A web-only series carefully considering what the Bible says about Satan, evil in the world, and suffering.
The first use of the name Satan is found in 1 Chronicles 21:1; chronologically, this is preceded by Job, which was written much earlier. Satan is found throughout Job 1–2 and literally means “adversary” in Hebrew. The etymology of the name is discussed briefly by Justin Martyr, an early church father, around A.D. 156. He says:
Or He meant the devil by the lion roaring against Him: whom Moses calls the serpent, but in Job and Zechariah he is called the devil, and by Jesus is addressed as Satan, showing that a compounded name was acquired by him from the deeds which he performed. For ‘Sata’ in the Jewish and Syrian tongue means apostate; and ‘Nas’ is the word from which he is called by interpretation the serpent, i.e., according to the interpretation of the Hebrew term, from both of which there arises the single word Satanas.1
Another name appears in the Old Testament in the King James Version:
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! (Isaiah 14:12, KJV)
This is the only passage that uses the name Lucifer to refer to Satan. This name doesn’t come from Hebrew but Latin. Perhaps this translation into English was influenced by the Latin Vulgate, which uses this name. In Latin, Lucifer means “light bringer.” The Hebrew is heylel and means “light bearer, shining one, or morning star.” Many modern translations translate this as “star of the morning” or “morning star.”
Some believe that Lucifer was a heavenly or angelic name that was taken from Satan when he rebelled. The Bible doesn’t explicitly state this—though Satan is nowhere else referred to as Lucifer, but instead is called other names like the devil, Satan, etc. This tradition may hold some truth, although this verse is referring to him during and after his fall—not before. Since other scriptural passages refer to him as Satan, Lucifer wasn’t necessarily his pre-Fall name—any more than Satan would be.
Even though Satan is first mentioned by name in Job, other historical accounts record his actions (see Genesis 3–4; 1 John 3:12; and Revelation 12:9). In the New Testament, other names reveal more about Satan’s current nature. Devil (diabolos) means “false accuser, Satan, and slanderer” in Greek and is the word from which the English word diabolical is formed.
Satan is called “dragon” in Revelation 12:9 and 20:2, as well as “the evil one” in several places. Other names for Satan include “ancient serpent” and “serpent of old” (Revelation 12:9), “Beelzebub” and “Beelzebul” (Matthew 12:27), “Belial” (2 Corinthians 6:15), and “tempter” (Matthew 4:3). Satan is also referred to as the “god of this world/age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “prince of this world” (John 12:31), and “father of lies” (John 8:44).
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