Evolution of Satan, God, and the Changes to the Norse Pantheon Through Christianity
Originally, Satan didn’t exist as we know him today. In the Old Testament, there wasn’t even a devil or Satan, as it was believed that everything (good AND bad) was because of God. Not only that, but most of what we consider to connect with Satan (Lucifer, the Devil, Hell, etc) doesn’t actually exist in the Bible and only exists due to transliteration errors (the creation of Lucifer), translation changes (Devil), and from pop Christianity (Dante’s Inferno).
There was a group of beings in the Old Testament known as the Ha-Satan, who were a group of celestial beings that would question God or point out things that were going oddly on creation to God’s attention. A good example of this would be the Book of Job, where the Ha-Satan pointed out to God that Job was only faithful because God rewarded him. Because of this, God did all that he did to Job, with the Ha-Satan pointing out to God various things.
The word “satan” itself means adversary or to obstruct, which is why in the Old Testament Ha-Satan isn’t evil, but more of an accuser and judge of those who have done wrong (and then God punishes them). The term Ha means the in Hebrew, and thus Satan is a title, and not a person. There are only 13 times the Ha-Satan occurs in the Old Testament, and only in Job and Zechariah. The other 10 instances where people see “Satan” in the new translations of the Bible aren’t actually the person Satan, but accuser or adversary. It has only been through Christianity going back and changing/re-translating the biblical texts to “fit” with the New Testament and /their/ stories, that we see “Satan” as a person in the Old Testament.
Satan was later translated in Greek to diabolos(slanderer), which again is not Satan or Devil, but slanderer. Yes, this is where the word devil is derived, but it does not mean Satan as we know it today.
The serpent in Genesis is NOT Satan or even the Ha-Satan, but actually a crafty trickster animal (think like Coyote, or even Loki). It was created by God to actually be that way, and not an instrument of evil or Satan/the Devil. Another example used would be that the serpent can be compared to Pandora’s box, or a personification of curiosity.
The serpent BECAME Satan/the Devil later on even though the one Christians currently call Satan (Lucifer) didn’t fall until the New Testament, after the fall of man, and thus could not be the serpent. For more information on the whole concept of Lucifer, check out “Dude, Where’s My Lucifer?”
Fun side note, the serpent originally had legs, hence the curse that he was to be on his belly and eat dirt for the rest of his life. He is basically the “Father of snakes” while other serpents remained as dragons and other mythical beings.
The concept of “Satan” as he’s known currently first shows up in 1 Chronicles, where an independent agent provokes David to destroy Israel, but it is often believed that it is because of the influence of Zoroastriuanism (the religion of one of the lands the Jewish people lived in during their exile), but it’s not specifically Satan himself doing it, so that one is up in the air. All other times, it is the Ha-Satan, and it cannot act on its own, and is dependent on permission from God to act in any way. My husband, Harvey, said another good way to look at it is that the Ha-Satan can be seen as the good/bad angels on people’s shoulders in stories. They can’t act on their own, but they can make suggestions/bring things to light for the person to then act upon.
When Christianity started gaining strength, they had to find a way to explain away that it wasn’t God who was a total dick in the Old Testament, and also they had to get rid of the fact that there were multiple gods in the Old Testament. There is a reason that Genesis says “Made in /our/ image”, and that is because the Babylonian mythos that the Jews took with them during their exile (and Zoroastrian mythos as well) had many different gods, including El or Elohim (one who is most high), Ba’al, Yahweh, and Asherah.
El or Elohim was generally believed to be the top dog of sorts, and he eventually became the God of Christianity.
Ba’al was the god of fertility, and he is the reason for many of the laws in Leviticus, because the Jews did not approve of Ba’al worship, since it was closely tied with sex and prostitution (Leviticus 18:22 speaks of male temple prostitutes used for sexual rites).
Yahweh was the god of war (why do you think the OT god is so violent? ), and his name is the one that was kept on as a name to be given to God, even though God supposedly has no name.
Asherah, the consort of Yahweh, was almost written out of the Bible when Christians got a hold of it, because it showed that there was both a male and a female god, and for a monotheistic religion — you can’t have that. That is why we have man and woman looking different. Another reason she was written out (but she still shows up if you know where to look, because one can’t completely edit someone out without completely changing the story) is that the religions in the area that Christianity was growing in were either matriarchal, or they were gender neutral in many aspects. In fact, even the Greek religion was originally matriarchal, but I’ll go into that later if you want. If one is looking to make women into second class citizens and to subjugate them to men, what better way to do that then have it ONLY be males who did the good things in the Bible, and women are either written out, or are sinners/causers of trouble?
