Biblical Basis for "Satan"

I would be interested in knowing the biblical support for the various parts of that sentence.

It’s an inference, speculative but reasonable, that goes back at least to Irenaeus in the 2nd century.

The components of Satan’s (alias the Serpent’s) motivation are derived from:
(a) Jesus’s statement that he was a “murderer from the beginning,” and a liar by nature (John 8:44).
(b) The deutero-canonical Wisdom attributes envy to his deception of A&E: "for God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it. (Wis 2:23-4).
© The lament over the king of Tyre (Ezek 28:11-19), usually taken as derived from Satan in the garden, attributes glory, pride - and a sudden lapse into evil - to him there.
(d) Psalm 8, as interpreted in Hebrews 2, implies that Adam’s line was chosen to rule not only the earth, but the angelic realm: “…a little lower” or “for a little while lower” than the angels. "Irenaeus makes a clear distinction between the creation ordinance to “rule and subdue” the earth in Gen 1, and this “secret plan” of God’s which explains the covenant of Genesis 2 (though Irenaeus assumes that both chs 1 &2 have Adam as their human subject - he wasn’t anticipating GAE, of course).
(e) Satan’s character as “accuser” (which is also the meaning of “satan,” of course) is repeatedly stated in the Bible. By accusing sinful mankind before God, the incomplete death sentence against mankind is kept in view, and the intended elevation of humanity is not justly possible… until Christ overcomes sin and death on behalf of mankind, and Satan no longer has leverage. According to the New Testament, what before might have been a half-decent plan becomes the mere spite of a defeated enemy of humanity.


Thanks. It all seems exceedingly tenuous, from the identification of the serpent as Satan, to the serpent’s motivation, to God’s secret plan for humanity.

What’s your take on the claim that Satan as he is commonly understood now has a comparatively late origin in Jewish theology, postdating most or a of the Old Testament?

1 Like

This is really a hilarious discussion. Angels taking form of humans, chimeras. :grinning: Really adds to the truth of the Bible.

@Patrick we are arguing against the notion that this is what the authors meant.

Welcome to peak theology.

1 Like

Can of worms, not least because “Satan as commonly understood” bears little resemblance to any phase of the biblical literature. That there is development in angelology/demonology over the centuries is without doubt. But for most of those centuries, the OT text is the only Hebrew literature we have, and paucity of reference to Satan does not necessarily equate to lack of belief in him.

As a parallel case, there is only scant reference to a “heavenly council” in the OT, But Mike Heiser has made a good case for its being an assumption of the ancient Hebrews (and that assumption clarifies several otherwise obscure passages). Incidentally, Heiser also makes a case from the ANE literature that the Serpent of Gen 3, nachish, would have been understood as a member of that council, rather than, or perhaps by word-play as well as a snake, and that of course accords with the relatively early exilic Ezekiel reference to a “guardian cherub” in the garden of God who went bad.

By the post exilic era, eg in Chronicles, Satan was recognised as a powerful malevolent being who tempts (in one case) King David to sin - very much the role Jesus and the apostles describe for him in human affairs.

Job is hard to date, but contains archaisms suggesting that the story, at least, is old - and the story has a Satan very compatible with the New Testament picture, if not the popular red chap stoking the fires of hell with his fork.

In the end, for the Christian the Old Testament is interpreted through the lens of the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. Satan’s role in the Eden narrative is attested in numerous ways both direct and implicit.


I can’t see that at all. In the New Testament, Satan appears to be an enemy of God, while in Job he seems to be a crony with whom God makes a bet.


But we can’t let the Bible get in the way of traditional theology.

Yet he can’t find anyone interpreting it that way. We don’t even find the serpent in Eden identified as satan until the second century of the Christian era.

But there’s abundant evidence in those writings for lack of belief in the satan of traditional theology.

This is not the scholarly consensus, which identifies the “satan” in Chronicles as a hostile nation opposing Israel, prompting David to number the people for war.

On the contrary, the satan of Job is seen by mainstream scholarship as an obedient angel, by no means an enemy of God. Since you mentioned Heiser, it’s worth noting that Heiser says the satan in Job is “just doing his job”, and also writes “you have to understand that the satan is not the cosmic evil enemy of God in Job 1-2”, contrary to what you’re claiming.


No - that’s too crude a dichotomy. Satan is an enemy, but you also have to account for the fact that it was at the preaching of the gospel by the apostles that Jesus “saw Satan fall from heaven.”

