YOUNG GALS WHAT TO KNOW. It’s the Bible Question of the Week, and it comes from Christina Smith Wise, who is passing along a question some young ladies asked during a church confirmation class. For her trouble, Christina gets a free book if she would like one.
Here’s the question as they asked it:
“How was the devil created?”
No one who knows is talking.
But I’m thinking that if God created Satan from the dust of the ground like he did Adam, God used extra dirty dirt.
The Talmud, a collection of ancient Jewish commentary about the Bible and Jewish customs, says Satan came into the world with Eve, as a created being.
Among Christian Bible experts, one of the most popular theories is that the Jews found Satan in Iran.
Or maybe it was Iraq.
Hard to tell which.
Here’s how scholars come up with that. When Jews lived in Israel, during their early centuries, they didn’t use the word satan as someone’s name.
Satan is Hebrew for “enemy.” When we say satan, we’re speaking Hebrew. We’re saying “enemy,” or “adversary,” or something that’s opposed to us, like the Michigan Wolverines invading Columbus, Ohio. Go Buckeyes. Not that I’m comparing Michigan players to demons or the State of Michigan to hell. I am not. Some people I love live in Michigan. But on game day, I only like them.
Anyway, that’s how the Jews used satan in the Bible. Sometimes even God was satan, as the enemy of sinful Jews who worshipped idols.
Satan could describe someone or something. But it wasn’t a person’s name. It wasn’t even a dog’s name. It wasn’t a name. Period.
Scholars who study ancient Jewish writings say Jews didn’t start using Satan as a personal name until after Babylonians from what is now Iraq defeated Israel in 586 BC and deported many of the Jews to Iraq.
Most of those Jews spent an entire generation there, until Persians from what is now Iran freed them to go home.
Persians taught that there was an evil ruler of demon forces. Some scholars say that’s no coincidence, and that the idea rubbed off on the Jews.
As the theory goes, when the Jews left that part of the world, they took Satan with them—at least the idea of Satan as an evil entity with his own rotten, stinking, good-for-nothing personality.
When we read about satan in the Bible before then, it wasn’t the Satan we’re thinking of. That’s a very common theory among Bible experts, though it might not go over so well in a local church sermon.
The snake in the Garden of Eden tempting Eve was just that, most scholars agree, a snake. At least that was the Genesis writer’s apparent opinion. Only in Revelation does another writer, perhaps a thousand years later, hint that Eve’s snake was a devil of a snake: “that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan” (Revelation 20:2).
By New Testament times, Satan was the ultimate bad guy.
That might sound like people borrowed Satan from a bizarre Middle Eastern religion or, worse, invented him around a campfire one boring night.
But if we believe the stories of Jesus, they come with a very real Satan who gave Jesus a hard time until Jesus finally told him to buzz off: “Get out of here, Satan” (Matthew 4:10).
Some Christians say this gradual emergence of Satan means that for a long time he operated under a cloak of invisibility. People didn’t know the extent of his nastiness until the time of Jesus. That’s when all hell broke loose, as the theory goes. That’s when people began to see Satan and demons for the evil creatures they are.
Just to make sure everyone is clear about this, let me sum up my answer to the question, “How was the devil created?”
I don’t know.
But I do know that I just released a new video for you. It’s about something else I don’t know. But I’ll tell what others think they know. That’s always fun to hear.