Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning "enemy" or "adversary"; Arabic: شيطان shaitan, meaning; "astray", "distant", or sometimes "devil") is a figure appearing in the texts of the Abrahamic religions who brings evil and temptation, and is known as the deceiver who leads humanity astray. Some religious groups teach that he originated as an angel, or something of the like, who used to possess great piety and beauty, but fell because of hubris, seducing humanity into the ways of falsehood and sin, and has power in the fallen world. In the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, Satan is primarily an accuser and adversary, a decidedly malevolent entity, also called the devil, who possesses abhorrent qualities.
- Hebrew Bible
- Thirteen occurrences
- Book of Job
- Second Temple period
- Dead Sea scrolls and Pseudepigrapha
- Rabbinical Judaism
- Modern Judaism
- Sufi view of Satan
- Satan as a tempter
- Bah Faith
- Theistic Satanism
- Atheistic Satanism
Although Satan is generally viewed as having negative characteristics, some groups have very different beliefs. In Theistic Satanism, Satan is considered a deity who is either worshipped or revered. In LaVeyan Satanism, "Satan" is a symbol of virtuous characteristics and liberty.
The original Hebrew term satan is a noun from a verb meaning primarily "to obstruct, oppose", as it is found in Numbers 22:22, 1 Samuel 29:4, Psalms 109:6. Ha-Satan is traditionally translated as "the accuser" or "the adversary". The definite article ha- (English: "the") is used to show that this is a title bestowed on a being, versus the name of a being. Thus, this being would be referred to as "the satan".
Ha-Satan with the definite article occurs 13 times in the Masoretic Text, in two books of the Hebrew Bible: Job ch.1–2 (10x) and Zechariah 3:1–2 (3x).
Satan without the definite article is used in 10 instances, of which two are translated diabolos in the Septuagint and "Satan" in the King James Version (KJV):
The other eight instances of satan without the definite article are traditionally translated (in Greek, Latin and English) as "an adversary", etc., and taken to be humans or obedient angels:
Book of Job
At the beginning of the book, Job is a good person "who revered God and turned away from evil" (Job 1:1), and has therefore been rewarded by God. When the angels present themselves to God, Satan comes as well. God informs Satan about Job's blameless, morally upright character. Between Job 1:9–10 and 2:4–5, Satan points out that God has given Job everything that a man could want, so of course Job would be loyal to God; Satan suggests that Job's faith would collapse if all he has been given (even his health) were to be taken away from him. God therefore gives Satan permission to test Job. In the end, Job remains faithful and righteous, and there is the implication that Satan is shamed in his defeat.
Second Temple period
Some scholars see contact with religious dualism in Babylon, and early Zoroastrianism in particular, as influencing Second Temple Judaism, and consequently early Christianity. Subsequent development of Satan as a "deceiver" has parallels with the evil spirit in Zoroastrianism, known as the Lie, who directs forces of darkness.
In the Septuagint, the Hebrew ha-Satan in Job and Zechariah is translated by the Greek word diabolos (slanderer), the same word in the Greek New Testament from which the English word devil is derived. Where satan is used to refer to human enemies in the Hebrew Bible, such as Hadad the Edomite and Rezon the Syrian, the word is left untranslated but transliterated in the Greek as satan, a neologism in Greek.
Dead Sea scrolls and Pseudepigrapha
In Enochic Judaism, the concept of Satan being an opponent of God and a chiefly evil figure among demons seems to have taken root in Jewish pseudepigrapha during the Second Temple period, particularly in the apocalypses. The Book of Enoch contains references to Satariel, thought also to be Sataniel and Satan'el (etymology dating back to Babylonian origins). The similar spellings mirror that of his angelic brethren Michael, Raphael, Uriel, and Gabriel, previous to the fall from Heaven.
The Second Book of Enoch, also called the Slavonic Book of Enoch, contains references to a Watcher (Grigori) called Satanael. It is a pseudepigraphic text of an uncertain date and unknown authorship. The text describes Satanael as being the prince of the Grigori who was cast out of heaven and an evil spirit who knew the difference between what was "righteous" and "sinful". A similar story is found in the book of 1 Enoch; however, in that book, the leader of the Grigori is called Semjâzâ.
In the Book of Wisdom, the devil is represented as the being who brought death into the world.
