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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Satan (2)

SATAN.1. The word ‘Satan’ (שָׂטָן, Σατανᾶς), which in the NT is invariably used as a proper name denoting the arch-enemy of God and man, occurs in the Hebrew of the OT originally as a synonym of the common words for ‘adversary,’ as the verb שָׂטֵן is used simply in the sense of withstanding, taking the opposite side. In this sense it is used in Numbers 22:22 even of the angel of the Lord, who is said to go forth to be a Satan to Balaam. In other passages it is applied, with no sinister meaning, to David, who, as the Philistines feared, might desert Achish and turn against them in battle (1 Samuel 29:4); to Abishai when he opposed David’s purpose of clemency towards Shimei (2 Samuel 19:22); and again to a foreign enemy in general (1 Kings 5:4); and to Hadad and Rezon in connexion with their revolt against Solomon (1 Kings 11:14; 1 Kings 11:23; 1 Kings 11:25). Elsewhere, as in the Book of Ps. (109:6), in the first two chapters of the Book of Job and in Zechariah 3 it is used in a technical or legal sense as the equivalent of ἀντίδικος, an opponent in law, an advocate, whose function it is to plead for the condemnation of an accused person. In Job 2:3 Jehovah taxes ‘the Satan’ with over-officious zeal in his efforts to test the motives of the righteous man whom he is permitted to accuse; and again in Zechariah 3:2 He distinctly rebukes him for pressing his charge against Joshua. But notwithstanding such suggestions that an evil spirit, a malicious accuser, is described (like the Satan, the accuser of the brethren, διάβολος, κατήγορος of the NT), there is no explicit indication that this is the case. The being thus described as ‘the Satan’ or the Adversary appears in Zechariah as an official accuser, and in the Book of Job he takes his place among ‘the sons of God’ in the court of heaven as one having a right to be there, and that in connexion with the function attributed to him of ‘going to and fro upon the earth,’ and ‘considering’ and reporting upon the conduct of the sons of men. He is recognized as a minister of the Divine justice, although God does tax him with overdoing his part. All that appears to be indicated there is the thought that there is in the Court of God one whose office it is to plead for the condemnation of sinners. Of a malignant enemy of God and His cause, a personal spirit of evil called Satan, there is no express mention in the OT. The temptation of our first parents is ascribed in Genesis to ‘the serpent,’ and no interpretation is offered of the symbolism of the story. Again, though in one passage in Chronicles (1 Chronicles 21:1) we read that Satan tempted David to number the people—a presumptuous offence for which the king was severely punished—the parallel passage (2 Samuel 24:1), much the older narrative, attributes David’s conduct to trial at the hands of God, not to the temptation of the Evil One. Similarly the deception of the ‘lying spirit’ who lured Ahab to his destruction (1 Kings 22:19-23) is said to have had the express sanction of God. Altogether it is one of the most noteworthy features of the theology of the OT, that so little reference is made to Satan as the great adversary of God and His people, or as the malignant tempter and accuser of man. The Satan of the Book of Job and of the prophecies of Zechariah is described in language very different from that in which the arch-enemy is spoken of in the NT.

This fact, together with the circumstance that references to Satan as an accuser of mankind occur only in those books of the OT which belong to a comparatively late period, has been taken as a proof of the theory that the Jewish belief in Satanic agency was introduced into the Hebrew theology from a foreign source. Traces appear elsewhere of early beliefs current among the Hebrews in the existence of demons, satyrs, liliths, and the like, as in the use of the name ‘Azazel,’ a mysterious being mentioned in the Pentateuch in connexion with the ordinance of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16). It has been supposed that upon those popular beliefs of early Semitie religion there was grafted, from Persian sources, the conception of a Prince of Darkness whose agency is similar to that which, in the religion of Zoroaster, is ascribed to the demon-god Ahriman, and that the belief in Satan and his angels as fallen spirits was thus introduced into Hebrew theology. But, as a matter of fact, the connexion between Satan and the Zoroastrian Ahriman is more apparent than real. A simpler explanation of the history of the doctrine of the personality and agency of Satan is that it has been the subject of development under the influence of a progressive revelation. The complete revelation of such a being as the malignant author of evil was reserved for the time when, with the advent of Christ’s Kingdom, the minds of God’s people were prepared, without risk of idolatry, or of the mischievous dualism of such a religion as that of Zoroaster, to recognize in the serpent of Eden and in the Satan who appeared as the adversary of Job and of Joshua, the great Adversary of God and man, whose power is to be feared and his temptations resolutely resisted, but from whose dark dominion the Son of God had come to deliver mankind.

