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The Trial of Job: Satan Pours the Plagues on Job ( William Blake )

Satan (also Satanas ; Hebrew שָׂטָן Satan "opponent"; Masoretic Hebrew : Śāṭān ; Koine Greek : Σατανᾶς Satanâs ; Latin : satan (m., Indeclinable) and satanas (-ae, m.) Or Satan and Satanas ; Aramaic : סטנא, Sāṭānā ; Arabic شيطان Schaitan , DMG Šaiṭān ) is a term that describes one or more spirit beings , often angels endowed with malevolent functions. It has its origins in Jewish monotheism and contains ancient Persian religious influences, especially Zoroastrianism . Above all, Satan is the accuser in the divine court, who tests the religious integrity of people and accuses sins, as is known, for example, from the biblical books of Job and Zechariah . In the Ethiopian Book of Enoch a whole host of satans is mentioned, both as seducers and as angels of punishment. The idea of ​​a multitude of satans also found its way into the Quran . Later the term Satan was used with meanings like fallen angels rebelling against God, the embodiment of evil ; evidenced bythe devil or idol (false god).

Etymology and alternative names

The Hebrew noun שָׂטָן, Satan ("adversary" or "accuser"), and the Arabic nounشيطان Schaitan , DMG Šaiṭān come from the north-west Semitic root s n , which means "to be hostile" or "to accuse".

Satan according to the Jewish sources

The term "Satan" is used in the Hebrew Bible with different meanings:

  • A prosecutor in front of the judge's seat
  • An enemy in war and peace
  • An antagonist who puts resistance in the way.
  • In the book of Job, “Ha-Satan” is described as the prosecutor and chief accuser against humanity in heaven at God's court of justice. No other angels are mentioned besides Satan, and he doubts the godly devotion and godliness of mankind as accusers. He claims that people are God-fearing only because God gives them prosperity and development. He is then commissioned by God to plague Job to test Job's strength of faith in God's Word. Satan thus becomes an opponent of Job.
  • In Book 1 of Chronicles 21.1 EU , King David is incited by Satan to initiate a census of the people of Israel. This biblical passage leads back to an older biblical passage in which Adonai himself incited David to count the people of Israel ( 2 Sam 24.1 EU ). The more recent place was written down by the Hebrews at the time of the Babylonian exile , when they were under the Persian influence of Zoroastrianism , in which there is a pronounced polarity between good and evil or light and darkness as an eternal divine struggle.

Early rabbinical commentaries on the Mishnah show that Satan played almost no role in Judaism . The younger a rabbinical commentary is dated, the more often the term Satan or its synonyms appears. Influences from Zoroastrianism have been recorded in the Babylonian Talmud since the time of the Babylonian exile . The Palestinian Talmud, completed around AD 400, was written in the same area as the New Testament and is significantly more reluctant to use the term Satan and its synonyms. However, large parts of this part of the Talmud have not survived in the original.

The discussion of the account of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden in Eden in these literatures can serve as an example. The classic Jewish Bible commentators literally understand the serpent in it as a serpent. However, they disagree on what this symbolically stands for in the story: the tendency to evil (now ha-rah), Satan or the angel of death. Other Bible commentators have suggested that the serpent is a phallic symbol. According to the Mishnah, the serpent stood upright before being cursed and possessed the ability to communicate with people.

The normative, rabbinical, classical, Jewish doctrine, according to which Satan is not an independent spiritual being, is still valid and important in Judaism today. It is consistent with Jewish teaching that there is no embodiment of evil and that God is referred to as the Creator of what people describe as evil. In the Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Levi asserts: "... everything Satan does, happens according to the will of heaven ..." When another rabbi taught something similar in his city, Satan himself came and kissed his knees.

In the Midrash, Samael , the supreme of satans, a certain order of angels and no allusion to demons, is described as a mighty prince of angels in heaven. Samael came into the world through a woman and is therefore begotten and not eternal. Like all heavenly beings, it can fly through the air and take any form; B. that of a bird, a deer, a woman, a beggar or a young man. and it is said of him to hop or dance, in an allusion to his appearance as a goat

Although Satan has power over all human works, he cannot work over two people of different nationalities at the same time. Therefore, Samuel , a recognized astronomer, doctor and Torah scholar (he died in Nehardea around 247), only ever traveled with a stranger.