In the Book of Jubilees, Mastema induces God to test Abraham through the sacrifice of Isaac. He is identical to Satan in both name and nature.
In Judaism, the term "satan" used since its earliest biblical contexts to refer to a human opponent. Occasionally, the term has been used to suggest evil influence opposing human beings, as in the Jewish exegesis of the Yetzer hara ("evil inclination" Genesis 6:5). Micaiah's "lying spirit" in 1 Kings 22:22 is sometimes related. Thus, Satan is personified as a character in three different places of the Tanakh, serving as an accuser (Zechariah 3:1–2), a seducer (1 Chronicles 21:1), or as a heavenly persecutor who is "among the sons of God" (Job 2:1). In any case, Satan is always subordinate to the power of God, having a role in the divine plan. Satan is rarely mentioned in Tannaitic literature, but is found in Babylonian aggadah.
In medieval Judaism, the Rabbis rejected these Enochic literary works into the Biblical canon, making every attempt to root them out. Traditionalists and philosophers in medieval Judaism adhered to rational theology, rejecting any belief in rebel or fallen angels, and viewing evil as abstract. The Yetzer hara ("evil inclination" Genesis 6:5) is a more common motif for evil in rabbinical texts. Rabbinical scholarship on the Book of Job generally follows the Talmud and Maimonides as identifying the "Adversary" in the prologue of Job as a metaphor.
In Hasidic Judaism, the Kabbalah presents Satan as an agent of God whose function is to tempt one into sin, then turn around and accuse the sinner on high. The Chasidic Jews of the 18th century associated ha-Satan with Baal Davar.
Judaism today sees the concept of Satan in multiple different forms. In Reform Judaism, Satan is seen more greatly incorporating his Talmudic equatability as the yezter hara, and is seen as the symbolic representation of innate human qualities such as selfishness, whereas Conservative Judaism maintains the traditional view of Satan as an agent of God, though tends to stray away the Talmud's equation of the being with the yetzer hara and the Angel of Death. Orthodox Judaism, on the other hand, outwardly embraces Talmudic teachings on Satan, and involves Satan in religious life far more inclusively than other sects. Satan is mentioned explicitly in some daily prayers, including during Shacharit and certain post-meal benedictions, as described in Talmud and the Jewish Code of Law, for example.
Satan is traditionally identified as the serpent who tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, as he was in Judaism. Thus Satan has often been depicted as a serpent. Christian agreement with this can be found in the works of Justin Martyr, in Chapters 45 and 79 of Dialogue with Trypho, where Justin identifies Satan and the serpent. Other early church fathers to mention this identification include Theophilus and Tertullian.
From the fourth century, Lucifer is sometimes used in Christian theology to refer to Satan, as a result of identifying the fallen "son of the dawn" of Isaiah 14:12 with the "accuser" of other passages in the Old Testament.
For most Christians, Satan is believed to be an angel who rebelled against God. In the New Testament he is called "the ruler of the demons" (Matthew 12:24), "the ruler of the world", and "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4). The Book of Revelation describes how Satan was cast out of Heaven, having "great anger" and waging war against "those who obey God's commandments". Ultimately, Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire.
The early Christian church encountered opposition from pagans such as Celsus, who claimed that "it is blasphemy...to say that the greatest God...has an adversary who constrains his capacity to do good" and said that Christians "impiously divide the kingdom of God, creating a rebellion in it, as if there were opposing factions within the divine, including one that is hostile to God".
In Christianity, there are many synonyms for Satan. The most common English synonym for "Satan" is "devil", which descends from Middle English devel, from Old English dēofol, that in turn represents an early Germanic borrowing of Latin diabolus (also the source of "diabolical"). This in turn was borrowed from Greek diabolos "slanderer", from diaballein "to slander": dia- "across, through" + ballein "to hurl". In the New Testament, "Satan" occurs more than 30 times in passages alongside diabolos, slanderer, referring to the same person or thing as Satan.
Beelzebub, meaning "Lord of Flies", is the contemptuous name given in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament to a Philistine god whose original name has been reconstructed as most probably "Ba'al Zabul", meaning "Baal the Prince". This pun was later used to refer to Satan as well.
The Book of Revelation twice refers to "the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan" (12:9, 20:2). The Book of Revelation also refers to "the deceiver", from which is derived the common epithet "the great deceiver".
