Satan of the OT and the NT


In the OT, Satan was seen as a messenger of God. Nothing more. But in the NT Satan has a whole different role. What caused his role to change?


where do you read that? have you read job? genesis?


Satan was never a messenger of God, he was the adversary.


It is true. The Jewish interpretation of HaSatan is that of an angel (not a fallen one) who severely tests mankind’s free will, while hoping we will remain faithful to G-d. Judaism does not conceive of a battle between Satan and G-d. Satan also plays the role of the Angel of Death and the one who forces us to defend and pass judgment on our own lives before G-d in the heavenly court. If we are unsuccessful, it is thought to be Satan who executes the sentence passed by G-d in leading us to a place or state of separation from G-d since G-d cannot bring Himself to do so.

How this all changed in Christianity, as well as Islam, is something I am also curious about.


he was the head angel, until his pride made him rebel against God and take a bunch of other angel’s with him.


RIght. But that is not the Satan of the OT. Question is, why the change?


see my post #2, then tell us what changed.


The book of Job is what got me thinking about this question. What part of Gen. do you wish me to examine?


garden of eden, tree of knowledge, serpent.


also, cain and able, offerings to the Lord.


Satan fell early on and tempted Adam and Eve to fall also. There is no change. Satan who was originally called lucifer (is an angel of light) always works to turn people away from God and God banished satan from heaven in the book of Genesis.

Genesis 3:14

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all cattle,
and above all wild animals;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.

Demons are fallen angels who are led by satan.


We believe as Christians that Jesus is the Chosen one, the Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man, King of all Creation, who did battle with Satan and won by taking our sins upon the cross and giving us mercy. That’s why immortality was restored to humankind through Jesus Christ, who is God in the Flesh, came to save the world by bringing us to eternal life to live with God in Gods heavenly home. And we believe Jesus will judge us after our human life is over, we are not judged by ourselves. Satan has no power over us, unless we stray from God, which the temptor will try to do.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


OT Satan acts a bit differently than your description of him as a messenger of God. In fact, he is the opposite. He is in opposition to God’s message.


Looking at the historical context:

In certain earlier parts of the Bible, you have this story of God (Yhwh) slaying this primordial sea monster called Leviathan (“coiled”). This is similar to mythologies of neighboring peoples, which feature a god or a culture hero fighting against - and defeating - primordial sea serpents, which are the personification of Chaos. This is a common mythological motif called the Chaoskampf (German for “struggle against chaos”); the defeat of the sea serpent by the chief god is a symbol of order triumphing against and subduing primordial chaos.

Israelite religion before the Exile is, you might say, not too-developed. Yhwh/El/Elohim is already envisioned as being surrounded by “the sons of God (El)” like a king in a royal court, and He often speaks to people using a messenger (the “angel/messenger of Yhwh”), but they don’t really have developed personalities: you might notice that in a number of passages, the distinction between the messenger and the Lord Himself is very thin. There’s really no ‘Devil’ in the true sense either, though there is a satan, an ‘accuser’, a kind of prosecuting lawyer whose main job is apparently to take note of what humans are doing and report anything that could incriminate them to the heavenly court. (This is the satan that appears in the book of Job.) Anything, good or ill, is attributed to the action of God; that’s why you have some (admittedly rather confusing, for us) passages in the older parts of the Bible which speak of God sending evil spirits to torment people.

As for the afterlife, there’s not yet any clear division between ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ yet: everyone, no matter what they did in life, will go to Sheol (the Pit) where their powerless shades lie in perpetual slumber. The ‘inhabitants’ of Sheol - i.e. everyone who had died - are literally, just a shadow of their former selves, in a sense forever “cut off from God’s hand,” never really able to do anything in their weakened state (except to appear as a ghost occasionally).

It was the Exile in Babylon that changed things. There is a Jewish tradition that the names of the angels (Michael, etc.) were brought back by the Jews from Babylon. Apparently the Exile had an effect on Jewish religious beliefs to an extent; many scholars think that the Jews could probably have learned a thing or two from Zoroastrianism, which they would have encountered there.

Zoroastrianism teaches the existence of a god whom they call Ahura Mazda (aka Ohrmazd), who created the universe by means of six spirits, the Amesha Spentas (‘holy immortals’), who are themselves emanations or attributes of Ahura Mazda. Zoroastrians ascribe worship to Ahura Mazda, but they also extend reverence to the Amesha Spentas, their assistants (the hamkars) and other lesser ahuras; that is why Ahura Mazda and all the good spirits under him are also collectively known as yazata, ‘worthy of worship’. Now the order of creation is continually threatened by a hostile entity named ‘The Lie’ or Angra Mainyu (aka Ahriman), who is Ahura Mazda’s enemy. Good spirits under Ahura Mazda (ahura) and evil spirits under ‘The Lie’ (daeva) are continually fighting with each other, with the earth as their battleground. Humans are caught in the middle of this cosmic struggle.

