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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
The Scripture term for the chief of fallen spirits, and the arch-principle of evil. The doctrine of Satan and of satanic agency is to be made out from revelation, and from reflection in agreement with revelation. The obscurity of the subject need not deter us from a candid investigation of it.
I. Scripture Names or Titles of Satan. — Besides Satan, he is called the Devil, the Dragon, the Evil One, the Angel of the Bottomless Pit, the Prince of this World, the Prince of the Power of the Air, the God of this World, Apollyon, Abaddon, Belial, Beelzebub. "Satan" and "devil" are the names by which he is oftener distinguished than by any other, the former being applied to him about forty times and the latter about fifty times. See each term.
Satan is the Hebrew word שָׂטָן, satan', transferred to the English. It is derived from the verb שָׂטִן, which means "to lie in wait," "to oppose," "to be an adversary;" hence, the noun denotes an adversary, or opposer. The word in its generic sense occurs in 1 Kings 11:14 : "The Lord raised up an adversary (satan; Sept. σατάν ) against Solomon," i.e. Hadad the Edomite. In the 23d verse the word occurs again, applied to Rezan. It is used in the same sense in 1 Samuel 29:4, where David is termed an adversary, and in Numbers 22:22, where the angel "stood in the way for an adversary (satan) to Balaam," i.e. to oppose him when he went with the princes of Moab. See also 2 Samuel 19:22, 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Kings 11:25 Psalms 109:6, where the Sept. has ἐπίβουλος, ἀντικαίμενος, διάβολος, etc. In Zechariah 3:1-2, the word occurs in its specific sense as a proper name. "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan." Here it is manifest, both from the context and the use of the article, that some particular adversary is denoted. In Job 1:2, the same use of the word with the article occurs several times. The events in which Satan is represented as the agent confirm this view. He was a distinguished adversary and tempter. See also 1 Chronicles 21:1. In all these latter passages the Sept. has σατάν, and the Vulg. Satan. When we pass from the Old to the New Test., this doctrine of an invisible evil agent becomes more clear. With the advent of Christ and the opening of the Christian dispensation, the great opposer of that kingdom, the particular adversary and antagonist of the Savior, would naturally become more active and more known. The antagonism of Satan and his kingdom to Christ and his kingdom runs through the whole of the New Test., as will appear from the following passages and their contexts: Matthew 4:10; Matthew 12:26; Mark 4:15; Luke 10:18; Luke 22:3; Luke 22:31; Acts 26:18; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 12:9. Peter is once called Satan, because his spirit and conduct, at a certain time, were so much in opposition to the spirit and intent of Christ, and so much in the same line of direction with the workings of Satan. This is the only application of the word in the New Test. to any but the prince of the apostate angels. In the New Test. the word is σατανᾶς, followed by the Vulg. Satanas, except in 2 Corinthians 12:7, where σατᾶν is used. It is found in twenty-five places (exclusive of parallel passages), and the corresponding word ὁ διάβολος in about the same number. The title ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου is used three times; ὁ πονηρός is used certainly six times, probably more frequently, and ὁ πειράζων twice.
Devil (Διάβολος ) is the more frequent term of designation given to Satan in the New Test. Both "Satan" and "devil" are in several instances applied to the same being (Revelation 12:9), "That old serpent, the devil and Satan." Christ, in the temptation (Matthew 4), in his repulse of the tempter, calls him Satan; while the evangelists distinguish him by the term "devil." Devil is the word διάβολος transferred from the verb διαβάλλω, "to thrust through," "to carry over," and, tropically, "to inform against," "to accuse." He is also called the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). The Hebrew term Satan is more generic than the word devil, at least by its etymology. The former expresses his character as an opposer of all good; the latter denotes more particularly the relation which he bears to the saints, as their traducer and accuser. Διάβολος is the uniform translation which the Sept. gives of the Hebrew Satan when used with the article. Farmer says that the term Satan is not appropriated to one particular person or spirit, but signifies an adversary, or opponent in general. This is to no purpose, since it is also applied to the "devil" as an adversary in particular. There are four instances in the New Test. in which the word "devil," diabolos, is applied to human beings. In three out of the four it is in the plural number, expressive of quality and not personality (1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3). In the fourth instance (John 6:70), Jesus says to his disciples, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" This is the only instance in the New Test. of its application to a human being in the singular number; and here Dr. Campbell thinks it should not be translated "devil." The translation is, however, of no consequence, since it is with the use of the original word that this article is concerned. The obvious reasons for this application of διάβολος to Judas, as an exception to the general rule, go to confirm the rule. The rule is that, in the New Test. usage, the word in the singular number denotes individuality, and is applied to Satan as a proper name. By the exception, it is applied to Judas, from his resemblance to the devil, as an accuser and betrayer of Christ, and from his contributing to aid him in his designs against Christ. With these exceptions, the usus loquendi of the New Test. shows ὁ Διάβολος to be a proper name, applied to an extraordinary being, whose influence upon the human race is great and mischievous (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 8:12; John 8:44; Acts 13:10; Ephesians 6:11; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:9). (See DEVIL).