Shaitan (شيطان) is the equivalent of Satan in Islam. While Shaitan (شيطان, from the root šṭn شطن) is an adjective (meaning "astray" or "distant", sometimes translated as "devil") that can be applied to both man ("al-ins", الإنس) and jinn, those can be classified into fallen angels, unbelievers among the jinn and pagan deities. Iblis (Arabic pronunciation: [ˈibliːs]) is the personal name of the Devil who is mentioned in the Qur'anic account of Genesis. According to the Qur'an, Iblis (the Arabic name used) disobeyed an order from Allah to bow to Adam, and as a result Iblis was forced out of heaven. However, he was given respite from further punishment until the day of judgment. Shaitan can also refer to devilish temptations inside the mind, described as whisperings (waswās).
According to the Qur'an, God created Satan, akin to the jinn, out of fire. The primary characteristic of the Devil, besides hubris, is that he has no power other than the power to cast evil suggestions into the hearts of men and women. The Quran says that Satan was among the angels whom God ordered to bow down to Adam after his creation, it says in 18:50:
And [mention] when We said to the angels, "Prostrate to Adam," and they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was of the jinn and departed from the command of his Lord. Then will you take him and his descendants as allies other than Me while they are enemies to you? Wretched it is for the wrongdoers as an exchange.
Whether Satan was actually an angel or a Jinn whom God elevated to the angelic assembly is a matter of debate among Muslim scholars. Some scholars, such as Ibn Abbas, believe that Satan was actually an angel whom God created out of fire. He was the most worshipful and knowledgeable of angels. Thus, when the Quran identifies Satan as a Jinn, it means that he belonged to a class of fiery creatures called Jinn, which encompasses both heavenly Jinn (fiery angels) and earthly (ordinary) Jinn. Such a notion is evocative of the biblical seraphim, a rank of angels looking like burning fire. Long before Adam was created, traditions narrate, earthly jinn roamed the earth and spread corruption upon it. God sent an army of angels under the leadership of Satan to fight them. After his victory, Satan's ego conflated; he thought he was better than any other creature, and thus God's favorite. God's creation of Man and his order to the angels to venerate him was a blow to Satan's pride. While all the angels obeyed God and bowed down to Adam, Satan disobeyed haughtily saying 38:76:
"I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay."
Consequently, God expelled Satan from Heaven, with the latter promising to lure mankind into disbelief and evil as an act of revenge from their father, Adam. Also, some scholars call Satan "The Peacock of Angels", referencing his foolish hubris. On the other hand, other scholars believe that there are no such things as heavenly Jinn or fiery angels, and thus Satan was not an angel. He was a Jinn whom God elevated to Heaven as a reward for his worship and righteousness. This explains why Satan managed to refuse God's order, as angels do not have free will; they obey God's orders without questioning or complaining. As for the angels, they prostrated before Adam to show their homage and obedience to God. However, Satan, adamant in his view that man is inferior, and unlike angels was given the ability to choose, made a choice of not obeying God. This caused him to be expelled by God, a fact that Satan blamed on humanity. Hasan of Basra, an eminent Muslim theologian who lived in the 7th century A.D, was quoted as saying:
"Iblis was not an angel even for the time of an eye wink. He is the origin of Jinn as Adam is of Mankind."
It was after Satan's disobedience of God that the title of "Shaitan" was given to him, which can be roughly translated as "Enemy", "Rebel", "Evil", or "Devil". Shaitan then claims that, if the punishment for his act of disobedience is to be delayed until the Day of Judgment, then he will divert many of Adam's own descendants from the straight path during his period of respite. God accepts the claims of Iblis and guarantees recompense to Iblis and his followers in the form of Hellfire. In order to test mankind and jinn alike, Allah allowed Iblis to roam the earth to attempt to convert others away from his path. He was sent to earth along with Adam and Eve, after eventually luring them into eating the fruit from the forbidden tree.
Sufi view of Satan
Sufism teaches that people should love God without expecting anything in return. Consequently, unrequited love is regarded by Sufis as that perfect type of love because the pining lover expects nothing in return. Thus, some Sufis see Satan as the paradigm of love and the perfect lover. Despite the traditional interpretation of Satan's fall from Grace as an act of excessive pride and rebellion against God, some Sufis see it as an act of self-sacrifice for God's love. Satan refused to bow down to Adam out of his uncompromising monotheism and devotion; he refused to venerate anything or anyone but God. Al-Ghazali, a well-known medieval Sufi Muslim theologian, narrates:
Encountering Eblis on the slopes of Sinai, Moses hailed him and asked, “O Eblis, why did you not prostrate before Adam?” Eblis replied, “Heaven forbid that anyone worship anything but the One. […] This command was a test.”
