apparently based on pagan Horned Gods, such as Pan, Cernunnos, Molek, Selene and Dionysus, common to many pagan religions. Pan in particular looks very much like the images of the medieval Satan. These images later became the basis for Baphomet, which is portrayed in Eliphas Lévi's 1854 Dogme et rituel de la haute magie (English translation Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual). Even some Satanists use Baphomet as the image of Satan in Satanic worship. It has been alleged that this image was chosen specifically to discredit the Horned God.
What is known of the Cathars largely comes in what is preserved by the critics in the Catholic Church which later destroyed them in the Albigensian Crusade. Alain de Lille, c.1195, accused the Cathars of believing in two gods - one of light, one of darkness. Durand de Huesca, responding to a Cathar tract c.1220 indicates that they regarded the physical world as the creation of Satan. A former Italian Cathar turned Dominican, Sacchoni in 1250 testified to the Inquisition that his former co-religionists believed that the devil made the world and everything in it.
Calvin taught the traditional view of the devil as a fallen angel. Calvin repeats the simile of Saint Augustine: "Man is like a horse, with either God or the devil as rider." In interrogation of Servetus who had said that all creation was part of God, Calvin asked what of the devil? Servetus responded "all things are a part and portion of God".
Anabaptists and Dissenters
David Joris was the first of the Anabaptists to venture that the devil was only an allegory (c.1540), his view found a small but persistent following in the Netherlands. The view was transmitted to England and Joris's booklet was reprinted anonymously in English in 1616, prefiguring a spate of non-literal devil interpretations in the 1640s-1660s: Mede, Bauthumley, Hobbes, Muggleton and the private writings of Isaac Newton. In Germany such ideas surfaced later, c.1700, among writers such as Balthasar Bekker and Christian Thomasius.
However the above views remained very much a minority. Daniel Defoe in his The Political History of the Devil (1726) describes such views as a form of "practical atheism". Defoe wrote "that to believe the existence of a God is a debt to nature, and to believe the existence of the Devil is a like debt to reason".
Rudolf Bultmann and modernists
Against this come the works of writers like Jeffrey Burton Russell, a believer in a literal personal fallen being of some kind. In Lucifer, the Devil in the Middle Ages, the third volume of his five volume history of the devil, Russell argues that such theologians [as Bultmann, unnamed] are missing that the devil is part and parcel of the New Testament from its origins.
Modern Christian teaching by church
Roman Catholic views
A number of prayers and practices against the Devil exist within the Roman Catholic tradition. The Lord's Prayer includes a petition for being delivered from Evil, but a number of other specific prayers also exist.
The Prayer to Saint Michael specifically asks for Catholics to be defended "against the wickedness and snares of the devil." Given that some of the Our Lady of Fatima messages have been linked by the Holy See to the "end times", some Catholic authors have concluded that the angel referred to within the Fatima messages is St. Michael the Archangel who defeats the Devil in the War in Heaven. Author Timothy Robertson takes the position that the Consecration of Russia was a step in the eventual defeat of Satan by the Archangel Michael.
The process of exorcism is used within the Catholic Church against the Devil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: "Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing".
"The battle against the devil, which is the principal task of Saint Michael the archangel, is still being fought today, because the devil is still alive and active in the world. The evil that surrounds us today, the disorders that plague our society, man's inconsistency and brokenness, are not only the results of original sin, but also the result of Satan's pervasive and dark action."
Pope Paul VI expressed concern about the influence of the Devil and in 1972 stated that: "Satan's smoke has made its way into the Temple of God through some crack". However, Pope John Paul II viewed the defeat of Satan as inevitable.
Father Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, warned about ignoring Satan, saying, "Whoever denies Satan also denies sin and no longer understands the actions of Christ". He also said that Satan is active in such current media as the Harry Potter books and films.
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 (or the flesh), which is to be taken as man's natural tendency to sin).
Evangelicals agree with the Protestant orthodox of theology that Satan is a real, created being given entirely over to evil and that evil is whatever opposes God or is not willed by God. Evangelicals emphasize the power and involvement of Satan in history in varying degrees; some virtually ignore Satan and others revel in speculation about spiritual warfare against that personal power of darkness 
Unitarians and Christadelphians
Some Christian groups and individuals view the devil in Christianity figuratively. They see the devil in the Bible as representing human sin and temptation, and any human system in opposition to God. Early Bible fundamentalist Unitarians and Dissenters like Lardner, Mead, Farmer, Ashdowne and Simpson, and Epps taught that the miraculous healings of the Bible were real, but that the devil was an allegory, and demons just the medical language of the day. Such views today are taught today by Christadelphians  and the Church of the Blessed Hope.