The term "devil," which is in the New Test. the uniform translation of διάβολος , is also frequently the translation of daemon, δαίμων, and daemonion, δαιμόνιον. Between these words and διάβολος the English translators have made no distinction. The former are almost always used in connection with demoniacal possessions, and are applied to the possessing spirits, but never to the prince of those spirits. On the other hand, διάβολος is never applied to the daemons, but only to their prince, thus showing that the one is used definitely as a proper name, while the others are used indefinitely as generic terms. The sacred writers made a distinction, which in the English and most modern versions is lost. (See DEMON).
II. Personality of Satan. — We determine this point by the same criteria that we use in determining whether Caesar and Napoleon were real, personal beings, or the personifications of abstract ideas, viz. by the tenor of history concerning them, and the ascription of personal attributes to them. All the forms of personal agency are made use of by the sacred writers in setting forth the character and conduct of Satan. They describe him as having power and dominion, messengers and followers. He tempts and resists; he is held accountable, charged with guilt; is to be judged, and to receive final punishment. On the supposition that it was the object of the sacred writers to teach the proper personality of Satan, they could have found no more express terms than those which they have actually used. To suppose that all this semblance of a real, veritable, conscious moral agent is only a trope, a prosopopoeia, is to make the inspired penmen guilty of employing a figure in such a way that, by no ascertained laws of language, it could be known that it was a figure — in such a way that it could not be taken to be a figure, without violence to all the rhetorical rules by which they on other occasions are known to have been guided. A personification protracted through such a book as the Bible. even should we suppose it to have been written by one person, is altogether anomalous and inadmissible. But to suppose that the several writers of the different books of the Bible, diverse in their style and intellectual habits, writing under widely differing circumstances, through a period of nearly two thousand years, should each, from Moses to John, fall into the use of the same personification, is to require men to believe that the inspired writers, who ought to have done the least violence to the common laws of language, have really done the most.
But there are other difficulties than these general ones by which the theory of personification is encumbered. This theory supposes the devil to be the principle of evil. Let it be applied in the interpretation of two or three passages of Scripture. "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (Matthew 4:1-11). Was Jesus tempted by a real, personal being? or was it by the principle of evil? If by the latter, in whom or what did this principle reside? Was it in Jesus? Then it could not be true that in him was no sin. The very principle of sin was in him, which would have made him the tempter of himself. This is bad hermeneutics, producing worse theology. Let it also be remembered that this principle of evil, in order to be moral evil, must inhere in some conscious moral being. Sin is evil only as it implies the state or action of some personal and accountable agent. Again: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth: he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44). With what propriety could these specific acts of guilt be charged upon an abstraction? An abstraction a murderer! a liar! Seriously to affirm such things of the mere abstraction of evil is a solemn fiction; while to assert them of a fallen angel, who beguiled Eve by falsehood, and brought death upon all the race of man, is an intelligible and affecting truth.
It would be a waste of time to prove that, in various degrees of clearness, the personal existence of a Spirit of Evil is revealed again and again in Scripture. Every quality, every action, which can indicate personality, is attributed to him in language which cannot be explained away. It is not difficult to see why it should be thus revealed. It is obvious that the fact of his existence is of spiritual importance, and it is also clear, from the nature of the case, that it could not be discovered, although it might be suspected, by human reason. It is in the power of that reason to test any supposed manifestations of supernatural power, and any asserted principles of divine action which fall within its sphere of experience (" the earthly things" of John 3:12). It may by such examination satisfy itself of the truth and divinity of a Person or a book; but, having done this, it must then accept and understand, without being able to test, or to explain, the disclosures of this divine authority upon subjects beyond this world (the "heavenly things," of which it is said that none can see or disclose them, save the "Son of Man who is in heaven").