Satan believed that God ordered him to bow down to Adam to test his love for him. Satan should maintain his love for God at any cost. So, even if the cost of Satan's refusal to prostrate before Adam is falling from Grace, he should proceed with it out of his unconditional love for God. Abdul Karim Jili, a Muslim Sufi saint, believes that after the Day of Judgement, Hell will cease to exist, and Satan will be back to the service of God as one of his cherished angels.
Satan as a tempter
Besides the personificated notion of Satan, the Islam views Satan as temptations in the mind and desire to do evil. Iblis is accordingly also a cosmic force, leading humans (and jinn) astray from good and making them to shayāṭīn as well. But there is still a distinction assumed between the satanic temptations and the murmurings of the lower self (Nafs). The lower self as such, wants the person to do a specific task or to fullfill a desire, while the inspirations of Satan wants the person to do evil in general and returns with another suggestion, after the person resisted.
An alternative name for the main deity in the tentatively Indo-European pantheon of the Yazidis, Melek Taus, is Shaitan. However, rather than being Satanic, Yazidism can be understood as a remnant of a pre-Islamic Middle Eastern Indo-European religion, and/or a ghulat Sufi movement founded by Shaykh Adi. Because Melek Taus, similiar to the devil, refused to bow down before human, Christians and Muslims considered Melek Taus as Satan and claimed the Yazidis are devil-worshippers. Actually an entitiy, representing evil in opposition to God does not exist in Yazidism. Such dualism is rejected by Yazidism.
In the Bahá'í Faith, Satan is not regarded as an independent evil power as he is in some faiths, but signifies the lower nature of humans. `Abdu'l-Bahá explains: "This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan — the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside." All other evil spirits described in various faith traditions—such as fallen angels, demons, and jinns—are also metaphors for the base character traits a human being may acquire and manifest when he turns away from God.
Within Satanism, two major trends exists, theistic Satanism and atheistic Satanism, both having different views regarding the essence of Satan.
Theistic Satanism, commonly referred to as "devil worship", holds that Satan is an actual deity or force to revere or worship that individuals may contact and supplicate to, and represents loosely affiliated or independent groups and cabals which hold the belief that Satan is a real entity rather than an archetype.
Among non-Satanists, much modern Satanic folklore does not originate with the beliefs or practices of theistic or atheistic Satanists, but a mixture of medieval Christian folk beliefs, political or sociological conspiracy theories, and contemporary urban legends. An example is the Satanic ritual abuse scare of the 1980s — beginning with the memoir Michelle Remembers — which depicted Satanism as a vast conspiracy of elites with a predilection for child abuse and human sacrifice. This genre frequently describes Satan as physically incarnating in order to receive worship.
Atheistic Satanism, most commonly referred to as LaVeyan Satanism, holds that Satan does not exist as a literal anthropomorphic entity, but rather as a symbol of a cosmos which Satanists perceive to be permeated and motivated by a force that has been given many names by humans over the course of time. In this religion, "Satan" is not viewed or depicted as a hubristic, irrational, and fraudulent creature, but is rather seen as being Prometheus-like in terms of attributes, symbolizing liberty and the like.To adherents, he also serves as a conceptual framework and an external metaphorical projection of the Satanist's highest personal potential. In his essay "Satanism: The Feared Religion", the current High Priest of the Church of Satan, Peter H. Gilmore, further expounds that "...Satan is a symbol of Man living as his prideful, carnal nature dictates. The reality behind Satan is simply the dark evolutionary force of entropy that permeates all of nature and provides the drive for survival and propagation inherent in all living things. Satan is not a conscious entity to be worshiped, rather a reservoir of power inside each human to be tapped at will".
LaVeyan Satanists embrace the original etymological meaning of the word "Satan" (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning "adversary"). According to Peter H. Gilmore, "The Church of Satan has chosen Satan as its primary symbol because in Hebrew it means adversary, opposer, one to accuse or question. We see ourselves as being these Satans; the adversaries, opposers and accusers of all spiritual belief systems that would try to hamper enjoyment of our life as a human being"