Thursday, May 19, 2005
  The use of the word Satan and how it is translated -
Part two of my ongoing Satan study.

Sometimes the Old Testament translates the word Satan as “adversary” as we noted yesterday that is what it literally means. Sometimes the translators opt to transcribe it simply as Satan where it then in English becomes a proper noun. I found that intriguing, so I looked at the text again this time searching through the original language for the Hebrew word Satan and then checking the English translation.

The following are my assumptions based on reading the text.

In the first part of the Old Testament the word Satan is almost always translated. In Numbers 22 it is translated as adversary because it is the angel of the Lord and it is being used as a noun, not a proper noun. Again in I Samuel it is referring to a specific person. II Samuel is talking about the “sons of Zeruiah”. I Kings mentions specific people. I Chronicles does not mention a specific person, so some unnamed individual is the adversary here and it is transcribed rather than translated. Interestingly a parallel telling in 2 Sam 24:1 “And a again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and b he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” attributes it to the “anger of the Lord”. The book of Job mentions no one by name so it is transliterated. Here we see God’s attack dog. I’m not sure why Psalms doesn’t translate it as adversary which could just as easily fit here. Zechariah has Satan standing with the Angel of the Lord and so is a proper noun.

The New Testament always transcribes it. The gospels either have him showing up or have people referencing him as a unique person. Matthew 4:10 mentions him as tempting Christ in person. Matthew12:26 is where Jesus talks about Satan being unable to cast out Satan. In Matthew 16:23, Jesus calls Peter Satan. Mark is largely a repeat of Matthew. Luke adds attacks on 3 people. John has Satan as entering Judas and that is his only mention in that book.

The later half of the New Tetament has him acting on believers. Acts tells us that Satan tempted Ananias which caused him to drop dead when confronted and also shows Jesus talking about people being under the power of Satan. In 2 Corinthians a “thorn” in Paul’s flesh is called a “messenger of Satan”. Satan sends some sort of struggle with sin or possibly a physical problem which benefits Paul though it pains him. Paul shows Satan to be a tempter, deceiver, hindrance, and yet in 1st Timothy he is helpful to God’s plans. Finally in Revelation we get the dragon in the final battle.

It seems that as the Bible progresses from Genesis to Revelation, Satan become more of a “person” and takes an active role in God’s creation. It’s interesting to me that the serpent in the Garden is never called Satan and yet many if not most Christians believe that the serpent was none other than the Father of Lies. Which brings up another point and that is that this adversary is called by many names in the Bible.

He is called Abadon, Apollyon, the Devil, and the god of the world among others. Are all of these the same “person”? And how/why did the biblical vision of this now seemingly supernatural personage change over the 2000 years or so that the Bible was written. What did the Jews of Jesus’ time believe about him? How has the view of him changed in the time since? When did he become the goateed and goat horned one of heavy metal album covers?

I want to cover all of these bases and look at Satan’s minions and what the Bible says about them. But this is it for now. Comments? Questions? Post away!
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