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Satan

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Depiction of Satan (c. 1866) by Gustave Doré

Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָןsatan, meaning "enemy" or "adversary";[1] Arabic: شيطانshaitan, meaning; "astray", "distant", or sometimes "devil") is a figure appearing in the texts of the Abrahamic religions[2][3] who brings evil and temptation, and acts as a deceiver to lead humanity astray.

A figure known as "the satan" first appears in the Tanakh as a heavenly accuser or prosecutor, a member of the sons of God subordinate to Yahweh, who acts as a "Lying Spirit" in mouths of King Ahab's prophets, slaughters 170,000 people as punishment for David's census, tests Job's loyalty to Yahweh by inflicting woes against him, and appears in a vision to Zechariah as the prosecutor against the nation of Judah. During the intertestamental period, possibly due to influence from the Zoroastrian figure of Angra Mainyu, the satan developed into a malevolent entity with abhorrent qualities in dualistic opposition to God. In the apocryphal Book of Jubilees, Yahweh grants the satan (referred to as Mastema) authority over a group of fallen angels to tempt humans to sin and punish them.

In the Synoptic Gospels, Satan tempts Jesus in the desert. Satan is described as the "ruler of the demons" and "the God of this Age". In the Book of Revelation, Satan appears as a Great Red Dragon, who is defeated by Michael the Archangel and cast down from Heaven. He is later bound for one thousand years, but is briefly set free before being ultimately defeated and cast into the Lake of Fire. In Christianity, Satan is also known as the Devil and, although the Book of Genesis does not mention him, he is often identified with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. In medieval times, Satan played minimal role in Christian theology and was used as a comic relief figure in mystery plays. During the Early Modern Period, Satan's significance greatly increased as beliefs such as demonic possession and witchcraft became more prevalent. During the Age of Enlightenment, the existence of Satan became harshly criticized and began to gradually decline. Nonetheless, belief in Satan has persisted, particularly in the Americas.

In the Quran, Shaitan, also known as Iblis, is an entity made of fire who was cast out of Heaven because he refused to bow before the newly-created Adam and incites humans and jinn to sin by infecting their minds with waswās ("evil suggestions"). Christianity and Islam both teach that Satan originated as an angel, or something of the like, who used to possess great piety and beauty, but fell because of hubris, seducing humanity into the ways of falsehood and sin, and has power in the fallen world. Satan has appeared frequently in Christian literature, most notably in Dante Alighieri's Inferno, in variants of the Faust legend, and in John Milton's Paradise Lost. Although Satan is generally viewed as having negative characteristics, some groups have very different beliefs. In Theistic Satanism, Satan is considered a deity who is either worshipped or revered. In LaVeyan Satanism, "Satan" is a symbol of virtuous characteristics and liberty.[4][5]

Historical development

Hebrew Bible

Balaam and the Angel (1836) by Gustav Jaeger. The angel in this incident is referred to as a "satan".[6]

The original Hebrew term satan is a generic noun meaning "accuser" or "adversary",[7][8] which is used throughout the Hebrew Bible to refer to ordinary human adversaries,[9][8] as well as a specific supernatural entity.[9][8] The word is derived from a verb meaning primarily "to obstruct, oppose".[10] When it is used without the definitive article (simply satan), the word can refer to any accuser,[9] but when it is used with the definitive article (ha-satan), it usually refers specifically to the heavenly accuser: the satan.[9]

Ha-Satan with the definite article occurs 13 times in the Masoretic Text, in two books of the Hebrew Bible: Job ch. 1–2 (10×)[11] and Zechariah 3:1–2 (3×).[12] Satan without the definite article is used in 10 instances, of which two are translated diabolos in the Septuagint and "Satan" in the King James Version (KJV):

The word "satan" does not occur in the Book of Genesis,[15] which mentions only a talking serpent[15] and does not identify the serpent with any supernatural entity.[15] The first occurrence of the word "satan" in the Hebrew Bible in reference to a supernatural figure comes from Numbers 22:22,[16] which describes the Angel of Yahweh confronting Balaam on his donkey:[6] "Balaam's departure aroused the wrath of Elohim, and the Angel of Yahweh stood in the road as a satan against him."[16] In 1 Samuel 24, Yahweh sends the "Angel of Yahweh" to inflict a plague against Israel for three days, killing 70,000 people as punishment for David having taken a census without his approval.[17] 1 Chronicles 21:1 repeats this story,[17] but replaces the "Angel of Yahweh" with an entity referred to as "a satan".[17]

Some passages clearly refer to the satan, without using the word itself.[18] 1 Samuel 2:12 describes the sons of Eli as "sons of Belial";[19] the later usage of this word makes it clearly a synonym for "satan".[19] In 1 Samuel 16:14-23 Yahweh sends a "troubling spirit" to torment King Saul as a mechanism to ingratiate David with the king.[20] In 2 Kings 22:19-25, the prophet Micaiah describes to King Ahab a vision of Yahweh sitting on his throne surrounded by the Host of Heaven.[19] Yahweh asks the Host which of them will lead Ahab astray.[19] One unnamed "spirit" volunteers to be "a Lying Spirit in the mouth of all his Prophets".[19]

