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A quick Historical Overview of Satan

Etymology

Satan comes from the Hebrew word Ha-Satan (הַשָּׂטָן), meaning “the Satan”. Satan is literally translated as “opposition”, “adversary”, and “accuser”. In Jewish mythology a Satan meant different things in different contexts.

The earliest uses of the title Satan originally referred to a human opponent, however in the Book of Job the Satan was an arch-angel, acting as a divine prosecutor (Job 2:1) and in Zechariah, the Satan was an accuser (Zechariah 3:1-2). Hence to the ancient Hebrews Satan was not an evil entity known as “the devil”, although it was used sometimes to suggest evil influence.

Abrahamic Views

Ancient Hebrews much like their modern Jewish contemporaries believed that Satan, when an entity, worked for Yahweh. Some modern Jewish interpretations include Satan as a metaphor for our inner temptation inline with early uses suggesting evil influence. Talmudic and later lore expanded on Satan’s role as divine agent, giving him rule over Fifth Heaven and making him the archangel of Death. Samael was often given as his proper name, and he was regarded as both good and evil.

During the Second Temple period pseudepigrapha began to change the views of Satan into a fallen angel, however by the Middle Ages most adherents of Judaism rejected this idea, as do Jews today. Judaism today does not believe in “the devil” or Hell (they believe in Sheol, or the grave), and some do not even believe in “evil” as anything but abstract (such as the temptation residing within us).

As Christianity developed, the concept of Satan grew into that of The Devil. By the Fourth Century C.E. Lucifer was associated with Lucifer, however it was not a common synonym even then. Over the centuries, Lucifer eventually grew into the concept as seen today in modern Christianity and was popularized by works such as John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost.

In Islam, Satan is known as Shaitan (شيطان). Shaitan can be used as an adjective “astray” or “distant”, and can be applied to man, Jinn, or Iblis. Iblis is the name of the Islamic Devil who was like Christianity, condemned to eventual hellfire for not bowing to Adam with Allah’s other creations. After being condemned, his title Shaitan was given, and he was allowed by Allah to test and lead astray man and Jinn alike until the Day of Judgement.

In Yazidism Shaitan is connected to Shaytan, or Melek Taus, or “The Peacock Angel”. There are close parallels with the Islamic Sata. Unlike Islam, Melek Taus is revered for not submitting to Adam. The Yazidi hold that evil comes not from Shaytan, but from man himself. It has also been said that the Yazidi worship Shaitan out of fear and that they believe in death that Allah will forgive them.

Views in Satanism

In Satanism, Satan is held to be any possible range of things. This could be a symbolic name for a “mode of behavior” to a real entity. Many Satanists falsely believe that the root word of Satan is tan, and hence dragon or serpent, and some believe that Satan relates to other ancient languages or certain gods (typically Babylonian or Sumerian). More prominently among some Non-Satanists there is the belief that tan is connected to the planet Saturn, idea popularized by religiously illiterate people who just discovered that Lucifer is related to the planet Venus. However the root word is S-t-n, and Hebrew for “opposition” or “accuser”.

In LaVeyan Satanism, Satan is purely symbolic, and is a “mode of behavior”, and represents how humans should act in what is essentially rip off of Ayn Rand, with some Alister Crowley thrown in for good measure. In general Symbolic Satanism (also called Modern Satanism) Satan can represent freedom, independence, rebellion, individualism, anarchy, hedonism, atheism, or any number of things along those themes. Satan is also commonly associated with the Scapegoat as seen in the Sigil of Baphomet.

In Theistic Satanism, Satan is seen as a real entity. Polytheism is a popular metaphysical view of Theistic Satanists, and overlaps with Neo-Paganism is not terribly uncommon. Theistic Satanists may believe anything from Satan being an extra-terrestrial to Satan being a pre-Christian god (such as Pan, Azazel, Set, or Enki) that was demonized, to Satan being the source of a universal force. This is a non-exhaustive Set of examples.

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