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The Theories, Origins, and Evolution of Satan in Religious Literature

The Theories, Origins, and Evolution of Satan in Religious Literature

Thesis Statement: The concept of Satan is present in numerous religions and faiths spanning from ancient Semitic faiths to today's contemporary societal beliefs and learned doctrines. The ideology of Satan or a supreme evil being is perpetuated through religious texts such as the Bible, Apocrypha, Talmud, Qur’an, and the Satanic Bible.

I. Introduction to Satan

II. Satan in the Christian Bible

III. Satan in the Judeo-Christian Apocrypha

IV. Satan in the Talmud

V. Satan in the Qur’an

VI. Satan in the Book of Satan

VII. Other religious standpoints on the concept of Satan

VIII. Satan in the Modern Era

The Theories, Origins, and Evolution of Satan in Religious Literature

Imagine a chief angel plummeting down from the Heavens, through the Earth and into the infernal and sulfurous pits of Hell itself. A fallen and contorted mass of semi-omniscience on a pilgrimage to raise himself up to play a role greater than that of God.

A being that can withstand the Almighty, Omniscient, and Infallible One. A fallen Archangel that defied and continues to defy the only true authority. He disagreed with the process of Heaven, and God threw him out. As he wallows in his own defiance, he must learn to live in unutterable solitude without his creator for eternity.

As he adapted to his situation, he became King of his domain and he came to wield a powerful army of demons. They fed off of each others carnal desires, which only emboldened Satan more against God.

Satan is the ultimate embodiment of rebellion, free will, and defiance. He also represents “the extreme free will of a mind that wants to experience the fruits of the world without the harsh parent figure lurking in the background” (DeFur). In fact, the word “Satan” in Hebrew is translated to “Adversary” (Merriam-Webster). “Adversary to what?” Some might ask. Well, he’s an adversary to God, to people, and to the world. The ideology of Satan differed in ancient Semitic faiths, and continues to differ in our contemporary societal beliefs and learned doctrines. The concept of Satan is also perpetuated through religious texts such as the Bible, Apocrypha, Talmud, Qur’an, and the Satanic Bible.

Although the story of Satan changes throughout the course of the book, the story of Satan in the Christian Bible is the most widely-known and believed version of Satan’s dealings with God (Attributes of Satan). In the beginning of the Bible, Satan is better understood as a “troublemaker” rather than an embodiment of evil. The name Satan is also given to divine and human beings. In the book of Numbers, he is seen as “An antagonist who puts obstacles in the way”; and in Job “as an angel who works to find fault with God,” and acts as a prosecuting attorney against mankind (Attributes of Satan).

In such Books as Job, where Satan does appear as an angel, he is clearly a member of God’s court, playing the role of the Accuser. Also, in the Book of Job, it is stated that Satan roams the earth: “From going to and fro on the earth and from walking in it.” Satan is God’s celestial prosecutor and he sees only iniquity. For example, after Job passes the first test, Satan requests further testing. It is also inferred from Satan’s asking of God, that he alone has no power, but he requires the permission of God. So, up to this point in the Bible, Satan is not an opponent of God.

In Genesis of the Bible, when Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent, the serpent does not represent Satan -at least not until the new testament- but a satan. When Satan refused to bow down before God’s new creation of Man, he and his followers were damned. This is where the Bible gets fuzzy. Satan is damned; but to where? Some interpret it as he is damned to Hell and reigns over it. Others interpret it as he is damned to earth, but not visible, yet he still reigns over all evil. There is no definite answer, only interpretation.

It is not until the New Testament that Satan becomes an archenemy of God’s. For example, in Matthew Satan appears in the desert and tempts Jesus to worship him. Perhaps in the time of the New Testament, people felt the urge to place the blame on someone else other than God. Perhaps not. The dynamic and developing character of Satan would, from then on, be known by multiple names and titles: The Devil, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Prince of Darkness, [a] Foul Spirit, Satanic Power, Master of Deceit, Bringer of the Unholy, King of the Damned, and Supreme Evil Being.

His name is only slightly mentioned in the Book of Revelations, but his presence is seen throughout. He is closely linked with the “Antichrist” and the “Beast.” In the Book of Revelations, it is inferred that Satan will start “the beginning of the end,” which will eventually lead to the downfall of billions of people and souls.

Satan’s presence in the Christian Bible has not and will not go unnoticed. It is the Christian ideology that states Satan’s prerogatives will eventually fail him and will lead to his 1000 year -or eternal- damnation.

The Apocrypha is a collection of old texts written by Jewish scholars in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE (Merriam-Webster). It was adopted in early Christian writings, but it is not in the New Testament. In it, there are two accounts for the origin of Satan. The first is that he was created on the sixth day at the same time as Eve. The second and more prevalent is that Satan in one of the fallen angels (Satan in Judaism and Christianity). He is first only recognized as an “evil impulse” in man, but then Succah talks about the destruction of the evil angel. It claims that Satan will be overthrown by the Messiah.