2. If the OT is remarkable for its reticence on this subject, we find in the NT the doctrine of Satanic agency very fully developed. It meets us on the threshold. It is one of the most conspicuous elements of NT teaching. Jesus and His disciples distinctly assume the reality of Satan and his kingdom as a mighty power for evil, opposed to the Kingdom of God in the world and in the hearts of men. This is nowhere more noticeable than in the Gospels, and there in the direct teaching of our Lord. At the outset of the Gospel narrative Satan appears as the antagonist of Christ. The story of the Temptation, which must have been communicated to the disciples from the lips of Jesus Himself, is related by the three Synoptists. St. Mark (Mark 1:13) informs us that Jesus was forty days tempted of Satan, using that word or title as a proper name. St. Matthew (ch. 4) and St. Luke (ch. 4), who relate the incident with clear circumstantiality of detail, note three distinct temptations, in which they quote the arguments used by the Tempter and the answers returned by Jesus. They describe the Tempter as ὁ διάβολος, ‘the devil,’ using the recognized word for betrayer or malicious accuser. According to St. Matthew’s account, Jesus addresses him as ‘Satan.’ St. Luke concludes the narrative with the significant words, ‘When the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season,’ as if to indicate that the conflict with Satan was renewed and continued throughout our Lord’s ministry. St. Matthew tells us that when the devil left Him, angels came and ministered unto Him. Thus the Synoptic Gospels distinctly describe the source of the temptation as the direct suggestions of a person, and that one who is variously called Satan and ‘the devil.’

Again, these same Gospels, as also the Acts of the Apostles, take notice of Christ’s works of healing, and especially of those wrought upon persons possessed with demons, as illustrating the nature of His mission, which was to heal ‘all that were oppressed of the devil’ (Acts 10:38). St. Luke (Luke 22:3) no less clearly than St. John (John 13:2) informs us that Satan entered the heart of Judas and prompted him to betray his Lord.

In the recorded utterances of Jesus, in His express teaching, allusions are clearly made to the power and activity of Satan as a personal being, and the great Adversary of God and man. He attributes the trouble of the woman who had the spirit of infirmity to the malign power of Satan to afflict even the bodies of men (Luke 13:16). Thus, so far from discouraging the popular belief which ascribed to Satan and his angels power over soul and body, Jesus distinctly acknowledged it. Accused by the Pharisees, representatives of those to whose speculations in angelology and demonology that popular belief has been traced, of casting out demons through Beelzebub the prince of demons, Jesus, so far from controverting or throwing doubt upon the current opinions of the time, repels the charge by the argument that if Satan should cast out Satan, he would only be defeating his own ends and destroying his own work. Then He proceeds to say, ‘But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you’ (Matthew 12:28, cf. Luke 11:20), illustrating His argument by the similitude of the strong man and the Stronger than he, implying that Satan is the strong man who would enslave mankind, but that Jesus Himself is the Stronger than he, who has appeared for the deliverance of the victims of Satanic power. That Jesus should thus have argued in controversy with the Pharisees has its own significance. We cannot explain it away on the principle of accommodation. Jesus could and did rebuke the spirit of Pharisaic traditionalism which led them to introduce all manner of mischievous subtleties, making void the Law by their unauthorized traditions, but never once did He even cast suspicion upon this part of the doctrine of the Pharisees. He accepted it without question.

Again, when the Seventy expressed their joy at the success of their mission, and exclaimed, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject unto us,’ Jesus replied, ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,’ and went on to say, ‘Behold, I give you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy’ (Luke 10:17-19). Passing over such passages as those in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil’ or ‘the evil one’ (Matthew 5:37); ‘Deliver us from evil’ or ‘the evil one’ (Matthew 6:13), which have been explained, and even, as in the Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 , translated as referring to the personal Author of Evil, we find Jesus in His discourses and in warnings addressed to His disciples making distinct allusion to Satan as the great adversary whom they have cause to fear. In the parables of the Sower and the Tares, the Evil One, variously termed ‘the devil,’ ‘Satan,’ ‘the enemy,’ ‘the wicked one,’ is described as seeking to frustrate the work of Christ by catching away the good seed sown in the heart (Matthew 13:19, Mark 4:15, Luke 8:12); or by sowing tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:38-39), the tares denoting the children of ‘the wicked one’ as the enemy that sowed them is ‘the devil.’ Here we see clearly illustrated the New Testament doctrine of the irreconcilable antagonism between the Kingdom of Christ and that of Satan.

