The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.
Dualism in the Synoptics
The paucity of pre-Christian witness to the satanological terminology in the Synoptic temptation accounts, together with the absence from the Synoptics of established Second Temple terms for supernatural Satan figures (Satanael, Mastema, Belial, Shemihazah, Azâzêl, etc), gives reason to doubt the Synoptic writers held the cosmological dualistic views of their contemporaries. An examination of dualism in the Synoptics, within their Second Temple Period context, leads in a very different direction.
Identifying the Adversary
Matthew and Luke’s temptation accounts both consistently refer to Jesus’ adversary as ‘the devil’, whereas Mark’s account only refers to Jesus’ adversary once, as ‘Satan’ (Mark 1:13).
Literary Genre of the Wilderness Temptation
Despite its superficial appearance as a simple historical record, the Synoptic account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness¹ has often been interpreted as symbolic or parabolic of Jesus’ experiences, since the early Christian era.² The popularity of this interpretation waxed and waned throughout history; Origen understood the account as a dramatized parable,³ and although Aquinas opposed those who interpreted the temptations as visionary,⁴ the view was common among early Reformers, finding its way into the marginal commentary of early printed Bibles.⁵ Current scholarly commentary typically treats the wilderness temptation account as a visionary experience,⁶ symbolic description,⁷ or dramatization of events throughout Jesus’ ministry,⁸ and commentaries advise against reading the account as literally historical.⁹
Satan & Demons In the Apostolic Fathers
The “Apostolic Fathers” (a group of Christian texts written from the late first century to the early second century),¹ are recognized as unusual in their era for their paucity of references to demons, demon possession, exorcism, and illness caused by demons;² additionally, rejection of supernatural evil beliefs has also been noted in texts such as the Didache.³ The fact that a number of texts in the Apostolic fathers contain explicit reference to supernatural evil, typically a figure identified as Satan,⁴ makes it more remarkable that other texts in the same corpus do not contain any such references.
Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: Summary
The following list summarizes the lexical evidence for the Synoptics’ satanological terminology in Second Temple pre-Christian texts.
Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: The Evil One
The term ‘the evil one’ (ton ponērou), has no Second Temple pre-Christian witness as a reference to a supernatural evil being. It is found in one fifteenth century Ethiopian manuscript of 1 Enoch (manuscript A, 1 Enoch 69:15), but not the other two main recensions (manuscripts B and C).¹
Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: The Tempter
The term ‘the tempter’ (ho peirazwn), has no pre-Christian witness in the intertestamental or Qumran literature at all.
Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: Satan
Three terms are used to describe Christ’s adversary in the Synoptic temptation accounts; ‘satan’ (ho satanas in Mark 1:12, with the vocative satana without the definite article only in Matthew 4:10), ‘the tempter’ (ho peirazwn, only in Matthew 4:3), and ‘the devil’ (ho diabolos). Elsewhere in Matthew (and only Matthew), the term ‘the evil one’ (ho ponēros), may also be used (Matthew 5:37; 6:13; 13:19, 38), though this is debated in the literature.¹
Satanology of the Apostolic Fathers: The Didache
Scholarly consensus dates the Didache at the end of the first century.¹ Although the Didache shares a Jewish ‘Two Ways’ textual source with the Epistle of Barnabas² (represented in Qumran texts such as the ‘Community Rule’ or ‘Manual of Discipline’ 1QS, 4QSa-j, 5Q11, 5Q13), it has treated this source very differently to Barnabas. Whereas Barnabas adopted and amplified the supernatural evil found in the Two Ways text, the Didache has eliminated it. This is immediately apparent from a comparison of the opening of the Didache to its parallels in 1QS and Barnabas.
