Often times I come across the question of the identity of the Christian devil, or Satan as he is most often called. Who is this character really called? To answer this question, I would have to look into the history of the mythological evolution of this character, as well looking at Satanist perspectives.
First, let’s define our devil. The traditional concept of the devil is an entity with godlike abilities (though supposedly not as powerful as “God”), is the prince or ruler of demons, and works ever so hard to foil the plans of his mortal enemy (including tempting Adam and Eve away from “God” by granting them knowledge in the form of the fruit of the tree of knowledge).
One of the names we usually call him is Satan. The actual name Satan goes back to the Hebrew “ha-Satan”, which means “opposer”, “accuser”, or “adversary”. Obviously, this refers to his role back in the Old Testament as the prosecuting angel who tested the faith of humans.
The title Satan can has also been given to other beings in the Bible, including humans, but also divine beings, so it could refer to anyone who challenges your faith, or in a different sense (the Christian context), anyone who opposes or rebels against “God” (or Jehovah). Well, that might be me then, along with anyone who’s anti-Christian or anti-Abrahamist, or for that matter anyone who doesn’t believe the word of “God”, according to the Bible at least. This probably explains why we use the word “Satanic” for most things that are anti-Christian, or just not Christian.
Then we have the name Lucifer. Traditionally it means “light-bearer” or “lightbringer”, and is a Latin translation of the Hebrew name Helel, which means “shining one”. He is also commonly viewed as the angel who fell from heaven after rebelling against Jehovah. But some also say the name Lucifer, or Helel, refers to a Babylonian king who was defeated. Isaiah 14:12 seems to think so.
It should be noted, though, that before the rise of Christianity, there were pseudepigraphica of Enochic Judaism that enjoyed much popularity during the time of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. This material gave Satan an expanded role and interpreted the morning star reference found in Isaiah as applicable to Satan, thus presenting him as an angel who fell from grace and was cast out of heaven. In turn, this would influence the Christian idea that Satan was known as Lucifer before his fall from heaven.
Similar to the traditional concept of Lucifer is Satanael. In the Book of Enoch, Satanael is an angel who fell from heaven after rebelling against God, with light rivalling even his. I think he appears in Gnosticism as well, and in Gnosticism he fostered the first Fall by offering Man the choice of selfhood before the tyranny of the Demiurge. Also, whereas Satan just meant adversary, Satanael means “adversary of God”, though that could just be a title or moniker.
From what I’ve heard, the Bible really doesn’t have a name for the devil, and it tends to use quite a few names to refer to either the same entity, or individual agents of the devil. Various names include Beelzebub, Samael, Mastema, Abaddon, Azazel, Belial, and probably many more. But as I said, they could be either names, or more likely separate demons.
I think it might be Baal, or Beelzebub. Beelzebub is identified as the prince of demons in Matthew 12:24 (in which Jesus is accused by the Pharisees of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub). And besides, before the concept of the devil in Christianity, Rabbinical texts mention an entity called Baal-zebub (or “Lord of the Flies”) as a major false god. And keep in mind, Baal and the religion dedicated to him was the greatest rival of the Israelites and the religion of Jehovah. Not to mention, I hear the Bible contains surprisingly few references to Satan as the devil.
Also of interest is that in the Testament of Solomon, an apocryphal Jewish text, Beelzebub is not only the prince of demons, but that it is also said that he was formerly the highest ranking angel in Heaven, and was associated with the star (or planet) known as Venus. Sounds familiar? The traditional concept of Satan is shown as being the ruler of all demons, and was once an angel. And Lucifer is also ascribed these characteristics while also being associated with Venus. However, a problem with bringing the Testament of Solomon into this is that the text is dated between the 1st and 5th centuries CE, probably sometime after the supposed death of Jesus.
Still I think Beelzebub might be the real identity of the Biblical devil, not for the Testament of Solomon, but for his history in Rabbinical texts and origins beforehand (which I previously elaborated on). And he is clearly identified as the prince or chief of demons in the New Testament (which should probably be the criteria for the devil), and Satan seems to have been sent by “God” to test Jesus in the desert from what I have heard. Beelzebub is clearly identified as the devil in the New Testament.
Fun fact: Did you know that Baal-Zebub, or Baal-Zebul, also means “Lord of the High Place”, or “Lord of Heaven”? Kinda ironic don’t you think? Or mysterious?
However, there is an irony in all this. I don’t consider the Bible a very trustworthy source of information, and yet passages from the texts are being used to identify the devil. Maybe it works, perhaps? By that logic, who’s to say that the devil’s actual name isn’t Lucifer, and Beelzebub might be another god?
Maybe Beelzebub and Lucifer are separate entities, with Lucifer being the allegorical light bringer, and Beelzebub being the devil and rival god of Jehovah, both rebels in some way, or at least both opposed to Jehovah or his ideals (and by extent the ideals of Abrahamism). Two different devils. And Satan? Probably a title.
I’d also like to take some time to mention the Satanist concept of the devil. In Satanism, Satan is generally a symbol of ideals such as self-godhood, free will, independence, rebellion, selfhood, and selfishness, as well as traits such as pride, lust, anger, ambition, and other traits that the Bible tends to condemn. This is true in Christianity in a way, because in Christian tradition Satan does indeed represent things such as pride, ambition, lust, selfishness, and “sin” in general, as well as temptation.
Well, that was a lot. Thanks for reading, if you did.