Book of Job

The Examination of Job (c. 1821) by William Blake

The Book of Job is a poetic dialogue set within a prose framework,[21] which was probably written shortly before or during the Babylonian captivity.[21] The main figure in the work is Job,[21] righteous man favored by Yahweh.[21] Job 1:6-8 describes the "sons of God" (bənê hāʼĕlōhîm) presenting themselves before Yahweh.[21] Yahweh asks one of them, referred to as "the satan", where he has been, to which the satan replies that he has been patrolling the earth.[21] Yahweh asks, "Have you considered My servant Job?"[21] The satan replies by urging Yahweh to let him torture Job, promising that Job will abandon his faith at the first tribulation.[22] Yahweh consents; the satan destroys Job's servants and flocks, but Job refuses to condemn Yahweh.[22] The first scene repeats itself, with the satan presenting himself to Yahweh alongside the other "sons of God".[23] Yahweh points out Job's continued faithfulness, to which the satan insists that more testing is necessary;[23] Yahweh once again gives him permission to test Job.[23] In the end, Job remains faithful and righteous, and it is implied that the satan is shamed in his defeat.[24]

Book of Zechariah

Zechariah 3:1-7 contains a description of a vision dated to the middle of February of 519 BC,[25] in which an angel shows Zechariah a scene of Joshua the High Priest dressed in filthy rags, representing the nation of Judah and its sins,[26] on trial with Yahweh as the judge and the satan standing as the prosecutor.[26] Yahweh rebukes the satan[26] and orders for Joshua to be given clean clothes, representing Yahweh's forgiveness of Judah's sins.[26]

Second Temple period

Map showing the expansion of the Achaemenid Empire, in which Jews lived during the early Second Temple Period,[8] allowing Zoroastrian ideas about Angra Mainyu to influence the Jewish conception of Satan[8]

During the Second Temple Period, when Jews were living in the Achaemenid Empire, Judaism was heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism, the religion of the Achaemenids.[27][8][28] Jewish conceptions of Satan were impacted by Angra Mainyu,[8][29] the Zoroastrian god of evil, darkness, and ignorance.[8] In the Septuagint, the Hebrew ha-Satan in Job and Zechariah is translated by the Greek word diabolos (slanderer), the same word in the Greek New Testament from which the English word devil is derived.[30] Where satan is used to refer to human enemies in the Hebrew Bible, such as Hadad the Edomite and Rezon the Syrian, the word is left untranslated but transliterated in the Greek as satan, a neologism in Greek.[30]

The concept of Satan being an opponent of God and a chiefly evil figure among demons seems to have taken root in Jewish pseudepigrapha during the Second Temple Period,[31] particularly in the apocalypses.[32] The Book of Enoch, which the Dead Sea Scrolls have revealed to have been nearly as popular as the Torah,[33] describes a group of 200 angels known as the "Watchers", who are assigned to supervise the earth, but instead abandon their duties and have sexual intercourse with human women.[34] The leader of the Watchers is Semjâzâ[35] and another member of the group, known as Azazel, spreads sin and corruption among humankind.[35] The Watchers are ultimately sequestered in isolated caves across the earth[35] and are condemned to face judgement at the end of time.[35] The Book of Jubilees, written in around 150 BC,[36] retells the story of the Watchers' defeat,[37] but, in deviation from the Book of Enoch, Mastema, the "Chief of Spirits", intervenes before they are all sealed away, requesting for Yahweh to let him keep some of them to become his workers.[38] Yahweh acquiesces this request[38] and Mastema uses them to tempt humans into committing more sins, so that he may punish them for their wickedness.[39] Later, Mastema induces Yahweh to test Abraham by ordering him to sacrifice Isaac.[39][40]

The Second Book of Enoch, also called the Slavonic Book of Enoch, contains references to a Watcher called Satanael.[41] It is a pseudepigraphic text of an uncertain date and unknown authorship. The text describes Satanael as being the prince of the Grigori who was cast out of heaven[42] and an evil spirit who knew the difference between what was "righteous" and "sinful".[43] In the Book of Wisdom, the devil is represented as the being who brought death into the world.[44]

Judaism

Rabbinical Judaism

Most Jews generally do not believe in the existence of a supernatural omnimalevolent figure.[45] Traditionalists and philosophers in medieval Judaism adhered to rational theology, rejecting any belief in rebel or fallen angels, and viewing evil as abstract.[46] The Rabbis usually interpreted the word satan as it is used in the Tanakh as referring strictly to human adversaries[47] and rejected all of the Enochian writings mentioning Satan as a literal, heavenly figure from the Biblical canon, making every attempt to root them out.[31] Nonetheless, the word satan has occasionally been metaphorically applied to evil influences,[48] such as the Jewish exegesis of the yetzer hara ("evil inclination") mentioned in Genesis 6:5.[49] Rabbinical scholarship on the Book of Job generally follows the Talmud and Maimonides in identifying "the satan" from the prologue as a metaphor for the yetzer hara and not an actual entity.[50] Satan is rarely mentioned in Tannaitic literature, but is found in Babylonian aggadah.[32] In Hasidic Judaism, the Kabbalah presents Satan as an agent of God whose function is to tempt humans into sinning so that he may accuse them in the heavenly court.[51] The Chasidic Jews of the 18th century associated ha-Satan with Baal Davar.[52]

