Click to donate today!
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
Diabolus, an evil angel. The word is formed from the French diable, of the Latin diabolus, which comes from the Greek διαβολος , which, in its ordinary acceptation, signifies calumniator, traducer, or false accuser, from the verb διαβαλλειν , to calumniate, &c; or from the ancient British diafol. Dr. Campbell observes, that, though the word is sometimes, both in the Old Testament and the New, applied to men and women, as traducers, it is, by way of eminence, employed to denote that apostate angel, who is exhibited to us, particularly in the New Testament, as the great enemy of God and man. In the two first chapters of Job, it is the word in the Septuagint by which the Hebrew שטן , Satan, or adversary, is translated. Indeed, the Hebrew word in this application, as well as the Greek, has been naturalized in most modern languages. Thus we say, indifferently, the devil, or Satan; only the latter has more the appearance of a proper name, as it is not attended with the article. There is, however, this difference between the import of such terms, as occurring in their native tongues, and as modernized in translations. In the former, they always retain somewhat of their primitive meaning, and, beside indicating a particular being, or class of beings, they are of the nature of appellatives, and make a special character or note of distinction in such beings. Whereas, when thus Latinized or Englished, they answer solely the first of these uses, as they come nearer the nature of proper names. Διαβολος is sometimes applied to human beings; but nothing is more easy than to distinguish this application from the more frequent application to the arch- apostate. One mark of distinction is, that, in this last use of the term, it is never found in the plural. When the plural is used, the context always shows that it refers to human beings, and not to fallen angels. It occurs in the plural only thrice, and that only in the epistles of St. Paul,
1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3 . Another criterion whereby the application of this word to the prince of darkness may be discovered, is its being attended with the article. The term almost invariably is ο διαβολος . The excepted instances occur in the address of Paul to Elymas the sorcerer, Acts 13:10; and that of our Lord to the Pharisees, John 8:44 . The more doubtful cases are those in 1 Peter 5:8 , and Revelation 20:2 . These are all the examples in which the word, though used indefinitely or without the article, evidently denotes our spiritual and ancient enemy; and the examples in which it occurs in this sense with the article, are too numerous to be recited.
2. That there are angels and spirits, good and bad, says an eminent writer; that at the head of these last, there is one more considerable and malignant than the rest, who, in the form, or under the name, of a serpent, was deeply, concerned in the fall of man, and whose head, in the language of prophecy, the Son of Man was one day to bruise; that this evil spirit, though that prophecy be in part fulfilled, has not yet received his death's wound, but is still permitted, for ends to us unsearchable, and in ways which we cannot particularly explain, to have a certain degree of power in this world hostile to its virtue and happiness,—all this is so clear from Scripture, that no believer, unless he be previously "spoiled by philosophy and vain deceit," can possibly entertain a doubt of it. Certainly, among the numerous refinements of modern times, there is scarcely any thing more extraordinary than the attempt that has been made, and is still making, to persuade us that there really exists no such being in the world as the devil; and that when the inspired writers speak of such a being, all that they mean is, to personify the evil principle! A bold effort unquestionably; and could its advocates succeed in persuading men into the universal belief of it, they would do more to promote his cause and interest in the world than he himself has been able to effect since the seduction of our first parents. But to be armed against this subtle stratagem, let us attend to the plain doctrine of divine revelation respecting this matter. In the old Testament, particularly in the first two chapters of Job, this evil spirit is called Satan; and in the New Testament, he is spoken of under various titles, which are also descriptive of his power and malignity; as for example, he is called, "the prince of this world," John 12:31; "the prince of the power of the air," Ephesians 2:2; "the god of this world," 2 Corinthians 4:4; "the dragon, that old serpent, the devil," Revelation 20:2; "the wicked one,"
1 John 5:19 . He is represented as exercising a sovereign sway over the human race in their natural state, or previous to their being enlightened, regenerated, and sanctified by the Gospel, Ephesians 2:2-3 . His kingdom is described as a kingdom of darkness; and the influence which he exercises over the human mind is called "the power," or energy, "of darkness," Colossians 1:13 . Hence believers are said to be "called out of darkness into marvellous light," 1 Peter 2:9 . Farther, he is said to go about "as a roaring lion, seeking its prey, that he may destroy men's souls,"
1 Peter 5:8 . Christ says, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him; when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of that which is his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it," John 8:44 . We are also taught that this grand adversary of God and man has a numerous band of fallen spirits under his control; and that both he and they are reserved under a sentence of condemnation unto the judgment of the great day, Judges 1:6; and that "everlasting fire," or perpetual torment, "is prepared for the devil and his angels," Matthew 25:41 . In these various passages of Scripture, and many others which might be added, the existence of the devil is expressly stated; but if, as our modern Sadducees affirm, nothing more is intended in them than a personification of the abstract quality of evil, the Bible, and especially the New Testament, must be eminently calculated to mislead us in matters which intimately concern our eternal interests. If, in inferring from them the existence of evil spirits in this world, we can be mistaken, it will not, be an easy matter to show what inference deduced from Scripture premises may safely be relied on. It ought not, however, to surprise Christians that attempts of this kind should be made. St. Paul tells us, that in his day there were "false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ; and no wonder," says he, "for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light," 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 .