The Evil Inclination and Free Will
...[It] is necessary to say something about the evil inclination ( יצר הרע = yetzer hara) and the good inclination ( יצר טוב = yetzer hatov).¹ The term יצר (yetzer) the Hebrew Bible can mean “vessel” (Isaiah 29:16) or “that which is formed in the mind, imagination, purpose” (Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Deuteronomy 31:21; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 29:18; Isaiah 26:3). In Siriach 14:14 it means “natural inclination” in the specific sense of free will.² The idea of two inclinations is found in the Testament of Asher 1:3-9 [Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs], which speaks of the two inclinations (duo diaboulia).³ The stereotyped terms ( יצר הרע = yetzer hara) and ( יצר טוב = yetzer hatov) were Rabbinic, ( יצר הרע= yetzer hara) being older than ( יצר טוב = yetzer hatov), the latter first occurring most likely in Rabbi Jose the Galilaean (early second century).⁴ According to Tennant, the talmudic literature “insists on a man’s capacity to control his evil inclination, might as it is” and there is “no hint that his free-will is diminished in consequence of the sin of his first parents.”⁵ Further, the evil inclination, although implanted in Adam, is not a consequence of Adam’s sin.⁶ The evil inclination was the cause of Adam’s sin and in fact in some texts is personified.⁷ This evil inclination then can rule over everyone. It was, however, possible to resist the evil inclination through the Torah. So in Baba Batra 16a [Talmud] we read: “If God created the evil inclination, He also created the Torah as its antidote (lit. spices).” See also Sifre Deuteronomy 45:
The Origin of Sin
Sin began with Adam. Only a single commandment — a prohibition — was laid upon him, and he transgressed it. See how many deaths were the penalty for him and his descendants through all generations to the end of the world...¹ A late Midrash uses the consequence of Adam’s sin to illustrate that God himself cannot correct the evil men have done.
Vayishlach — The Task of the Yetzer Hara
In Parshas Vayishlach we read of Jacob’s nighttime struggle with a mysterious antagonist who attacked him and struggled with him until just before daybreak. When the “man” saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he dislocated Jacob’s hip joint. He then said to Jacob (Genesis 32:27), “Let me go for the dawn is rising.” Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man then told him that he would no longer be called Jacob but Israel, for he had become great before God and man. Jacob then asked for the man’s name but he refused to reveal it.
New Testament Satanology & Rabbinic Literature
Tom Farrar has written an article discussing the relevance of post-Christian rabbinic literature to the satanology of the New Testament and early Christianity. His article contains some useful information, but also contains some highly misleading statements.
The Temptation of Christ: A Ten Point Idiosyncratic Interpretation
Tom Farrar has written a ten point interpretation of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, aimed at supporting his personal satanology. The list is idiosyncratic in that it makes various arguments which are unique to Farrar, and which are contradicted or dismissed in the scholarly literature. This article lists and critiques each of Farrar’s points.
The Devil, His Origin and End
The word “devil” is used by some flippantly and frivolously, and the subject of the devil is regarded as one to excite laughter and derision. While there is some excuse for this because of the absurd theories set forth in the religious world, theories in which there is a strange mixture of the sublime with the ridiculous, yet the subject deserves and demands a most serious consideration; and it is this demand which renders it necessary for us to include the investigation of it in our dealing with the great problems of the world’s redemption.
Judas and His Satan
One of the most intriguing backstories that takes place in the days leading up to Jesus’ death can be found in the relationship between Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, and “Satan”:
Move Over, Freud: Real Jewish Psychology 101
There’s a myth that Sigmund Freud, the famous ‘father’ of modern psychology, was the first Jew who ever managed to start working out that human beings have a whole subconscious thing going on. Freud started speculating about ‘ego’ and ‘id’ and a bunch of other now discredited theories about what was causing emotional and mental issues in people, and voila, he was lauded for the better part of a century for his amazing (yet completely unproven…) insights into the human character.
Satanas in the Septuagint
The word “Satan” (Σατανᾶς, Satanás) in Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 21:27 (it occurs nowhere else in the Apocrypha) denotes one’s own wicked heart, as the parallelism shows:
The lexica agree on the point that the noun שָׂטָן in general means “adversary”, or “opponent.”⁶ The [word] can have this role in a number of arenas, including jurisprudence, military, and political. The lexica begin to diverge slightly only on the issue of whether or not שָׂטָן can be used as a proper name.
English Etymology of Satan
Satan (n.) Old English Satan, from Late Latin Satan (in Vulgate in Old Testament only), from Greek Satanas, from Hebrew satan “adversary, one who plots against another,” from satan “to show enmity to, oppose, plot against,” from root s-t-n “one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as an adversary.”