Modern Judaism

Each sect of Judaism has its own interpretation of Satan's identity. Conservative Judaism generally tends to reject the Talmudic interpretation of Satan as a metaphor for the yetzer hara and instead regards him as a literal agent of God.[53] Orthodox Judaism, on the other hand, outwardly embraces Talmudic teachings on Satan, and involves Satan in religious life far more inclusively than other sects. Satan is mentioned explicitly in some daily prayers, including during Shacharit and certain post-meal benedictions, as described in Talmud.[54] and the Jewish Code of Law.[55] In Reform Judaism, Satan is generally seen in his Talmudic role as a metaphor for the yetzer hara and the symbolic representation of innate human qualities such as selfishness.[56]

Christianity

The Devil depicted in The Temptation of Christ (1854) by Ary Scheffer

Names

The most common English synonym for "Satan" is "devil", which descends from Middle English devel, from Old English dēofol, that in turn represents an early Germanic borrowing of Latin diabolus (also the source of "diabolical"). This in turn was borrowed from Greek diabolos "slanderer", from diaballein "to slander": dia- "across, through" + ballein "to hurl".[57] In the New Testament, the words Satan and diabolos are used interchangeably as synonyms.[58][59]

The name Heylel, meaning "morning star", was the name of a figure in Canaanite mythology, who attempted to scale the walls of the heavenly city,[60] but was vanquished by the god of the sun.[60] The name is used in Isaiah 14:12 in metaphorical reference to the king of Babylon.[60] Later tradition reinterpreted this passage as a reference to the fall of Satan.[61] The Latin Vulgate translation of this passage translates Heylel as "Lucifer"[62] and this name continues to be used by some Christians as an alternative name for Satan.[62] Beelzebub, meaning "Lord of Flies", is the contemptuous name given in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament to a Philistine god whose original name has been reconstructed as most probably "Ba'al Zabul", meaning "Baal the Prince".[63] The Synoptic Gospels identify Satan and Beelzebub as the same.[58]

New Testament

Despite the fact that the Book of Genesis never mentions Satan,[15] Christians have traditionally interpreted the serpent in the Garden of Eden as Satan due to Revelation 12:7, which calls Satan "that ancient serpent".[64][8] This verse, however, is probably intended to identify Satan with the Leviathan,[64] a monstrous sea-serpent whose destruction by Yahweh is prophesized in Isaiah 27:1.[65] The first recorded individual to identify Satan with the serpent from the Garden of Eden was the second-century AD Christian apologist Justin Martyr,[66][67] in chapters 45 and 79 of his Dialogue with Trypho.[67] Other early church fathers to mention this identification include Theophilus and Tertullian.[68]

The three Synoptic Gospels all describe the temptation of Christ by Satan in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13).[69] Satan first shows Jesus a stone and tells him to turn it into bread.[69] Then, he takes him to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem and commands Jesus to throw himself down so that the angels will catch him.[69] Finally, Satan takes Jesus to the top of a tall mountain, shows him the kingdoms of the earth, and promises to give them all to him if he will bow down and worship him.[69] Each time Jesus rebukes Satan[69] and, after the third temptation, he is administered by the angels.[69] Satan's promise in Matthew 4:8-9 and Luke 4:6-7 to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth implies that all those kingdoms belong to him.[70] The fact that Jesus does not dispute Satan's promise indicates that the authors of those gospels believed this to be true.[70]

In the New Testament, Satan is referred to as a "tempter" (Matthew 4:3),[8] "the ruler of the demons" (Matthew 12:24),[71][8] "the father of lies" (John 8:44),[72] "the God of this Age" (2 Corinthians 4:4),[73] "the evil one" (1 John 5:18),[8] and "a roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8).[71] In Luke 22:31, Jesus grants Satan the authority to test Peter and the other apostles.[74]

Book of Revelation

Illustration from an eleventh century manuscript, showing the Great Red Dragon from Revelation 12:1-4

The Book of Revelation represents Satan as the angelic ruler of the Roman Empire.[75] In Revelation 2:9-10, as part of the letter to the church at Smyrna, John of Patmos refers to the Jews of Smyrna as "a synagogue of Satan"[74] and warns that "the Devil is about to cast some of you into prison as a test [peirasmos], and for ten days you will have affliction."[74] In Revelation 2:13-14, in the letter to the church of Pergamum, John warns that Satan lives among the members of the congregation[76] and declares that "Satan's throne" is in their midst.[76] Pergamum was the capital of the Roman Province of Asia[76] and "Satan's throne" may be referring to the monumental Pergamon Altar in the city, which was dedicated to the Greek god Zeus,[76] or to a temple dedicated to the Roman emperor Augustus.[76]

