Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: The Devil

The term ‘the devil’ (ho diabolos), is virtually never used in pre-Christian Second Temple literature outside the Old Greek texts of the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Old Greek texts¹ it is found in in 1 Chronicles 21:1 (of the adversary which attacks Israel, prompting David’s census), Esther 7:4; 8:1 (of Haman), Psalms 108:6 (of a human slanderer), Job 1:6-9, 12; 2:1-4, 6-7 (of Job’s adversary), and Zechariah 3:1-2 (of the accuser of Joshua).

In each case it translates the Hebrew term śāṭān,² indicating śāṭān was not understood as a personal name at this time. Even in Job and Zechariah (where some scholars consider it to refer to an angelic servant of God), it is not used of a supernatural evil being, still less a tempter.

It appears once in 1 Maccabees (1:36), used of human adversaries. It appears once in Wisdom of Solomon (2:24), where death is said to have entered the world due to the envy of the devil. The lack of any other use of the term in this work represents a challenge to its interpretation, but it is significant that it is interpreted in 1 Clement as a reference to Cain,³ which many scholars believe is the meaning here.⁴ This is more likely than a supernatural referent, since the idea of the devil being prompted by envy to tempt Eve ‘is likewise not attested before the first century C.E., at the earliest’.⁵

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Author: Jon Burke

Keywords: Adversary, Angel of darkness, Body of death, Christ tempted, Christ's temptation, Christ's temptation in the wilderness, Deliver us from evil, Devil, Devil and Jesus, Devil tempts Jesus, diabolos, Evil angel, Evil Inclination, Evil nature, Evil one, Good angel, Good nature, Hara Yetser, Ha-ra Yetser, Hara Yetzer, Ha-ra Yetzer, Hara Yezer, Ha-ra Yezer, Intentional misspelling, Intentionally misspelled, Jesus' temptation, Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, Jesus tempted, Jesus tempted by Satan, Jesus tempted by the devil, Jesus tempted in the wilderness, Jesus's temptation, Jot, Jot and tittle, Jots, Man's sinful nature, Mispelled word, Mispelling, Misspelling, Misspelled word, Origin of sin, Personification of evil, Personification, Satan, Satan and Jesus, Satan tempts Christ, Satan tempts Jesus, Seducer, Sexual temptation, Sin in the flesh, Sin personified, Sin within, Sinful nature, Snatcher, Temptation, Temptation from within, Temptation in the wilderness, Tempted in the wilderness, Tempted of Satan, Tempted of the devil, Tempted sexually, Tempted to do evil, Tempts Christ, Tempts Jesus, The devil tempts Christ, The devil tempts Jesus, The Evil Inclination, The Evil One, Tittle, Two jots, Two yodhs, Two yods, Wicked one, Wilderness temptation, Wretched man, Yatsar, Yetsarim, Yetser ha ra, Yetser ha tov, Yetser ra, Yetser tov, Yetzer, Yetzer ha ra, Yetzer ha tov, Yetzer Hara, Yetzer ra, Yetzer tov, Yezer ha ra, Yezer ha tov, Yezer Hara, Yezer tov, Envy of the devil

Bible reference(s): 1 Chronicles 21:1, Job 1, Job 2, Isaiah 14:4-16, Zechariah 3:1-2, Matthew 4:1, Matthew 4:5, Matthew 4:8, Matthew 4:10-11, Matthew 4:24, Matthew 7:22, Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:28, Matthew 8:31, Mat 8:33, Mat 9:32-34, Mat 10:8, Matthew 11:18, Mat 12:22, Mat 12:24, Matthew 12:26-28, Matthew 13:39, Matthew 16:23, Mat 17:18, Matthew 25:41, Mark 1:13, Mar 1:32, Mar 1:34, Mar 1:39, Mar 3:15, Mark 3:22-23, Mark 3:26, Mark 4:15, Mar 5:15-16, Mar 5:18, Mar 6:13, Mar 7:26, Mar 7:29-30, Mark 8:33, Mar 9:38, Mark 10:17-18, Luke 4:2-3, Luke 4:5, Luke 4:13, Luk 4:33, Luk 4:35-36, Luk 7:33, Luk 8:2, Luke 8:12, Luk 8:27, Luk 8:29-30, Luk 8:33, Luk 8:35-36, Luk 8:38, Luk 9:1, Luk 9:42, Luk 9:49, Luke 10:17-18, Luke 11:14-15, Luk 11:18-20, Luke 13:16, Luk 13:32, Luke 22:3, Luke 22:31, John 8:44, Joh 8:48-49, Joh 10:20-21, John 13:2, John 13:27, Acts 5:3, Acts 10:38, Acts 13:10, Acts 26:18, Romans 8:3, Romans 16:20, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 1 Cor 10:20-21, 2 Corinthians 2:11, 2 Corinthians 11:14, 2 Corinthians 12:7, Ephesians 4:27, Ephesians 6:11, 1 Thessalonians 2:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 1 Timothy 1:20, 1 Timothy 3:6, 1 Timothy 3:7, 1 Tim 4:1, 1 Timothy 5:15, 2 Timothy 2:26, Hebrews 2:14, Heb. 4:15, 1 Peter 5:8, 1 John 3:10, 1 John 3:8, James 2:19, James 4:7, Jude 1:9, Revelation 2:10, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:24, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9, Rev 9:20, Revelation 12:12, Revelation 12:9, Rev 16:14, Rev 18:2, Revelation 20:10, Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:7, Baruch 4:7, Baruch 4:35, Tobit 3:8, Tobit 3:17, Tobit 6:7, Tobit 6:14, Tobit 6:15, Tobit 6:17, Tobit 8:3

Source: “Satanological Terminology in the Synoptics: The Devil,” Berea Portal.

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