It is true that human thought can assert an a priori probability or improbability in such statements made, based on the perception of a greater or less degree of accordance in principle between the things seen and the things unseen, between the effects, which are visible, and the causes, which are revealed from the regions of mystery. But even this power of weighing probability is applicable rather to the fact and tendency than to the method of supernatural action. This is true even of natural action beyond the sphere of human observation. In the discussion of the plurality of worlds, for example, it may be asserted without doubt that in all the orbs of the universe the divine power, wisdom, and goodness must be exercised; but the inference that the method of their exercise is found there, as here, in the creation of sentient and rational beings is one at best of but moderate probability. Still more is this the case in the spiritual world. Whatever supernatural orders of beings may exist, we can conclude that in their case, as in ours, the divine government must be carried on by the union of individual freedom of action with the overruling power of God, and must tend finally to that good which is his central attribute. But beyond this we can assert nothing to be certain, and can scarcely even say of any part of the method of this government whether it is antecedently probable or improbable. Thus, on our present subject, man can ascertain by observation the existence of evil — that is, of facts and thoughts contrary to the standard which conscience asserts to be the true one, bringing with them suffering and misery as their inevitable results. If he attempts to trace them to their causes, he finds them to arise, for each individual, partly from the power of certain internal impulses which act upon the will, partly from the influence of external circumstances. These circumstances themselves arise, either from the laws of nature and society, or by the deliberate action of other men. lie can conclude with certainty that both series of causes must exist by the permission of God, and must finally be overruled to his will. But whether there exist any superhuman but subordinate cause of the circumstances, and whether there be any similar influence acting in the origination of the impulses which move the will, this is a question which he cannot answer with certainty. Analogy, from the observation of the only ultimate cause which he can discover in the visible world — viz. the free action of a personal will — may lead him, and generally has led him, to conjecture the affirmative; but still the inquiry remains unanswered by authority start.
The tendency of the mind in its inquiry is generally towards one or other of two extremes. The first is to consider evil as a negative imperfection arising, in some unknown and inexplicable way, from the nature of matter, or from some disturbing influences which limit the action of goodness on earth; in fact, to ignore as much of evil as possible, and to decline to refer the residuum to any positive cause at all. The other is the old Persian or Manichaean hypothesis, which traces the existence of evil to a rival creator, not subordinate to the Creator of good, though perhaps inferior to him in power, and destined to be overcome by him at last. Between these two extremes the mind varied through many gradations of thought and countless forms of superstition. Each hypothesis had its arguments of probability against the other. The first labored under the difficulty of being insufficient as an account of the anomalous facts, and indeterminate in its account of the disturbing cause; the second sinned against that belief in the unity of God and the natural supremacy of goodness, which is supported by the deepest instincts of the heart. But both were laid in a sphere beyond human cognizance; neither could be proved or disproved with certainty.
The revelation of Scripture, speaking with authority, meets the truth and removes the error inherent in both these hypotheses. It asserts in the strongest terms the perfect supremacy of God, so that under his permission alone, and for his inscrutable purposes, evil is allowed to exist (see, for example, Proverbs 16:4; Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; comp. Romans 9:22-23). It regards this evil as an anomaly and corruption, to be taken away by a new manifestation of divine love in the incarnation and atonement. The conquest of it began virtually in God's ordinance after the fall itself, was effected actually on the cross, and shall be perfected in its results at the judgment day. Still Scripture recognizes the existence of evil in the world, not only as felt in outward circumstances (" the world"), and as inborn in the soul of man (" the flesh"), but also as proceeding from the influence of an evil spirit, exercising that mysterious power of free will, which God"s rational creatures possess, to rebel against him, and to draw others into the same rebellion (" the devil").
In accordance with the "economy" and progressiveness of God"s revelation, the existence of Satan is but gradually revealed. In the first entrance of evil into the world, the temptation is referred only to the serpent. It is true that the whole narrative, and especially the spiritual nature of the temptation (" to be as gods"), which was united to the sensual motive, would force on any thoughtful reader the conclusion that something more than a mere animal agency was at work; but the time had not then come to reveal, what afterwards was revealed, that "he who sinneth is of the devil" (1 John 3:8), and that "the old serpent" of Genesis was "called the devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world" (Revelation 12:9; 20:23).
Throughout the whole period of the patriarchal and Jewish dispensations, this vague and imperfect revelation of the source of evil alone was given. The Source of all Good is set forth in all his supreme and unapproachable majesty; evil is known negatively as the falling away from him; and the "vanity" of idols, rather than any positive evil influence, is represented as the opposite to his reality and goodness. The law gives the "knowledge of sin" in the soul, without referring to any external influence of evil to foster it; it denounces idolatry, without even hinting, what the New Test. declares plainly, that such evil implied a "power of Satan."
The book of Job stands, in any case, alone (whether we refer it to an early or a later period) on the basis of "natural religion," apart from the gradual and orderly evolutions of the Mosaic revelation. In it, for the first time, we find a distinct mention of Satan, the adversary of Job. But it is important to remark the emphatic stress laid on his subordinate position, on the absence of all but delegated power, of all terror, and all grandeur in his character. He comes among the "sons of God" to present himself before the Lord; his malice and envy are permitted to have scope, in accusation or in action, only for God's own purposes; and its is especially remarkable that no power of spiritual influence, but only a power over outward circumstances, is attributed to him. All this is widely different from the clear and terrible revelations of the New Test.