Revelation 12:3 describes a vision of a Great Red Dragon with seven heads, ten horns, seven crowns, and a massive tail,[77] an image which is clearly inspired by the vision of the four beasts from the sea in the Book of Daniel[78] and the Leviathan described in various Old Testament passages.[65] The Great Red Dragon knocks "a third of the sun... a third of the moon, and a third of the stars" out the sky[79] and pursues the Woman of the Apocalypse.[79] Revelation 12:7-9 declares: "And war broke out in Heaven. Michael and his angels fought against Dragon. Dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in Heaven. Dragon the Great was thrown down, that ancient serpent who is called Devil and Satan, the one deceiving the whole inhabited World - he was thrown down to earth and his angels were thrown down with him."[80] Then a voice booms down from Heaven heralding the defeat of "the Accuser" (ho Kantegor),[64] identifying the Satan of Revelation with the satan of the Old Testament.[64]

In Revelation 20:1-3, Satan is bound with a great chain and hurled into the Abyss,[81] where he is imprisoned for one thousand years.[81] Then, in Revelation 20:7-10, he is set free and gathers his armies along with Gog and Magog to wage war against the righteous,[81] but is defeated with fire from Heaven and is cast into the Lake of Fire.[81]

After the New Testament

Theology

Illustration of the Devil on folio 290 recto of the Codex Gigas, dating to the early thirteenth century
Medieval miniature depicting Pope Sylvester II consorting with Satan (c. 1460)

For most Christians, Satan is believed to be an angel who rebelled against God. The early Christian church encountered opposition from pagans such as Celsus, who claimed that "it is blasphemy...to say that the greatest God...has an adversary who constrains his capacity to do good" and said that Christians "impiously divide the kingdom of God, creating a rebellion in it, as if there were opposing factions within the divine, including one that is hostile to God".[82]

Satan had minimal role in medieval Christian theology,[83] but he frequently appeared as a recurring comedic stock character in late medieval mystery plays,[83] in which he was portrayed as a comic relief figure who "frolicked, fell, and farted in the background".[83] Jeffrey Burton Russell describes the medieval conception of Satan as "more pathetic and repulsive than terrifying"[83][84] and he was seen as little more than a nuisance to God's overarching plan.[83] During the Early Modern Period, Christians became gradually began to regard Satan as increasingly powerful[85] and the fear of Satan's power became a dominant aspect of the worldview of Christians across Europe.[86][83] During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther taught that, rather than trying to argue with Satan, Christians should avoid temptation altogether by seeking out pleasant company;[87] Luther especially recommended music as a safeguard against temptation, since the Devil "cannot endure gaiety."[87] John Calvin repeated a maxim from Saint Augustine that "Man is like a horse, with either God or the devil as rider."[88]

The early English settlers of North America, especially the Puritans of New England, believed that Satan "visibly and palpably" reigned in the New World[89] and Cotton Mather wrote that devils swarmed around Puritan settlements "like the frogs of Egypt".[90] The Puritans believed that the native Americans were worshippers of Satan[91] and described them as "children of the Devil".[89] Some settlers claimed to have seen Satan himself appear in the flesh at native ceremonies.[90] During the First Great Awakening, the "new light" preachers portrayed their "old light" critics as ministers of Satan.[92] By the time of the Second Great Awakening, Satan's primary role in American evangelicalism was as the opponent of the evangelical movement itself,[93] who spent most of his time trying to hinder the ministries of evangelical preachers,[93] a role he has largely retained among present-day American fundamentalists.[94]

Belief in Satan and in demonic possession is still strong among Christians in the United States[95][96][97] and in Latin America.[98] According to a poll conducted by YouGov in 2013, fifty-seven percent of people in the United States believe in a literal Devil,[95] compared to eighteen percent of people in Britain.[95] Fifty-one percent of Americans believe that Satan has the power to possess people.[95] The Catholic Church generally played down Satan and exorcism during late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries,[98] but Pope Francis brought renewed focus on the Devil in the early 2010s.[98][99]

Iconography

Satan's appearance is never described in the Bible or any early Christian writings[100][101] and he was never shown in early Christian artwork.[100][101] Satan first appears in medieval art of the ninth century,[102] where he is shown with cloven hooves, hairy legs, the tail of a goat, pointed ears, a beard, a flat nose, and a set of horns.[103][101][83] Medieval Christians were known to adapt previously existing pagan iconography to suit depictions of Christian figures.[103][101] Much of Satan's traditional iconography is apparently derived from Pan,[103][101] a rustic, goat-legged fertility god in ancient Greek religion.[103][101] Early Christian writers such as Saint Jerome equated the Greek satyrs and the Roman fauns, whom Pan resembled, with demons.[103][101] The Devil's pitchfork appears to have been adapted from the trident wielded by the Greek god Poseidon[101] and Satan's flame-like hair seems to have originated from the Egyptian god Bes.[101] By the High Middle Ages, Satan and devils appear in all works of Christian art: in paintings, sculptures, and on cathedrals.[104] Satan is usually depicted naked,[101] but his genitals are rarely shown and are often covered by animal furs.[101]

