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The Satan of The Bible

'Satan' is a neutral Hebrew word meaning 'adversary' and may be used in a good or a bad sense. Its use in Scripture has no connection with the popular false doctrine of an evil supernatural tempting agent. Indeed the first occurrence of the word is applied in a good sense to the angel of the LORD, who stood in the way for an adversary (satan) against the unrighteous prophet Balaam in order to prevent him from cursing Israel (see Nu.22:22).

An example of 'Satan' applied in an evil sense is given in the book of Job, Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them (1:6).
This passage is often used to in an attempt to prove the supernatural nature of the sons of God and Satan, but this is a misuse and misunderstanding of Scripture. In the Bible, The Sons of God is a term applied to believers, to whom, of course, God is the Father (see, for example: Hos.1:10, Matt.5:45, Jn.1:12, Rom.8:14, 2Cor.6:18, Gal.4:6, Phil.2:15, Heb.12:7, 1Jn3:1-2). God was a Father to Israel (Deut.32:6) and it was a requirement that they should present themselves before Him, Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD (Ex.23:17). There is therefore no justification for interpreting the passage in Job1:6 in a supernatural sense. This 'Satan' had no power himself to harm Job; it was God himself who brought the evil upon him: And the LORD said unto [the] Satan (adversary), Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause (Job2:3).

The generally believed and popular (but non-biblical) doctrine that there is a supernatural personage called 'Satan' or 'The Devil'1 who tempts man to sin is contrary to, and destructive of, the true teaching concerning temptation and sin, and our need for redemption. We read in James, But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (1:14). Christ teaches the same. When Peter sought to turn Christ from his coming ordeal, his reply was, ...Get thee behind me, Satan... and he gives his reason for thus calling Peter 'Satan': thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men (Matt.16:23). These two passages alone should be enough to show that there is no need nor place for any supernatural external tempter - our very natures are the 'enemy': Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Rom.8:7). It is indeed a universal human ploy to try to shift the blame for our own actions (see Gen.3:12-13 for the original excuses!).

This false doctrine of a supernatural tempter also detracts from Christ's achievement in overcoming His own nature, which, until he was glorified, was the same as ours. It is written: For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb.4:15 - see also 2:14-17). This proves that the passage in Jas.1:14 quoted above must also have applied to Christ (see The Atonement).

[1]The word 'devil' occurs in only a single context (in the plural) in the King James' Old Testament (Lev.17:7, Deut.32:7, 2Chr.11:15 and Psa.106:37), where it refers to offerings made to pagan gods that Paul says are idols and 'no gods' (1Cor.8:4-6, Gal.4:8).
In the New Testament, the main word translated 'devil' (diabolos) means 'false accuser' or 'slanderer' and is so translated in 2 Tim.3:3 and Titus 2:3 and 1 Tim.3:11. The serpent in the garden of Eden slandered God and so is a slanderer, a devil and therefore those who follow the same reasoning of the flesh and speak against God are personified as a devil, as in the case of Judas (John 6:70) or as of their father the devil in the case of the Jews (John 8: 44). Thus 'Satan' and 'devil' can be, and quite often are used interchangeably but, as shown above, 'Satan' can refer to good personages whereas 'devil' is always connected with evil.

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