November 28, 2014
Satan in the Bible
Dante's giant demon frozen at the center of hell. Pop culture icon adorned with a pointed black beard, long red cape, and a shining red pitchfork. Christianity's cosmic plaintiff and inspiration for the modern English phrase 'speak of the devil'. This paper will introduce Satan through Biblical means, including his involvement in the Old and New Testaments. It will decipher the complex character development and enigmatic nature of this being as well as question Satan's roles and analyze the purposes of those roles. Through research I will stand beside my conviction that Satan is not a physical antagonist, but rather a symbolic façade built up in the New Testament. As a towering apparatus of evil challenging the good and merciful, Satan is the ultimate metaphor and social enforcer.
Where is Satan first introduced in the Bible? There are many arguments to this question, though I believe they are all based on different definitions of 'introduction'. Introducing a character is no easy feat for any writer, but it does involve at least some semblance of a motive or depth of character rather than the simple use of a name in passing. I would also state that the majority of other characters introduced in the works of the Bible are often given a genealogical precursor, some detail into their childhood, or at the very least the name of their father or geographical origin.
It is argued and largely believed that Satan is first mentioned by name in the Book of Job, right in the first chapter when Yahweh calls on one of his servants to assess, or accuse, Job. However, the written Hebrew translation, according to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, reads "ha-satan" or, "the accuser", rather than a pronoun (p 727). The usage here implies a title, rather than a name, and is not what the literary community would consider a character introduction.
There is also debate, here explained by author Ryan Stokes in his, The Devil Made Me Do It.... Or Did He, regarding that Satan's introduction comes in 1 Chronicles, chapter 21 where he is mentioned by name in the first verse (Strokes 92). Though a counter of this theory will be explained later in further detail, this use of name without motive or full character understanding should not constitute a full introduction.
I therefore theorize that Satan does not appear, as an established and recognizable character, until the Gospel of Matthew, where his name is used in conjunction with the word, '"devil" in the presence of Jesus preluding conversation and interaction between the two characters. This would place his intro not in the Old Testament, but rather the beginning of the New Testament, a detail that will also be touched on in a later section.
Satan in relation to Yahweh and Humanity
There is debate on the role of Satan in relation to the God, Yahweh, and humanity. Is he a servant of Yahweh during the Old Testament, is he an antagonist in the time of Jesus, is he a judge of humanity? What is his purpose?
In one theory, Satan is a son of Yahweh, and continually tests the other sons of good, such as David and Job (Gnuse 550). From reading the Gospel of John, I would conclude that Satan is a tester, of sorts. As Yahweh sent the judges to deliver the Israelites from their sin, so Yahweh sends a servant of his, Satan, to test the descendants of the people that loved, feared, and disobeyed him on many separate accounts.
In the Gospel of John, when Jesus wanders the desert for 40 days and 40 nights with only Satan for company, it is evident that he is being tried and tested. Looking at it from a literary standpoint, this trial is a device to compel the reader to sympathize and side with the underdog, here the starving Jesus. Satan, being sent by Yahweh to measure the worth of the 'son of God', brings doubt to the reader's mind about Jesus' fortitude and resilience. However, when he...
Cited: Coogan, Michael D. New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2010. Digital Copy of 4th Edition.
Deffinbaugh, Robert. What in the World Is Going on? A Study of God 's Plan for Man. Bible.org. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
Frankfurter, David. "Satan: A Biography." Church History 76.4 (2007): 882-4. ProQuest. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Gnuse, Robert Karl. "Satan--the Prodigal Son? A Family Problem in the Bible." The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 61.3 (1999): 549-51. ProQuest. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
Pagel, Elaine. The Origin of Satan. New York: Random House, 1995. Digital Copy of 1st Edition.
Stokes, Ryan E. "The Devil made David do it . . . Or did He? The Nature, Identity, and Literary Origins of the Satan in 1 Chronicles 21:1." Journal of Biblical Literature 128.1 (2009): 91-106. ProQuest. Web. 27 Nov. 2014.
Wilson, Keith M., and Jennifer L. Huff. "Scaling Satan." The Journal of psychology 135.3 (2001): 292-300. ProQuest. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
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