Demonic possession and witchcraft

Painting from c. 1788 by Francisco Goya depicting Saint Francis Borgia performing an exorcism. During the Early Modern Period, exorcisms were seen as displays of God's power over Satan.[86]
During the Early Modern Period, witches were widely believed to engage in sexually explicit Satanic rituals with demons,[105] such as the one shown in this illustration by Martin van Maële in the 1911 edition of La Sorcière by Jules Michelet.

Most early Christians firmly believed that Satan and his demons had the power to possess humans[106] and exorcisms were widely practiced by Jews, Christians, and pagans alike.[106] Belief in demonic possession continued through the Middle Ages into the early modern period.[107][108] Exorcisms were seen as a display of God's power over Satan.[86] The vast majority of people who thought they were possessed by the Devil did not suffer from hallucinations or other "spectacular symptoms",[109] but "complained of anxiety, religious fears, and evil thoughts."[109]

The Canon Episcopi, written in the eleventh century AD, condemns belief in witchcraft as heretical,[105] but also documents that many people at the time apparently believed in it.[105] Witches were believed to fly through the air on broomsticks,[105] consort with demons,[105] perform in "lurid sexual rituals" in the forests,[105] murder human infants and eat them as part of Satanic rites,[110] and engage in conjugal relations with demons.[85][110] In 1326, Pope John XXII issued the papal bull Super illius Specula,[111] which condemned folk divination practices as consultation with Satan.[111]

By the 1430s, the Catholic Church began to regard witchcraft as part of a vast conspiracy led by Satan himself.[112] In the late fifteenth century, a series of witchcraft panics erupted in France and Germany.[111][112] In the mid-sixteenth century, the panic spread to England and Switzerland.[111] Both Protestants and Catholics alike firmly believed in witchcraft as a real phenomenon and supported its prosecution.[113] In the late 1500s, the Dutch demonologist Johann Weyer argued in his treatise De praestigiis daemonum that witchcraft did not exist,[114] but that Satan promoted belief in it to lead Christians astray.[114] The panic over witchcraft intensified in the 1620s and continued until the end of the 1600s.[111] Brian Levack estimates that around 60,000 people were executed for witchcraft during the entire span of the witchcraft hysteria.[111]

By the early 1600s, skeptics, including the English author Reginald Scot and the Anglican bishop John Bancroft, had begun to criticize the belief that demons still had the power to possess people.[115] This skepticism was bolstered by the belief that miracles only occurred during the Apostolic Age, which had long since ended.[116] Later, Enlightenment thinkers, such as David Hume, Denis Diderot, and Voltaire, attacked the notion of Satan's existence altogether.[117] Voltaire labelled John Milton's Paradise Lost as a "disgusting fantasy"[117] and declared that belief in Hell and Satan were among the many lies propagated by the Catholic Church to keep humanity enslaved.[117]

Islam

Illustration from an Arabic manuscript of the Annals of al-Tabari showing Iblis refusing to prostrate before the newly-created Adam

Shaitan (شيطان) is the equivalent of Satan in Islam. While Shaitan (شيطان, from the root šṭn شطن) is an adjective (meaning "astray" or "distant", sometimes translated as "devil") that can be applied to both man ("al-ins", الإنس) and al-jinn (الجن‎‎‎‎). The particular Satan, often referred to as "Al-Shaitan", is in Islamic traditions called Iblis (Arabic pronunciation: [ˈibliːs]) or Azazil.

Quran

Seven suras in the Quran (2:34, 7:11-18, 15:31-34, 17:61-65, 20:116-123, and 38:71-85)[118] describe how God ordered all the angels and Iblis to bow before the newly-created Adam.[8][118] All the angels bowed, but Iblis refused,[8][118] declaring, in 38:76, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay." Consequently, God expelled him from Paradise.[8] Iblis thereafter became a kafir, "an ungrateful disbeliever",[8] whose sole mission is to lead humanity astray.[8][119] God allows Iblis to do this,[8][120] because He knows that the righteous will be able to resist Iblis's attempts to misguide them.[8] On Judgement Day, Satan will be thrown into the fires of Jahannam,[121] along with all his followers.[121] After his banishment from Paradise, Iblis, who thereafter became known as Al-Shaitan ("the Demon"),[121] lured Adam and Eve into eating the fruit from the forbidden tree.[121][122]