Again, Jesus warns Peter on one occasion that Satan has asked and obtained the Divine permission to sift the disciples as wheat; and indicates that their only hope lies in the intercession of Christ Himself, who has prayed for Simon that his ‘faith fail not’ (Luke 22:31).

Once more, in Christ’s discourse on the Last Judgment, it is expressly stated that the everlasting punishment to which the unfaithful are condemned was ‘prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matthew 25:41), a passage which well illustrates the manner in which, in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus is consistently represented as alluding to Satan and his power and kingdom. That is, that the doctrine is not so much set forth by way of dogmatic statement as assumed, taken for granted. Jesus does not enlarge upon it, but quictly accepts it, presupposes it as a matter about which there is no dispute. The belief is there, and Jesus sets upon it the seal of His authority.

To these examples from the Synoptic Gospels must be added the very emphatic testimony of the discourses of Christ according to the Fourth Gospel. The darkness under whose dominion, according to the introductory verses, the world is held, the dead weight, the vis inertiae of human insensibility to the Divine light, is no negative thing, but itself a power, a kingdom in deadly opposition to the Kingdom of Christ, and under the rule of Satan. Jesus directly attributes the opposition of His antagonists to the malice of the devil. So He says to the Jews, ‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do’ (John 8:44). The false accusations of Scribe and Pharisee, and the untiring malignity of their persecuting zeal, show the spirit and are the work of him who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning. Again, He speaks of Satan as the Prince of this world, and represents as the aim and the certain result of His own work, the judgment and the easting out of Satan and his kingdom (John 12:31; cf. John 14:30, John 16:11).

3. The other portions of the NT confirm but do not materially add to the testimony of the Gospels on the subject of the personality and the power of the Evil One. Thus St. James (James 4:7) merely counsels his readers to resist the devil, assuring them that he will flee from them; while in another passage (James 2:19) he speaks of ‘the demons’ (τὰ δαιμόνια), evidently meaning by the term the subordinate agents of Satanic power, as believing that there is one God—a belief which fills them with terror. St. Peter assures us that Satan, whom he describes as ἀντίδικος (‘adversary,’ a technical or official word), and compares to a roaring lion, may be successfully resisted by the power of steadfast faith (1 Peter 5:8-9). St. John in his First Epistle repeats the teaching of his Gospel, and in the Apocalypse identifies Satan with the serpent of Eden, and seemingly also with the accuser of Job and of Joshua (Revelation 12:9-10), and foretells his coming doom. St. Paul accepts the current doctrine; but though in his Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians he seems to add to the teaching of Christ in the Gospels other elements from the demonology of the Pharisaic schools and from other sources (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:11, Colossians 2:15), and in his Epistles to the Corinthians and to Timothy (1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Timothy 1:20) ascribes to Satan a certain power of discipline as a minister of Divine judgment, really contributes to this branch of Christian doctrine no essential element additional to that which is furnished in the Gospels. See, further, articles Accommodation and Demon.

Literature.—Cremer, Bibl.-Theol. Lexicon, s.v.; Commentaries of Meyer, Alford, etc.; Cheyne, The Origin of the Psalter, pp. 159, 270 ff., 281; A. B. Davidson, The Book of Job (Cambridge Bible), pp. 7–13, alao Theol. of OT, p. 300 ff.; Schmid, Bibl. Theol. of NT, p. 187; Beyschlag, NT Theol. 7 p. 93; Reuss, Christian Theol. of the Apostolic Age, i. pp. 162, 420; Wernle, The Beginnings of Christianity, p. 47; Gfrörer, Das Jahrhundert des Heils, p. 368; Wright, Zechariah and his Prophecies, p. 46 ff.; art. ‘Satan’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (Whitehouse), and in the Encyc. Bibl. (G. B. Gray and J. Massie); art. ‘Teufel’ in PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] (A. Wünsche); H. J. Holtzmann, Lehrb. d. neutest. Theol. i. pp. 53, 226.

H. H. Currie.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Satan (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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