Satan in the Dead Sea Scrolls
As a term, śātān means “accuser” or “one who brings charges against.” In the Dead Sea Scrolls and related literature, it occurs five times. In three, perhaps four of these instances, the word is preceded by a term such as “all,” “any” (after a negative), or “no” (1QHa XXII [frag. 4], 6; XXIV [frag. 45], 3; 1 Q28b I, 8; 4Q50 41-2 IV, 12) and therefore simply refers to someone—anyone, whether angelic or human—who engages in destructive activity. The word also occurs twice in the Jubilees, found among fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls and composed during the middle of the second century BCE. Jubilees states that at the end of days “there will be neither satan nor any evil who [or better: “which”] will destroy” (23:29). Here Satan refers to someone—anyone—who destroys by cutting a human being’s life short. In Jubilees 10:11, however, the word “satan” describes the activity of a figure called Mastema, whose power over a host of evil spirits is considered the cause of human suffering and idolatry afrer the time of the flood.
Diabolos, or the New Testament Devil
“A bishop must be… not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of those which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:6, 7)
A History of the Devil and Satan in Old Testament Times
To begin at the beginning. The words Satan, Devil, demon, Lucifer, fallen angel, etc. simply don’t occur in the whole of the book of Genesis. Throughout the Old Testament, the one and only God is presented as all powerful, without equal and in no competition with any other cosmic force. The Old Testament makes it clear that any ‘adversary’ to God’s people was ultimately under the control of God Himself. All Angels are spoken of as being righteous and the servants of God, even “Angels of evil/disaster”, who may bring destruction upon sinners, are still God’s Angels carrying out His will and judgments. God’s people Israel initially held this view; but as has so often happened to God’s people, they mixed their true beliefs with those of the world around them. Earlier Judaism spoke of the human tendency to evil [yetser ha-ra] and the tendency to good [yetser ha-tob]. This tendency to evil they understood as being at times personified or symbolized by “the devil”: “Satan and the yetser ha-ra are one”¹. But earlier Judaism rejected the idea that angels had rebelled, and they specifically rejected the idea that the serpent in Genesis was Satan. At that time, “the Jewish devil was little more than an allegory of the evil inclination among humans”². It is noted by the editor of Dent’s edition of the Talmud that neither the Talmud nor the Midrash (the Jewish interpretations of the Law of Moses) even mention Satan as being a fallen angel.³ Even in the Zohar—a second century A.D. Jewish book that became the basis of the Kabbalah—the sitra ahra, the “dark side” is presented as an aspect of God, not independent of Him, which operates on earth as a result of human sin. The Zohar uses the ideas of the Shekhinta b’galuta [God’s glory in exile] and sitra ahra in order to speak of God’s struggle with evil and to explain its very existence. The Zohar doesn’t teach dualism, a universe split between God and Satan, but rather teaches that the struggle between good and evil occurs within God’s own self.
An Angel of Light
2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works”
Devil and Satan Bound
Revelation 20:2, 7 & 10: “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years”. “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison”. “And the Devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever”.
Israel In Exile: The Babylonian/Persian Influence on Good and Evil
Of especially significant influence upon Judaism were the Persian views of Zoroastrianism. This was a philosophy which began in Persia about 600 B.C., and was growing in popularity when Judah went to Babylon/Persia in captivity. This philosophy posited that there was a good god of light (Mazda) and an evil god of darkness (Ahriman). The well known passage in Isaiah 45:5-7 is a clear warning to the Jews in captivity not to buy into this—Israel’s God alone made the light and the darkness, the good and the “evil”. He alone had the power to give “the treasures of darkness” to a man (Isaiah 45:3), even though such “treasures” were thought to be under the control of the supposed ‘Lord of darkness’. But Isaiah is in fact full of other allusions to Zoroastrian ideas, seeking to teach Judah the true position on these things. Thus it was taught that “Saviours will come from the seed of Zoroaster, and in the end, the great Saviour”, who would be born of a virgin, resurrect the dead and give immortality¹. These ideas are picked up in Isaiah 9:6 and applied prophetically to the ultimate Saviour, Jesus—as if to warn the Jews not to accept the prevalent Persian ideas in this area. Indeed, it appears that [under Divine inspiration] much of the Hebrew Bible was rewritten in Babylon, in order to deconstruct the ideas which Israel were meeting in Babylon². Hence we find Persian-era phrases in books like Job, which on one level were clearly very old Hebrew writings, and yet have been edited under a Persian-era hand. The Jews were also influenced by the Zoroastrian idea that somehow God Himself would never cause evil in our lives—and therefore, God is to be seen as somehow distanced from all good or evil actions, as these are under the control of the good and evil gods. Zephaniah 1:12 warns against this Persian view: “I will search Jerusalem with lamps; and I will punish the men that are settled on their lees, that say in their heart, Jehovah will not do good, neither will he do evil”. The fact is, God personally is passionately involved with this world and with our lives; and so it is He who brings about the dark and the light, good and evil.
