In the Bible.

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. Such a view is found, however, in the prologue to the Book of Job, where Satan appears, together with other celestial beings or "sons of God," before the Deity, replying to the inquiry of God as to whence he had come, with the words: "From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" (Job i. 7). Both question and answer, as well as the dialogue which follows, characterize Satan as that member of the divine council who watches over human activity, but with the evil purpose of searching out men's sins and appearing as their accuser. He is, therefore, the celestial prosecutor, who sees only iniquity; for he persists in his evil opinion of Job even after the man of Uz has passed successfully through his first trial by surrendering to the will of God, whereupon Satan demands another test through physical suffering (ib. ii. 3-5).

Yet it is also evident from the prologue that Satan has no power of independent action, but requires the permission of God, which he may not transgress.He can not be regarded, therefore, as an opponent of the Deity; and the doctrine of monotheism is disturbed by his existence no more than by the presence of other beings before the face of God. This view is also retained in Zech. iii. 1-2, where Satan is described as the adversary of the high priest Joshua, and of the people of God whose representative the hierarch is; and he there opposes the "angel of the Lord," who bids him be silent in the name of God. In both of these passages Satan is a mere accuser who acts only according to the permission of the Deity; but in I Chron. xxi. 1 he appears as one who is able to provoke David to destroy Israel. The Chronicler (third century B.C.) regards Satan as an independent agent, a view which is the more striking since the source whence he drew his account (II Sam. xxiv. 1) speaks of God Himself as the one who moved David against the children of Israel. Since the older conception refers all events, whether good or bad, to God alone (I Sam. xvi. 14; I Kings xxii. 22; Isa. xlv. 7; etc.), it is possible that the Chronicler, and perhaps even Zechariah, were influenced by Zoroastrianism, even though in the case of the prophet Jewish monism strongly opposed Iranian dualism (Stave, "Einfluss des Parsismus auf das Judenthum," pp. 253 et seq.). An immediate influence of the Babylonian concept of the "accuser, persecutor, and oppressor" (Schrader, "K. A. T." 3d ed., p. 463) is impossible, since traces of such an influence, if it had existed, would have appeared in the earlier portions of the Bible.

In the Apocrypha.

The evolution of the theory of Satan keeps pace with the development of Jewish angelology and demonology. In Wisdom ii. 24 he is represented, with reference to Gen. iii., as the author of all evil, who brought death into the world; he is apparently mentioned also in Ecclus. (Sirach) xxi. 27, and the fact that his name does not occur in Daniel is doubtless due merely to chance. Satan was the seducer and the paramour of Eve, and was hurled from heaven together with other angels because of his iniquity (Slavonic Book of Enoch, xxix. 4 et seq.). Since that time he has been called "Satan," although previously he had been termed "Satanel" (ib. xxxi. 3 et seq.). The doctrine of the fall of Satan, as well as of the fall of the angels, is found also in Babylonia (Schrader, l.c. p. 464), and is mentioned several times in the New Testament. Satan rules over an entire host of angels (Martyrdom of Isaiah, ii. 2; Vita Adæ et Evæ, xvi.). Mastema, who induced God to test Abraham through the sacrifice of Isaac, is identical with Satan in both name and nature (Book of Jubilees, xvii. 18), and the Asmodeus of the Book of Tobit is likewise to be identified with him, especially in view of his licentiousness. As the lord of satans he not infrequently bears the special name Samael. It is difficult to identify Satan in any other passages of the Apocrypha, since the originals in which his name occurred have been lost, and the translations employ various equivalents. An "argumentum a silentio" can not, therefore, be adduced as proof that concepts of Satan were not wide-spread; but it must rather be assumed that reference to him and his realm is implied in the mention of evil spirits of every sort (comp. Demonology, and Kautzsch, "Apokryphen," Index).

In the New Testament.

