The Devil and Satan
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself
likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him
that had the power of death, that is, the devil."
Today, many people believe in a supernatural Devil, a specific being who goes around causing trouble and tempting people to cause sin. While this idea may be superficially supported by the Bible it obscures the real message: that man is the source of sin, not some 'fallen angel'
THE SOURCE OF SIN
Nowhere in the Bible does anyone blame the Devil for tempting them to sin. It is strange that this should be the case if there really was a supernatural being that tempted them! In the Garden of Eden Adam did not blame the Devil for enticing him to eat the fruit. He said "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." (Genesis 3:12) Adam blamed Eve, and even tried to make it seem as it was God's fault. It is true that Eve blamed the serpent, but there is nothing in Genesis to suggest that the serpent was anything other than a serpent. The curse that God put on the serpent, and its descendants, would be odd if the serpent was really a manifestation of the Devil.
Later in Genesis we read "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5). The evil it would seem comes from inside people. This is confirmed by Jeremiah 7:24 "But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward." This passage, which runs from :21-28, blames only man for the evil, not a Devil .
Christ summarises the point like this: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19). Temptation. and hence sin, comes from inside the person, not outside. We cannot blame the 'Devil' or God (as Adam tried to do). James wrote "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." (James 1:13-15).
Whether we like it or not people are the source of sin. Evil comes from within, not outside.
The words 'Devil', 'devil' and their plurals never appear in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the usual Greek word for 'devil' is 'diabolos'. This word does not imply anything supernatural, as the English translation suggests. It means 'false accuser' or 'slanderer' as these passages show:
- "Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers [Greek: 'diabolos'], sober, faithful in all things." (1 Timothy 3:11)
- "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, .. unholy, ... false accusers [Greek: 'diabolos'], ... despisers of those that are good." (2 Timothy 3:1-3)
- "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers [Greek: 'diabolos'], not given to much wine, teachers of good things." (Titus 2:3)
Referring to Judas Iscariot, Christ said "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70). It is obvious that Judas was a human being, not a devil in the popular sense of the word. He was a diabolos - a false accuser, slanderer - because he was among those who falsely accused Christ.
Satan is a word which occurs throughout the Bible. Again, the original Greek and Hebrew words do not carry the same feelings as their usual English translations. The original word ('satan' in Hebrew, 'satanas' in Greek) simply means opponent or adversary.
On one occasion Christ "said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan". (Matthew 16:23) Peter was not the popular view of Satan, as is evident from his life after Christ's resurrection. Peter was an adversary to Christ because "[he] savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
In Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and his wife Sapphira together lie to Peter about the amount of money they got for selling a possession: they kept part of it for themselves and gave the rest to the Ecclesia, saying that it was the whole amount that they got for the possession. When Sapphira was not there, Peter asked Ananias "why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie...?" (:3). Far from this being an external temptation, Peter went on to say "why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?" (:4). Later, Peter said to Sapphira "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?" (:9) Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to do this. There was no external influence. The adversary - 'Satan' - of verse 3 was Sapphira who filled Ananias' heart with the desire to lie to Peter.
In the Old Testament satan is sometimes used to describe God Himself! 1 Chronicles 21:1-14 and 2 Samuel 24:1-15 both describe the same events: David taking a census in Israel and the subsequent punishment. Yet in 1 Chronicles it is satan who provokes David to take the Census - in 2 Samuel it is God. The explanation is quite simple: God was an adversary - a satan - to David.
In Job and Zechariah Satan is apparently a person. Careful reading of these books will show that Satan was indeed a person here - a human person who was an adversary to God or some other character.
There is a beautiful 'negative proof' that Satan is not some supernatural person constantly at odds with God. 1 Timothy 1:20 reads "I have delivered [Hymenaeus and Alexander] unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme." In what possible way could delivering somebody to the embodiment of evil make them learn not to blaspheme? Satan doing God's work? On the other hand, if Paul sent the two men away from the body of believers they would have been delivered to the adversary - unbelievers - and then might then learn that only by conducting themselves in the proper fashion might they be allowed back.
Hebrews 2:14, at the top of the page, is a final nail in the coffin of the idea of a Supernatural Devil: if there was one, Christ destroyed him!