The Satan

The Satan

Ancient Near East Articles Biblical Textual Critism
The Satan

Who is The Satan

In Christian theology, The Satan figure is the source of all evil in a dualistic world view in which the forces of light battle the forces of darkness in a perpetual state of warfare in which the agents of good against the agents of evil, where the Satan figure is viewed as an antagonist against God and Jesus. In this instance, God and his angels are in a struggle with Satan and his forces for the souls of mankind, where The Satan figure was originally an angel of God or one of the Sons of God, (bene ha- Elohim, בּנֵי הָאֵֹלהַי). Christian theologians suggest that the Hebrew Bible, or the Tanak, which Christians call the old testament makes references to satan as an entity of evil, but it is important to note that almost every instance of the word satan is not used as a proper noun and is written Ha-Shatan “the satan”, and refers to both human adversaries as well as supernatural adversaries.

A Depiction of Satan after The Fall

The Court of God

One thing lost in both modern Judaism and Christianity in the early Hebrew concept of the divine council or the council of El. This idea is spread throughout the Hebrew Bible but is disguised by translations and religious filters and the belief that Hebrews and early Jews were monotheistic. Now before you get upset and go ranting that the Jews were always monotheistic let me explain what the Hebrew Bible actually said before all the filters and translations hid the actual words of the Hebrew Bible. The early Hebrews or Jews were monolatry, not monotheistic. While the early Hebrew religion stated that they only worship El, Elohim, or YHWH, they never stated there were no other gods, but only no other god was like YHWH and he alone was the “one true God”, meaning all other gods were under his subjugation, and that he was more powerful than any other god. The statements like “There are no other gods but me” is a statement of comparability, much like Babylon’s epithet that there is no other city but Baylon, yet we know there were many other cities. It is a statement of importance and grandeur. One of the best examples of this divine council is psalms 82, which Jesus himself quotes to the Pharisees which many misunderstanding what Jesus is saying when he is accused of blasphemy for saying god is his father. Jesus is not saying humans are sons of God, Psalm 82 is also a great example of how translation has hidden the true meaning and understanding of the text. The first part says:

PSalms 82 1,6,7

82:1 מִזְמ֗וֹר לְאָ֫סָ֥ף אֱלֹהִ֗ים נִצָּ֥ב בַּֽעֲדַת־אֵ֑ל בְּקֶ֖רֶב אֱלֹהִ֣ים יִשְׁפֹּֽט: God has taken his place in the divine council (Literally Council of El);
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

82:6 אֲֽנִ֣י אָ֖מַרְתִּי אֱלֹהִ֣ים אַתֶּ֑ם וּבְנֵ֖י עֶלְי֣וֹן כֻּלְּכֶֽם: I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;

86:7 אָכֵ֥ן כְּאָדָ֣ם תְּמוּת֑וּן וּכְאַחַ֖ד הַשָּׂרִ֣ים תִּפֹּֽלוּ: nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.

Psalms 82:1,6,7

In this verse, you can see God (YHWH) is holding court or council, but in this council, it takes a turn. The judge usually set in his throne or seat, but here God is standing, and accusing the other Elohim of not judging fairly in verse two “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah”, This is one example of not only the divine council but YHWH taking on the part of the “adversary” or “Accuser”, in other words, “the satan”. Not convinced that God could act as the satan (Adversary)? There are two verses that many point to as an apparent contradiction in the bible, if you are to understand it this way there is no more contradiction, both statements are true.

24 Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”

2 Samuel 24:1

21 Then the Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.

1 Chronicles 21:1

So did YHWH incite David or did Satan incite David, the answer is yes? God through ether one of his angels or agents sent him to incite David, or God himself took on the role of the satan. The Devine council can be seen like I said, throughout the Hebrew Bible, and indeed it is in the first chapter of the bible, in genesis. And God said, “Let us create man in our image, and in our likeness”. While Christians adhering to strict monotheism will say this is the trinity, I would have to remind them that Christ and the holy spirit are coregents with God the father and are always in agreement and therefore omniscient and God would not need to inform or present to them an idea, they would have just simultaneously agreed and done it. It is not to say that God seeks the approval of his council or needs agreement, but that he chooses to interact with his creation. Here in the text God interacting with his council, also called the sons of God which are tested in Job 38:6-7, which is another book that is both a divine council setting and mentions “the Satan”.