The captivity brought the Israelites face to face with the great dualism of the Persian mythology, the conflict of Ormuzd with Ahriman, the coordinate spirit of evil. In the books written after the captivity we have again the name of Satan twice mentioned; but it is confessed by all that the Satan of Scripture bears no resemblance to the Persian Ahriman. His subordination and inferiority are as strongly marked as ever. In 1 Chronicles 21:1, where the name occurs without the article (" an adversary," not "the adversary"), the comparison with 2 Samuel 24:1 shows distinctly that, in the temptation of David, Satan"s malice was overruled to work out the "anger of the Lord" against Israel. In Zechariah 3:1-2, Satan is ὁ ἀντίδικος (as in 1 Peter 5:8), the accuser of Joshua before the throne of God, rebuked and put to silence by him (comp. Psalms 109:6). In the case, as of the good angels, so also of the evil one, the presence of fable and idolatry gave cause to the manifestation of the truth. (See ANGEL). It would have been impossible to guard the Israelites more distinctly from the fascination of the great dualistic theory of their conquerors.
It is perhaps not difficult to conjecture that the reason of this reserve as to the disclosure of the existence and nature of Satan is to be found in the inveterate tendency of the Israelites to idolatry — an idolatry based, as usual, in great degree, on the supposed power of their false gods to inflict evil. The existence of evil spirits is suggested to them in the stern prohibition and punishment of witchcraft (Exodus 22:18; Deuteronomy 18:10), and in the narrative of the possession of men by an "evil" or "lying spirit from the Lord" (1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Kings 22:22); the tendency to seek their aid is shown by the rebukes of the prophets (Isaiah 8:19, etc.). But this tendency would have been increased tenfold by the revelation of the existence of the great enemy concentrating round himself all the powers of evil and enmity against God. Therefore, it would seem, the revelation of the "strong man armed" was withheld until "the stronger than he" should be made manifest. In the New Test. this reserve suddenly vanishes. In the interval between the Old and New Test. the Jewish mind had pondered on the scanty revelations already given of evil spiritual influence. But the Apocryphal books (as, for example, Tobit and Judith), while dwelling on "daemons" (δαιμόνια ), have no notice of Satan. The same may be observed of Josephus. The only instance to the contrary is the reference already made to Wisd. 2, 24. It is to be noticed also that the Targums often introduce the name of Satan into the descriptions of sin and temptation found in the Old Test., as, for example, in Exodus 32:19, in connection with the worship of the golden calf (comp. the tradition as to the body of Moses, Deuteronomy 34:5-6; Judges 1:9). (See MICHAEL). But, while a mass of fable and superstition grew up on the general subject of evil spiritual influence, still the existence and nature of Satan remained in the background, felt, but not understood.
The New Test. first brings it plainly forward. From the beginning of the Gospel, when he appears as the personal tempter of our Lord, through all the Gospels, Epistles, and Apocalypse, it is asserted or implied, again and again, as a familiar and important truth. To refer this to mere "accommodation" of the language of the Lord and his apostles to the ordinary Jewish belief is to contradict facts and evade the meaning of words. The subject is not one on which error could be tolerated as unimportant, but one important, practical, and even awful. The language used respecting it is either truth or falsehood; and unless we impute error or deceit to the writers of the New Test., we must receive the doctrine of the existence of Satan as a certain doctrine of revelation. Without dwelling on other passages, the plain, solemn, and unmetaphorical words of John 8:44, must be sufficient: "Ye are of your father the devil. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abides (ἕστηκεν ) not in the truth.... When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it." (See DEMONIAC).
III. Natural History. —
1. Of the original nature and state of Satan, little is revealed in Scripture. Most of the common notions on the subject are drawn from mere tradition, popularized in England by Milton, but without even a vestige of Scriptural authority. He is spoken of as a "spirit" in Ephesians 2:2; as the prince or ruler of the "daemons" (δαιμόνια ) in Matthew 12:24-26; and as having "angels" subject to him in Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:9. The whole description of his power implies spiritual nature and spiritual influence. We conclude, therefore, that he was of angelic nature, a rational and spiritual creature, superhuman in power, wisdom, and energy; and not only so, but an archangel, one of the "princes" of heaven. (See ARCHANGEL).