Jesus in the Wilderness: A Study in the Language and Nature of Temptation
It may well be argued that the language of the wilderness temptations implies there was physical movement going on, e.g. the tempter came to Jesus and led Him away. We now consider how such language is relevant to our evil desires inside our mind.
The Orthodox Devil’s Time Line: It Doesn’t Add Up
We have explained at length in earlier chapters that ‘Satan’ and ‘Devil’ in the Bible are renderings of Hebrew and Greek words which basically mean ‘adversary’, ‘false accuser’, ‘opponent’. They can refer to persons, good or bad, who play that role. But sometimes in the New Testament, they are used more metaphorically to refer to sin, in various forms, and to systems which oppose the Gospel. Sin must be manifested through something; one cannot have abstract diabolism, it must always be manifested in a person or system of things. It is for this reason that the Devil is personified; because sin (the Devil) cannot exist in the abstract, it can only be found within the human heart and person.
Resist the Devil
James 4:7 — “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you”.
Untranslated: Satan and the Devil
Sometimes the original words of the Bible text are left untranslated (“Mammon”, in Matthew 6:24, is an Aramaic example of this). ‘Satan’ is an untranslated Hebrew word which means ‘adversary’, while ‘Devil’ is a translation of the Greek word ‘diabolos’, meaning a liar, an enemy or false accuser. ‘Satan’ has been transferred from the Hebrew untranslated, just like ‘Sabaoth’ (James 5:4), ‘Armageddon’ (Revelation 16:16) and ‘Hallelujah’ (Revelation 19:1-6). If we are to believe that Satan and the Devil are some being outside of us which is responsible for sin, then whenever we come across these words in the Bible, we have to make them refer to this evil person. The Biblical usage of these words shows that they can be used as ordinary nouns, describing ordinary people. This fact makes it impossible to reason that the words Devil and Satan as used in the Bible do in themselves refer to a great wicked person or being outside of us.
Satan Entered Judas
Luke 22:3 — “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve”.
Satan in the Middle Ages
As Christianity met with Paganism over the centuries, it picked up some of the local paganic ideas. J.B. Russell summarizes the situation in this period: “The Christian concept of the Devil was influenced by folklore elements, some from the older, Mediterranean cultures and others from the Celtic, Teutonic and Slavic religions of the north. Pagan ideas penetrated Christianity while Christian ideas penetrated paganism”¹. Thus the Celtic god of the underworld, Cernunnos, “the horned god”, was easily assimilated into Christianity, just as the pagan feast of December 25th was adopted as ‘Christmas’. The horned gods of the Scandinavians were easily compared to the Devil—and hence the idea that the Devil has horns became more popular in Christian art [although there is absolutely no Biblical association of the Devil with horns]. Hilda Davidson carefully researched Scandinavian views of the Devil figure and showed at great length how these ideas were accommodated into Christianity—rather that the radical call of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God being presented as it is, a fundamentally different worldview². Once the Devil was associated with Pan, he became presented as having hooves, goat hair and a large nose³. No longer was Satan pictured with long dark hair, but rather spikey hair like the Northern European gods of evil. Thus ‘converts’ to Christianity were allowed to keep some of their existing ideas, and these soon became part of the core fabric of popular ‘Christianity’. For example, the northern European fear of demons entering a person led them to cover their mouths when they yawned, and to fear sneezing as the intake of air could allow demons to rush in to the person. Christianity adopted these practices, adding the phrase “God bless you” whenever someone sneezed, in an attempt to Christianize the practice.