The primary characteristic of Satan, aside from his hubris and despair, is that his only power is the ability to cast evil suggestions (waswās) into the hearts of men and women.[123] 15:45 states that Satan has no influence over the righteous,[124] but that those who fall in error are under his power.[124] 7:156 implies that those who obey God's laws are immune to the temptations of Satan.[124] 56:79 warns that Satan tries to keep Muslims from reading the Quran[125] and 16:98-100 recommends reciting the Quran as an antidote against Satan.[125] 35:6 refers to Satan as the enemy of humanity[125] and 36:60 forbids humans from worshipping him.[125] In the Quranic retelling of the story of Job, Job knows that Satan is the one tormenting him.[125]

Islamic tradition

Illustration (c. 1522) of Iblis from a manuscript of the epic poem Shahnameh

Muslims exegetes of the Quran disagree on whether Satan is a fallen angel or the leader of a group of evil jinn.[126] According to a hadith from Ibn Abbas, Iblis was actually an angel whom God created out of fire. Thus, when the Quran identifies Satan as a "jinn" in Sura 18:50, it means that he belonged to a class of fiery creatures called jinn, which encompasses both heavenly jinn (fiery angels) and earthly (ordinary) jinn.[127] Abu Al-Zamakhshari states that the words angels and jinn are synonyms.[128] Al-Baydawi instead argues that Satan hoped to be an angel,[128] but that his actions made him a jinn.[128]

According to Islamic tradition, before Adam was created, earthly jinn made of smokeless fire roamed the earth and spread corruption upon it.[129] In one tradition, Satan was one of these jinn, who was taken captive by the angels and brought to Eden to bow before Adam.[124] In another tradition, Satan was one of the good jinn, originally named Al-Hakam because God had appointed him as judge over the evil jinn.[124] According to the Muslim historian Al-Tabari, Iblis was originally an angel named Azazil or Al-Harith,[130] who was sent by God to confront the evil jinn.[131] Azazil defeated the jinn in battle and drove them into the mountains,[131] but he became convinced that he was superior to humans and all the other angels, leading to his downfall.[131]

Other Islamic scholars argue that Satan was a jinn who was admitted into Paradise as a reward for his righteousness and, unlike the angels, was given the choice to obey or disobey God. When he was expelled from Paradise, Satan blamed humanity for his punishment.[132] Hasan of Basra, an eminent Muslim theologian who lived in the seventh century AD, was quoted as saying: "Iblis was not an angel even for the time of an eye wink. He is the origin of Jinn as Adam is of Mankind."[133]

According to Sufi mysticism, Iblis refused to bow to Adam because he was fully devoted to God alone and refused to bow to anyone else.[134][128] For this reason, Sufi masters regard Satan and Muhammad as the two most perfect monotheists.[134] Sufis reject the concept of dualism[134][135] and instead believe in the unity of existence.[135] In the same way that Muhammad was the instrument of God's mercy,[134] Sufis regard Satan as the instrument of God's wrath.[134]

Muslim tradition preserves a number of stories involving dialogues between Jesus and Iblis,[131] all of which are intended to demonstrate Jesus's virtue and Satan's depravity.[136] Ahmad ibn Hanbal records an Islamic retelling of Jesus's temptation by Satan in the desert from the Synoptic Gospels.[131] Ahmad quotes Jesus as saying, "The greatest sin is love of the world. Women are the ropes of Satan. Wine is the key to every evil."[136] Abu Uthman al-Jahiz credits Jesus with saying, "The world is Satan's farm, and its people are his plowmen."[131] Al-Ghazali tells an anecdote about how Jesus went out one day and saw Satan carrying ashes and honey;[137] when he asked what they were for, Satan replied, "The honey I put on the lips of backbiters so that they achieve their aim. The ashes I put on the faces of orphans, so that people come to dislike them."[137] The thirteenth-century scholar Sibt ibn al-Jawzi states that, when Jesus asked him what truly broke his back, Satan replied, "The neighing of horses in the cause of Allah."[137]

Muslims believe that Satan is also the cause of deceptions originating from the mind and desires for evil. He is regarded as a cosmic force for separation, despair and spiritual envelopment. Muslims do distinguish between the satanic temptations and the murmurings of the bodily lower self (Nafs). The lower self commands the person to do a specific task or to fulfill a specific desire; whereas the inspirations of Satan tempt the person to do evil in general and, after a person successfully resists his first suggestion, Satan returns with new ones.[138]

Bahá'í Faith

In the Bahá'í Faith, Satan is not regarded as an independent evil power as he is in some faiths, but signifies the lower nature of humans. `Abdu'l-Bahá explains: "This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan — the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside."[139][140] All other evil spirits described in various faith traditions—such as fallen angels, demons, and jinns—are also metaphors for the base character traits a human being may acquire and manifest when he turns away from God.[141]

Satanism

Eliphas Levi's image of Baphomet is embraced by LaVeyan Satanists as a symbol of duality, fertility, and the "powers of darkness", serving as the namesake of their primary insignia, The Sigil of Baphomet.

Within Satanism, two major trends exist, theistic Satanism and atheistic Satanism, both having different views regarding the essence of Satan.