The class of beings to which Satan originally belonged, and which constituted a celestial hierarchy, is very numerous: "Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him" (Daniel 7:10). They were created and dependent (John 1:3). Analogy leads to the conclusion that there are different grades among the angels as among other races of beings. The Scriptures warrant the same. Michael is described as one of the chief princes (Daniel 10:13); as chief captain of the host of Jehovah (Joshua 5:14). Similar distinctions exist among the fallen angels (Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 6:12). It is also reasonable to suppose that they were created susceptible of improvement in all respects except moral purity, as they certainly were capable of apostasy.
2. As to the time when they were brought into being, the Bible is silent; and where it is silent, we should be silent, or speak with modesty. Some suppose that they were called into existence after the creation of the world; among whom is Dr. John Dick. Others have supposed that they were created just anterior to the creation of man, and for purposes of a merciful ministration to him. It is more probable, however, that as they were the highest in rank among the creatures of God, so they were the first in the order of time; and that they may have continued for ages in obedience to their Maker, before the creation of man, or the fall of the apostate angels.
We cannot, of course, conceive that anything essentially and originally evil was created by God. We find by experience that the will of a free and rational creature can, by his permission, oppose his will; that the very conception of freedom implies capacity of temptation; and that every sin, unless arrested by God"s fresh gift of grace, strengthens the hold of evil on the spirit till it may fall into the hopeless state of reprobation. We can only conjecture, therefore, that Satan is a fallen angel, who once had a time of probation, but whose condemnation is now irrevocably fixed.
3. The Scriptures are explicit as to the apostasy of some, of whom Satan was the chief and leader. But of the time, cause, and manner of his fall, Scripture tells us scarcely anything. It limits its disclosures, as always, to that which we need to know. The passage on which all the fabric of tradition and poetry has been raised is Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:9, which speaks of "Michael and his angels" as "fighting against the dragon and his angels," till the "great dragon, called the devil and Satan," was "cast out into the earth, and his angels cast out with him." Whatever be the meaning of this passage, it is certain that it cannot refer to the original fall of Satan. The only other passage which refers to the fall of the angels is 2 Peter 2:4, "God spared not the angels, when they had sinned, but having cast them into hell, delivered them to chains of darkness (σειραῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν ), reserved unto judgment," with the parallel passage in Judges 1:6, "Angels, who kept not their first estate (τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχήν ), but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." In these mysterious passages, however, there is some difficulty in considering Satan as one of the rest, for they are in chains and guarded (τετηρημένους ) till the great day; he is permitted still to go about as the tempter and the adversary, until his appointed time be come. This distinction, nevertheless, may be due to Satan"s eminence among his fellows. Those who adhered to Satan in his apostasy are described as belonging to him. The company is called "the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). The relation marked here denotes the instrumentality which the devil may have exerted in inducing those called his angels to rebel against Jehovah and join themselves to his interests. Aside from these passages. we have still to consider the declaration of our Lord in Luke 10:18, "I beheld (ἐθεώρουν ) Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven." This may refer to the fact of his original fall (although the use of the imperfect tense and the force of the context rather refer it figuratively to the triumph of the disciples over the evil spirits); but, in any case, it tells nothing of its cause or method. There is also the passage already quoted (John 8:44), in which our Lord declares of him, that "he was a murderer from the beginning," that "he stands not (ἕστηκε ) in the truth, because there is no truth in him," that "he is a liar, and the father of it." But here it seems likely the words ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς refer to the beginning of his action upon man; perhaps the allusion is to his temptation of Cain to be the first murderer — an allusion explicitly made in a similar passage in 1 John 3:9-12. The word ἕστηκε (wrongly rendered ‘ abode' in the A.V.) and the rest of the verse refer to present time. The passage therefore throws little or no light on the cause and method of his fall. Perhaps the only one which has any value is 1 Timothy 3:6, "lest being lifted up by pride he fall into the condemnation (κρίμα ) of the devil." It is concluded from this that pride was the cause of the devil"s condemnation. The inference is a probable one; it is strengthened by the only analogy within our reach, that of the fall of man, in which the spiritual temptation of pride, the desire"; to be as gods," was the subtlest and most deadly temptation. Still it is but an inference; it cannot be regarded as a matter of certain revelation.
How Satan and his followers, being created so high in excellence and holiness, became sinful and fell is a question upon which theologians have differed, but which they have not settled. The difficulty has seemed so great to Schleiermacher and others that they have denied the fact of such an apostasy. They have untied the knot by cutting it. Still the difficulty remains. The denial of mystery is not the removal of it. Even philosophy teaches us to believe sometimes where we cannot understand. It is here that the grave question of the introduction of evil first meets us. If we admit the fact of apostasy among the angels, as by a fair interpretation of Scripture we are constrained to do, the admission of such a fact in the case of human beings will follow more easily, they being the lower order of creatures, in whom defection would be less surprising.