Satan in the Thought of Augustine
The great adversary/Satan to the early Christians was the Roman and Jewish systems. The Jewish system passed away in A.D. 70, and Roman opposition ceased once the empire converted to Christianity under Constantine. Visible persecution of Christians ceased, for the most part. The lack of visible adversaries perhaps encouraged mainstream Christianity to conclude that the adversary/Satan was therefore invisible and cosmic. It was against this background that Augustine came onto the scene.
Satan in the Thought of Clement and Origen
One of the most gaping problems for those who believe in a personal Devil relates to what actually happened when Christ died. Hebrews 2:14 clearly states that in His death, Christ “destroyed him that has the power of death, that is the devil”. As I’ll explain later, I find the only meaningful and Biblically consistent approach here is to understand that the Devil is used here as a personification for sin—for it is sin which brings death (Romans 6:23). The entire curse on earth as a result of human sin is described in Genesis as being brought by God and not by any personal Satan. Sin and death are very frequently connected together in the Bible (Romans 5:12, 21; 6:16,23; 7:13; 8:2; 1 Corinthians 15:56; James 1:15). In none of those passages is there the slightest hint that it is a personal Satan who brings about our death; the cause of death is ultimately human sin. Yet Origen insisted that “the Devil controls the ultimate evil, death” (Against Celsus 4.92,93). The early “fathers”, having committed themselves to belief in a personal Satan, had to face the music from the Gnostics and other critics over these issues—seeing sin and evil continued and even increase daily in the world, how can it be that Christ destroyed the Devil? A purely Biblical position would’ve had no problem answering that objection—Christ destroyed the power of sin, in that we can now be forgiven and be counted as “in Christ” by baptism. He as our representative has enabled us to become in a position whereby all that is true of Him now stands true for us; and thereby our resurrection from the dead and receipt of eternal life is assured by His grace.
Satan in the Thought of Irenaeus and Tertullian
Wrestling yet further with the problem they’d created, the “fathers” then had to deal with the issue of how the death of Christ could destroy or damage Satan. Origen, Irenaeus and Tertullian created the idea that was developed and popularized later in novels and art—that God somehow tricked Satan. The reasoning went that Satan demanded the blood of Jesus, and so he made Jesus die—but unknown to Satan, Jesus was [supposedly] God, and He rose from the grave. Not only is Jesus never defined as ‘God’ in a trinitarian sense in the Bible; but the whole suggestion is purely fictional. The blood of Jesus was not “paid” to anyone. And an almighty God doesn’t need to trick Satan in order to win a game. Again we see that our view of God affects our view of Satan, and vice versa. And we see too that a forced, unnatural and unBiblical view of the atonement affects our view of Satan too. Gnostic and other criticism of ‘Christianity’ focused easily and powerfully on these contradictions and begged questions; and the “fathers” had to dig themselves yet deeper into a tortuous and contradictory theology. They were pushed on the point of whether Satan and his angels sinned at the same time and got thrown out of Heaven together; and whether in fact Satan and his angels committed the same sin, or different ones. Tertullian’s answer was that Satan sinned by envy, and was thrown out of Heaven for this. He then adjusted his view to say that Satan was given some period of grace between his sin and his expulsion, during which he corrupted some of the angels, and then they were thrown out after him. Clement, by contrast, insisted Satan and the angels fell together, at the same time. The answers of the “fathers” were totally fictional and not tied in at all to any actual Biblical statements. And yet these desperate men insisted they were guided to their views by God, and many generations of Christendom has blindly followed them. Tertullian likewise was pushed on the issue of whether Satan was an angel, or another kind of being—as the earlier church fathers had claimed. Tertullian amended the party line to claim that actually, Satan was an angel after all. He was then pushed on the issue of how exactly Satan and the angels got down to earth from Heaven. Seeing they had to travel through the air, Tertullian claimed [Apol. 22] that the Devil and his angels had wings.