Satan's knowledge is not preserved because the blowing of the shofar , the horn of a ram, on Rosh Hashanah , the Jewish New Year's Day, totally confuses Satan and confuses him. The numerical value of the Hebrew word Satan is 364. This is interpreted to mean that Satan must therefore bring charges against Israel and the people on all days of the solar year, except on one day, the 365th. On Yom Kippur , the high annual day of atonement, Satan has no judicial power , as all evil is removed from humanity on this day.

A single rabbi notes that Satan actively intervened in the seduction of Eve in the Garden of Eden and was the father of Cain , while he was also helpful in the sacrifice of Isaac , in the release of Esau's beast, which was intended for his father, in the theophany , the appearance of God's presence on Mount Sinai , at the death of Moses , at David's sin in Bath-Sheba and at the death of Queen Vashti. The order to kill all Jewish subjects that Haman gave was written on parchment that Satan brought. And when Alexander the Great rebuked the Jewish wise men for their rebellion, they asked for mercy because Satan was too powerful for them.

Not all rabbinic commentators agreed with the ideas about the spiritual nature of Satan. The famous Rabbi Saadia Gaon , a Jewish scholar, Torah master and philosopher of the 11th century, wrote in his commentary on the book of Job that Satan was merely a human being who doubted Job's spiritual devotion to God and called on God to test Job. This conception of the Gaon arises from a reading of the Hebrew word שטן or "accuser", which Rabbi Saadia meant that it was only directed against the intentions of the person in question and was not generally used as a title for natural or supernatural beings.

Concept of Satan in the Hebrew Bible (Tanach / Torah)

In the Tanach , Ha-Satan ("Satan") is a name given to various angels with whose help God tests the religious righteousness and integrity of various people (compare: Advocatus Diaboli ). In normative Judaism, Satan is the main accuser, public prosecutor, opponent, enemy in battle and the spiritual force which in Judaism is called the tendency to evil (jezer ha-rah). Like all angels, however, Satan is under complete control and command from God; he is by no means a being of free will who could rebel against God or act as an "opponent" and leader of evil . Normative Judaism attributes free will only to people. In this sense, "Ha-Satan" is more of a title than a proper name of a particular angelic being. This definition is not recognized by the Christian faiths because later church history stated that Satan rebelled against God, although this rebellion is not mentioned in the scriptures. The title Satan is used for both supernatural beings and humans. In Num 22,22  EU , Satan is not acting negatively, but is sent by God to prevent worse things for Balaam :

“But God was angry with his way; therefore an angel Adonais stood in his way as an opponent (Hebrew: Satan) (Numbers 22, 22). "

In the Talmud and some sources of Kabbalah , mystical Judaism, the angel Samael or other angels are sometimes called Satan. In angelology , the doctrine of angels, these different names refer to different angels. And there is considerable resistance in Judaism to the idea that these are really evil, since they only act on divine orders. The problem of theodicy does not find a definitive answer in Judaism. In the sayings of the fathers , part of the Mishnah and main work of Jewish ethics , it says: "Rabbi Janai says: It is not given to us to know why wrongdoers live in well-being and the righteous in suffering."

In normative rabbinic Judaism , angels are divine messengers or helpers in carrying out divine will. Satan in the Hebrew Bible is best known from the book of Job, in which God instructs Satan, as the main accuser of the divine court of justice, to test the religious Jewish righteousness of Job, who is perfectly obedient to God and religiously devoted, by giving Job one after the other Goods, children and his health. Job remains devoted to God, but accuses God.

Normative Judaism has no religious concept of unholy darkness in opposition to God. It does not teach the idea of ​​an embodiment of evil as an antagonist or counterforce from God. Since HaSchem (“God”) is revered as the creator of light and darkness, there is no place or space in Jewish tradition and belief that is not filled or transcended by God .

Satan in the Jewish apocrypha

In Weish 2,24  EU Satan is described with reference to GenEU as the father of all lies who brought death into the world; another passage can be found in Ekklesiastikus ( Sir 21.27  EU ). Allegorically, Satan was described as the seducer and side lover of Eve in the Garden of Eden, who was hurled out of heaven along with other angels because of his iniquities. Since then he has been called Satan, before that he was called Satanael.