6On what were its foundations set, or who laid its cornerstone, 7while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 

Job 38:6-7

So in this verse, it talks about God creating, and the sons of God shouting for joy, showing they were there at the moment of creation, which totally destroys the teaching that the sons of God are merely human men, as a man had not yet been created. In the second chapter of Job, it says that the Sons of God came to present themselves before God and the satan came amongst them to present himself before God. Again this shows that the satan or satan is an agent of God and subservient to him, not an opposing force of evil. God asks him what he had been doing, he replied going to and fro from the earth, in other words, I’ve been doing my job. God points out one man, Job, and says have you seen this man? He is faithful and righteous, the satans response was, only because you have given him a plush lifestyle lacking nothing, but take away his possessions and make life hard on him and he will curse you. This verse led to some Talmudic teachings about the angel Samael, being the angel of death and the satan. Since it says God told him to stretch forth his hand on Job’s belongings but not to stretch his hand against Job implies that he (Samael) has the authority and power to bring death upon man also, but even the Talmud teaches that Samael is an angel of the LORD and not an independent self-autonomous being, but a servant of the LORD.

Duality and Darkness Creeps In

There are no teachings of duality in the old testament, If you want concrete evidence for this consider this verse, A verse that will never be read in any church.

I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Isaiah 45:7

So the question everyone asks, how can a good God allow evil, let alone be the cause of it? If like Job we never were faced with temptations, never faced evil we would never experience virtue either. Evil exists so that we may earn virtue, if we had a perfect world, we would also be complacent and our faith never tested, this is the message of Job. If a person is given something for free, it is not appreciated, and in fact, to the Jew, it was insulting. It’s like saying, here, because you are so worthless and such a nothing I give you this because you could never earn it by yourself. By facing calamity, peril, evil, and temptation we gain virtue. If the world had no temptation, and you’re walking down the street and found a bag containing a million dollars you would just turn the money in no questions asked, but because of temptation we now have to overcome the impulse to keep the money, and thus we have virtue. Death, war, also chances for virtue.

We see a starving and homeless person on the street, do we image God and help that person, or do we think, “man, I only have five dollars in my pocket so I can’t help that person”? We can justify our inaction to alieve desperation yet the person behind you only has two dollars in his pocket, and it’s two days to payday, yet he gives his two dollars to the homeless person. So is he better than you? Is he more righteous than you? No, but he has proven virtue, where you have failed.

So is it evil to not be virtuous? No, it’s neither good nor bad, but just as we pay for our sustenance on earth, the early Hebrews and Jews believed you also must pay a spiritual price for the next world, and that price is your virtue. Virtue was achieved by keeping the laws and helping the poor. Look at the laws of Moses, not just the ten commandments, but the whole law, it dealt with widows, the poor, the sick, the elderly. For the ancient Hebrews, there was no doubt that their god sent the good and the bad, that it rained on the just and unjust alike, and that bad or evil things came to man and nations not as punishment but correction, to turn them against their unvirtuous and unjust ways. For them, they did not see a God of darkness and a God of light, but one God in control of everything, and through his divine court he ruled over the affairs of man and nations, even if it meant that he sent an angel to cause famine, or bring war and destruction to a nation.

There is no light without darkness, there is no darkness without light, they are not opposites of each other, but two manifestations of the same power. If I hold a staff, does it not have two ends? With one end can I not Shepard, and with the other strike at the wolves? So where did this notion of opposing powers come from? Simply, it came from the Persian period, 539-332 BCE, a period in which Persia controlled the entire Ancient Near East, including Israel. At this time Persian religious teachings were those of Zoroastrianism, based on the teachings of a religious philosopher named Zoroaster who lived around 600 BCE. Zoroastrianism taught that evil does not come from a good god or an all-powerful god, but from a dualism of a good god known as Ahura Mazda, meaning “Wise Lord”, and an evil separate god that was known as Ahriman “Fiendish Spirit”, also known as Angra Mainya, “evil spirit,” that created death, disease, and lies.