What they (Christians) did, was combined all the gods together into one god (Yahweh or Yehova/Jehova), made Ba’al an impotent and useless god, and got rid of Asherah. Next, they had to find a scapegoat for everything bad that happened. Enter “The Devil”.
To explain the evil that happened, they began writing about the battle in heaven, and the fall of Lucifer for his refusal to do what God said. It was to show that those with pride and the desire to walk their own path were wrong/evil and only through subservience to God, could they be righteous and proper. Lucifer himself didn’t even become Satan until much later, through editing and translations and story telling.
The editors went back over the years, slowly changing where the Greek word diabolos(slanderer) to Devil, and eventually to Satan. In doing that, they had a way to show that there is someone who is evil, and that it isn’t God who is the one punishing/doing evil, but another entity.
The body shapes of Satan come from the various religions that were taken over and eventually destroyed. By borrowing images from other religions, they were able to vilify and demonize those gods until they were no longer worshiped. If you’re attacked and accused of worshiping Satan for worshiping say, Pan, eventually you’ll either go into hiding or you will stop worshiping him all together to stop the attacks.
It’s also why we have so many pagan holidays and rituals/beliefs. Communion is actually an Egyptian ritual borrowed and used by Christianity, to make it easier to bring in the Egyptians.
Christians are also responsible for the “evil” Loki, as he was originally more just chaotic and a trickster. Odin was also a trickster, but while Loki’s tricks generally didn’t result in permanent damage, Odin’s were sometimes flat out EVIL. But if one wants to convert the Norse to Christianity, they need to make Odin less of a dick, and more like Yahweh/Yehova…so gone are the really nasty and evil things he did, and the others were made less evil.
Needing to have a “Christ” figure, they used Odin’s son, Baldur, to be the one who was ruthlessly killed and prophesied to rise again after the world is destroyed by Ragnarok. Instead of the lustful and evil (in many ways) Baldur, we now see a much tamer Baldur, one who is cursed with horrible dreams of his death, and who is innocent of wrong doing. It is through treachery and hatred that he is killed, not because he tried to steal and rape a woman and her lover protested.
And of course, we have our beloved Loki. Loki was as I said, originally more chaotic than evil. He was the god all other gods turned to when things went south, and in many cases he was viewed as the god of last resorts. People prayed to him when they were at their wits end and nothing else worked. He also could command fire and illusions/shape-shift, which added to his tricks. Often times, he would be the reason he had to get everyone out of a mess, but he always came through. But they needed a villain.
Slowly, Loki became more and more evil with each passing story, turning him from a fun loving nimrod with a few interesting kids and a penchant for sex changes, to this evil bastard who brought on the death of the most beloved of children of the gods. He became the Judas of Norse mythology, the betrayer, and even compared with Satan since he did “evil” things and gave birth to “monsters”.
On Satan/Lucifer/The Devil:
Geggel, L. (2016, October 02). “Where did Satan come from?” Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/56341-where-did-satan-come-from.html
Kohler, K. (1923). Heaven and Hell in comparative religion: With special reference to Dante’s Divine comedy. New York, NY: The MacMillan Company.
Rudwin, M. (1931). The devil in legend and literature. La Salle, IL: Open Court.
Russell, J. B. (1994). Satan: The early Christian tradition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Sweeney, L. (2013, November 25). “The history and origins of Satan — A study”. Retrieved from https://www.iup.edu/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=161917
Wallace, D. B. (2010, March 22). “Is “Lucifer” the devil in Isaiah 14:12? — The KJV argument against modern translations”. Retrieved from https://bible.org/article/lucifer-devil-isaiah-1412-kjv-argument-against-modern-translations
On Loki and Judas:
Fisher, Peter, and Hilda Ellis. Davidson. Saxo Grammaticus: the History of the Danes: Books I-IX. Brewer, 1996.
Kevin. “A Different Death for Balder in Denmark.” Throwback Thorsday, 10 Aug. 2016, https://throwbackthorsday.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/a-different-death-of-balder-for-denmark/.
Nicolson, William. Myth and Religion, or, An Enquiry into Their Nature and Relations. Press of the Finnish Literary Society, 1892.