You might not be religious, but you’ve likely had to deal with a fair bit of Satan in your
The pesky devil has shown up on the shoulders of cartoon characters, acting as a counterweight
to a good decision that appears as an angel on another shoulder.
He’s starred in numerous movies, getting into the minds of innocent girls that had
to undergo excruciating exorcisms, and he’s been depicted in artform as living in a fiery
underworld where wrongdoers spend eternity wishing they hadn’t stolen that everlasting
gobstopper when they were just eight years old.
On a more serious note, back in the day if you were accused of being in league with this
guy you were likely going to suffer greatly.
What most of you don’t know is where Satan comes from, so that’s what we’ll discuss
in this episode of the Infographics Show, The origin of Satan.
First of all, why do we often use the word Satan as another word for Devil?
Well, it’s complicated, but a devil, which is really a manifestation of evil, is what
you could call a darker side of humanity.
You might say the devil is chaos, our dark for our light, the dualistic wrong for our
right, and this is not something that only the Christian religion came up with.
After all, people that lived in brutal times, whether experiencing famine, war, disease,
or just horrific toil, needed a reason why there could be good in the world and also
Devils and dark spirits run through most religions and beliefs.
Satan is just one devil character, although we often refer to Satan as The Devil.
That’s just because you’ve been brought up Christian, or around Christianity.
Mr. Satan, aka, The Prince of Darkness, comes from what we call the Abrahamic religions,
which are monotheistic (one God) religions, which includes the big three: Judaism, Christianity
We can trace Satan back to the Old Testament, and he first appeared as a subordinate to
God, or Yahweh.
This devil wasn’t equal in power to God, but the entity did mess with God.
Abner Weiss, a psychologist and the rabbi at the Westwood Village Synagogue in Los Angeles,
told Live Science that indeed people wanted a reason for why there was so much pain in
the world; they needed a villain, and so one emerged.
“They hypothesized a kind of demonic, divine force that was responsible for evil, arising
out of the notion that a good god could not be responsible for bad things,” he said.
And so, the Old Testament included some of these bad characters, possible usurpers of
God’s power who were intent on creating chaos down below where occasionally nothing
grew, and animals got sick.
We had such a character in the Book of Job.
Job starts off living the life Riley, he has wealth and a happy family.
Then Satan, known as “the accuser” asks God if he thinks Job would be so pious even
if he had this happy life stripped from him.
This accuser says that if Job suddenly found himself a down and out with nothing, he would
retract his belief in God.
God of course likes a good challenge, and he tells the accuser to take away Job’s
happiness, kill his children, his servants, and even cover him with boils.
Job, left with nothing, muses, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive
This is the beginning of the great dichotomy of good and evil.
Perhaps this evil was there to test us!
We won’t go through the entire book of Job, but you get the picture.
A kind of Satan existed in the Old Testament, a dark for all the light, but the dark was
certainly no match for the light.
The story of Satan being a fallen angel isn’t in the New Testament.
We get this story from the ancient Jewish Book of Enoch.
In this tract, 200 angels are given the task of watching over humans; they are known as
They don’t do a very good job and end up sleeping with human women, while spreading
sin around on Earth.
They end up being forsaken by God and living in dark caves.
In the Jewish book of Jubilees, you have “Mastema”, who is thought to be a Satan character, but
again he is more of a tempter than he is outright evil.
He becomes a tester of humans, and he gets the thumbs up from God to do this.
Mastema also enlists some of those fallen angels to do his work.
There are many interpretations, but let’s just say that this guy was a tempter of humans
more than an adversary of God.
Then you have the Second Book of Enoch.
Enoch was a descendent of Noah, from the thriller story about a flood and a giant animal-carrying
In that book you have a character called Satanael, who is also one of those fallen angels.
However, in the New Testament this terrible fall of the angels just goes missing.
There are lots more instances of a Satan-like characters in the ancient texts, but we must
move on and meet a more modern kind of devil.
And so, came Satan as we know him, as depicted in the New Testament.
A Satan character appears in the story of Matthew, wherein he tries to tempt Jesus away
from his devotion to God.
It’s similar to the Satan in the book of Job, as the devil is up to his old tricks
again and questioning piousness.
But this is far from being a pitchfork-wielding entity who gets on the nerves of holy men.
The newer dichotomy presents this evil character again as a tempter, although theologians tell
us that this new character wasn’t a kind of aid to God that was on God’s payroll
to tempt people away from the Almighty.
The devil now becomes a kind of opposite to God, a ying for the yang, because if there
was good in the world God created it, and if there was bad, which there certainly is,
then it must have been the work of something else.
Perhaps even, unlike the Old Testament, something with almost as much power as God.
One religious scholar tells us that this character is often said to have been one of those fallen
angels, although this is not clear.
You have to remember we are talking about many books written by many people over a very
long period of time.
