This article is about the concept of Satan. For the concept of "devil"
Satan (Standard Hebrew Satan'el, English accuser) is a term that originates from the Abrahamic religions, being traditionally applied to an angel in Judeo-Christian belief, and to a jinn in Islamic belief.
Originally, this figure was the one who challenged the religious faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible. Since then, the Abrahamic religions have variously regarded Satan as a rebellious fallen angel or demon that tempts humans to sin or commit evil deeds. Others regard the Biblical Satan as an allegory that represents a crisis of faith, individualism, free will, wisdom and enlightenment.
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 Job 1:7. 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".
'Satan' is שָׂטָן Satan in Standard Hebrew, Śāṭān in Tiberian Hebrew, סטנא Sāṭānā' in Aramaic, Σατανάς Satanás in Koine Greek, شيطان ¦eytân in Persian, شيطان ¦ayṭān in Arabic, ሳይጣን Sāyṭān in Ge'ez, Şeytan in Turkish, and شيطان Shāitān in Urdu.
In the Hebrew Apocrypha
The Apocrypha are religious writings which are not generally accepted as scripture by Judaism and many modern-day Protestant sects of Christianity. These works usually bore the names of ancient Hebrew worthies in order to establish their validity among the true writers' contemporaries. To reconcile the late appearance of the texts with their claims to primitive antiquity, alleged authors are represented as "shutting up and sealing" (Dan. XII. 4:9) the works until the time of their fulfillment had arrived; as the texts were not meant for their own generations but for far-distant ages (also cited in Assumption of Moses I. 16:17).
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 (etymology 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.
In the Bible
Where Satan does appear in the Bible, he plays the role of the Accuser.
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 the Talmud and other Rabbinic Sources
The Talmud mentions the Satan in many places. In all of these places, the Satan is merely an agent of God, and has no independent existence. Sometimes the Satan is conflated with various demons, such as Asmodai. At times there is even some sympathy for him. Commenting on the Book of Job, the rabbis express sympathy that his job was to "break the barrel but not spill any wine."
In Kabbalistic literature and its derivative, Hasidic literature, the Satan is seen as an agent of God whose job is to tempt one into sin, and then turn around and accuse the sinner on high. An additional understanding of Satan is from a parable to a prostitute who is hired by the King (God) to tempt his son (a Jew). The prostitute has to do the best she can to tempt the son; but deep down she hopes the son will pass the test. Similarly, Kabbalistic/Hasidic thought sees the Satan in the same situation. His job is to tempt us as best he can; turn around and accuse us; but deep down his wish is that we would resist his blandishments.
• 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 thirty times in passages alongside Diabolos (Greek for "the devil"), referring to the same person or thing as Satan.
• 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.
• Beelzebub is originally the name of a Philistine god (more specifically a certain type of Baal, from Ba'al Zebûb, lit. "Lord of Flies") but is also used in the New Testament as a synonym for Satan. A corrupted version, "Belzeboub," appears in The Divine Comedy.
• "The dragon" and "the old serpent" in the Book of Revelation 12:9, 20:2 have also been identified with Satan, as have "the prince of this world" in the Book of John 12:31, 14:30; "the prince of the power of the air" also called Meririm, and "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" in the Book of Ephesians 2:2; and "the god of this world" in 2 Corinthians 4:4.
• Leviathan is described as "that crooked serpent," which is also used to describe Satan in Revelation 12:9. 'Sar ha Olam,' a possible name for Metatron, is described as Satan by Michael, Jehoel and St. Paul.
Satan as depicted in the Ninth Circle of Hell in Dante Alighieri's Inferno, illustrated by Gustave Doré.
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 2 Thessalonians 2:7, 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" (Revelation 20:10), 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.
Main articles: Shaitan and Iblis
Shaitan (شيطان) is the equivalent of Satan in Islam.
While Shaitan (شيطان, from the root ¨ṭn 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 (pronounced [ˈibliːs]) 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.
Much "Satanic" lore does not originate from actual Satanists, but from Christians. Best-known would be the medieval folklore and theology surrounding demons and witches. A more recent example is the so-called Satanic ritual abuse scare of the 1980s; beginning with the memoir Michelle Remembers – which depicts Satanism as a vast conspiracy of elites with a predilection for child abuse and human sacrifice. This genre regularly describes Satan as actually appearing in person in order to receive worship. Claims of Satanic child-molesting or murder rings are largely unsubstantiated.