PERSONIFICATION OF SATAN
PERSONIFICATION OF SATAN
The characterization and personification of “Satan” (Greek: σατανάς) (Hebrew: ha-satan) is portrayed to humanity in ever changing and varied images. The diversity of the images should be noted, particularly the diversification of forms “Satan” has taken on throughout history depicted by the images which have been catalogued, is not coincidental.
Either these extremely varied pictures are all true to some extent and represent the “Satan” creature’s ability to morph like some kind of “shape shifter,” or there is no Truth to his being a real entity.
In his poem, Dante portrayed the Devil as a grotesque, winged creature with three faces - each chewing on a devious sinner - whose wings blew freezing cold winds throughout Hell’s domain. In The Bible, there is no description of the Devil in any physical detail, and Historically by the end of the Middle Ages, the Devil had taken on the appearance of the horned, trident-wielding figure with a tail that has endured to modern times.
All the images of Satan are just many different depictions of many different imaginations that are based on imagery borrowed from ancient mythological creatures ... such as Pan. Pan being the nature demon that frightened everyone at that time. Pan’s fearful presence has carried on into our English language through words such as PANic and PANdemonium.
The primary meaning of the Hebrew word שָׂטָן (satan) is “an adversary, an opponent.” So in the Old Testament, satan (ha-satan) is commonly used to mean “an enemy”, either within or without. Biblically, in many of the places where this word is traditionally translated “Satan,” it should really be translated as “enemy or adversary." The Greek word σατανάς (satanas), comes from the Hebrew word satan, and has the same meaning: an adversary or enemy.
We also find the use of the other word known as “Devil” in ancient texts. In the Greek of the New Testament, the word “devil” (διάβολος/diabolos) most of the time meant a ruling evil figure. The underlying meaning of this Greek word is “false accuser, slanderer.” So once again, when we read “the Devil” in the New Testament, it refers to a very human reality: those who slander others and make false accusations.
These different graphic depictions can only be mental fabrications and constructs with no real model to base them on. So too is “Satan” himself ... a mental fabrication. Albeit, one in which many people believe to be real, in a physical sense.
The medieval period has been the most profound period of artistic depictions of what it is believed Satan looked like. The graphic images played a huge part in the conciousness of unsuspecting and unquestioning citizenry throughout that period, and assisted in setting up a belief that “Satan” was a physical being with a physical form ... and this horned being may well be the oldest deity reconized by humankind.
Just like the fabrications of creative pagans and superstitious Christians of the past, the demons of the present day and of the New Testament period, were little more than mental constructs used to strike fear in the heart of mankind. That being said, know that the very word “demon” in the original Greek simply meant “spirit” (δαίμονας/daímonas), or Divine power. Nothing more.
Although every culture assigned images to their concepts of their evil deity, the Truth of the matter is that the pagan nations each had their own multiplicity of Gods to worship, but that doesn’t make them real. These are non-existent, fabrications of men’s minds and were often made into statues and idols by the very hands of men. It is these “Gods” who were known as diamons/demons by the Ancient Greeks.
Although not specifically good or bad, they were believed to be “spirit energies” but eventually the Christians of old rejected the concept of “good spirit energies” and concluded ... these must be evil demons.
Today, many Christians believe the Devil was once a beautiful angel named Lucifer who defied God and fell from grace. This assumption that he is a fallen angel is often based the book of Isaiah in the Bible which says: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations.” It is important to note that “Lucifer” isn’t a proper name but a descriptive phrase meaning “morning star or day star,” and can also be properly translated as “light Bearer or light bringer.” Lucifer is Latin, and in the Greek we find “Phosphorus” (Greek Φωσφόρος Phōsphoros) ... the Morning Star, the planet Venus in its morning appearance.
The Latin word lucifer, corresponding to Greek φωσφόρος, was used in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation of the Hebrew word הֵילֵל (helel), meaning Venus as the brilliant, bright or shining one, in Isaiah 14 (Isaiah 14:12), where the Septuagint Greek version uses, not φωσφόρος, but ἑωσφόρος. As a translation of the same Hebrew word the King James Version gave “Lucifer,” a name often misunderstood as a reference to Satan. Still, the name stuck and the Devil is often referred to as Lucifer.
By the time the Christian movement had swept across the Western world, our language would reflect that reversed perception, the Greek term daimones, “spirit energies,” would become in the English language, “demons” ... and are considered to be evil. These spirit-energy creatures, had become Satan's little helpers.
Throughout history, the Devil’s reputation as an evildoer hasn’t changed much. Most followers of the Christian Religion still believe he has literally wreaked havoc on the earthly plane, and is responsible for much of the world’s corruption and chaos. To find the real satan though, we must look within ... and find our own sensory based ego-driven choices that bring consequence rather than benefit to humanity. This, is the “Opposer,” the enemy, false-accuser, and adversary - and, in many ways - the Antichrist.
Just a thought ...
Justin Taylor, ORDM.