Satan in the Thought of Justin Martyr
The response of the “Church fathers” was to claim that whilst indeed the world is in the hands of Satan, baptism frees a person from the power of the Devil. Hence baptism formulae started to speak of how demons were being expelled from a person¹. This contrasted sharply with the repeated New Testament evidence that baptism is for the forgiveness of personal sins, a becoming “in Christ”, covered against sin by His sacrifice (Acts 2:37,38; Colossians 2:12-14). None of the New Testament baptism passages, notably the exposition of baptism in Romans 6 and the institution of baptism in the great commission, ever mentioned it as being in order to exorcise demons or free us from the power of a personal being called the Devil. Produced around 180 A.D., the Apocryphal “Acts of Peter” consciously attempted to blend Gnosticism and Christianity by claiming that the negative aspects of this world are the fault of a personal Satan who snared Adam and “bound him… by the chain of the [human, sinful] body”. The Genesis record remains silent—and it’s a deafening silence—about any ‘Satan’ tempting Adam. The New Testament likewise states simply that sin entered the world by Adam—not by anyone or anything else (Romans 5:12).
Satan in the Thought of Lactantius and Athanasius
In the third and fourth centuries, Lactantius and Athanasius appeared as the leading Christian thinkers about the Devil. They continued the struggle to justify belief in a personal, fallen angel Devil against the obvious holes in the argument. In doing so they succeeded in accreting [expanding] yet more to the Devil idea, at times backtracking to or contradicting the arguments of previous “fathers”, as well as adding their own variations on the theme.
The Deconstruction of the ‘Satan’ Myth in Job
It strikes me as ironic that the mention of ‘Satan’ in the early chapters of Job has been speed-read as evidence for the orthodox concept of Satan as an evil being in opposition to God. For on closer reading of Job, especially against its background of Canaanite and Babylonian myths about Satan, it becomes apparent that one purpose of the book is to deconstruct the myth of an evil ‘Satan’ figure. The epic poem demonstrates that God is all powerful, the ultimate source of calamity, and yet He works through this to the ultimate happy blessing of His children.
The Devil and Satan: The Hard Questions
The common understanding of the Devil as a fallen angel and personal being throws up a huge number of unanswerable questions—unanswerable, at least, within Scripture. This led Shelley to point out that popular Christianity’s view of the Devil was its weakest point: “The devil… is the weak place of the popular religion—the vulnerable belly of the crocodile… Christians invented or adopted the Devil to extricate them from this difficulty [of trying to understand the existence of a good God and the reality of evil]”¹. J.B. Russell thought likewise: “This has always been the weakest seam in Christian theology”². The sheer volume of contradictory mainstream Christian explanations of Satan and the mass of unanswered questions they generate is all confirmation of this observation. Within the context of speaking about practical consequences of our beliefs in this area, I wish to list these questions. I do so because any basis for belief, any framework for understanding the Gospel, which has so many gaping contradictions and difficulties is hardly going to inspire a solid, dynamic, stable relationship with God. The issues of sin and evil are ever present in our daily lives; and I sincerely believe that without a sound way of understanding the issue, a hermeneutic if you like, these contradictions and apparently ‘theoretical’ difficulties will come to term in a disordered and insecure life. So very often, it is a struggle with these issues [‘How could God do this or allow that?’] which leads to even a total loss of faith; and conversely, it is being able to make sense of sin and evil which allows God to confirm our faith through those negative experiences. So here are some of the questions thrown up by the mistaken ideas imported into Christendom on the devil issue—I catalogue them as part of my unashamed appeal for you to turn away from the common but false understanding of Satan which exists:
The Devil’s Own Heart
The translation of the Greek text in John 13:2 has been problematic. “The devil having put into the heart of Judas” doesn’t quite do justice to what the Greek is really saying. The respected expositor and Greek student C.K. Barratt insists that strictly, the Greek means ‘the devil had put into his own [i.e. the devil’s] heart, that Judas should betray Jesus’¹. This translation is almost impossible to make any sense of given the orthodox understanding of the ‘devil’. And so most popular translations ignore the obvious difficulty by glossing over the strict meaning of the Greek. Understanding the ‘devil’ as the innate source of temptation within the human heart, the picture becomes clearer.
