Devil and Satan
1st March 2008, mgh
There are two Greek words translated 'devil'. 'Daimonion' is a word that had its origins in the superstition that some illnesses had their origins in the influences of departed human beings, who had taken possession of an afflicted person, especially those conditions related to the mind and mental state of a person. The Bible used the current superstitions of casting out devils, a colloquial term of the period, to explain the curing of an illness. Jesus cured many forms of illness and this expression was used on many occasions to describe the miracle. A notable example is the curing of Legion.
“And Jesus asked him, saying, What is your name? And he said Legion: because many devils were entered into him.” (Luke 8: 30)
Luke has used the contemporary understanding of mental illness to describe this miraculous cure. This man was mentally ill and in today's world this illness would be described in medical terms that would be intelligible to us.
'Diabolos' is another Greek term, not a Hebrew word, that is found in the New Testament, and translated as 'devil'. It is necessary to find out what this word really means, as it has serious implications for the understanding of the Creator's relationship with mankind. There are passages where the translators have actually clarified its meaning.
In Paul's letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3: 1-3, it states “men will be lovers of self, lovers of money ... slanderers etc”. The word translated 'slanderers' is the plural of the word usually translated as 'devil', (Gk 'diabolos') and is related to the word 'diabolical'. In 1 Timothy 3: 11, Paul warns the women that they must not be 'slanderers'. Again this is the word often translated as 'devil'.
In these passages the basic sense of the word is given. In both cases the word refers to people and aspects of their behaviour. We have then people being referred to as devils. An example of this type of use of the word is found in John 8: 44. Jesus is speaking to the Jews who were rejecting him as their Messiah. “You are of your father the devil, and lusts of your father you will do.” In the Bible, lusts are associated with human nature, and these people were not doing the will of God but following their own desires and worshipping God in their own way according to the traditions which they and their predessors had devised.
Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5: 8) In the historical context of the time, The opponent and false accuser of the Christians was the civil authority of the day. The rulers sought to oppress and persecute the followers of Jesus. Paul expressed his escape from the authorities as being “delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” (2 Timothy 4: 17) The ruling authorities are examples of people who are classed as devils and adversaries, working against God's purpose. Jesus called Judas Iscariot a devil in John 6: 20. In speaking to his disciples about Judas who betrayed him, Jesus said, “Have I not chosen you twelve and one of you is a devil.” (John 6: 70)
In Hebrews 2: 14 it states that both Jesus and his followers “partook of the same nature” that is of “flesh and blood”. Jesus had the same nature as his followers. The verse continues by saying that Jesus,
“through death ...might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” If this is taken as referring to a supernatural being, the verse would mean that in dying Jesus destroyed the devil. If a devil existed, Hebrews 2: 14 makes it plain that he was destroyed. It says he was destroyed.
However a similar statement is found in Hebrews 9: 26. We are told that Jesus,
“appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
These two passages give the same message that Jesus, by his sacrifice, put away sin, which can be seen as a meaning for the metaphorical statement, which describes sin as disobedience to and rejection of God's will. Jesus put away sin because, in simple terms, he did not sin. He performed all his Father's will in every way.
Jesus clearly defined the nature of sin and this is recorded in Matthew 5: 18-20 and Mark 7: 20-23.
“That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7: 20-23)
These characteristics that “defile” the man explain the nature of sin, which results in actions that are contrary to the will of God and his requirements related to our lifestyle. And these are the characteristics of those who are described in the N.T as 'devils', the 'slanderers', the 'false accusers' and those who make a mockery of the great promises offered by the Creator to mere mortal man, whose only assurance in life is that of death. James explained how sin led to death.
“Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin,” which results in death. (James 1: 14-15)