It is thought that the Jewish concept of angels developed by being in contact with the Zoroastrian beliefs about the Amesha Spentas and the yazatas, although unlike the Amesha Spentas - which stayed more or less as sometimes-personified abstract concepts - the Jewish angels eventually developed concrete personalities.

It is the concept of Angra Mainyu/Ahriman, and the clear distinction between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ that probably influenced the idea of an evil entity who is opposed to God. Obviously the Jews could not accept any idea of this evil power being coeval with the one God, so the logical inference is that it was subordinate and inferior to God while still being a powerful entity - hence, a sort of angel. This is where the concept of the Chaoskampf, already known to the Jews (in the form of stories of Yhwh slaying primeval monsters), came into play. What if this evil entity was one that God struck down when He subdued chaos long ago, in the beginning of time? And this is where the Jews had the revelation: angels who had disobeyed God and so were cast out of the divine presence.


Hello Johnsteinson.

Have you never read Genesis? Satan was a bad guy not a messenger in that part. He was a liar from the beginning is God’s word on it. Keep reading.



(Continuing from my last post)

There is this kind of ideology, theology or worldview that flourished within post-Exilic Jewish culture known as ‘Apocalypticism’, which distinguishes between two ‘ages’: this age, dominated by Evil, and the age to come, in which God will reign unopposed.

From Apocalypticism’s point of view, the world is currently dominated by evil powers. Now there is a constant struggle between these evil forces and the forces of good, and evil - which is seen as not just a problem inside human hearts or within society, but a cosmic force much larger than humans, though still inferior to the God of Israel - generally seems to have the upper hand. (Some have even called Apocalypticism ‘pessimistic’, in that it seemed to view the condition of this world as progressing from bad to worse.) Human beings are caught in this cosmic struggle and take sides as either the righteous or the wicked. (You might notice that this worldview has some similarities with the Zoroastrian worldview I mentioned earlier.)

However, God - who is in ultimate control of history - will in the imminent future intervene in a cataclysmic way by triumphing over evil in a final massive battle and establish His dominion over all creation. Some important figure (or figures) sent by God, say an anointed priest or prophet or king or warrior or all of the above, will in some scenarios play a key role in this final triumph. At the wake of God’s victory, the righteous will be separated from the wicked (the dead may also be raised and face such categorization), and the forces of evil which had heretofore dominated the world and their leader (Satan, Belial, Beelzebul, the Spirit of Falsehood, or some other name for this figure) will either be obliterated or be put into eternal torment, as those wicked humans who had aligned themselves with them. The righteous meanwhile will eternally enjoy the benefits of God’s new creation or kingdom or paradise. The basic idea is, that this world (full of evil and suffering) is not God’s last word in His creative discourse; He has prepared a new and better world where sin, death, suffering and injustice have no place.

As you might have noticed, this is similar to our Christian beliefs. That’s because Christianity is really descended from the apocalyptic strains of Judaism. And that’s why we Christians have a developed concept of Satan: the idea of forces of good (God) and evil (Satan) locked in perpetual conflict with one another is key in apocalypticism. This also explains why there is really no concept of ‘Satan’ analogous to the Christian one in modern Rabbinic Judaism: modern Judaism is not really ‘apocalyptic’, and so the idea of an evil ‘ruler of this world’ is not as important. There are traces of apocalyptic ideas of course, but as a whole Judaism eventually rejected the full-blown Apocalypticism you can see in say, 1 Enoch or in Christianity.


Interesting information, full of pertinent details, as always, Patrick! You are so right to state that the Jews could not imagine an evil being in even the slightest way coequal in its opposition to G-d and forging a nearly interminable battle of evil vs. good. However, in your last statement, you suggest that angels have the free will to disobey G-d, whereas in Judaism, at least according to present-day belief, none of the angels are thought to have free will since the latter attribute is uniquely reserved by G-d for humans. Any thoughts about this feature of Judaism?


perhaps you can tell us the difference, since the o/p seems to be at a loss.


Was the Apocalyptic ideology ever a dominant worldview within Jewish theology and culture, including mystical Kabbalistic movements? I would note that even relatively minor demons, while found within Jewish folk culture, are sometimes considered manufactured products of sinful human behavior, a counterpart of guardian angels created by good human deeds, so that a major divine adversarial force such as Satan would not appear so likely to be a dominant entity according to Jewish thought, even though it was, as you note, influenced by Zoroastrianism.

Further, can you elaborate on the issue of the relation between the name and meaning of Lucifer and that of Satan in that, if I recall, Judaism asserts that the latter name preceded the former whereas, I believe, Christianity claims the opposite?


I think the post of mine that you just commented on suggests the difference. And Patrick’s post goes into much more detail on the historical context, including both the common origin (apocalyptic Zoroastrianism) and the divergences between Jewish and Christian beliefs regarding Satan.

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