In the Hebrew Bible, Satan plays only a minor role as an ambiguous figure in the heavenly court. In Job his function is described as a kind of public prosecutor for God, suggesting his role as adversary may have been in terms of jurisprudence. The transformation of Satan from subordinate official to independent adversary and rebellious angel occurred during the Jewish apocalyptic movement, which came under the influence of the dualistic cosmologies of the ancient Middle East. The New Testament, grown from the same soil, speaks of Satan as the author of all evil (Luke 10:19), the personal tempter of Jesus (Matt. 4), and the rebel cast to earth together with his angels (Rev. 12:7-9). But these and many other passages in the Bible said to allude to Satan were shaped into coherent theological narratives only over time, often in response to Christian heresies.
During the Middle Ages Satan acquired his familiar attributes in folktale—his hooves, his sulfurous odor, his horns, and, paradoxically, his polished, gentlemanly manners. Much of his appearance and many of his actions, however, can be traced back to the pre-Christian deities of Europe, such as the two-headed god Janus and a variety of Panlike nature and fertility deities. The Christian elaboration of the figure of Satan, fueled by the Dominicans and the papal bull of 1484, probably reached a peak during the 15th, 16th, and 17th cent.
In Islam, Satan is also known as Iblīs, the evil jinn who in refusing to bow to Adam disobeyed God and became "one of the disbelievers." The Qur'an, however, implies that even as the ruler of hell, Iblīs remains God's servant and is ultimately eligible for redemption.
In intellectual circles in the West today the tendency is to demythologize Satan. Certain scholars argue that by the time the Old Testament book of First Chronicles was completed Satan had been transformed from an angel who questioned God to a being dedicated to subverting God. It has been further argued that this changing concept of Satan paralleled a process of demonizing one's opponents and attributing evil motives them. The Essene sect in the late centuries B.C. portrayed other Jewish sects who disagreed with them as allied with the forces of darkness and themselves as "sons of light." Early Christians adopted this approach and demonized Jews who did not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. In later centuries pagans and fellow Christians who had opposing beliefs were characterized by Christians as evil and to be opposed or eradicated.
See W. Woods, A History of the Devil (1974); J. B. Russell, Satan (1981); N. Forsyth, The Old Enemy (1987); E. Pagels, The Origin of Satan (1995).
Satan, (Standard Hebrew Satan'el, English accuser), is a term that originates from the Abrahamic faiths, being traditionally applied to an angel in Judeo-Christian belief, and to a jinn in Islamic belief.
While Hebrew he-Satan is "the accuser" and Satan itself means "to overcome" — the one who challenged the religious faith of humans in the books of Job and Zechariah — Abrahamic religious belief systems other than Judaism relate this term to a demon, a rebellious fallen angel, devil, minor god and idol, or as an allegory for knowledge or the enlightenment of mankind.
The word 'Satan', and the Arabic شيطان "shaitan", may derive from a Northwest Semitic root śṭn, meaning "to be hostile", "to accuse. An alternative explanation is provided by the Hebrew in . When God asks him whence he has come, Satan answers: "From wandering (mi'ŝuṭ) the earth and walking on it" (מִשּׁוּט בָּאָרֶץ, וּמֵהִתְהַלֵּךְ בָּה). The root ŝuṭ signifies wandering on foot or sailing. 'Satan' would thus be "the Wanderer".
In Persia, satan was the word for a spy used by the Emperor Cyrus. They would be found in public places, speaking unfavorably of the emperor. They would turn in and disappear anyone who agreed with them in those conversations.
'Satan' is שָׂטָן Satan in Standard Hebrew, Śāṭān in Tiberian Hebrew, סטנא Sāṭānā' in Aramaic, Σατανάς Satanás in Koine Greek, شيطان Šeytân in Persian, شيطان Šayṭān in Arabic, ሳይጣን Sāyṭān in Ge'ez, Şeytan in Turkish, and شيطان Shāitān in Urdu.
In the Book of Wisdom, the devil is represented as the being who brought death into the world.
The 2nd 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 apocryphal literature, Satan rules over a host of angels. Mastema, who induced God to test Abraham through the sacrifice of Isaac, is identical with Satan in both name and nature.
For the Chasidic Jews of the eighteenth century, Ha-satan was Baal Davar.
The Book of Enoch contains references to Satariel, thought also to be Sataniel and Satan'el (entomology dating back to Babylonian origins). The similar spellings mirror that of his angelic brethren Michael, Raphael, Uriel and Gabriel, previous to his expulsion from Heaven.