The doctrine of Fallen Satan and Fallen Angels can be found in ancient scriptures from ancient Babylon : Satan rules over a state of angels. Mastema, who caused God to test Abraham by sacrificing Isaac , is identical to Satan. Azazel from the Apocalypse of Abraham and Asmodaeus from the Book of Tobit are also identified with Satan, especially with regard to his profligacy. As the Lord of Satans (an order of angels) he is also called Samael .

It is difficult to show other places in the Apocrypha that refer to Satan. The reason for this is that the originals have not survived and the translations of the surviving secondary literature of the Apocrypha seek various comparisons. Due to the lack of important sources in the sense of an argumentum e silentio, it can be assumed that a concept of Satan was probably not widespread. It is more likely that references to "evil spirits" are closely related to Satan from the Apocrypha.

Satan concept of Christianity

Old testament

According to Christian understanding, interpretation and Bible translations , Satan is viewed as a certain angel who willfully rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven as a fallen angel. Satan spoke through the serpent in the garden of Eden and led Eve to sin.

According to Christian ideas, the devil of the Old Testament (OT) is the tempter of men. The Hebrew term “Satan” (שטן, Sin-Teth-Nun ) means “adversary” or “opponent”. The term "Satan" is also used in the OT for people ( Num 22.22; 32  EU ; 1 Sam 29.4 EU ; 1 Kings 5.18 EU ; EU ; Ps 109.6  EU ; as verbs in the sense of "hostility" in Ps 38.21  EU ; 71.13 EU ; EU )

New Testament

Satan is a proper name in the New Testament and denotes a supernatural being with god-like demonic powers that is not controlled by God and acts freely. Satan is the tempter in the various gospels .

In the Christian culture, Satan is also known as the devil , lord of darkness, lord of hell , ruler of this world ( Jn 16.11  EU ), Beelzebub, Lucifer and Beliar .

Beelzebub means "Lord of the Flies" and refers to an ancient god of the Philistines in the Hebrew Bible . He appears in the New Testament as a synonym for Satan, but here apparently reflects the language used by the Jewish opponents ( Mt 10.25  EU ; Mt 12.24-27  EU ).

Lucifer means "light bringer" and is a word creation that is based on a misinterpretation of the original Hebrew text and its incorrect translation. It refers to Isa 14 : 12–14  EU . However, the allegory of a setting morning star ( Venus ) that appears there has nothing to do with the Christian fallen angel Lucifer, but refers to the fall of the Babylonian empire and its king Nebuchadnezzar II , who is compared with the morning star, who is drawn from the sun, that represents Israel is outshone. This means that the Babylonian Empire is going to end while the people of Israel are still shining, despite the power and cruelty that Nebuchadnezzar did to the people of Israel, see Babylonian Exile . The idea that Lucifer is the fallen angel Satan, who was banished from heaven, relates to this downfall story.

This idea can be found in a modified form in Revelation , where an end-time battle is reported in the course of which Satan was thrown from heaven ( Revelation 12: 8–9  EU, cf. also Lk 10.18  EU ; Joh 12.31  EU ) and is cruelly punished in the end ( Rev 20.10  EU ).

Christianity teaches that Satan hates people and does everything possible to lead them astray and separate them from God. In the history of the Church, this thought has repeatedly led to people of other faiths, heretics , apostates or atheists , especially Jews and Muslims, being referred to as the powers of Satan or as manifestations of the devil and being persecuted with blood.

Satan and Satans in Islam

Siyah Kalem - depiction of a Satan from the 15th century. The black color of the satans symbolizes corrupt nature and their relationship with hellfire

The formal equivalent for Satan in Islam is Shaitān ( Arabic شيطان, DMG Šaiṭān ). The term probably comes from Hebrew, but the Arabic lexicographers derive the word from the Arabic root š - - n , meaning "to divert someone from his original intention" or "someone who has strayed from (the way of God)" , from. Muslims believe that there is not just one Satan, but many Satans (شياطين / Ayāṭīn ) give. In Islam, satans are one of three classes of spirit beings . The other two are the angels and the jinn . Like the angels, the Qur'an , in contrast to the Djinns, does not report anything about the creation of the Satans, but Islamic tradition repeatedly states that the Satans were created either from smoke or the fire of hell ( Nar-as-Samum ). The figure of Iblis is also related to the satans . This is identified with Satan in the Qur'anic tale about Adam in paradise and the following fall .