The Origin of Sin and Evil
Many believe that there is a being or monster called the Devil or Satan who is the originator of the problems which are in the world and in our own lives, and who is responsible for the sin which we commit. The Bible clearly teaches that God is all-powerful. We have seen in Study 2-1 that the angels cannot sin. If we truly believe these things, then it is impossible that there is any supernatural being at work in this universe that is opposed to Almighty God. If we believe that such a being does exist, then surely we are questioning the supremacy of God Almighty. Hence the importance of the matter. We are told in Hebrews 2:14 that Jesus destroyed the Devil by His death; therefore unless we have a correct understanding of the Devil, we are likely to misunderstand the work and nature of Jesus.
The Protestors: Resistance to the Popular Concept of the Devil
The Biblical conclusions of my next chapter are that the words ‘Satan’ [adversary] and ‘Devil’ [false accuser] are simply words which can be used in Scripture with no negative connotation; and that at times they essentially refer to the greatest ‘adversary’ we face, namely sin. Further, the idea of a personal Satan, a fallen angel, is simply not found in the Bible text. It is Scriptural study alone which is the basis for my conclusions, and I hope I would stand by them even with the whole world against me. For many readers these conclusions will be startling and concerning. But it should be appreciated that I am far from alone in having come to these understandings. Well known Christian writers and thinkers have come to just the same conclusions.
Some Conclusions on the Real Devil: A Network of Bible Truth
‘Satan’ in the Bible is a role, not a personal individual. It’s simply impossible to force every Bible reference to Satan to apply to a personal being of supernatural evil. There must be another approach or hermeneutic—and I suggest that this is in accepting that ‘satan’ simply means an adversary, and can refer to both good and bad adversaries of specific things at specific times.
The Temptation of Jesus
Matthew 4:1-11: “Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterwards an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at anytime thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him”.
The Wilderness Temptations: A Window into the Mind of Jesus
We have shown that our Lord’s experiences were similar to those of Israel in the wilderness. The following are additional comments which give greater insight into His temptations:
The Wiles of the Devil
Ephesians 6:11-13: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand”.
"To be spiritually minded”: The Essence Of Christianity
The state of our hearts, what we think about, is of supreme importance. We all carry on conversations with ourselves, often involving us imagining certain situations and how we would speak or act to a person. The intended result of all our trials and experiences, of our belief in all the true Bible doctrines which comprise the good news, is that we should become spiritually minded. This is the end result of believing; membership of a denomination, Bible reading, believing the right doctrines… all these things are only means to an end, and that end is to develop the mind of Christ, to “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). The wicked will be rejected for the state of their hearts, rather than their specific actions; hence God’s summary of why He rejected the wilderness generation was that “It is a people that do err in their heart” (Psalms 95:10). Similarly, God could have condemned Babylon for a whole host of sinful actions; but His essential, repeated reason was because of how they spoke in their hearts (Isaiah 47:10; Zephaniah 2:15; Revelation 18:17). And He gave the same reason for His condemnation of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:2) and Edom (Obadiah 1:3). The more we come to know ourselves, the more we will perceive the importance of self-talk. I take Ecclesiastes to be Solomon’s self-examination at the end of his life. Five times in this short book he describes how “I said in my heart…” (Ecclesiastes 2:1,15 [twice]; 3:17,18). As he looked back and analyzed how and why he had lived and been as he had, he appreciated that it was all a result of his self-talk, how he had spoken to himself in his mind. His introspection reveals just how we talk to ourselves—e.g. “I said in my heart, ‘Go on now, I will prove you with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure’” (Ecclesiastes 2:1). We all talk to ourselves; and the records of the Lord’s wilderness temptations are an amazing psychological window into the self-talk of God’s very own son. As we know, He answered every temptation that arose within His self-talk with quotations from Scripture. He lived out in reality David’s words: “Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin” (Psalms 119:11—cp. how God’s word was in the heart of men like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Jeremiah 20:9; Ezekiel 3:10). This, then, is the ultimate fruit of familiarity with Scripture, of the “daily reading of the Bible” which has been the catch-cry of every serious Christian community.
