The character of Satan according to Greek terminology

Two names are used in the Nieuwe Testament for the adversary of God, i.e.:

  • Satan – ‘satanas’ in Greek.
  • devil – ‘diabolos’ in Greek.

Satan in the terminology:

Satan is the translation of the Greek ‘satanas’.
According to the OLB ‘satanas’ is:

  • a noun.
  • of Aramaic origin, corresponding to the Hebrew ‘Satan’ (with the definite article).
  • to be translated as: adversary (someone who opposes someone else in intention and indeed)
  • the name given to the ruler of the evil spirits.

‘Satanas’ is found in 28 Bible verses and is invariably translated as ‘Satan’.
‘Satanas’ is a noun according to the OLB.
In most of the Bible verses ‘satanas’ is preceded by an article, ‘the Satan’ thus.
The question can be asked here as well, as with ‘Satan’ in Hebrew, as to whether ‘satanas’ was indeed used as a proper name in the time of the New Testament, as is often the case in English.

Perhaps it would be better here too to replace ‘Satan’, or ‘the Satan’ by ‘adversary’, or ‘the adversary’; that reflects who he really is.

… and he (Jesus) was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan (the adversary). He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.   (Mark 1:13)

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan (adversary)! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’   (Matthew 4:10)

Satan sets himself up as an adversary, because he is always trying to turn people away from their good intentions.

Sometimes he tries to bring people to think wrong thoughts.
That is clear when he tempts Jesus in the wilderness and tries to persuade Him to be disobedient to His Father.  (Matthew 4:1-11)

Sometimes he uses statements of other people, like Peter, statements to this end.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
(Matthew 16:21-23) 
(A ‘stumbling block’ is also to be translated as: obstacle, trap, snare.)

Devil in the terminology:

Devil is the translation of ‘diabolos’.
According to the OLB ‘diabolos’ is:

  • an adjective.
  • to be translated as: inclined to slander, slanderous, false, accusing.
  • derived from the verb ‘diaballo’ (throw over, denigrate, speak badly of, make (a person) suspected, threaten).
  • Also applied as a metaphor to someone of whom it can be said that he fulfils the role of the devil.

It is clear that the word ‘diabolos’ comprises the idea of slander, speaking badly of someone.

‘Diabolos’ is found in 36 verses and is translated as ‘the devil’ in 33 verses.
There are three exceptions however (the devil applied as a metaphor):

(concerning deacons) In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.   (1 Timothy 3:11)

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good …   (2 Timothy 3:2-3)

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.   (Titus 2:3)

Because ‘diabolos’ is invariably used with an article and translated as ‘the devil’, the question can be asked here too as to whether people in the time of Jesus were thinking rather of ‘the slanderer’ or ‘someone speaking badly about someone else’.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil (the slandere), and he will flee from you.   (James 4:7)

It is clear that the Greek talks about ‘the slanderer’, ‘the accuser’.
The devil is still busy doing this to God, day and night.

The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.    (Revelation 12:9)

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses (kategoreo: accused) them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.   (Revelation 12:10)

Because of Jesus God does not listen to all the gossip Satan, the devil, the adversary, the denigrator, comes before His throne with, as John writes in his first letter:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate (parakletos:  someone who prays for us, lawyer) with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.   (1 John 2:1-2)


The character of Satan according to Hebrew terminology.
Gossip and malicious talk.


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The character of Satan according to Greek terminology.