Koranic statements

With 88 mentions, the Satans or Satan together with the angels are the most frequently mentioned spirit beings in the Koran . In the story of Adam and Eve , Satan seduces Adam, despite God's prohibition of the tree of "eternity and a kingdom that does not pass away," to taste ( sura 20: 120 ) with the argument that God with the prohibition only wanted to prevent them from becoming immortal beings ( Sura 7:20 ). The cobs of the infernal zaqqūm tree resemble the heads of satans ( ruʾūs aš-šayāṭīn ; sura 37: 62-65 ). Sura 2 sums up that it was Satan who led people to missteps so that they lost Paradise ( Sura 2:36 ). Sura 26: 395 speaks of the hosts of Iblis, Satans, probably as a reference to other angels who followed him. The tools of Satan in this world are wine , lottery, sacrificial stones, and lottery arrows . With them he wants to create hatred and enmity between the Muslims and prevent them from remembering God and praying ( Sura 5: 90-91 ). If one has Satan as a companion, he has a bad companion ( Sura 4:38 ). Even a prophet is not sure that Satan will whisper a revelation to him, "but God will erase whatever Satan has put on him" ( Sura 22:52 ; see Satanic Verses ). Even Mohammed was accused that the Koran is the inspiration of Satan, but in the Koran ( Sura 81:25 is rejected). When a person recites the Koran, he should seek refuge in God from the cast out Satan ( Sura 16:98 ). God has protected heaven with towers against rebellious satans who ascend to heaven in order to steal its secrets ( Sura 15: 16-18 ). These are bombarded with meteors by the angels and driven away. The Qur'an mentions the Satans of Solomon as a special group : They served him as builders and divers ( Sura 38:37 ), but after the death of their master they also instructed people in forbidden sorcery ( Sura 2: 102 ). Sura 6: 112 mentions Satans of men and the jinn. According to some Koran exegetes, this is possibly an adjectival of the term Satan and describes all those who appear presumptuous towards God instead of their own species of spiritual beings. On the other hand, the verse deals with satans who wreak havoc among men and the jinn and call them to disbelief.

Role in popular Islamic belief

The satans also play a large role in popular Islamic beliefs . The anthropologist Kjersti Larsen, who has dealt with the belief in such demons in Zanzibar , has established that a number of different malicious demons exist in the minds of the local population. These demons, which are derived from Arabic in Swahili as masheitani (Sing. Sheitani ) or with the Bantu- speaking Swahili word pepo , are said to be able to nestle in people's bodies. So that they do not harm people, they must be conjured up in rituals . In these rituals, people enter into an imaginary dialogue with the spirits and demons and also discuss questions of morality . Nevertheless, the multitude of different elements anchored in popular belief cannot be grouped together uniformly. Only a few basic characteristics, such as the fending off of Satans through the name of God, run through all areas of Islamic popular belief.


Satanism is determined by a positive reference to Satan. It is often equated with an inversion of Christianity, which is mainly influenced by Christian ideas about the devil and evil forces and original sin . Above all, the divine struggle between good and evil from the tradition of Christianity is essential in it. In addition, there are numerous other manifestations in which an explicitly anti-Christian appearance and Christianity itself do not necessarily play a role. In addition to this, Sumerian and Egyptian mythological influences often play a role. Satanism can express itself both in a theistic and in an atheistic and rationalistic point of view, in which Satan only serves as a symbol, for example in the Church of Satan .


The Satan's boletus , also called Satan's mushroom , is, in contrast to practically all other boletus, a poisonous mushroom. It is red in places, sometimes dark blood red, but not everywhere.