In Mormonism, the devil is a real being, a literal spirit son of God who once had angelic authority, but rebelled and fell prior to the creation of the Earth in a premortal life. At that time, he persuaded a third part of the spirit children of God to rebel with him. This was in opposition to the plan of salvation championed by Jehovah (Jesus Christ). Now the devil tries to persuade mankind into doing evil. Because they have no physical bodies, they can and do attempt to possess the bodies of mortal beings. His goal is to make mankind as miserable as he is. Mankind can overcome this through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the Gospel.
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Teachings about the Devil vary, depending on the local folklore. Still, the characteristics present in the Bible are present in most depictions.
According to the gospels of Matthew (chapter 4) and Luke (chapter 4), the Devil tempted Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. After Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, the Devil approached Jesus with offers of stones turned to bread, rulership over the kingdoms of the Earth (but with subservience to the Devil himself), and spectacular protection from physical harm. Satan uses the Scripture of the Old Testament to solidify his arguments. This would indicate Satan's full knowledge of all of Scripture and a use of that knowledge to tempt and deceive man (Mat 4). Jesus refused all three temptations, rebuking Satan with his own knowledge of Scripture (Mat 4).
Christianity holds several different views on Christ's role in defeating Satan. Some emphasize Christ's death and resurrection as sealing Satan's fate, so that the Devil is already defeated though not banished. Others emphasize the Devil's final judgment when Christ returns, at which time the terror and deceit of Satan will have no more effect on the world. This is because mankind will face final judgment and the earth will be purged or cleansed with fire. Satan will be bound to the lake of fire (Rev 20) with the Beast, the false prophet and all those whose names are not in the Book of Life. There will no longer be any way for Satan to have an impact on mankind. Sealed in the Lake Of Fire, he will have his own pain and misery like those who had on earth.
The Devil and his demons are portrayed as able to possess and control humans. The Roman Catholic Church occasionally performs exorcisms, usually only after medical and psychological evaluations have taken place to rule out a mental or physical ailment.
The Devil has been described as granting spells and magic powers to sorcerers and witches. In Acts of the Apostles 16:16 Saint Paul meets 'a slave girl who had an evil spirit that enabled her to predict the future'. He performs an exorcism using the name of Jesus Christ.
Christian tradition differs from that of Christian demonology in that Satan, Lucifer, Leviathan and Beelzebub all are names that refer to "the Devil", and Prince of this World, The Beast and Dragon (and rarely Serpent or The Old Serpent) used to be elliptic forms to refer to him. The Enemy, The Evil One and The Tempter are other elliptic forms to name the Devil. Belial is held by many to be another name for the Devil. Christian demonology, in contrast, does not have several nicknames for Satan.
It should be noted that the name Mephistopheles is used by some people to refer to the Devil, but it is a mere folkloric custom, and has nothing to do with Christian demonology and Christian tradition. Prince of Darkness and Lord of Darkness are also folkloric names, although they tend to be incorporated to Christian tradition.
In English, the Devil has a number of epithets, including Old Scratch and Old Nick.
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. 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 going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it". 1 Peter 5:8 declares, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour". As demonstrated by Dante, Milton, and several other writings, the Devil is commonly thought to be in Hell.
Sinfulness of angels
"An angel or any other rational creature considered in his own nature, can sin; and to whatever creature it belongs not to sin, such creature has it as a gift of grace, and not from the condition of nature. The reason of this is, because sinning is nothing else than a deviation from that rectitude which an act ought to have; whether we speak of sin in nature, art, or morals. That act alone, the rule of which is the very virtue of the agent, can never fall short of rectitude. Were the craftsman's hand the rule itself engraving, he could not engrave the wood otherwise than rightly; but if the rightness of engraving be judged by another rule, then the engraving may be right or faulty."
- Devil in popular culture - includes references to Milton's Paradise Lost, Goethe's Faust, C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, etc.
- Originally, only the epithet of "the satan" ("the adversary") was used to denote the character in the Hebrew deity's court that later became known as "the Devil." (The term "satan" was also used to designate human enemies of the Hebrews that Yahweh raised against them.) The article was lost and this title became a proper name: Satan. There is no unambiguous reference to the Devil in the Torah, the Prophets, or the Writings.
- T. J. Wray, Gregory Mobley The birth of Satan pp.66-68
- M. D. Goulder The Psalms of the return (book V, Psalms 107-150) 1998 p197 "The vision of Joshua and the Accuser in Zechariah 3 seems to be a reflection of such a crisis."
- Jerome, "To Eustochium", Letter 22.4, To Eustochium
- (analogous to the Greek, Phosphorus) and is also used symbolically to mean the "Morning Star", (i.e. Venus), which held some significant meanings for Babylonians as mentioned in Isaiah 14:12.
- When the Bible was translated into Latin (the Vulgate), the name Lucifer appeared as a translation of "Morning Star", or the planet Venus, in Isaiah 14:12. Isaiah 14:1-23 is a passage concerned with the plight of Babylon, and its king is referred, in sarcastic and hyperbolic language to as "morning star, son of the dawn". This is because the Babylonian king was considered to be of godly status and of symbolic divine parentage (Bel and Ishtar, associated with the planet Venus). While this information is available to scholars today via translated Babylonian cuneiform text taken from clay tablets, it was not as readily available at the time of the Latin translation of the Bible. At some point the reference to "Lucifer" was interpreted as a reference to the moment Satan was thrown from Heaven. And despite the clarity of the chapter as a whole, the 12th verse continues to be put forth as proof that Lucifer was the name of Satan before the fall. Thus Lucifer became another name for Satan and has remained so, owing to popular tradition. The Hebrew Bible word for the Devil, which was later translated to "Lucifer" in English, is הילל (transliterated HYLL). Though this word, Heilel, has come to be translated as "morning-star" from the Septuagint's translation of the Scriptures, the letter ה in Hebrew often indicates singularity, much as the English "the," in which case the translation would be ה "the" ילל "yell," or "the wailing yell." Later, for unknown reasons, Christian demonologists appeared to designate "Satan", "Lucifer", and "Beelzebub" as different entities, each with a different rank in the demonic hierarchy. One hypothesis is that this might have been an attempt to establish a demonic trinity with the same person, akin to the Christian Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, but most demonologists do not carry this view.
- ὁ πονηρὸς
- ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου
- ὁ πειράζων
- Jessie Penn-Lewis's "War On The Saints" includes dates and recorded examples of demon possession in recent history.
- Aeonios, literally translated, means of or pertaining to an age, which is incorrectly translated as "all eternity."
- Kelly, Henry A. Satan: A Biography. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
- see 1 Thess 4:17
- a short time, see Rev 20:1-3
- Rev 21:1-4
- Davidson, Clifford (1992). Iconography of Hell. Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University. p. 25. ISBN 1-879288-02-8. "medieval devils' weapons...far exceed in variety the stereotypical pitchfork"
- Russell, Jeffrey Burton (1977). The Devil: perceptions of evil from antiquity to primitive Christianity. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. 254. ISBN 0-8014-9409-5.
- Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth. Second ed. With new translations of ancient texts by Herbert M. Howe. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998.
- Eliphas Lévi: The Man Behind Baphomet
- M. D. Costen The Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade p61
- Malcolm D. Lambert The Cathars p162
- Francis E. Peters The Monotheists: The peoples of God p175
- Roland H. Bainton Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther" p377
- Parker, Thomas Henry Louis Calvin: an introduction to his thought 1995 Page 56
- Bernard Cottret Calvin, a Biography
- '“Man is a Devil to himself: David Joris and the rise of a sceptical tradition towards the Devil in the Early Modern Netherlands, 1540–1600', Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis, 75(1995):1–30.
- Carus P. History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil
- Bultmann, R., Theology of the New Testament, II (trans. K. Grobel; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955
- Wink, W. Naming the Powers 1984
- Chapter 11 The Existence of the Devil.pp302-
- Gordon Geddes 2002, Christian Belief and Practice - The Roman Catholic Tradition Heinemann Publishers ISBN 0-435-30691-X page 57
- Burns and Oats, 2000, Catechism of the Catholic Church ISBN 978-0-86012-327-9 page 607
- Cardinal Ratzinger's Interview on Fatima
- Thomas W. Petrisk, 1998, The Fatima Prophecies, St. Andrews Press, ISBN 978-1-891903-30-4 page 4
- Thomas Petrisko 2001 Fatima's Third Secret Explained St. Andrews Press, ISBN 978-1-891903-26-7 page 79
- Timothy Robertson Fatima, Russia and Pope John Paul II ISBN page 118
- Vatican Catechism
- Ignatius Insight
- Michael Cuneo, 1999 The Smoke of Satan ISBN 0-8018-6265-5
- Vatican website: Christ's Victory Conquers Evil
- Catholic News
- Jam 4:4
- Rom 6:6
- Westminster handbook to evangelical theology, Roger E. Olson, p. 178
- 'Do you believe in a devil?' (CMPA)
- Doctrine and Covenants 76:24-29
- LDS Bible Dictionary - Devil
- see Lucifer, A Criminal Against Humanity
- Job 1:6-7
- Job 1:7