4. In his physical nature, Satan is among those that are termed spiritual beings; not as excluding necessarily all idea of matter, but as opposed rather to the animal nature. The good angels are all ministering spirits, πνευματα (Hebrews 1:14). Satan is one of the angels that kept not their first principality. The fall produced no change in his physical or metaphysical nature. Paul, in warning the Ephesians against the wiles of the devil, tells them (Ephesians 6:12) that they contended not against flesh and blood, mere human enemies, but against principalities and powers; against the rulers of the darkness of this world; against spiritual wickedness in high places, in which the contrast is between human and superhuman foes, the latter being spiritual natures, or spirits, in opposition to flesh and blood (Rosenmü ller, ad loc.). Satan is immortal, but not eternal; neither omniscient nor omnipresent, but raised high above the human race in knowledge and power. The Persian mythology in its early stage, and subsequently the Gnostics and Manichaeans, ranked the evil principle as coeval and coordinate, or nearly so, with God, or the good principle. The doctrine of the Jewish Church always made him a dependent creature, subject to the control of the Almighty. By the modifications which Zoroaster subsequently introduced, the Persian angelology came more nearly to resemble that of the Jews. Some have ascribed to Satan the power of working miracles, contending that there are two series of antagonistical miracles running through the Bible. To the miracles of Moses were opposed those of the Egyptian magicians; and to those of Christ and his apostles, the signs and wonders of false prophets and Antichrists the divine and the satanic. Olshausen maintains this view, as do some of the older commentators (Biblischen Commentar. 1, 242). The evidence in support of such a belief has not been sufficient to procure for it general acceptance (see Rosenmü ller and Calvin on Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses, ch. 3; also Rosenmü ller and Bush on Exodus 7). With a substantial presence in only one place at one time, yet, as the head of a spiritual kingdom, he is virtually present wherever his angels or servants are executing his will.
5. Scripture describes to us distinctly the moral character of the Evil One. This is no matter of barren speculation to those who, by yielding to evil, may become the "children of Satan" instead of "children of God." The ideal of goodness is made up of the three great moral attributes of God — love, truth, and purity, or holiness — combined with that spirit which is the natural temper of a finite and dependent creature, the spirit of faith. We find, accordingly, that the opposites to these qualities are dwelt upon as the characteristics of the devil. In John 8:44, compared with 1 John 3:10-15, we have hatred and falsehood; in the constant mention of the "unclean" spirits, of which he is the chief, we find impurity; from 1 Timothy 3:6, and the narrative of the temptation, we trace the spirit of pride. These are especially the "sins of the devil;" in them we trace the essence of moral evil and the features of, the reprobate mind. Add to this a spirit of restless activity, a power of craft, and an intense desire to spread corruption, and with it eternal death, and we have the portraiture of the spirit of evil as Scripture has drawn it plainly before our eyes.
More particularly, Satan's character is denoted by his titles, Satan, Adversary, Diabolos, False Accuser, Tempter, etc. All the representations of him in Scripture show him to have unmixed and confirmed evil as the basis of his character, exhibiting itself in respect to God in assuming to be his equal, and in wishing to transfer the homage and service which belong only to God to himself; and, in respect to men, in efforts to draw them away from God and attach them to his kingdom. The evil develops itself in all possible ways and by all possible means of opposition to God, and to those who are striving to establish and extend his dominion. The immutability of his evil character precludes the idea of repentance, and, therefore, the possibility of recovering grace. "He possesses an understanding which misapprehends exactly that which is most worthy to be known, to which the key fails without which nothing can be understood in its true relations — an understanding darkened, however deep it may penetrate, however wide it may reach. He is thereby necessarily unblessed; torn away from the center of life, yet without ever finding it in himself; from the sense of inward emptiness, continually driven to the exterior world, and yet with it, as with himself, in eternal contradiction; forever fleeing from God, yet never escaping him; constantly laboring to frustrate his designs, yet always conscious of being obliged to promote them; instead of enjoyment in the contemplation of his excellence, the never satisfied desire after an object which it cannot attain; instead of hope, a perpetual wavering between doubt and despair; instead of love, a powerless hatred against God, against his fellow beings, against himself" (Twesten).
IV. Satan's Power and Action. — Both these points, being intimately connected with our own life and salvation, are treated with a distinctness and fullness remarkably contrasted with the obscurity of the previous subjects.
The agency of Satan extends to all that he does or causes to be done. To this agency the following restrictions have generally been supposed to exist: It is limited, first, by the direct power of God; he cannot transcend the power on which he is dependent for existence; secondly, by the finiteness of his own created faculties; thirdly, by the established connection of cause and effect, or the laws of nature. The miracles, which he has been supposed to have the power of working, are denominated lying signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). With these restrictions, the devil goes about like a roaring lion.
His agency is moral and physical. First, moral. He beguiled our first parents, and thus brought sin and death upon them and their posterity (Genesis 3). He moved David to number the people (1 Chronicles 21:1). He resisted Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 3:1). He tempted Jesus (Matthew 4); entered into Judas, to induce him to betray his master (Luke 22:3); instigated Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3); and hindered Paul and Barnabas on their way to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:18). He is the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2); and he deceiveth the whole world (Revelation 12:9).
The means which he uses are variously called wiles, darts, depths, snares, all deceivableness of unrighteousness. He darkens the understandings of men, to keep them in ignorance. He perverts their judgments, that he may lead them into error. He insinuates evil thoughts, and thereby awakens in them unholy desires. He excites them to pride, anger, and revenge; to discontent, repinings, and rebellion. He labors to prop up false systems of religion, and to corrupt and overturn the true one. He came into most direct and determined conflict with the Savior in the temptation, hoping to draw him from his allegiance to God, and procure homage for himself; but he failed in his purpose. Next, he instigated the Jews to put him to death, thinking thus to thwart his designs and frustrate his plans. Here, too, he failed, and was made to subserve the very ends which he most wished to prevent. Into a similar conflict does he come with all the saints, and with like ultimate ill success. God uses his temptations as the means of trial to his people, and of strength by trial; and points them out as a motive to watchfulness and prayer. Such are the nature and mode of his moral influence and agency.
But his efforts are directed against the bodies of men, as well as against their souls. That the agency of Satan was concerned in producing physical diseases the Scriptures plainly teach (Job 2:7; Luke 13:16). Peter says of Christ that he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). Hymenaeus and Alexander were delivered to Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:20), where physical suffering by the agency of Satan, as a divine chastisement, is manifestly intended.
The power of Satan over the soul is represented as exercised either directly or by his instruments. His direct influence over the soul is simply that of a powerful and evil nature on those in whom lurks the germ of the same evil, differing from the influence exercised by a wicked man in degree rather than in kind; but it has the power of acting by suggestion of thoughts, without the medium of actions or words — a power which is only in a very slight degree exercised by men upon each other. This influence is spoken of in Scripture in the strongest terms as a real external influence, correlative to, but not to be confounded with, the existence of evil within. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:19), it is represented as a negative influence, taking away the action of the Word of God for good; in that of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:39), as a positive influence for evil, introducing wickedness into the world. Paul does not hesitate to represent it as a power permitted to dispute the world with the power of God; for he declares to Agrippa that his mission was ‘ to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power (ἐξουσίας ) of Satan unto God,' and represents the excommunication, which cuts men off from the grace of Christ in his Church, as a "deliverance of them unto Satan" (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20). The same truth is conveyed, though in a bolder and more startling form, in the epistles to the churches of the Apocalypse, where the body of the unbelieving Jews is called a "synagogue of Satan" (Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9), where the secrets of false doctrine are called "the depths of Satan" (Revelation 2:24), and the "throne" and "habitation" of Satan are said to be set up in opposition to the Church of Christ. Another and even more remarkable expression of the same idea is found in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the death of Christ is spoken of as intended to baffle (καταργεῖν ) ‘ him that hath the power (τὸ κράτος ) of death, that is, the devil;' for death is evidently regarded as the ‘ wages of sin,' and the power of death as inseparable from the power of corruption. Nor is this truth only expressed directly and formally; it meets us again and again in passages simply practical, taken for granted as already familiar (see Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Timothy 5:15). The Bible does not shrink from putting the fact of satanic influence over the soul before us in plain and terrible certainty.
