Story of the devil?


I’m just wondering where the story of the rebellion of Lucifer is fully recorded? I know that it is hinted at, with some scholarly disagreement, in the old testament (I think in Isaiah) but where does the whole story come from? Is it in the midrash or something? I know that it isn’t directly in the Bible, but it doesn’t have to be in order to be real. I have heard quite full tellings of the story with Saint Michael standing against him saying, “Who is like unto God?” thus giving Michael his name. Other details like the rebellion being because the angels didn’t want to bow down to a human being, a third of the host of heaven joining the rebellion, even something about neutral angels (those who didn’t take sides) meeting a horrible fate too. I also know that the story is quite old, but I have never found exactly where it is. Any ideas? Maybe it’s scattered throughout a few sources, and if so is there a primary source? I don’t usually ask about this topic, as I was raised rather superstitious and haven’t shaken it completely, but people have asked about it and I would like to be informed on the subject.


I’ll go into depth later, but I can tell you for now that a good number of the elements in the traditional/pop culture story of the devil’s fall actually come from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. The others are inferred from Revelation 12.


Yes, most of the intricate details came from Paradise Lost.

I believe a lot fo them because they make sense, but unless it is in Scripture or the Catechism, we are not OBLIGED to beleive it. We ARE obliged to believe:

Satan was an angel named Lucifer.

Satan lead a third of angels into rebellion and God cast them out

They are not demons and still have order, rank, power, and office of their former angelic offices. And use that command and power against the Church.

I think thats all the Church definitive teaches about the fall. It teaches WAY more about the devil, but not the fall itself. Correct me if I am wrong guys.


From the old Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Devil”:

Mention is made of the Devil in many passages of the Old and New Testaments, but there is no full account given in any one place, and the Scripture teaching on this topic can only be ascertained by combining a number of scattered notices from Genesis to Apocalypse, and reading them in the light of patristic and theological tradition. The authoritative teaching of the Church on this topic is set forth in the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council (cap. i, “Firmiter credimus”) …]: “the Devil and the other demons were created by God good in their nature but they by themselves have made themselves evil.”

That quotation at the end from Lateran IV is found in Denzinger, no. 800.


Was this a typing error, or are you stating that the fallen angels are not demons?


I would be VERY interested in reading/ learning more about the ‘fall’ itself, I wonder if its recorded in any non-biblical books, or books that didnt make it into the bible…maybe just to learn what their theory on it is/was, and see how logical it seems.

I have always wondered about the fall, somehow it doesnt make sense, but I guess its true that God does not give us the complete picture, we only know a little bit.

Plus, isnt there some verses about a battle in heaven? Im assuming immediately post fall, but then again, if God is all powerful, why should there be any need for a battle of any kind, especially in heaven?!


Yes, I was wondering about that statement, too. If Lucifer and the fallen angels
aren’t demons… who is?

I have a question :

The original poster linked to an article which states >

*It is necessary to clarify that Satan or evil spirits cannot “penetrate our minds.” The mind is the sole meeting place between God and man in his conscience. However, thoughts which we formulate that influence our wills – whether we act on them or not – are then “put out there”, as it were, and can subsequently be influenced by evil. *

Is this what the Church teaches ? …that the devil can’t read our thoughts? Is that anywhere in the Cathecism ? I am a cradle Catholic and had never heard this in 17 yrs of Catholic education until recently.
I hope it’s true! But I’m wondering where this is coming from.


Just my thoughts & I may be wrong but I think,
The battle was of the fall. God is all powerful yes, but He allows free will,
It was Satan’s free will (and that of his followers) that caused the fall,
The battle happened, because Saint Michael the Archangel
would not allow a rebellion against God.

So he and the other angels fought against those who rebelled against God
and cast them out. Just as they will do with all those who rebel against Him now.
God didn’t fight Satan because that would be an act to stop his free will.
God condemns what Satan did but He allowed it to happen.

I hope that makes some sense, I’m a little foggy headed today.
Hope it helped.


Well, the only thing the Church has defined was:

  • God created the spiritual/angelic ‘world’, composed of angels who are endowed by God with sanctifying grace which gave them a title to Heaven.
  • Some of these angels had rejected God of their own free will, losing the divine grace gifted to them and being punished with eternal torment - separation from God (= Hell) in the process. (It’s never really officially defined what the sin/s involved was, although a popular belief thinks that it must be pride and envy.) One of those who fell is the one we call Satan (or sometimes Lucifer).

That’s pretty much it, really. As for Satan being originally named ‘Lucifer’, ‘Lucifer’ being the ‘greatest’ (in a matter of speaking) angel, ‘Lucifer’ saying ‘I will not serve’ to God’s face, St. Michael shouting to the angels ‘Who is like God?’, a literal war of arms between the good angels and the bad angels, Michael spearing/wounding ‘Lucifer’, the defeated ‘Lucifer’ and the rebel angels falling from the sky into a fiery pit underneath the Earth’s crust, the Church doesn’t teach AFAIK that those things are literally factual, or that they are a matter of belief.