The general belief of the Apocrypha is that there is a group of satans with a chief satan. As mentioned in Enoch, there are 5 satans. The first and second satans are responsible for leading astray the other angels and bring them to Earth to sin, while the third brought about the fall of mankind. It states that the satans are allowed access to Heaven in order to accuse men, but they are not confined to Heaven (Satan in Judaism and Christianity).

Satan, in the Talmud and in Judaism where he originated, is a more complex figure than in Christianity. In the Talmud he also plays the role of the Accuser. In Zechariah, he is the angel that accused Joshua, the High Priest, of sinning against God. In Chronicles I, he caused David to sin by taking a census or “count” of Israel.

The Jewish written law is contained in the Pentateuch, or the Five Books of Moses, i.e., the Torah. The Jewish oral law is the Mishna. Together, along with the Gemara and Midrash, these books form the Talmud. In the Talmud, Satan is a formidable yet defeatable figure, intent on manipulating mortals into sin. He was also looked upon as a being that taught the public important and often painful lessons about life.

In the Talmud, Satan is not a fallen angel, nor an evil force equal and opposite to God. He is merely another angel, and subordinate to God. The Talmud also describes Satan as “the Angel of Death.” According to Avodah Zarah: “...he is full of eyes. When a sick person is about to die, he stands above his head with the sword drawn and a drop of poison hanging from the tip. When the sick person sees him, he trembles and opens his mouth [in terror]. He then drops the poison into his [victim’s] mouth.” It is Satan’s job to escort them from Earth and prosecute them in the Heavenly Court.

When it comes to Genesis, commentators claim that the serpent was Satan. Others believe that the angel Samael (commonly mistaken for Satan) was the one who persuaded the serpent to do the evil deed (Satan the Accuser).

The “Satan” as referred to in the Qur’an is not at all the same as the one in the Bible. According to Islamic law, the Satan of Islam was a “Jinn.” A Jinn is a being created from fire and an Angel is created from light. All Angels and Jinns are considered to be Angels, because both were created from the same material, i.e. fire is light and light is fire, but Jinns are lower than the Angels because Jinns are like humans. The Angels are perfect and sinless, while the Jinns sin.

The original name of Satan in the Qur’an was Iblis. Although Iblis was a Jinn, he was looked upon as an angel by Allah. Allah, one day, decided to created a vice-regency on Earth. Allah commanded all of His Angels and Jinns to bow down before His new creation. “Bow down to Adam.” They all bowed down except Iblis. This is when Iblis became our “modern-day” Satan:

Allah: “What prevented thee from bowing down when I commanded thee?

Iblis: I am better than he; thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay.

Allah: Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here. Get out for thou art of the meanest.

Iblis: Give me respite till the day they are raised up.

Allah: Be thou amongst those who have respite.

Iblis: Because thou hast thrown me out of the way lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy Straight Way. Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left. Nor wilt thou find , in most of them gratitude.

Allah: Get out from this, disgraced and expelled. If any of them follow thee - Hell will I fill with you all.”

From then on, Satan would tempt others to follow his path. Misery loves company. Although it seems that Allah has disowned Satan, he actually hasn’t. He was just forced to remove him from Heaven for his heathen blasphemy. He still worked for Allah as the Accuser or Tempter.

Allah, attempting to deal with the situation, created mortality for the redemption of those blasphemers. They would all be placed on earth in the presence of both Allah and Satan. They would choose of their own free will Satan or Allah. Once their mortal life had ended on earth, they would be judged and eventually damned to Hell, or be reunited with Allah in Heaven (Satan in Islam).

The Book of Satan or The Satanic Bible is the ultimate exaltation of Satan. Written by Anton LaVey, the Book of Satan states to “...worship no living deity” and to “place more emphasis on the individual Satanist.” It also states that “no redeemer liveth” - that each person is responsible for their own redemption and “fully responsible for the direction of their own life” (The Church of Satan).

Although their is no real role or story of Satan in The Satanic Bible, it is proof enough that there is an evil at work in the people that would encourage the writing of such a book. Most Satanists, in order to feel that they understand Satan, take Judeo-Christian thoughts and contort them into their own religion.

As numerous faiths teach their concepts of Satan around the world, multiple other religions look upon them inquisitively, saying “What’s up with that?” Well, there are some religions that do not believe in Satan or a Chief Tempter/Accuser. For example, Hindus believe there is no Satan. They say that everything is of God, and it is man that gives things a good or evil association (Hinduism). There also is no presence of Satan in Buddhism or Shintoism, but there are evils.

Today the concept of Satan instills fear into the hearts of many Americans, yet it also intrigues them. For example, in Milton’s Paradise Lost, it is as if time itself tells a tale of Satan in his quest to exalt himself. Some feel sorry for Satan, and hope that God will one day redeem him. Great works of literature in the genre of the End Times barely stay on the shelves. We watch movies and read works that chill our spines yet give us that rogue feeling of rebellion that lasts for a split-second right before your religious morals take over. In our society, we find it awing that a semi-omniscient being can withstand the Almighty and Infallible.

As the great empires of old collapsed, the concept of Satan remained. As our society marches toward “civility” and “peace,” the concept of Satan will be retained. Until the end, societies will always embrace the concept of Satan as a way of shifting the blame and covering up their own trespasses.







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