From Where Did Christianity Adopt the "All Powerful" Satan Concept?

In my readings of the NT, I am puzzled by the role of Satan. He seems to be given some kinds of almost godlike powers, yet the Bible clearly states his defeat by christ (in Christ’s temptation, he (Christ) decisively rejects Satan’s offer…“get thee behind me, satan”).
So why is the satan character still around? Christ states that all evil comes from inside a man-not from the outside, and the "tempter’ has no power over one who is commited to Christ. The medieval church saw satan’s hand in every evil-is this correct (theologically speaking)?:confused:

Satan is one of those characters who’s been Flanderized far beyond his original role. In works such as Paradise Lost and Faust he was developed as an urbane, elegant, even tragic figure, and this portrayal has clearly influenced his depictions in popular works as the comic book series Lucifer. In the process, he had a power up from merely an agent of God’s will (remember him and God basically playing with Job in the Book of Job like cats with a mouse) and then persecutor of man into an almost Manichean anti-God, a force equal and opposite of God, ruler of Hell as God is ruler of Heaven. None of this is very Biblical, but then again, I am continually amazed by how many Christians I’ve met have never read the Bible.

The concept of Satan and his powers developed and changed over the course of the centuries. I’ve read it more in regard to how witchcraft changed, and once again I’ll recommend Peter de Rosa’s book Vicars of Christ (where I think this is mentioned, though I’m not sure), a critical overview of the history of the Catholic Church. (Karlheinz Deschner did a very scientific history (Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums = Criminal history of Christianity) but so far, none of his works have been translated into English, for some reason. Are all your publishers afraid of the Pope?)
Anyway, in the early centuries the offical church doctrine was that Jesus, with his death and resurrection, had conquered Satan, and therefore Satan had not much power on Earth (he could punish souls afterward, and tempt people, but not influence events directly). This changed in the Middle Ages, when more and more bad things were blamed on Satan, demons and witches (who got their powers now from Satan - before, they were thought to be deluded, without powers), until a witch was around every corner and Satan and his demons were ruling everything.

I thought Cecil did a column on the gradual development of Satan, who appears in Job as something like a state attorney, part of Gods entourage, and ends up as bad guy of several competing religions mixed together, but at the moment, I can only find the column about Hell. Ah, Satan is mentioned in the report on Angels.

As a friend of mine once put it, you need an enemy without and an enemy within in order to declare a police state and suspend civil liberties.

Satan is the enemy without, our own failings (despite having been made in God’s own image…) are the enemy within.

I have heard that the Satan concept was adopted from ancient Persia-it was an adaptation of the evil god “Ahriman”. Supposedly, the jews who were exilied to Babylon (the Babylonian Captivity) picked up on this idea, and morphed Ahriman into Satan.
The Christain acceptance of a real Satan is problematical-I mean, if Jesus has (by virtue of his sacrifice) saved the world, why does pesky old Scratch keep showing up?
He should just stay in hell, and content himself with being bitter (and lamenting his own fall).

Satan in pre-Exilic Judaism seems to have been what his name means, “the Accuser” – a sort of Prosecuting Attorney cum Special Investigator of the divine court, God’s servant in a role adversarial to humanity.

After the Exile the conceptualization of him grew in stature, and he became seen as a rebel against God, something reinforced by Christianity generally, by Dante and Milton.

There are a lot of scholars who see this transformation as being strongly influenced by Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), the “bad god” opposite number to Ahura Mazda of dualistic Masdaism (“Zoroastrianism”, a usage akin to “Mohammedanism” for Islam). In both cases the chief anti-human power gets transformed from a subordinate to the god figure into his opponent.

I’ve been a Christian my entire life and have always been taught Satan is not all powerful or even all that strong. Perhaps it is because my Protestant upbringing focused on the Bible mainly?

Anyway, this always surprises me, as does the idea that Satan is in Hell, ruling it. It clearly says in the Bible(and it’s obvious) that Satan is on Earth, not Hell.

