Illustration of the Devil on folio 290 recto of the Codex Gigas, dating to the early thirteenth century

Satan,[a] also known as the Devil,[b] is an entity in the Abrahamic religions that seduces humans into sin or falsehood. In Christianity and Islam, he is usually seen as either a fallen angel or a jinn, who used to possess great piety and beauty, but rebelled against God, who nevertheless allows him temporary power over the fallen world and a host of demons. In Judaism, Satan is typically regarded as a metaphor for the yetzer hara, or "evil inclination", or as an agent subservient to God.

A figure known as "the satan" first appears in the Tanakh as a heavenly prosecutor, a member of the sons of God subordinate to Yahweh, who prosecutes the nation of Judah in the heavenly court and tests the loyalty of Yahweh's followers by forcing them to suffer. 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, or their offspring, to tempt humans to sin and punish them. In the Synoptic Gospels, Satan tempts Jesus in the desert and is identified as the cause of illness and temptation. 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 as the serpent in the Garden of Eden. In the Middle Ages, Satan played a 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, belief in the existence of Satan became harshly criticized. 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 to sin by infecting their minds with waswās ("evil suggestions"). Although Satan is generally viewed as evil, 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. Satan's appearance is never described in the Bible, but, since the ninth century, he has often been shown in Christian art with horns, cloven hooves, unusually hairy legs, and a tail, often naked and holding a pitchfork. These are an amalgam of traits derived from various pagan deities, including Pan, Poseidon, and Bes. Satan appears frequently in Christian literature, most notably in Dante Alighieri's Inferno, variants of the Faust legend, John Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and the poems of William Blake. He continues to appear in film, television, and music.

Historical development

Hebrew Bible

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

The original Hebrew term sâtan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן‎) 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 definite article (simply satan), the word can refer to any accuser,[9] but when it is used with the definite 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, which mentions only a talking serpent 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 2 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 1 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] A "spirit", whose name is not specified, but who is analogous to the satan, 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 satan appears in the Book of Job, a poetic dialogue set within a prose framework,[21] which may have been written around the time of the Babylonian captivity.[21] In the text, Job is a 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, "the satan", where he has been, to which he replies that he has been roaming around 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, yet 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 idea of Satan as an opponent of God and a purely evil figure 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 all of their demon offspring are 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 taken to be the being who brought death into the world, but originally the culprit was recognized as Cain.[44][45][46] The name Samael, which is used in reference to one of the fallen angels, later became a common name for Satan in Jewish Midrash and Kabbalah.[47]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Satan
Ænglisc: Satan
العربية: شيطان
asturianu: Satanás
azərbaycanca: Şeytan
বাংলা: সাতান
беларуская: Сатана
български: Сатана
català: Satan
Чӑвашла: Шуйтан
čeština: Satan
Cymraeg: Satan
dansk: Satan
Deutsch: Satan
eesti: Saatan
Ελληνικά: Σατανάς
español: Satanás
Esperanto: Satano
euskara: Satan
فارسی: شیطان
français: Satan
furlan: Satane
Gaeilge: Satan
galego: Satanás
ГӀалгӀай: Йилбаз
𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌹𐍃𐌺: 𐌳𐌹𐌰𐌱𐌰𐌿𐌻𐌿𐍃
한국어: 사탄
հայերեն: Սատանա
हिन्दी: शैतान
hrvatski: Sotona
Ido: Satano
Bahasa Indonesia: Setan
isiXhosa: USathane
íslenska: Satan
italiano: Satana
עברית: שטן
ქართული: ეშმაკი
қазақша: Шайтан
Kiswahili: Shetani
Kreyòl ayisyen: Satan
kurdî: Şeytan
Latina: Satanas
latviešu: Sātans
lietuvių: Šėtonas
magyar: Sátán
македонски: Сатана
Malagasy: Satana
മലയാളം: സാത്താൻ
მარგალური: ქერქენჯი
Bahasa Melayu: Syaitan
Nederlands: Satan
日本語: サタン
norsk: Satan
norsk nynorsk: Satan
occitan: Satan
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਸ਼ੈਤਾਨ
polski: Szatan
português: Satanás
română: Satan
Runa Simi: Satanas
русский: Сатана
ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲᱤ: ᱥᱚᱭᱛᱟᱱ
Simple English: Satan
slovenčina: Satan
slovenščina: Satan
словѣньскъ / ⰔⰎⰑⰂⰡⰐⰠⰔⰍⰟ: Сатана
ślůnski: Szatan
српски / srpski: Сатана
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Satana
suomi: Saatana
svenska: Satan
தமிழ்: சாத்தான்
татарча/tatarça: Шайтан
తెలుగు: షైతాన్
ไทย: ซาตาน
тоҷикӣ: Шайтон
Türkçe: Şeytan
українська: Сатана
vepsän kel’: Soton
Tiếng Việt: Satan
Winaray: Satanas
Zazaki: Şeytan
žemaitėška: Šetuons
中文: 撒但