According to the article on 'Satan' in the Jewish Encyclopedia, Satan's role as the accuser is found:
in the prologue to the Book of Job, where Satan appears, together with other celestial beings 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 having the evil purpose of searching out men's sins and appearing as their accuser. He is, therefore, the celestial prosecutor, 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.)
Yet it is also evident from the prologue that Satan has no power of independent action, but requires the permission of God, which he may not transgress. He cannot be regarded, therefore, as an opponent of the Deity; and the doctrine of monotheism is disturbed by his existence no more than by the presence of other beings before the face of God. This view is also retained in Zech. 3:1-2, where Satan is described as the adversary of the high priest Joshua, and of the people of God whose representative the hierarch is; and he there opposes the 'angel of the Lord' who bids him be silent in the name of God.
In both of these passages Satan acts only under permission; but in I Chron. 21:1 he appears as one who is able to provoke David to destroy Israel. The Chronicler (third century B.C.) regards Satan as an independent agent, a view which is the more striking since the source whence he drew his account (II Sam. 24:1) speaks of God Himself as the one who moved David against the children of Israel. Since the older conception refers all events, whether good or bad, to God alone, (I Sam. 16:14; I Kings 22:22; Isa. 45:7; etc) it is possible that the Chronicler, and perhaps even Zechariah, were influenced by Zoroastrianism, even though in the case of the prophet Jewish monism strongly opposed Iranian dualism. (Stave, Einfluss des Parsismus auf das Judenthum, pp. 253 et seq.) An immediate influence of the Babylonian concept of the 'accuser, persecutor, and oppressor' (Schrader, K. A. T. 3d ed., p. 463) is impossible, since traces of such an influence, if it had existed, would have appeared in the earlier portions of the Bible.
In Christianity, terms that are synonymous with 'Satan' include:
In mainstream Christianity's understanding of the holy Hebrew scriptures, the Torah, Satan is a synonym for the Devil. For most Christians, he is believed to be an angel who rebelled against God— and also the one who spoke through the serpent and seduced Eve into disobeying God's command. His ultimate goal is to lead people away from the love of God — to lead them to fallacies which God opposes. Satan is also identified as the accuser of Job, the tempter in the Gospels, the secret power of lawlessness in , and the dragon in the Book of Revelation. Before his alleged insurrection, Satan was among the highest of all angels and the "brightest in the sky." His pride is considered a reason why he would not bow to God as all other angels did, but sought to rule heaven himself. The popularly held beliefs that Satan was once a prideful angel who eventually rebels against God, however, are barely portrayed explicitly in the Bible and are mostly based on inference. Moreover, in mainstream Christianity he is called "the ruler of the demons" (Matt. 12:24), "the ruler of the world" and even "the god of this world." (2 Cor. 4:4). The Book of Revelation describes how Satan will be cast out of Heaven, down to the earth, having "great anger" and waging war against "those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus". Ultimately, Satan is thrown into the "lake of fire" not as ruler, but as one among many, being tormented day and night for all eternity.
In other, non-mainstream, Christian beliefs (e.g. the beliefs of the Christadelphians) the word "satan" in the Bible is not regarded as referring to a supernatural, personal being but to any 'adversary' and figuratively refers to human sin and temptation.
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. Iblis is the personal name of the Devil who is mentioned in the Qur'anic account of Genesis.
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 similarities and differences with Christian and Jewish views. The character of Satan is generally similar to the one presented in Judeo-Christian thought. However, according to Islamic belief, Satan is not considered to be a 'fallen' angel, but a jinn who was among the ranks of angels due to his wisdom and piety; in Islamic belief, angels always follow God's commands, but jinns (like humans) have free will, which explains why Satan was able to rebel against God's command of bowing to Adam.
People claiming to be Satanists – or outsiders claiming to describe Satanism – ascribe a wide variety of beliefs to this movement. These range from the literal worship of a spiritual being (Theistic Satanism); to a kind of subversive ritual performance stressing the mockery of Christian symbols (most notably the Black Mass); to the claimed rediscovery of an ancient but misunderstood religion (e.g. Setianism, which conflates Satan with the Egyptian god Set).
The most prominent and widely known Satanist in recent years was Anton Szandor LaVey, who founded the Church of Satan in 1966. LaVey wrote The Satanic Bible (1969) and other works which remain highly influential (though controversial) among avowed Satanists. LaVey rejects the Black Mass, cruelty to animals, or a literal belief in (or worship of) Satan, instead considering Satan as the human instinct within ourselves, which is what LaVeyan Satanism celebrates. Instead he supports a view of human beings as animals and rejects many social structures that he believes inhibit human instincts.