Satan in the Thought of Justin Martyr

The response of the “Church fathers” was to claim that whilst indeed the world is in the hands of Satan, baptism frees a person from the power of the Devil. Hence baptism formulae started to speak of how demons were being expelled from a person¹. This contrasted sharply with the repeated New Testament evidence that baptism is for the forgiveness of personal sins, a becoming “in Christ”, covered against sin by His sacrifice (Acts 2:37,38; Colossians 2:12-14). None of the New Testament baptism passages, notably the exposition of baptism in Romans 6 and the institution of baptism in the great commission, ever mentioned it as being in order to exorcise demons or free us from the power of a personal being called the Devil. Produced around 180 A.D., the Apocryphal “Acts of Peter” consciously attempted to blend Gnosticism and Christianity by claiming that the negative aspects of this world are the fault of a personal Satan who snared Adam and “bound him… by the chain of the [human, sinful] body”. The Genesis record remains silent—and it’s a deafening silence—about any ‘Satan’ tempting Adam. The New Testament likewise states simply that sin entered the world by Adam—not by anyone or anything else (Romans 5:12).

Justin Martyr was one of the leading lights in trying to defend Christianity against Gnostic criticisms. Writing in the mid 2nd century, he spoke much of how the whole universe is indeed infested with demons and the power of the Devil. He came to this conclusion through the need to answer the question ‘Where did Satan and his angels fall to?’ He devised a scheme of various levels of atmosphere, populated, he claimed, by various types of fallen angels. Those who fell furthest went down into the centre of the earth, to hell, whilst others remained on earth and others were in the atmosphere. He likewise took on board the false idea of an ‘immortal soul’ that goes to Heaven after death, and therefore he supposed that the demons in the atmosphere would seek to stop the soul’s progress to Heaven. This is quite without Biblical support. The Bible speaks clearly of the resurrection of the body and literal reward of the righteous in God’s Kingdom upon earth at the time of Christ’s second coming. Further, it is how a person lives and believes which decides their ultimate destiny—this can’t be impeded by beings suspended in mid air. Justin’s understanding is summarized in the following diagram².

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Author: Duncan Heaster

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Bible reference(s): 1 Chronicles 21:1, Job 1:6-9, Job 1:12, Job 2:1-7, Isaiah 14:12, Zechariah 3:1-2, Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 12:26, Matthew 13:19, Matthew 13:38-39, Matthew 16:23, Matthew 25:41, Mark 1:13, Mark 3:23, Mark 3:26, Mark 4:15, Mark 8:33, Luke 4:2-5, Luke 4:13, Luke 8:12, Luke 10:18, Luke 11:18, Luke 13:16, Luke 22:3, Luke 22:31, John 6:70, John 8:44, John 13:2, John 13:27, John 17:15, Acts 5:3, Acts 10:38, Acts 13:10, Acts 26:18, Romans 16:20, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 2:11, 2 Corinthians 11:14, 2 Corinthians 12:7, Ephesians 4:27, Ephesians 6:11, Ephesians 6:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:18, 1 Thessalonians 3:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 1 Timothy 1:20, 1 Timothy 3:6, 1 Timothy 3:7, 1 Timothy 5:15, 2 Timothy 2:26, Hebrews 2:14, James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8, 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:14, 1 John 3:8, 1 John 3:10, 1 John 3:12, 1 John 5:18, 1 John 5:19, Jude 1:9, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 2:10, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:24, Revelation 3:9, Revelation 12:9, Revelation 12:12, Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:7, Revelation 20:10

Source: “The Real Devil A Biblical Exploration.”

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