Tempted of the Devil
The baptism of Jesus was followed immediately by his temptation: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:11). Here was the immediate inevitable clash between the two natures in the Son of God. The phrases “led of the Spirit” and “tempted of the devil” use the same preposition, as though emphasizing these two natures in him.
A Biblical Exposition of that Old Serpent, the Devil and Satan: Chapter 1
Sound thinking, that is, cultivated and well-directed common sense, applied to the discovery of truth, either natural or revealed, has followed the rule, That nothing ought to be believed as true, unless its truth can be demonstrated by an appeal to the facts recorded in the book of Creation, or to those revealed in the book of Revelation.
The God of Order versus the Devil's Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence
In the preceding Chapters we have endeavoured to demonstrate that there is no such being as the Devil, and have opened up the true meaning attached to the terms “devil,” “satan,” “demon,” and have shown that these are applicable to conditions in which the primary idea represented in each has appended to it some particularity justifying the distinct appellation.
The Devil and the Falsely-accusing State of Mind of Man
Man has three departments in his constitution, an animal, selfish in its tendencies; a moral and religious, or spiritual, universal in its tendencies; and an intellectual, operative in the formation and communication of ideas. The institutions of society are, in general, appeals to man’s nature; they patronise self; they give nutriment to self; they draw forth the abundant and destructive fruits of self. The religion of Christ, on the other hand, appeals to man’s moral and religious nature; it cultivates universality of feeling and the love-neighbour principle; it draws forth the fruits of kindness, of mercy, of justice, and of true humility God-ward. The distinction between the institutions of society and the requirements of the truth is forcibly depicted by the great teacher: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, love thine enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain, On the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” Matthew 5:38-48.
A Biblical Exposition of that Old Serpent, the Devil and Satan: Chapter 3
Another term which has been referred to in the preceding examination of the devil is....
Satan and the Adverse State of Health and Mind
It was proved in the previous Chapter that the word sathan or satan is applied, in a variety of instances, to human beings, and that the particular feature constituting a human being a satan is that the being is in a state of opposition—that is, in the attitude or relation of an adversary to the individual with whom he is brought into relationship. To be in such a state of opposition is to be an adversary; and that this word is strictly expressive of the meaning of the Hebrew word satan was proved, and many instances the Common Version of the Scriptures, where the word is so translated, were given.
The Devil of the Bible
In medieval times the devil was pictured as an immortal monster with great horns and hoofs, a fiendish character who tortured unfortunate sinners condemned to “hell.” A painting depicting such a creature tending the fires of hell, suggesting unbelievable torture of the victims, is still in existence in a church in England.
Two Jots, No Tittles
In Judaism, the “yetzer hara” refers to the inclination to do evil, present at birth, which is capable of violating the will of God. The term is drawn from the phrase “the imagination of the heart of man [is] evil” which occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible, at Genesis 6:5 and 8:21. Within Judaism, stretching all the way back to the Second Temple Period, the “yetzer hara” was synonymous with “Satan.”
Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning “adversary” Arabic: شيطان shaitan, meaning; “astray,” “distant,” or sometimes “devil”) is a figure of opposition appearing in the texts of the Abrahamic religions. Some religious groups teach that this figure originated as an angel who fell out of favor with God, seducing humanity into the ways of sin, and who has power in the fallen world. In the Hebrew Bible, however, the noun has been used to simply represent an accuser or adversary.
Every Occurrence of Diabolos (devil)
The following list of every occurrence of the Greek word “diabolos” (Strong’s Greek #1228) is meant as an aid to the diligent Bible student. (The actually word is in bold type for each verse). [In keeping with Jewish rabbinical tradition,] the devil is a term used for sin in the flesh [a.k.a., the Evil Inclination] and/or a person or group who manifests sin. The best approach is to carefully consider each verse and draw conclusions. It is therefore suggested to start the exercise by considering the word satan which has Old and New Testament usage while the word diabolos is wholly a New Testament word. We would wish the student to come to this list of verses without prejudice or presuppositions. Ask these questions about each verse: