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The Devil is the name given to a supernatural entity who, in most Western religions, is the central embodiment of evil. This entity is commonly referred to by a variety of other names, including Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles and Beelzebub. In classic demonology, however, each of these alternate names refers to a specific supernatural entity, and there is significant disagreement as to whether any of these specific entities is actually evil. The word devil is derived from the Greek word diabolos ("to slander"), and the term devil can refer to a greater demon in the hierarchy of Hell. At the same time, the term devil is also derived from the same Indo-European root word for deva, which roughly translates as "angel."

The notion of a central supernatural embodiment of evil, as well as the notion of angels, first arose in Western monotheism when Judaism came into contact with the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism. Unlike classical monotheism, Zoroastrianism features two gods, one good and one evil, locked in a cosmic struggle where both are more or less evenly matched and the outcome is uncertain. Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord"), also known as Ohrmazd, is the god of light, and Ahriman ("Evil Spirit"), also known as Angra Mainyu, is the god of darkness. In a final battle between the supernatural forces of good and evil, human souls will be judged in a fiery ordeal, and only the good will survive. Accordingly, humans are urged to align themselves with the god of light and his angels and to shun the god of darkness and his demons.

Christianity views Satan as a being created by God, whereas the evil god of Zoroastrianism is not a created being.

The Devil in Judaism

In Hebrew, the Devil is called Satan. The Hebrew biblical word satan means adversary or obstacle The word satan in the meaning of human adversary appears in 1 Kings, Chapter 11, where God makes Hadad the Edomite an adversary to King Solomon.

In the book of Job (Iyov), Satan appears as an angel submitted to God. One might say that he rather manipulates God into letting him test Job and put Job's faith on trial. Satan says that Job is faithful to God only because he has a good life with a good family and lot of property. God permits Satan to cast disasters and plagues upon Job. First, Satan destroys Job's property, then his family, and finally he strikes Job himself and causes him to become ill.

In later Jewish mythology, Satan tries to rebel against God but the rebellion fails and God sends him to exile into hell, a concept that didn't exist in Judaism originally and which later developed from Christian influence.

Names of the Devil

The Original Names

Originally, only the epithet of "satan" or adversary was used to denote "the Devil". Later this epithet was capitalized and became his proper name: Satan. So he is mentioned in the Old and New Testament. Zechariah 3:1--"And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him." 1 Peter 5:8--"Your adversary the devil." By adversary is meant one who takes a stand against another. In the Bible, Satan is the adversary of both God and man.

In Matthew 10:25 and 12:24, Mark 3:22, and openly in Luke 11:18-19 there is an implied connection between Satan and Beelzebub, originally a Semitic deity called Baal-zebul, one of the Baals. Beelzebub has since became another name for Satan.

In John 12:31 and 14:30 Satan is called Prince of this World, and this became a nickname for him.

The Devil, diabolos: This name is ascribed to Satan at least 33 times in the New Testament, and indicates that Satan is an accuser or slanderer (Rev. 12:9). He slanders God to man (Gen. 3:1-7), and man to God (Job 1:9; 2-4).

The wicked one: Matt. 13:19--"Then cometh the wicked one." Matt. 6:13; 1 John 5:19. This title suggests that Satan is not only wicked himself, but is also the source of all wickedness in the world.

The tempter: Matt. 4:3--"And when the tempter came to him." See Gen. 3:1-6. None escape his temptations. He is continually soliciting men to sin.

The Beast (Book of Revelation 13:1-18) is a term John used to refer to a "puppet" of the dragon's (Satan), and a term supposedly used by John in Revelation 17:3-17 to designate the Devil (or the Antichrist); this name appears several times in the book of Revelation, and it became another nickname for Satan.

Dragon or The Old Serpent: These epithets are used extensively in the Book of Revelation.

In Spanish, the Devil has always been referred to as El Diablo or Satanás. El Diablo is also a derivate of Diabolos.

The Division of an Entity in Three

When the Bible was translated into Latin (the Vulgate), the name Lucifer appeared as a translation of "Morning Star," or the planet Venus, in Isaiah 14:12. Isaiah 14:1-23 is a passage largely concerned with the plight of Babylon, and its king is referred to as "morning star, son of the dawn." This is because the Babylonian king was considered to be of godly status and of symbolic divine parentage (Bel and Ishtar, associated with the planet Venus).

While this mythological information is available to scholars today via translated Babylonian cuneiform text taken from clay tablets, it was not as readily available at the time of the Latin translation of the Bible. Thus, early Christian tradition interpreted the passage as a reference to the moment Satan was thrown from Heaven. Lucifer became another name for Satan and has remained so due to Christian dogma and popular tradition.

Later, for unknown reasons, Christian demonologists appeared to designate "Satan", "Lucifer", and "Beelzebub" as different entities, each with a different rank in the hellish hierarchy. One hypothesis is that this might have been an attempt to establish a hellish trinity with the same person, akin to the Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

In Christian Tradition

Christian tradition differs from that of Christian demonology in that Satan, Lucifer and Beelzebub all are names that refer to "the Devil", and Prince of this World, The Beast and Dragon (and rarely Serpent or The Old Serpent) use to be elliptic forms to refer to him. The Enemy, The Evil One and The Tempter are other elliptic forms to name the Devil. Christian demonology, in contrast, does not have several nicknames for Satan.

It should be noted that the name Mephistopheles is used by some people to refer to the Devil, but it is a mere folkloric custom, and has nothing to do with Christian demonology and Christian tradition. Prince of Darkness and Lord of Darkness are also folkloric names, although Lord of Darkness tends to be incorporated to Christian tradition.

The medieval Cathars believed that the Old Testament Yahweh was, in fact, the devil, based partially on ethical interpretations of the Bible and partially on the beliefs of earlier gnostic sects (such as the Marcionists) who regarded the god of the Old Testament as evil or as an imperfect demiurge. Early Gnostics called the Demiurge Yao, the Aramaic cognate to the Tetragrammaton, YHWH (Yahweh). Moreover, research into Ugaritic texts revealed that the names of the Jewish god were the same as separate gods worshipped in the same region; Yahweh is cognate to Ugaritic Yaw who is there the god of chaos, evil, and world domination.

See Also