The high development of the demonology of the New Testament presupposes a long period of evolution. In the Gospels the beliefs of the lower orders of society find expression, and Satan and his kingdom are regarded as encompassing the entire world, and are factors in all the events of daily life. In strict accordance with his manifold activity he bears many names, being called "Satan" (Matt. iv. 10; Mark i. 30, iv. 15; Luke x. 18 et passim), "devil" (Matt. iv. 1 et passim), "adversary" (I Peter v. 8, ἀντίδικος; I Tim. v. 14, ἀντικείμενος), "enemy" (Matt. xiii. 39), "accuser" (Rev. xii. 10), "old serpent" (ib. xx. 2), "great dragon" (ib. xii. 9), Beelzebub (Matt. x. 25, xii. 24, et passim), and Belial (comp. Samael). The fall of Satan is mentioned in Luke x. 18, John xii. 31, II Cor. vi. 16, and Rev. xii. 9. He is the author of all evil (Luke x. 19 et passim; Acts v. 3; II Cor. xi. 3; Ephes. ii. 2), who beguiled Eve (II Cor. xi. 3; Rev. xii. 9), and who brought death into the world (Heb. ii. 13), being ever the tempter (I Cor. vii. 5; I Thess. iii. 5; I Peter v. 8), even as he tempted Jesus (Matt. iv.). The belief in the devil as here developed dominated subsequent periods, and influenced indirectly the Jews themselves; nor has it been entirely discarded to-day.

Satan and his host are mentioned comparatively seldom in the Talmud and Midrash, although the material on this subject is not without importance. In the older or tannaitic literature the name of Satan is met with but rarely. Thus in Ab. iv. 11 sin itself, and not Satan, is the accuser, the term κατήγωρ becoming a standing epithet of Satan in the New Testament, and being applied to him by the later Talmudic teachers also. In Tosef., Shab. xvii. (xviii.) 3 it is stated that the angels of Satan accompany the blasphemer on his way, according to Ps. cxv. 6, while a comparison of Gen. R. xxxviii. 7 with Sifre, Num. xxv. 1 shows how reference to Satan was introduced by the Amoraim into tannaitic sayings (Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." ii. 254); and in like manner "Satan" is substituted for "angel" in Ned. 32a.

In Talmud and Midrash.

The Angelology of the Talmud, moreover, proves that, according to the older view (until about 200 C.E.), punishment was inflicted by angels and not by Satan. In the course of time, however, official Judaism, beginning perhaps with Johanan (d. 279), absorbed the popular concepts of Satan, which doubtless forced their way gradually from the lower classes to the most cultured. The later a midrashic collection the more frequent is the mention therein of Satan and his hosts. The Palestinian Talmud, completed about 400, is more reticent in this regard; and this is the more noteworthy since its provenience is the same as that of the New Testament. Samael, the lord of the satans, was a mighty prince of angels in heaven (Gen. R. xix.). Satan came into the world with woman, i.e., with Eve (Yalḳ., Gen. i. 23); so that he was created and is not eternal. Like all celestial beings, he flies through the air (Gen. R. xix.), and can assumeany form, as of a bird (Sanh. 107a), a stag (ib. 95a), a woman (Ḳid. 81a), a beggar (ib.), or a young man (Tan., Wayera, end); he is said to skip (Pes. 112b; Meg. 11b), in allusion to his appearance in the form of a goat (comp. the goat-demons of the Bible), and it was as such that he was addressed with the words "an arrow between thine eyes" by one who wished to express contempt for him (Ḳid. 30a, 81a, et passim).

He is the incarnation of all evil, and his thoughts and activities are devoted to the destruction of man; so that Satan, the impulse to evil ("yeẓer ha-ra'"), and the angel of death are one and the same personality. He descends from heaven and leads astray, then ascends and brings accusations against mankind. Receiving the divine commission, he takes away the soul, or, in other words, he slays (B. B. 16a). He seizes upon even a single word which may be prejudicial to man; so that "one should not open his mouth unto evil," i.e., "unto Satan" (Ber. 19a). In times of danger likewise he brings his accusations (Yer. Shab. 5b et passim). While he has power over all the works of man (Ber. 46b), he can not prevail at the same time against two individuals of different nationality; so that Samuel, a noted astronomer and teacher of the Law (d. at Nehardea 247), would start on a journey only when a Gentile traveled with him (Shab. 32a).

Satan's knowledge is circumscribed; for when the shofar is blown on New-Year's Day he is "confounded" (R. H. 16b; Yer. Targ. to Num. x. 10). On the Day of Atonement his power vanishes; for the numerical value of the letters of his name () is only 364, one day being thus exempt from his influence (Yoma 20a). Moses banished him by means of the Divine Name (Grünhut, "Sefer ha-Liḳḳuṭim," v. 169). If Satan does not attain his purpose, as was the case in his temptation of Job, he feels great sorrow (B. B. 16a); and it was a terrible blow to him, as the representative of moral evil, that the Torah, the incarnation of moral good, should be given to Israel. He endeavored to overthrow it, and finally led the people to make the golden calf (Shab. 89a; Yer. Targ. to Ex. xxxii. 1), while the two tables of the Law were bestowed on Moses of necessity without Satan's knowledge (Sanh. 26b).