  • Harry Harun Behr: The Satan and the Koran: on the theological construction of evil in Islam and the therapeutic approach in Islamic religious instruction. In: Klaus Berger (ed.): Evil in the view of Islam. Pustet, Regensburg 2009, pp. 33-52, ISBN 978-3-7917-2181-1 .
  • T. Fahd: Sh ayṭān. 1. In pre-Islamic Arabia. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition . Volume IX. Pp. 406b-408a.
  • Karl RH Frick : Satan and the Satanists I – III. Satanism and Freemasonry - Their History to the Present. Marix, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 978-3-86539-069-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Satan  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Satan  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Florian Theobald Teufel, Tod und Mrauer: The Satan in the Gospel of John and his prehistory Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2015, ISBN 978-3-647-59367-8 , p. 85.
  2. American Heritage® Dictionary: Semitic roots: sn.Retrieved May 31, 2006 .
  3. Ps 109.6  EU
  4. 1 Kings 5,4 EU ; 11,14.23.25 EU
  5. Num 22.22  EU
  6. ^ Jewish Encyclopaedia
  7. Satan in relation to different religions.
  8. Bava Bathra 16a
  9. Genesis Rabbah 19
  10. Midrash Yalkut, Genesis 1:23
  11. Genesis Rabbah 19
  12. Talmud, Sanhedrin 107a
  13. Talmud, Sanhedrin, 95a
  14. Talmud, Sanhedrin, 81a
  15. Midrash Tanchuma, Wayera, end
  16. Talmud Pesachim 112b and Megillah. 11b
  17. Talmud Berachot 46b
  18. Talmud, Shabbat 32a
  19. Rosh Hashana 16b, Targum Yerushalmi to Numbers 10:10
  20. Yoma 20a
  21. Midrash Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer 13, beginning
  22. Midrash Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer 21
  23. Midrash Tanchuma, Wayera, 22 [ed. Szczecin, p. 39a].
  24. Midrash Tanchuma, Toledot, 11
  25. Deuteronomy Rabbah 13: 9
  26. Sanhedrin 95a
  27. Megilla 11a
  28. Esther Rabba 3: 9
  29. (tamid 32a)
  30. Amatzia Baruchi: Amen: an essay ; Trafford Publishing, 2003; ISBN 1-55395-429-7 ; P. 23.
  31. Slavic Book of Enoch 29.4ff.
  32. Slavic Book of Enoch 31: 3ff.
  33. Martyrdom of Isaiah 2: 2; Vita Adæ et Evæ , 16
  34. Mustafa ÖZTÜRK The Tragic Story of Iblis (Satan) in the Qur'an Çukurova University, Faculty of Divinity JOURNAL OF ISLAMIC RESEARCH İslam Araştırmaları Vol 2 No 2 December 2009 p. 134.
  35. ANTON M. HEINEN ISLAMIC COSMOLOGY A STUDY OF AS-SUYUTI'S al-Hay'a as-samya fi l-hay'a as-sunmya with critical edition, translation, and commentary ANTON M. HEINEN BEIRUT 1982 p. 143.
  36. Robert Lebling: Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar. IBTauris, 2010, ISBN 978-0-85773-063-3 , p. 22.
  37. Jeffrey Burton Russell Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages Cornell University Press, 1986 ISBN 978-0-8014-9429-1 p. 54 (English).
  38. Eichler, Paul Arno, 1889 Die Dschinn, Teufel und Engel in Koran [microform] p. 31.
  39. Tobias Nünlist Demon belief in Islam Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG 2015, ISBN 978-3-11-033168-4 , p. 45.
  40. Teuma, E. (1984). More on Qur'anic jinn. Melita Theologica, 35 (1-2), 37-45.
  41. See Kjersti Larsen: Where Humans and Spirits Meet: The Politics of Rituals and Identified Spirits in Zanzibar. Berghahn, Oxford 2008.
  42. See Kjersti Larsen: Dialogues between Humans and Spirits: Ways of Negotiating Relationships and Moral Order in Zanzibar Town, Zanzibar. In Ulrich Demmer, Martin Gaenszle: The Power of Discourse in Ritual Performance: Rhetoric, Poetics, Transformations . Lit-Verlag, Münster 2007, pp. 54–73.
  43. Gerda Sengers. Women and Demons: Cultic Healing in Islamic Egypt. BRILL. 2003. ISBN 978-90-04-12771-5 . P. 41.