Theistic Satanism

Theistic Satanism, commonly referred to as "devil worship",[142] holds the view that Satan is an actual deity or a force to revere or worship that individuals may contact and supplicate to,[143][144] and represents loosely affiliated or independent groups and cabals which hold the belief that Satan is a real entity[145] rather than an archetype.

Atheistic Satanism

Atheistic Satanism, most commonly referred to as LaVeyan Satanism, holds that Satan does not exist as a literal anthropomorphic entity, but rather as a symbol of a cosmos which Satanists perceive to be permeated and motivated by a force that has been given many names by humans over the course of time. In this religion, "Satan" is not viewed or depicted as a hubristic, irrational, and fraudulent creature, but rather is revered with Prometheus-like attributes, symbolizing liberty and individual empowerment. To adherents, he also serves as a conceptual framework and an external metaphorical projection of the Satanist's highest personal potential.[146][147][148][149][150][151] In his essay "Satanism: The Feared Religion", the current High Priest of the Church of Satan, Peter H. Gilmore, further expounds that "...Satan is a symbol of Man living as his prideful, carnal nature dictates. The reality behind Satan is simply the dark evolutionary force of entropy that permeates all of nature and provides the drive for survival and propagation inherent in all living things. Satan is not a conscious entity to be worshiped, rather a reservoir of power inside each human to be tapped at will".[152]

LaVeyan Satanists embrace the original etymological meaning of the word "Satan" (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning "adversary"). According to Peter H. Gilmore, "The Church of Satan has chosen Satan as its primary symbol because in Hebrew it means adversary, opposer, one to accuse or question. We see ourselves as being these Satans; the adversaries, opposers and accusers of all spiritual belief systems that would try to hamper enjoyment of our life as a human being."[153]

Allegations of worship

The main deity in the tentatively Indo-European pantheon of the Yazidis, Melek Taus, similar to the devil in Christian and Islamic traditions, refused to bow down before humanity, therefore Christians and Muslims often consider Melek Taus to be Satan.[154] However, rather than being Satanic, Yazidism can be understood as a remnant of a pre-Islamic Middle Eastern Indo-European religion, and/or a ghulat Sufi movement founded by Shaykh Adi. In fact, there is no entity in Yazidism which represents evil in opposition to God; such dualism is rejected by Yazidis.[155] Wicca is a modern, syncretic Neopagan religion,[156] whose practitioners many Christians have incorrectly assumed to worship Satan.[156] In actuality, Wiccans do not believe in the existence of Satan or any analogous figure[156] and have repeatedly and emphatically rejected the notion that they venerate such an entity.[156]

Much modern folklore about Satanism does not originate from the actual beliefs or practices of theistic or atheistic Satanists, but rather from a mixture of medieval Christian folk beliefs, political or sociological conspiracy theories, and contemporary urban legends.[157][158][159][160] An example is the Satanic ritual abuse scare of the 1980s — beginning with the memoir Michelle Remembers — which depicted Satanism as a vast conspiracy of elites with a predilection for child abuse and human sacrifice.[158][159] This genre frequently describes Satan as physically incarnating in order to receive worship.[160]

In art and literature

Illustration by William Blake for Dante's Inferno, Canto XXXIV, showing Satan frozen up to his chest in the Ninth Circle of Hell
Illustration (1866) for John Milton's Paradise Lost by Gustave Doré, showing Satan's fall from heaven

In Dante Alighieri's Inferno, Satan appears as a giant demon, frozen mid-breast in ice at the center of the Ninth Circle of Hell.[161] Satan has three faces and a pair of bat-like wings affixed under each chin.[162] In his three mouths, Satan gnaws on Brutus, Judas Iscariot, and Cassius,[162] whom Dante regarded as having betrayed the "two greatest heroes of the human race":[163] Julius Caesar, the founder of the new order of government, and Jesus, the founder of the new order of religion.[163] As Satan beats his wings, he creates a cold wind that continues to freeze the ice surrounding him and the other sinners in the Ninth Circle.[162] Dante and Virgil climb up Satan's shaggy legs until gravity is reversed and they fall through the earth into the southern hemisphere.[163]

Satan appears in several stories from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer,[164] including "The Summoner's Prologue", in which a friar arrives in Hell and sees no other friars,[165] but is told there are millions.[165] Then Satan lifts his tail to reveal that all of the friars live inside his anus.[166] Chaucer's description of Satan's appearance is clearly based on Dante's.[165] The legend of Faust, recorded in the 1589 chapbook The History of the Damnable Life and the Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus,[167] concerns a pact allegedly made by the German scholar Johann Georg Faust with a demon named Mephistopheles agreeing to sell his soul to Satan in exchange for twenty-four years of earthly pleasure.[167] This chapbook later became the source for Christopher Marlowe's famous play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.[167]

John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost features Satan as its main protagonist.[168][169] Milton portrays Satan as a tragic antihero destroyed by his own hubris.[169] The poem, which draws extensive inspiration from Greek tragedy,[170] recreates Satan as a complex literary character,[171] who dares to rebel against the "tyranny" of God,[172][173] in spite of God's own omnipotence.[172][174] The English poet and painter William Blake famously quipped that "The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true poet and of the Devils party without knowing it."[175] Paradise Regained, the sequel to Paradise Lost, is a retelling of Satan's temptation of Jesus in the desert.[176]