His Functions.

The chief functions of Satan are, as already noted, those of temptation, accusation, and punishment. He was an active agent in the fall of man (Pirḳe R. El. xiii., beginning), and was the father of Cain (ib. xxi.), while he was also instrumental in the offering of Isaac (Tan., Wayera, 22 [ed. Stettin, p. 39a]), in the release of the animal destined by Esau for his father (Tan., Toledot, 11), in the theophany at Sinai, in the death of Moses (Deut. R. xiii. 9), in David's sin with Bath-sheba (Sanh. 95a), and in the death of Queen Vashti (Meg. 11a). The decree to destroy all the Jews, which Haman obtained, was written on parchment brought by Satan (Esther R. iii. 9). When Alexander the Great reproached the Jewish sages with their rebellion, they made the plea that Satan had been too mighty for them (Tamid 32a). He appeared as a tempter to Akiba and Mattithiah b. Ḥeresh (Ḳid. 81a; Midr. Abkir, ed. Buber, p. 11). He sowed discord between two men, and when Meïr reconciled them, he departed, crying, "Alas, Meïr has driven me from home!" (Giṭ. 52a; comp. 'Er. 26a)—i.e., Satan is the angel of strife (see also Yoma 67b; Shab. 104a; Yeb. 16a). If any one brings a beautiful captive home, he brings Satan into his house, and his son will be destroyed (Sifre, Deut. 218); for Satan kindles the evil impulse ("yeẓer ha-ra'") to impurity (Ex. R. xx.). Where one makes his home Satan leaps about; where merriment rules, or wheresoever there is eating or drinking, he brings his accusations (Gen. R. xxxviii. 7); and when there is a chance that prosperity may be enjoyed in this world or in the next he likewise rises up as an accuser. Even Jacob was forced to prove to Satan that he had borne much suffering in this world (Gen. R. lxxxiv., in Weber, "System der Altsynagogalen Palästinischen Theologie," p. 323); and when Satan reveals the sins of Israel to God others plead the alms which Israel has given (Ex. R. xxxi.). In the hour of birth, and thus in the hour of peril, he brings his accusation against the mother (Eccl. R. iii. 2). The serpent of Gen. iii. is identified with Satan (see Weber, l.c. pp. 218 et seq.; comp. Adam; Eve; Serpent).

As the incarnation of evil Satan is the arch-enemy of the Messiah: he is Antichrist. The light which was created before the world was hidden by God beneath His throne; and to the question of Satan in regard to it God answered, "This light is kept for him who shall bring thee to shame." At his request God showed Satan the Messiah; "and when he saw him he trembled, fell upon his face, and cried: 'Verily this is the Messiah who shall hurl me and all the princes of the angels of the peoples down even unto hell'" (Pesiḳ. R. iii. 6 [ed. Friedmann, p. 161b]; further details are given in Bousset, "Der Antichrist").

In the Cabala.

While the Pirḳe R. Eli'ezer, and the mystic midrashim edited by Jellinek in his "Bet ha-Midrash," belong historically to the post-Talmudic period, they do not fall under this category so far as their content is concerned. Here belong, strictly speaking, only the Zohar and other esoteric works comprised under the name "Cabala." The basal elements remain the same; but under the influence of medieval demonology a wider scope is ascribed to the activity of Satan and his host, daily life falling within the range of his power. The miscreants of the Bible, such as Amalek, Goliath, and Haman, are identified with him; and his hosts receive new names, among them "Ḳelippa" (husk, rind, peeling, scale). Antichristian polemics also complicate the problem (see the rich collection of material in Eisenmenger, "Entdecktes Judenthum," i. 812 et seq.).

Satan was mentioned in the liturgy at an early period, as in the daily morning prayer and in the Blessing of the New Moon; and his name has naturally occurred in amulets and incantations down to the present day. Terms and phrases referring to Satan which are met with in Judæo-German must be regarded as reminiscences of the ancient popular belief in him.

  • Davidson, Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 300-355, Edinburgh, 1904;
  • Faivre, La Personalité du Satan d'Après la Bible, Montauban, 1900;
  • Hennecke, NeutestamentlicheApokryphen, Tübingen, 1904;
  • Köberle, Sünde und Gnade, Munich, 1902;
  • Herzog-Plitt, Real-Encyc. xv. 358-362 (and the bibliography there given);
  • Schrader, K. A. T. 3d ed., pp. 463 et seq.
J. L. B.