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The Devil is the name given to a supernatural entity who, in most Western religions, is the central embodiment of evil. This entity is also commonly referred to by a variety of names, including Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles and Beelzebub. In classic demonology, however, each of these alternate names refers to a specific supernatural entity, and there is significant disagreement as to whether any of these specific entities is actually evil. The word devil is derived from the Greek word diabolos ("to slander"), and the term devil can refer to a lesser demon in the hierarchy of Hell. At the same time, the term devil is also derived from the same Indo-European root word for deva, which roughly translates as "angel."

The notion of a central supernatural embodiment of evil, as well as the notion of angels, first arose in Western monotheism when Judaism came into contact with the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism. Unlike classical monotheism, Zoroastrianism features two gods, one good and one evil, locked in a cosmic struggle where both are more or less evenly matched and the outcome is uncertain. Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord"), also known as Ohrmazd, is the god of light, and Ahriman ("Evil Spirit"), also known as Angra Mainyu, is the god of darkness. In a final battle between the supernatural forces of good and evil, human souls will be judged in a fiery ordeal, and only the good will survive this ordeal. Accordingly, humans are urged to align themselves with the god of light and his angels and to shun the god of darkness and his demons.

Christianity views Satan as a being created by God, whereas the evil god of Zoroastrianism is not a created being.

The Devil in Judaism

In Hebrew, the Devil is called "Satan". The Hebrew biblic word "satan" means an adversary or an obstacle. The word "satan" in the meaning of human adversary appears in Kings A, Chapter 11, where God makes Hadad the Edomite an adversary to King Solomon.

In the book of Job (Iyov), Satan appears as an angel submitted to God. One might say that he rather manipulates God into letting him test Job and put Job's faith on trial. Satan says that Job is faithful to God only because he has good lives with good family and lot of property. God permits Satan to cast disasters and plagues upon Job. First, Satan destroys Job's property, then his family, and finally he strikes Job himself and causes him to become ill.

In later Jewish mythology, Satan tries to rebel against God but the rebellion fails and God send him to exile into hell (concept that didn't exists in Judaism and was embraced from Christianity).

Names of the Devil

The Original Names

Originally no proper name was attributed to the Devil but only one epithet, satan, (adversary), which, capitalised, remained as his proper name: Satan. So he is mentioned in the Old and New Testament. Zech. 3:1--"And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him." 1 Peter 5:8--"Your adversary the devil." Luke 10:18. Numbers 22:22. By adversary is meant one who takes a stand against another. Satan is the adversary of both God and man.

But in the New Testament, in Matthew 10:25 and 12:24, Mark 3:22, and openly in Luke 11:18-19 Satan is compared with Beelzebub, originally a Semitic deity called Baal-zebul, one of the Baals. Since that moment Beelzebub became another name for Satan.

In John 12:31 and 14:30 Satan is called Prince of this World, and this became a nickname for him.

The Devil, diabolos: This name is ascribed to Satan 33 times at least in the New Testament, and indicates an accuser or slanderer (Rev. 12:9). He slanders God to man (Gen. 3:1-7), and man to God (Job 1:9; 2-4). Matt. 13:39--"The enemy . . . . is the devil." John 8:44--"Ye are of your father the devil."

The wicked one: Matt. 13:19--"Then cometh the wicked one." Matt. 6:13; 1 John 5:19. This title suggests that Satan is not only wicked himself, but is also the source of all wickedness in the world.

The tempter: Matt. 4:3--"And when the tempter came to him." See Gen. 3:1-6. None escape his temptations. He is continually soliciting men to sin.

The Beast (Book of Revelation 13:1-18) is a term John used to refer to a "puppet" of the dragon's (Satan), and a term supposedly used by John in Revelation 17:3-17 to design the Devil (or the Antichrist); this name appears several times in the book of Revelation, and it became another of his nicknames.

Dragon is another epithet for the Devil, as well as The Old Serpent (Revelation 12:9). Dragon is used several times in the same book.

In Spanish, the Devil has always been referred to as El Diablo or Satanas. El Diablo is also a derivate of Diabolos.

The Division of an Entity in Three

Later, when the Bible was translated into Latin (the Vulgate), appeared the name Lucifer as a translation of Morning Star (the planet Venus), in Isaiah 14:12. But if we take only this allusion we are out of context, because Isaiah 14:1-23 speaks about Babylon and its king, being the Morning Star the Babylonian king, of godly status, being his symbolic divine parents Bel and Ishtar (associated with the planet Venus); this can be seen by reading any Babylonian cuneiform text, but by the time of the translation of the Bible and the subsequent biblical exegesis that took the text as a comparison with the Devil these cuneiform clay tablets and their translation were not available, and the mythology and customs the Israelites had learnt during their captivity in Babylon had been forgotten. Early Christian tradition interpreted the word and the entire paragraph referring to Satan, his fell of grace, and the moment he was thrown from Heaven, identifying this name with him, and Lucifer became another name for Satan; due to the Christian dogma and popular tradition, so it will remain.

But this was not enough. Christian demonologists later turned Satan, Lucifer, and Beelzebub into different entities, with a different rank in the hellish hierarchy. According to who wrote on them, Lucifer or Satan used to be the chief of all demons. Why? There is no answer; nobody gave an explanation for this.

Perhaps the fact that many ignorant people (as instructions was uncommon for most population) was interrogated during the witch trials collaborated, because one person could answer "my master is Lucifer", another "I made a pact with Satan", etc., not having these people knowledge of the different names of the Devil, and being sometimes suggested the name to them by the interrogator, depending on how he called the Devil in that moment. But this cannot explain that demonologists that supposedly had this knowledge (many of them were priests, with important studies) continued using these names for different entities coexisting in the same Hell.

It could also be supposed that this might have been an attempt to establish a hellish trinity with the same person, as the Christian Trinity has three persons in one with Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

In Christian Tradition

However, in Christian tradition but not in Christian demonology, Satan, Lucifer and Beelzebub mean "the Devil", and Prince of this World, The Beast and Dragon (and rarely Serpent or The Old Serpent) use to be elliptic forms to refer to him. The Enemy, The Evil One and The Tempter are also elliptic forms to name the Devil. Christian tradition has many nicknames for Satan, but not demonology.

It must be noted that Mephistopheles is used by some people to refer to the Devil, but it is a mere folkloric custom, and has nothing to do with Christian demonology and Christian tradition. Prince of Darkness and Lord of Darkness are also folkloric names, although Lord of Darkness tends to be incorporated to Christian tradition.

In role-playing games

In the Dungeons & Dragons universe, devils are known in some versions of the game as baatezu; these devils are hostile to the demons, who are known in the same system as tanar'ri. The two factions of fiends, of which there are many different subtypes of each, fight a "Blood War" among themselves. See also fantasy bestiary.

In other games

It has always been rumored that The Devil and his demons communicate with humans through the Ouija game. The general public is divided about this subject: Some support the afore mentioned theory, while others say that humans move the game's triangle with a hand and claim to be communicating with outer spirits.

See Also