Personally I tend to take the story of the ‘War in Heaven’ as a sort of symbolic parable (one that tries to convey the concept of angels disobeying God and falling from grace into something our human minds can grasp more easily) rather than a literal ‘this is what happened’ type of story.


St. Thomas Aquinas says that angelic beings can to some extent read our imagination, but not our inmost thoughts directly, although they can sometimes guess our inmost thoughts or deduce them from outward signs (e.g. facial expression). See ( I, Q. 57Summa Theologica. I’m pretty sure this hasn’t been defined, but it’s good theology, and to contradict St. Thomas without a good reason would be imprudent.


Thank you , Ad Orientem!
Until fairly recently, I’d always assumed that the devil knew what was in our minds,
so this is wonderful news. :wink:

*Article 4. Whether angels know secret thoughts?

On the contrary, What is proper to God does not belong to the angels. But it is proper to God to read the secrets of hearts, according to Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable; who can know it? I am the Lord, Who search the heart.” Therefore angels do not know the secrets of hearts.


Whoops Im sorry that was a typing error. :blush: They ARE demons I meant to say


And while I disagree with your non literal approach to that story, that is totally possible to, and you are actually correct, I overstated what Catholics were required to believe.


Our Lord said in Scripture that he saw satan “fall from the skies”. He also said satan was “a murderer from the beginning”.

This immediately tells us of a rebellion in Scripture as no stand against our Creator would be stood for in Heaven. Once the angels rejected, they were driven out.

Then we have Revelation 12:7 that tells us all about St. Michael the Archangel and the dragon (lucifer) fighting.

We know that angels are spirit and so do not have swords, which must mean that Revelation contains figurative language, which interprets the reasoning of Truth as a pointed sword; IOW, angels battling in a war of Reason, or in the case of satan, reason-perverted (lies).

So this was not devised by Dante!

It is all in Scripture.

We know satan was not completely destroyed in the short-term because He tempted our Lord in the desert. And also entered Judas Iscariot. And there were healings by our Lord of demoniacs which serves to show us that demons had some freedom of movement still, though limited.


I’m quoting from a post I made a while back:

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.

(Continued next post)


(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.

The Second Temple period was really a time of theological developments in Judaism. One of the many issues the Jews wondered and reflected about back then was sin and evil: where exactly did it come from? Who is to blame for it? Since the older books of the OT are really silent or unclear about the issue (the existence of evil is simply assumed and taken for granted), it necessitated them to read between the lines. They usually looked to Genesis as their source.

One solution tried to link the origins of evil to the actions of either Adam or Eve (it’s still rare for both of them to be blamed) or Cain. Another solution, common in Enoch-related traditions (what some scholars call ‘Enochic Judaism’), was to attribute it to the sin of angels who came down on earth to unite with human women.

These two ideas are associated with two schools of Jewish thought current during the Persian-Hellenistic periods, the so-called ‘Zadokite Judaism’ and ‘Enochic Judaism’, respectively. For Zadokite Judaism, which centered itself on the Torah, the Temple and its rituals, the world as basically good and evil started with Adam and/or Eve. In Enochic Judaism, which was critical of the Temple and emphasized Enoch more than Moses, however, evil arose due to fallen angels; their actions hopelessly corrupted the world.


Thank you everyone for some excellent responses, much better responses than I expected. So, basically, it sounds like the beliefs about the fall are a little bit from the Bible and a lot from Milton, similar to how beliefs about hell are a little bit from the Bible and a lot from Dante. I imagine both topics have also been speculated about by various theologians and talked about by various recipients of apparitions over the centuries of church history. Knowing that the actual doctrine is much simpler opens up a lot to think about. Again, thank you.

Patrick: wow, seems that you and I have done some similar studying. I was an interfaith/interreligion minister for a number of years with a focus on Christianity, Judaism and the mysticism of both. Along the way I also studied Hinduism and a little bit of Zoroastrianism, as well as other Aryan influenced beliefs. (I also studied a few Native American and a few European cultures, but they don’t come into this topic. ) I ended up coming up with a lot of the same conclusions about the Jewish beliefs in angels, the accuser and other such topics. I have read Enoch, and I studied a bit of kaballah (Zohar, Sepher Yezirah) but I haven’t read the Talmud nor much of the midrashic writings. You did offer some information I didn’t have, and I very much appreciate it. I hope that we will get a chance to converse more about some of these topics. I admire your set of knowledge and your reasoning. One of the things which I have been trying to come to terms with since becoming Catholic this year is the knowledge I have versus the often simplified teachings of the church on a few subjects (nothing which makes me question the church as a whole nor threatens my salvation) which seem to lack some historical and cross-cultural context. I figure it’s largely due to discussions with people who don’t feel a need to go deeper than the surface, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for them. Any Catholic theologians you would recommend, and their books or websites?


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