The same theme is stated in apocalyptic terms in Rev 12, where Satan and his hosts “lose their place in heaven.” The context (10-12) shows that the “war in heaven,” as in Jesus’s pronouncement, is the testimony of the gospel - it is the death of Jesus and its proclamation that shifts Satan from an “enemy at court” (as in Job), to an exile. No good-evil dualist powers here: even Satan’s accusatory activity serves God’s saving activity, as in Job.

As is so often, sadly, the case, you ride roughshod over the meaning of Job through lack of respect for the text - ask yourself if any pious Jewish author or reader would ever have understood those first chapters as God making a bet with a crony. The question answers itself, even if the rest of the book didn’t.

The complexity of the NT view of Satan s also shown in Jude, citing apocalyptic literature as an example, in which Satan’s high ontological status is implied by the fact that even an archangel refers his accusation against him to God himself.


Revelation 4:1 (NET): 4:1 After these things I looked, and there was a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said: “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things. 'Oh sorry, I meant I’ll show you things which happened about 60 years ago.”

How fortunate that after God having to put up with satan on heaven, apparently unable to do anything about it for centuries, finally some men came along and said some things to people on earth, which threw Satan out of heaven at last. God must have been so relieved and grateful for the help.

You may be right about “scholarly consensus,” though it’s a big claim, and I have reasons to doubt it. Scholars aside, though, such an interpretation appears to come out of thin air, for no other nation appears in the passage. Rather, the Chronicler re-interprets the account in 2Sam 24, where it is the Lord who incites David. Now either the Chronicler knows some political history lost to the Deuteronomic author of Kings, or he has in mind the kind of situation seen in Job, where Satan acts with God’s permission, and (ultimately) for his just purposes.

It’s notable that the older account speaks more than once about “an evil spirit from the Lord,” which is consistent with Job and my understanding of 1 Chronicles.

Your “scholarly consensus” also appears to ignore completely the earliest surviving interpretation, which is the Septuagint, no later than the mid 2nd century BCE and possibly 3rd century - corresponding to the latest date suggested for the composition of Chronicles itself. The Septuagint of 1 Chron 21:1 reads “diabolos,” the devil, for “Satan.” Hostile surrounding nations aren’t even on the Jewish translators’ radar.

1 Like

Would you like to try a little more reading and then giving that another go, or should I just walk you through the passage and the relevant co-texts which show the same language used elsewhere? We can also cover the diabolos on the LXX and you can show be how it has to refer to supernatural evil.

1 Chronicles 21:1 (NET): 21:1 An adversary opposed Israel, inciting David to count how many warriors Israel had.

Well there’s an example right here in the Bible.

1 Kings 11:
14 The LORD brought against Solomon an enemy, Hadad the Edomite, a descendant of the Edomite king.


How? Are you saying satan is an “evil spirit from the Lord”?

That’s the same Septuagint which uses diabolos for Haman the enemy of the Jews (a man), in Esther, and for a fortress built by the Greek enemies of the Jews (1 Maccabees 1:36). By the way, diabolos in 1 Chronicles 21:1 is anarthrous.

I get the answer “yes”. YMMV.

There are 7 cases of satan used as a noun for generic adversaries in the Hebrew Bible.
There are 18 cases where it is used of Satan.
1 is disputed (in Chronicles).

Septuagint in two cases of the 7 uses “satan” untranslated, and in the rest some other formation altogether.

In all 18 of the “devil” uses, LXX translates “satan” as “diabolos,” as it also does in the disputed Chronicles instance. Anarthrous it may be, but the Jewish translators seem to have noticed there is no obvious reason, and certainly none in the text, that an unnamed political enemy of Israel would be the occasion for inciting David to sin by taking a census.

“Diabolos” generally has the sense of (false) slander, rather than mere enmity, in which sense it is used in just a few NT instances (though mostly it refers to Satan). That would fit Haman’s case, and perhaps even the Maccabean menace. But nothing like that appears to make sense in the Chronicles passage, so the LXX seems to have been taking the text as referring to Satan, and translating in its usual way.


I’d be interested in having that sentence parsed. Does “development” imply progress, or merely change? Do “angelology” and “demonology” imply some kind of knowledge or merely discussion of a topic?

No doubt the subject was debated and discussed, but in the context of Scripture we are in the realm of progressive revelation, a source of knowledge that you might, perhaps, deny.

1 Like

Do you refer to the temporal sequence of bible books, or do you refer to increasing understanding of what the books mean in the millennia since the canon was defined? So, does “development” mean progress, in either case? Hey, what about my second question?