3. To the notion, that the Jews derived their opinions on this subject from the oriental philosophy, and that like the Persians they set up a rival god; it may be replied, that the Jewish notion of the devil had no resemblance to what the Persians first, and the Manicheans afterward, called the evil principle; which they made in some sort coordinate with God, and the first source of all evil, as the other is of good. For the devil, in the Jewish system, is a creature as much as any other being in the universe, and is liable to be controlled by omnipotence,—an attribute which they ascribed to God alone.
4. The arguments from philosophy against the existence of evil spirits are as frail as that which is pretended to be grounded upon criticism. For that there is nothing irrational in the notion of superior beings, is plain from this: that if there be other beings below us, there may be others above us. If we have demonstration of one Being at least who is invisible, there may be many other created invisible and spiritual beings. If we see men sometimes so bad as to delight in tempting others to sin and ruin, there may exist a whole order of fallen beings who may have the same business and the same malignant pleasure; and if we see some men furiously bent upon destroying truth and piety, this is precisely what is ascribed to these evil spirits. It is one of the serious circumstances of our probation on earth, that we should be exposed to this influence of Satan, and we are therefore called to "watch and pray that we enter not into temptation."
5. The establishment of the worship of devils so general in some form throughout a great part of the Heathen world, is at once a painful and a curious subject, and deserves a more careful investigation than it has received. In modern times, devil-worship is seen systematized in Ceylon, Burmah, and many parts of the East Indies; and an order of devil-priests exists, though contrary to the Budhist religion, against the temples of which it sets up rival altars.
Mr. Ives, in his travels through Persia, gives the following curious account of devil-worship: "These people (the Sanjacks, a nation inhabiting the country about Mosul, the ancient Nineveh) once professed Christianity, then Mohammedanism, and last of all devilism. They say it is true that the devil has at present a quarrel with God; but the time will come when, the pride of his heart being subdued, he will make his submission to the Almighty; and, as the Deity cannot be implacable, the devil will receive a full pardon for all his transgressions, and both he, and all those who paid him attention during his disgrace, will be admitted into the blessed mansions. This is the foundation of their hope, and this chance for heaven they esteem to be a better one than that of trusting to their own merits, or the merits of the leader of any other religion whatsoever. The person of the devil they look on as sacred; and when they affirm any thing solemnly, they do it by his name. All disrespectful expressions of him they would punish with death, did not the Turkish power prevent them. Whenever they speak of him, it is with the utmost respect; and they always put before his name a certain title corresponding to that of highness or lord." The worshippers of the devil mentioned by Ives were also found by Niebuhr in the same country, in a village between Bagdad and Mosul, called Abd-el-asis, on the great Zab, a river which empties itself into the Tigris. This village, says he, is entirely inhabited by people who are called Isidians, and also Dauasin. As the Turks allow the free exercise of religion only to those who possess sacred books, that is, the Mohammedans, Christians, and Jews, the Isidians are obliged to keep the principles of their religion very secret. They therefore call themselves Mohammedans, Christians, or Jews, according to the party of him who inquires what their religion is. Some accuse them of worshipping the devil under the name of Tschellebi; that is, Lord. Others say that they show great reverence for the sun and fire, that they are unpolished Heathens, and have horrid customs. I have also been assured that the Dauasins do not worship the devil; but adore God alone as the Creator and Benefactor of all mankind. They will not speak of Satan, nor even have his name mentioned. They say that it is just as improper for men to take a part in the dispute between God and a fallen angel, as for a peasant to ridicule and curse a servant of the pacha who has fallen into disgrace; that God did not require our assistance to punish Satan for his disobedience; it might happen that he might receive him into favour again; and then we must be ashamed before the judgment seat of God, if we had, uncalled for, abused one of his angels: it was therefore the best not to trouble one's self about the devil; but endeavour not to incur God's displeasure ourselves. When the Isidians go to Mosul, they are not detained by the magistrates, even if they are known. The vulgar, however, sometimes attempt to extort money from them. When they offer eggs or butter to them for sale, they endeavour first to get the articles into their hands, and then dispute about the price, or for this or other reasons to abuse Satan with all their might; on which the Dauasin is often polite enough to leave every thing behind, rather than hear the devil abused. But in the countries where they have the upper hand, nobody is allowed to curse him, unless he chooses to be beaten, or perhaps even to lose his life.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Devil'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/d/devil.html. 1831-2.