William Blake regarded Satan as a model of rebellion against unjust authority[117] and features him in many of his poems and illustrations,[117] including his 1780 book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,[117] in which Satan is celebrated as the ultimate rebel, the incarnation of human emotion and the epitome of freedom from all forms of reason and orthodoxy.[117]

See also

References

  1. ^ http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13219-satan "Term used in the Bible with the general connotation of "adversary", being applied (1) to an enemy in war (I Kings v. 18 [A. V. 4]; xi. 14, 23, 25), from which use is developed the concept of a traitor in battle (I Sam. xxix. 4); (2) to an accuser before the judgment-seat (Ps. cix. 6); and (3) to any opponent (II Sam. xix. 23 [A. V. 22]). The word is likewise used to denote an antagonist who puts obstacles in the way, as in Num. xxii. 32, where the angel of God is described as opposing Balaam in the guise of a satan or adversary; so that the concept of Satan as a distinct being was not then known."
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions, page 290, Wendy Doniger
  3. ^ Leeming, David Adams (2005). The Oxford Companion to World Mythology. Oxford University Press. p. 347. ISBN 978-0-19-515669-0. 
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  149. ^ [1] Archived July 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
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  153. ^ The Church of Satan [History Channel]. YouTube. 12 January 2012. 
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  158. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Updated and Expanded Edition, by Jan Harold Brunvand, ABC-CLIO, 31 Jul 2012 pp. 694–695
  159. ^ a b Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media, by Bill Ellis, University Press of Kentucky p. 125 In discussing myths about groups accused of Satanism, "...such myths are already pervasive in Western culture, and the development of the modern "Satanic Scare" would be impossible to explain without showing how these myths helped organize concerns and beliefs". Accusations of Satanism are traced from the witch hunts, to the Illuminati, to the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic in the 1980s, with a distinction made between what modern Satanists believe and what is believed about Satanists.
  160. ^ a b Poole 2009, pp. 42–43.
  161. ^ Fowlie 1981, pp. 210-212.
  162. ^ a b c Fowlie 1981, p. 211.
  163. ^ a b c Fowlie 1981, p. 212.
  164. ^ Tambling 2017, pp. 47-50.
  165. ^ a b c Tambling 2017, p. 50.
  166. ^ Tambling 2016, p. 50.
  167. ^ a b c Kelly 2006, p. 268.
  168. ^ Verbart 1995, pp. 45-46.
  169. ^ a b Bryson 2004, pp. 77-79.
  170. ^ Bryson 2004, pp. 80-81.
  171. ^ Bryson 2004, pp. 77-78.
  172. ^ a b Kelly 2006, p. 272.
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  174. ^ Bryson 2004, p. 80.
  175. ^ Bryson 2004, p. 20.
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  • Rosica, The Rev. Thomas (20 July 2015), Why is Pope Francis so obsessed with the devil?, Turner Broadcasting System, CNN 
  • Rudwin, Maximilian (1970). The Devil in Legend and Literature. Open Court. ISBN 0-87548-248-1. 
  • Russell, Jeffrey Burton. The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (1987) excerpt and text search
  • Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (1987) excerpt and text search
  • Russell, Jeffrey Burton (1984), Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-9429-X 
  • Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World (1990) excerpt and text search
  • Russell, Jeffrey Burton. The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History (1992) excerpt and text search
  • Schaff, D. S. "Devil" in New Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1911), Mainline Protestant; vol 3 pp 414–417 online
  • Scott, Miriam Van. The Encyclopedia of Hell (1999) excerpt and text search comparative religions; also popular culture
  • Tambling, Jeremy (2017), Histories of the Devil: From Marlowe to Mann and the Manichees, London, England: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers Ltd., doi:10.1057/978-1-137-51832-3, ISBN 978-1-137-51832-3 
  • Thomsett, Michael C. (2011), Heresy in the Roman Catholic Church: A History, Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland & Company, Inc., ISBN 978-0-7864-4448-9 
  • van der Toorn, Karel; Becking, Bob; Willem, Pieter (1999), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (second ed.), Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, ISBN 0-8028-2491-9 
  • Verbart, André (1995), Fellowship in Paradise Lost: Vergil, Milton, Wordsworth, 97, Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi, ISBN 90-5183-882-4 
  • Vicchio, Stephen J. (2008), Biblical Figures in the Islamic Faith, Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, ISBN 978-1-55635-304-8 
  • Wray, T. J. and Gregory Mobley. The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots (2005) excerpt and text search

External links

  • Catholic Encyclopedia — "Devil"
  • Jewish Encyclopedia — "Satan"
  • The Internet Sacred Texts Archive hosts texts—scriptures, literature and scholarly works—on Satan, Satanism and related religious matters
  • The Brotherhood of Satan’s perspective on Satan and Lucifer.
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