The Devil is supposed to be a supernatural being who is the source of all evil.
The popular concept of the Devil is a mixture of several different sources.
"Devil" comes from the Greek "Diabolos", an accuser or slanderer. It is a totally different concept from "demon", which comes from the Greek "daimon", a deity. In the Bible, the word "devils" reflects the Greek "daimon", and is better translated as "demons".
Satan in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, the name used is "Satan", the Adversary. He was in no sense a "fallen angel", but an integral part of the Heavenly Court, whose function was to denounce people as wicked and to test them to see if they would transgress if tempted. He appears in I Chron. 21, Psalms 109:6, Zechariah 3:1-2 and especially Job 1 & 2.
I Chron. 21:1 "And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." He tempts David, causing him to sin by having a census. Compare the parallel passage:
II Sam 24:1 "And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah."
Here, God himslf has caused David to transgress, rather than getting Satan to do it.
Psalms 109:6 "Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand."
It is a double curse on his enemy that the wicked should have power over him.
Zechariah 3:1-2 "And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?"
Here Satan is in Heaven, seeking to accuse Joshua of something but God is unwilling to accept any criticism of Joshua.
Job 1:6-12 "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD."
Here Satan is with the sons of God. When God praises Job, Satan denounces him, and God then invites Satan to test him. The story continues in Job 2:1-7.
"Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown."
Lucifer and Isaiah
Another key passage is Isaiah 14:12-15.
- "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit."
This has been interpreted as a description of an angel Lucifer who tried to get above his station and was cast down to hell. However, the context clearly reveals a different meaning. Verse 4 shows that the passage in fact refers to the King of Babylon. "That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!" Traditionally, he is taken to be Tiglath-pileser III, who came to the throne in 729. Also verses 16-17 refer to a man, not a celestial being: "16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?"
"Lucifer" the light-bearer refers to the morning star, hence "son of the morning". Nebuchadnessar's power is being likened to the bright star that fades into invisibility as the Sun rises.
The book known as 2 Enoch or The Secrets of Enoch contains a section quoted below which apparently confirms the story of the fallen angel. However, this book exists in various forms, and this section appears in a manuscript known as R, which has a much longer text than other versions and probably reached its present form only between the second half of the 13th and early part of the 16th century, so it has little historical value.
- "And one from out of the order of angels, having turned away with the order that was under him, conceived an impossible thought, to place his throne higher than the clouds above the earth, that he might become equal in rank to my power. And I threw him out from the height with his angels, and he was flying in the air continuously above the bottomless."
Lucifer and Ezekiel
Another passage, Ezekiel 28:13-19, seems to refer to some being who dwelt in the Garden of Eden and was expelled.
- "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more."
Yet the previous verse reveals that this is a reference to the King of Tyre:
- "Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty."
Tyre, being a wealthy and luxuriant area, is likened to the Garden of Eden.
The New Testament
As noted above, references to "devils" should be to "demons". However, there are many references to Satan and the Devil.
Luke 10:18 "And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." sounds like confirmation of the fallen angel story, but it could also mean that Satan is in heaven and sometimes descends from there like a bolt of lightning.
Revelation 12:7-10 says "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night."
This passage leaves open many questions. Why was there a war between angels? If God had wanted to get rid of Satan, he could of course have done so. Is this a past event or a prediction of the future? The passage does not say that Satan and the angesls went to Hell, only down to Earth. However, it does clearly state that the Devil is Satan and that he deceives people.
The Devil even tries but fails to tempt Jesus: Matthew 4:1-11 "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."
However, this seems to be divinely ordered; note the opening sentence of the passage "led up of the Spirit ... to be tempted of the devil."
The God Pan
In Greek mythology, Pan was a goat-god, with horns, a beard, pointed ears, very hairy legs, a tail and cloven hooves instead of feet. All of these characteristics have been attributed to the Devil, although no early references to the Devil describe his appearance. Pan was a popular god in the Middle East; the place where the River Jordan rises was regarded as sacred to him (hence its name banias). This may have led the early Christians to literally demonise him.