Besides Zoroastrism, a strong influence on early Christianity was also Manichäism with its dualistic theology. It’s one of the backdoor jokes of history that although officially, Manichäism was a heresy and the Church persecuted its adherents, one of its central ideas - that the spirit is a spark of light given from God, but the body is dark and comes from the Devil; therefore, anything to do with the body is bad, only the spirit is good - snuck into central Church doctrine (via Augustine and other Church fathers) and influenced much of Christianitys worldview esp. in regard to sex and to the world being split into dual sides of light and dark/ good and bad (this distinction is one of the obvious differences between Judaism and Christianity despite their common roots).

As for how Satan turned from an angel, part of God’s court, to a fallen angel condemned to Hell, to somebody who rules Hell - things change over the centuries. Obviously, it’s more comfortable to blame bad things not on good people doing bad things because everybody is able to do so, but because demons tempt them. Which they can only do so because Satan gives them power. Which Satan does because he’s in a competition with God for souls. So you are quite important, no matter how insignificant your life might look; and nothing bad is your fault. Quite satisfying explanation.
And as for Satan ruling Hell: well obviously somebody had to rule Hell; there couldn’t be anarchy, after all. The universe was ordered by God from medieval people’s point of view, in Heaven like on Earth there had to be kings and courts and all that stuff, not chaos. But Angels or demons weren’t special enough to rule opposite to God. Ah, it had to the ultimate sin of hybris, of trying to be equal to God, to be thrown down and get appointed second-rate job. And spend the rest of the time trying to tempt and seduce humans (instead of revolting against God and storming heathen, or emmigrating somewhere else - Satan accepted the job of ruling Hell in medieval theology because he accepted God’s ultimate plan and because he liked to do bad things, you know.

Yes, most ideas Christians have today (apart from coming in so many flavours and interpretations) have been influenced and shaped over centuries by extra-biblical writers. Even as a non-catholic christian (who isn’t bound by what the Church fathers and teachers like old guy Augustine wrote), your interpretation when reading the Bible is influenced by popular culture around you (e.g. Angels, which we rarely see as flaming wheels, but cute little babies or Michael Landon instead).

After all, the Bible doesn’t mention Hell very extensivly, either (there is a place of gnashing of teeth, and everlasting fire, but the concept isn’t completly worked out, that was done by later scholars).
If you look only in the Bible, not any explanations, is the authorative Satan the one in Job who is a prosecutor and part of God’s court? Because then he’s in Heaven normally, only sent to Earth on a mission because of a nasty wager.
Or is he the gospel Satan, who tempts Jesus in the desert? Which interpretation is correct? Any other?

Having a powerful force of evil helps let an interventionist God off the hook for allowing horrible things to happen in his creation.

Judaism today has gone back to this concept of Satan:

We don’t talk about Satan much in Judaism, though.

It’s because he’s a punk. With a capital P.

Sorry, I lost my head. No capital for you, bitch.

One of the biggest dillemmas for Christianity is reconciling the assertion that by Christ all men are (or can be) free of sin, with the basic observation that a lot of people are still committing a lot of sin. The New Testament isn’t much guide to resolving this, since it was written early enough after Jesus’s life that the writers could still divide everyone in the world into three catagories: those who hadn’t heard the Gospel yet, those who’d heard it and been redeemed, and those who’d heard it and willfully rejected it.

But after decades became centuries and generations passed away and things still stayed more or less as they had always been, the Church had to deal with the issue of imperfect- in some cases, extremely imperfect- people who nonetheless had been exposed to Christianity all their lives and claimed to be Christian. The doctrine that developed was that people struggled within their lifetimes to fully commit to the “new life” of redemption and grace instead of the “old life” of original sin. All people could be free of sin if they chose, but that still required a faith and commitment to the new life, and not all people achieved that equally fast or equally well. Some perhaps only payed lip service to Christianity and truly were damned to Hell. Others ended their lives on Earth imperfectly redeemed, and so the doctrine of Purgatory arose, a sort of finishing school or “tough love” boot camp after death for the incompletely redeemed.

As a result, a sort of Manichaeism snuck in the back door. Officially God and Christ are irresistably more powerful than Satan; yet we still have to actually chose what camp to be in, and struggle to make it stick. The choice looks Manichaean to us; the classic cartoon picture of someone with an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other illustrates it perfectly.

“Anyway, this always surprises me, as does the idea that Satan is in Hell, ruling it. It clearly says in the Bible(and it’s obvious) that Satan is on Earth, not Hell.”

What Bible are you reading??:dubious: