When I started my ministry, I noticed many faithful followers did not know the onomastics of key names in the Bible. I purposed to teach and educate on the subject over my years of service as it gives one a better foundation in the faith. Recently, in one of my onomatology classes, I decided to go over the name ‘Satan’. Almost no one in my class knew that the name has Hebrew and Greek roots. Much less what the word means. So, what does Satan mean?’
‘Satan’ in both the Greek and Hebrew languages means ‘accuser’ or ‘adversary’. It refers to his role as God’s divine judge before his fall from grace.
To allow as many Christians as possible to know the origin of the word ‘Satan’, I prepared this piece, which I know will be very helpful. It covers the topic extensively and even looks at its Greek and Hebrew roots. Some fantastic resources and Biblical references have also been included for you to look through. Enjoy!
Where Does the Word Satan First Appear in The Bible?
The first use of the word ‘Satan’ can be found in 1 Chronicles 21:1. It reads, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” This may be a shock to some Christians as we are all familiar with the Genesis story of Adam, Eve, and the Devil in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3-4). Wasn’t that the first time Satan was mentioned? No. Sources such as the Answering Genesis state that the name ‘Satan’ never appeared there or anywhere else until 1 Chronicles 21:1, where he is first mentioned by Job. The other occurrences before this verse were simply records of his actions that alluded to him.
Modern English translations of the Bible have brought some confusion around the word ‘Satan’. This is because, in most Biblical passages that have been interpreted to be about Satan, there is no actual mention of the word ‘Satan’. For instance, is the celestial being who accused Job the same one that tempted David? Another issue is that the Bible uses many other words instead of Satan, which can confuse Christians. Some of them are:
- “Great dragon” in Revelation 12:9 and 20:2
- “The evil one” which appears severally.
- “Ancient serpent” (Revelation 12:9)
- “Father of lies” (John 8:44).
- “Belial” (2 Corinthians 6:15)
- “Tempter” (Matthew 4:3)
- “Beelzebul” (Matthew 12:27)
- “God of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- “Prince of this world” (John 12:31)
Where Did the Word Satan Come From?
According to Britannica, the word ‘Satan’ is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word for ‘adversary’ in the Bible. With the definite article that is traditionally meant to accompany it, it would more accurately be ‘the adversary’. The Old Testament is essentially the Hebrew Bible, and so, most of this section was originally written in Hebrew. The adversary was mainly highlighted in the Books of Job and Zechariah (Hebrew Bible).
What Does the Word Satan Mean in Greek?
In Greek, ‘Satan’ means ‘accuser’. In the Greek language, ‘Satan’ is ‘satanas’. It was mainly used in the New Testament before being translated into English. Satanas is known under the Greek bibliography to be:
- The one who devises means for the opposition.
- The prince of evil spirits
- An adversary of God and Christ
- He who incites apostasy from God
- The circumventor of men
- The god of idols
- The cause of disease
There is also the belief that Santanas will be bound in chains for a thousand years upon Christ’s return. After a thousand years, he will be free to rule over Earth before facing eternal punishment.
What Does the Word Satan Mean in Hebrew?
The word ‘Satan’ in Hebrew means ‘accuser’ or ‘adversary’. Biblical archeologists explain that when referring to Satan in Hebrew, it is typically accompanied by a definite article. For example, it will be ‘ha-satan’ to mean ‘the accuser’.
Ha-satan, according to Hebrew people, refers to “the prosecuting attorney of the divine court of Yahweh, and part of his job includes collecting evidence to prove his cases.” This may be contradicting to Christians today because Satan is known to be an enemy, while actually, in the Hebrew Bible, Satan was one of God’s judges. Ha-satan appears severally in the original Hebrew Bible. In fact, his first appearance was as a heavenly prosecutor, subordinate to Yahweh. He prosecuted the nation of Judah in Heaven and would test the loyalty of Yahweh’s followers. God granted him the power to test humans’ goodness and control it within limits.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.