This is why studying religious texts takes up so much time and still people disagree.
You also have the story of a devil we call Lucifer, which for some is just another Satan.
Lucifer, sometimes interchangeable as Satan, rebelled against God and with other fallen
angels waged war against God.
You also have Beelzebub, a flying demon who might also be Satan in one form or another.
Yes, it’s confusing, but let’s just understand that in at least the Christian religion, we
have a lot of dark characters appear that are an adversary of God or of goodness.
These characters appear in other religions as we said, but today we are talking about
the Satan most of us know from early morning evangelist TV or even those cartoons and movies
we mentioned earlier.
This tempter could also have been the serpent in the Garden of Eden who tempts Eve to eat
from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and so start a lifetime of woe for the rest
of us that followed.
For their sin the fledgling couple were banished from the garden.
Not only is the existence of such a couple highly dubious in the name of science, but
scholars of religion have different takes on the tale.
Nonetheless, we have a serpent who could be said to be Satan, despite the serpent never
explicitly being called that.
Then of course you have this tempter working to put Jesus Christ on the wrong track, but
he isn’t as successful as he was in the garden of Eden.
You also have the Great Red Dragon, which appeared in the Book of Revelations, which
also goes toe-to-toe with God.
But how did all this turn into a guy with a pitchfork or a girl with a head that can
spin 360 degrees?
Well, the belief in an evil force didn’t ever go out of fashion, as didn’t an adversary
of God and good.
You could say we just melded all the ancient stories of evil and put one face to them,
but a face that could embody lots of other entities.
Throughout history enemies could be said to embody this evil force, as could anyone who
went against the state or its prescribed religion.
We’ve all seen politicians talk about God, and then bomb people apparently not on the
To some extent, the opposing side is supposed to be Satan, even in these times.
People with mental problems were often said to have been overtaken by this evil force,
so we certainly stretched the devil as far as we could.
When women became naturally lustful, perhaps they could have been said to have been a victim
In the Middle Ages, Satan was active in the minds of people, but his story didn’t have
all that much power.
In the 15th century Satan got some feet with all those witchcraft trials that happened,
and now this tempter of the past was someone who could verily live down your street.
In 1611, we got the English-language King James Bible, which had Lucifer as a starring
figure, literally as he was the “Morning Star”.
Satan was depicted as having cloven hooves, which was related to the Greek God Pan, an
erotic kind of God.
We had works such as “The Divine Comedy” and “Paradise Lost”.
In Dante’s Divine Comedy we have descriptions of Hell as Inferno, then descriptions of Purgatory
and also Paradise.
We started getting very creative with Satan, and what was an evil nebulous force from the
past started to take on a form we could look at and fear.
In the 16th century we had depictions of the devil by great artists, such as Agostino Musi’s
“The Skeletons” or Cornelis Galle I’s “Lucifer”.
The latter shows the devil as a horned monster with wings, busily eating men.
A lot more devil paintings would arrive, but the artists had nothing to go on really.
They were just being creative, and relying on this story of a fallen warring angel rather
than an entity that in times past did his tempting at the behest of God.
All said, we started creating a very scary-looking devil, one that didn’t look that much different
from ourselves, albeit if we were part beast.
So, while the books of the bible don’t explicitly describe hell with a Satan figure with wings
and two horns that carries a pitchfork around, we got creative with the story.
He doesn’t always carry a pitchfork, and it’s said that this depiction comes from
the Greek God, Poseidon.
In medieval art he took many forms, and later we started portraying the devil to look almost
like us, sometimes being able to embody us.
To conclude, this thing we call Satan is a mishmash of many different ancient stories.
We have also put our own spin on Satan over many hundreds of years.
He has almost always been a tempter of humans to go to the dark side, but in later periods
that didn’t just mean not believing in God but perhaps lying, cheating, stealing, or
even dancing too hard like in the movie, “Footloose.”
He changed from being not just the reason why floods or famines or wars happen, but
also a kind of boogeyman that inhabits the minds of non-believers.
Many Christians don’t believe in heaven and hell, or even the devil, but might talk
about the better angels of our nature and being led astray by our self-destructive vices.
To some he is a metaphor, not an actual entity.
The devil, after all, might be best depicted for some as that cartoon character that sits
on the shoulders of another character who’s about to do something bad or turn away from
the bad deed.
There are of course many others who believe in a great reckoning when God beams the good
guys to heaven and the rotten ones are left below to their vices.
We also see the devil in some depictions as a necessary evil, artistic chaos for reason,
as British artist and poet William Blake depicted.
After all, surely bad needs to exist for good to flourish, and surely cold, stern order
comes out of scary, creative chaos.
But that’s another story.
What do you think about this?
Tell us in the comments.
Also, be sure to check out our other video Why Are We Afraid Of Friday the 13th.
Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe.
See you next time.