People had to choose whether to follow Ahura Mazda on the path of good or Ahriman on the path of evil. The idea from Persia that God himself was separate from evil would have been an acceptable answer to the early Jewish theodicy question and would have explained how there could be such suffering in a world created by a loving God. From this was born the idea that God did not personally create suffering himself, but that he would instead use other lowly figures to complete such tasks with his approval. This idea would lay the foundation for a persona of the capitalized Satan’s entrance into the world.

It was during this time that the Hebrew text went through numerous changes, numerous redactions and a strict monotheistic worldview took shape within Judaism. In this period the Jews would insist on a monotheistic view that there were no other gods at all, that there was only YHWH. The early Jews had already begun to edit their text a few centuries before, among these editors were the Elohist, or simply “E”, which is one of four source documents underlying the Torah1McDermott, John J., Reading the Pentateuch: A Historical Introduction (Pauline Press, 2002) p. 21. Via October 2002., together with the Jahwist (or Yahwist), the Deuteronomist, and the Priestly source. The Elohist is so named because of its pervasive use of the word Elohim to refer to the Israelite god.

Diagram of the 20th-century documentary hypothesis. J: Yahwist (10th−9th century BCE) E: Elohist (9th century BCE) Dtr1: early (7th century BCE) Deuteronomist historian Dtr2: later (6th century BCE) Deuteronomist historian P*: Priestly (6th−5th century BCE) D†: Deuteronomist R: redactor DH: Deuteronomistic history (books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings)

While some will contend that all the editing and the actual writing of the Torah was done during or after the Babylonian exile, linguistically most can be traced to earlier times, centuries before Babylon sacked Jerusalem and took its citizens back as spoils of war. These edits also hide the original nature of the text, and during the second temple period, many pseudepigrapha were written, among these the most famous books are the books of Enoch, Jubilees, and Wisdom of Solomon. The Book of Enoch, or more precisely The First Book of Enoch scholarly speaking is an apocalyptic religious text containing unique material on the origins of demons and Nephilim, The fall of certain angels from heaven, and why the Genesis flood was a morally necessary, and prophetic exposition of the thousand-year reign of the Messiah. It is in these books that The Satan figure now takes on a persona of pure evil, an enemy of God, and connections are made to unnamed entities in the Hebrew Bible, like the genesis serpent. The satan persona becomes a powerful enemy of God and man, and the cause of evil and death in the world. A thyme first-century gospel writers and later Christian writers would carry on, creating a polarity of good verse evil, and a god of the underworld and a god of heaven.

So What Do We Make of This

Even though the biblical narrative of the Hebrew Bible has evidence of divine rebellions, and supernatural entities defying the will and commands of God, there is no evidence that any of these rebel angels or sons of God are the cause or source for evil, they may have taught new sins to man, however. The bible In fact if anything else shows that the old and new testament alike place the source of the world’s evil right at man’s feet.

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward.

Jeremiah 7:24

The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

Genesis 8:21

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slander

Matthew 15:18-19

We don’t need a supernatural being to explain evil in our world, we have no need to look further than our own thoughts and desires. Man doesn’t need a persona named Satan to whisper in our ears or tempt us. I suggest we are all Satan, and just as we are made in the image and likeness of God. We also have knowledge of Good and Evil, we like God can create both light and dark, good and evil. To blame a supernatural being for our faults, perversities and depravity mean we do not have free will, that we are incapable of making good decisions, and that we like our religions are merely a duality of polar opposites we have no hope of understanding or controlling. We hope for a God to save us and have a devil to blame for our adversities. We allow evil to exist with our complacency and inaction. Man doesn’t need a devil when we are responsible for our own misery and the harm we inflict on others, but to say that means that we must take responsibility for our actions, it’s much easier to blame a satan or devil.

There is only one force in the universe, and we are all connected to that one source. The source doesn’t need us to kill in its name, It doesn’t ask us to wage war on those who don’t believe. It doesn’t even need us to believe it’s there or not. It is not dependent on our existence to validate itself. Everything we do is a choice, not choosing is still a choice, inaction is a choice, everything is a choice. We can choose to do evil or to show virtue. So here is my call to you, echoed from Deuteronomy 30:19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life so that you and your descendants might live!”

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

  • 1
    McDermott, John J., Reading the Pentateuch: A Historical Introduction (Pauline Press, 2002) p. 21. Via October 2002.

2 thoughts on “The Satan

Leave a Reply