The modern world has many misconstrued ideas about Satan and his demons that are not in line with Jesus' teachings in Scripture. Today the world sees Satan in an almost comical way, if they believe in him at all. There is such a lack of belief in anything spiritually supernatural that the idea of demons is less acceptable to today's society than the idea of ghosts. In Jesus' time, this was not the case; people were well aware of Satan and his activities. Jesus often had to deal with things of this nature, and addressed the matter several times in Scripture. The difference between what Jesus had to say on the matter and what the world says today is monumental.
Satan plays a major role in many religions, either as an angel, demon or minor god. In Hebrew tradition, God uses the angel Satan to test the piety levels of man. In the Apocrypha and New Testament, Satan is a fallen angel turned evil demon, who is the enemy of both God and mankind. These two portraits of Satan are not mutually exclusive. In all modern Abrahamic religions (and various other mythology), Satan is a supernatural being who is the fundamental personification of evil. In Islamic tradition, the primary demon that tempts Adam and Eve is called Iblis. It was because Iblis refused to prostrate himself before Adam that he was cast from Allah to live on earth among the humans. He vowed he would lure as many humans as he could into sin in order to make them go to Hell, where he was destined after doomsday. He wanted to prove that man was no better than he was.
The most common names for Satan are the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, Belial, Mephistopheles or Lucifer. The Talmud and the Kabbalah sometimes refer to him as Samael. Most Jewish literature, however, views Samael as a separate angel all together. There is considerable difference of belief as to whether or not any of these beings are actually evil. Satan in Pre-Christian Traditions
Satan in the Old Testament
While there is not much mention of demons in the Old Testament, there is evidence concerning Satan. The term "satan" is better understood in the Hebrew Bible as an accuser or adversary, rather than a fallen angel or evil demon. This term is used to describe both divine and human beings. The Hebrew word "satan" is used in the Old Testament with the all-purpose connotation of "adversary", being applied in several different ways. For example, the name is used to describe a foe in war and peace (1 Kings 5:4 and 11:14, 23, 25) and an accuser before the judgment seat (Psalm 109:6). One such instance is of an antagonist who puts obstacles in the way; such as when the angel of God is described as opposing Balaam as an adversary (Numbers 22:22).
When not portrayed as an angel, Satan is clearly a member of God's court and almost plays the role of prosecuting attorney for God. In the prologue of the Book of Job, for example, Satan appears before God with other celestial beings. God inquires as to where he has come from and his answer is "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." (Job 1:7b) The fact that God asked him this, his answer and the dialogue that follows characterize Satan as a member of the divine council. His job on the council seems to be watching over human activities with the purpose of searching out man's sin and bringing the accusation to God. He sees only the sin and prosecutes humans for it. For example, after he passes the first test, Satan requests that Job be tested even further (Job 2:3-5).
From the prologue in Job, it is apparent that Satan cannot act independently. He must seek permission for God and cannot act without it. Although Satan works in opposition to God, he cannot take action unless God allows him to. This is made obvious again when Satan is described as the adversary of the high priest Joshua in Zachariah (Zechariah 3:1-2). Here the angel of the Lord tells Satan to be silent in the name of God,...
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Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages. London: Cornell University Press, 1984.
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Rudwin, Maximilian. The Devil in Legend and Literature. La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, 1959.
Unger, Merrill F. Biblical Demonology. Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press, 1952.
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