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Have you noticed that the devil is not mentioned in the Old Testament? There is a serpent in Genesis 3 yes, but is it the devil? Nowhere does God call it that. In fact in Genesis 2 it says that God created all the host of heaven and the host of the earth - and everything was good. But the devil is not good? Now someone will bring in Revelation 12 where we are told by John that the serpent is the devil and he is cast out of heaven by Michael and his angels through the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. But is this literal? Are we truly understanding this scripture? Does an Arch angel (which many believe Michael is) need the blood of the Lamb? And this war took place after the birth of the Messiah according to Revelation 12;1-5, then the 'devil' was only cast to the earth after the Messiah's resurrection (caught up to the throne of God in verse 5) and could not have been the serpent in Genesis 3. In Genesis 4:7 God warns Cain, not against the devil, but against sin. The devil does not feature as an enemy of Israel in the Old Testament at all and never as an enemy of God.

"Satan" (satan in Hebrew) is not the name of a person or being, it is not a proper noun. In fact "satan" in Hebrew is just a noun and means an adversary.Look at how it is used in Numbers 22;32. If you use a concordance and look at all the places that this Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament, it is used to refer to human beings (1 Kings 11:14, 23, 25), the angel of the Lord (Numbers 22;22)and even to God Himself (compare 1 Chronicles 21;1 and 2 Samuel 24:1).

In the book of Job, this Hebrew noun is "hasatan" which means "the adversary". What this actually means is that in the midst of the sons of God who presented themselves before God, there was an adversary.

In the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew something happened in the belief system of the Jewish people because all of a sudden in the New Testament there is this being called the devil which has no basis in the Old Testament, in the Torah or in the Jewish belief system of the Old Testament.

Where does this concept of a devil infiltrate the New Testament authors belief system? and Why?

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  • Welcome to Christianity.SE! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I would also recommend reading the Help Center's sections on asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Nov 4, 2023 at 3:57
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    Even the most cursory examination of the bible indicates that an Entity exists who is never given a personal name but is rather mentioned descriptively, in context. according to behaviour : serpentine (deceitful) satanic (adversarial) diabolic (entangling by slander) tempting (enticement) draconic (despotic). The above lacks research and lacks proper focus. The question admits what it is trying to dispute. Yes, there is a 'Devil' (which is a poor translation of diabolos) as the question rightly states. The question should be asked on SE-Biblical Hermeneutics where it is already answered.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 4, 2023 at 4:29
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    Is Satan not a slanderer?
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 4, 2023 at 7:28
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    @NigelJ Much like the afterlife, who the Devil is in the Old Testament is never really defined. Orthodox Jews to this day hold that Satan is a forensic title meaning "prosecuting attorney" and the Satan in the Book of Job is God's loyal servant, functioning as the attorney general of the Heavenly court. The idea that Satan is a cosmic loser who is responsible for all sin, disobedience and evil on planet Earth developed much later.
    – Fomalhaut
    Nov 5, 2023 at 1:49
  • When you read the books of Isaiah about Satan, then you will learn that he is a created cherub who stood wherr God's spirit manifested itself in heaven. He also attended to the throne of God and this is where his list for divine worship originated. Nov 7, 2023 at 2:07

2 Answers 2

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Who is "the devil"?

The word devil comes from the Greek diabolos, which means accuser, and which was used to translate or indicate the one in Hebrew referred to as Satan (with the definite article 'ha'). So yes you are right that the word or description „the devil“ is introduced in the New Testament or Greek scriptures and not appears in the Old Testament, but that is because it is a Greek word. But the concept was not new, just the way to refer to the same individual was extended by new terms from the Greek language. To back up this perspective let's consider some bible scriptures.

Revelation 12:9 seems to identify or at least associate the terms 'the dragon', as 'the devil' or 'Satan' as referring to the same creature.

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. [NIV]

That relation between the terms devil and Satan can also be deduced from Revelation 20:2, Matthew 4:1-11 and the parallel account in Mark 1:13. You rightly mention that “the devil” and “Satan” are both not proper names, but descriptions, or titles. Although “Satan” in Hebrew just means adversary, and is also sometimes translated as such. Its use in combination with the definite article and the context usually makes it quite clear that a specific adversary creature 'Satan' is meant.

In the context of Revelation 12, particularly the next verse: 12:10 Satan the devil is called “…the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.“ [NIV]

As mentioned above, the term devil or Greek diabolos means accuser or slanderer. This idea of accusing can also be found in the book of Job 1:9-11:

Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” [NIV]

Besides adversary, the accuser seems to be a reasonable identifier for this creature. Furthermore, in Job 1:7:

The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from? ”Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” [NIV]

Now more conceptually than focussing on terminology: Combining the verses in Job with Revelation 12 and Genesis, one could interpret, that there was a time were Satan (the devil) and his angels/demons were free to go and go back between Heaven and Earth. From the time speaking with, Eve, the time of the Nephilim before the flood, the time of Job, and the time after, until the time which ended as described in Revelation 12 quoted above. From that time on Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven and restricted to the earth.

Besides a new language and some new identifiers, I am not aware of any other potential contradictions, or changes in the concept of the creature that is identified as Satan in the Old Testament (written in Hebrew), and the new Greek term devil used in the New Testament. The devil is also not introduced as a new concept or personage, but related to the beginning (e.g. in 1 John 3:8 and John 8:44).

In the New Testament, Jesus and others also seem to refer to the same creature 'Satan' (in Hebrew), with new Greek terms such as 'the devil' and other new terms: such as for example 'tempter' in Matthew 4:1-11 and 'The evil one' in e.g., Matthew 13:19, John 17:15, 1 John 3:13 and Matthew 13:38-39:

The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. [NIV]

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    Very interesting answer. I found a November 2014 Watchtower article asking "Who is the Devil?" but it was about Satan. Care to give us an official link?
    – Lesley
    Nov 18, 2023 at 17:37
  • @Lesley I tried to answere the question without using any ideas that are specific or particular for JW's only. Since, this is not really a controversial question or topic. More specifically JW's use Satan and the Devil almost interchangeably in the style of Revelation 12:9, not making a large distinction between the Hebrew and Greek terms. A link to the article you asked for can be found here
    – JWsa
    Dec 2, 2023 at 11:00
  • Fair comment, and as you say, this isn't a contriversial question. Thanks for the link, which I am happy to read. :-)
    – Lesley
    Dec 2, 2023 at 12:32
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Of course, the Devil was there from the beginning. But, there has been a paradigm shift in the image of the Devil that human beings have had. For instance, the Devil had been on talking terms with human beings before he tempted them and took upon himself the curse of enmity. He was also in talking terms with God, judging by Job 1:6-7:

6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?". Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Look at the humour in the conversation! The Devil admits that he had been roaming the earth. What was he doing on the earth? Of course, searching for people to join his company!

Satan was also in talking terms with Jesus during the Lord's Temptation. See that Jesus responds to the Devil's suggestions to the extent of going with him to the hilltop and the temple terrace.

The relationship of the Devil with God and human beings took a turn with the sacrifice that the Son of God offered on the Cross. Satan knew that he would have to work harder to gain souls. Naturally, he keeps adopting new tricks. One of those tricks is to make people believe that he does not exist. Another one is to ask people to be good 'next time', and to procrastinate repentance for the day. To sum up, the Devil has always been there. What has changed is his 'image' and the style of working.

Now, what about the fire and torment that traditions associate with the Devil's place called Hell? Well, what can be a worse torment than losing the company of God? We do not require a Devil to preside over Hell where there is no presence of God, do we? After all, Devil himself was the first one to invite that deprivation.

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