Yet, at the same time, it is to be observed that its language is very far from countenancing, even for a moment, the horrors of the Manichean theory. The influence of Satan is always spoken of as temporary and limited, subordinated to the divine counsel, and broken by the incarnate Son of God. It is brought out visibly, in the form of possession, in the earthly life of our Lord, only in order that it may give the opportunity of his triumph. As for himself, so for his redeemed ones, it is true that "God shall bruise Satan under their feet shortly" (Romans 16:20; comp. Genesis 3:15). Nor is this all, for the history of the book of Job shows plainly, what is elsewhere constantly implied, that satanic influence is permitted in order to be overruled to good, to teach humility, and therefore faith. The mystery of the existence of evil is left unexplained; but its present subordination and future extinction are familiar truths. So accordingly, on the other hand, his power is spoken of as capable of being resisted by the will of man, when aided by the grace of God. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" is the constant language of Scripture (James 4:7). It is indeed a power to which "place" or opportunity "is given" only by the consent of man's will (Ephesians 4:27). It is probably to be traced most distinctly in the power of evil habit — a power real, but not irresistible, created by previous sin, and by every successive act of sin riveted more closely upon the soul. It is a power which cannot act directly and openly, but needs craft and dissimulation in order to get advantage over man by entangling the will. The "wiles" (Ephesians 6:11), the "devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11), the "snare" (1 Timothy 3:7; 1 Timothy 6:9; 2 Timothy 2:26) "of the devil" are expressions which indicate the indirect and unnatural character of the power of evil. It is therefore urged as a reason for "soberness and vigilance" (1 Peter 5:8), for the careful use of the "whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-17); but it is never allowed to obscure the supremacy of God's grace, or to disturb the inner peace of the Christian. "He that is born of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not" (1 John 5).
Besides his own direct influence, the Scriptures disclose to us the fact that Satan is the leader of a host of evil spirits, or angels, who share his evil work, and for whom the "everlasting fire is prepared" (Matthew 25:41). Of their origin and fall we know no more than of his, for they cannot be the same as the fallen and imprisoned angels of 2 Peter 2 and Judges 1:6; but one passage (Matthew 12:24-26) identifies them distinctly with the δαιμὀνια (A.V. "devils") who had power to possess the souls of men. The Jews there speak of a Beelzebub (Βεελζεβούλ ), "a prince of the daemons," whom they identify with, or symbolize by, the idol of Ekron, the "god of flies", (See BEELZEBUB), and by whose power they accuse our Lord of casting out daemons. His answer is, "How can Satan cast out Satan?" The inference is clear that Satan is Beelzebub, and therefore the demons are "the angels of the devil;" and this inference is strengthened by Acts 10:38, in which Peter describes, the possessed as καταδυναστευομένους ὑπὸ τοῦ Διαβόλου; and by Luke 10:18, in which the mastery over the daemons is connected by our Lord with the "fall of Satan from heaven," and their power included by him in the "power of the enemy" (τοῦ ἐχθροῦ ; comp. Matthew 13:39). For their nature, (See DAMON).
They are mostly spoken of in Scripture in reference to possession; but in Ephesians 6:12 they are described in various lights, as "principalities" (ἀρχαί ), "powers" (ἐξουσίαι ), "rulers of the darkness of this world," and "spiritual powers of wickedness in heavenly places" (or things") (τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ); and in all as "wrestling" against the soul of man. The same reference is made less explicitly in Romans 8:38 and Colossians 2:15. In Revelation 12:7-9 they are spoken of as fighting with "the dragon, the old serpent called the devil and Satan," against "Michael and his angels," and as cast out of heaven with their chiefs. Taking all these passages together, we find them sharing the enmity to God and man implied in the name and nature of Satan; but their power and action are but little dwelt upon in comparison with his. That there is against us a power of spiritual wickedness is a truth which we need to know, and a mystery which only revelation can disclose; but whether it is exercised by few or by many is a matter of comparative indifference.
But the evil one is not only the "prince of the daemons," but also he is called the "prince of this world" (ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου ) in John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11, and even the "god of this world" (ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ) in 2 Corinthians 4:4; the two expressions being united in the words τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου , used in Ephesians 6:12. (The word κόσμος, properly referring to the system of the universe, and so used in John 1, is generally applied in Scripture to human society as alienated from God, with a reference to the "pomp and vanity" which make it an idol [see, e.g., 1 John 2]; αἰών refers to its transitory character, and is evidently used above to qualify the startling application of the word θεός, a "god of an age" being of course no true God at all. It is used with κόσμος in Ephesians 2:2.) This power he claimed for himself as a delegated authority in the temptation of our Lord (Luke 4:6), and the temptation would have been unreal had he spoken altogether falsely. It implies another kind of indirect influence exercised through earthly instruments. There are some indications in Scripture of the exercise of this power through inanimate instruments, of an influence over the powers of nature, and what men call the "chances" of life. Such a power is distinctly asserted in the case of Job, and probably implied in the case of the woman with a spirit of infirmity (in Luke 13:16), and of Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7). It is only consistent with the attribution of such action to the angels of God (as in Exodus 12:23; 2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Kings 19:35; Acts 12:23), and, in our ignorance of the method of connection of the second causes of nature with the supreme will of God, we cannot even say whether it has in it any antecedent improbability; but it is little dwelt upon in Scripture in comparison with the other exercise of this power through the hands of wicked men, who become "children of the devil," and accordingly "do the lusts of their father." (See John 8:44; Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:8-
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Satan'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/satan.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25