Get ready to tackle our hottest topic yet: the Devil.

The Big Lie – A Biblical word study on the Devil

The Son of God and the Father of Lies


Mark 1:1-13
Matthew 4:1-11
Luke 4:1-13
John 8:28-41
John 8:42-59

More of The Big Lie

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Jesus being tempted by Satan, the Devil. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
Mark 1:1-13 (4/29/13)

As I recall, late last summer I mentioned to my Greek study buddy that demons are associated with sickness, not sin. She was fascinated by that, and we got distracted into a prolonged study of the Devil, demons, and every name we could think of that’s associated with them. Many of the good ideas and observations in this study came from her, but she prefers to remain anonymous, so I won’t mention her very often. All the mistakes are mine, as usual.

What we discovered is that most of what we Christians “know” about the Devil is wrong, and most of it isn’t from the Bible at all. For the next three months, those of us in this study will see what the Bible has to say, and occasionally I’ll tell you the origin of the wrong stuff as well.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ is from Mark, who wrote the first and most action-packed of the Gospels. Mark wasn’t much into dialog, and he has only one verse on the temptations of Jesus. Hold fast to two facts: the first time we see this character in the New Testament, he’s called “Satan,” and he’s tempting someone.

Throughout this study, bold italics right before an English word in the scripture readings indicate the Hebrew or Greek word that’s in the original text. If there’s only one bold italic word in an Old-Testament reading, it’s Hebrew. If there are two bold italic words together for an Old-Testament reading, the first one is Hebrew and the second one is the Greek word from the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament. The New Testament was written in Greek, but you knew that. Compare the on-line reading with the translation you normally read, and I’ll bet you a donut that you see some really interesting variations!

Note to all Greek and Hebrew readers in the audience: I’m almost always going to give the undeclined form of the words we’re studying. It would just be too confusing for everybody else if I humored you by giving the declined forms!

From the English Standard Version (courtesy of Good News Publishers):
Matthew 4:1-11 (4/30/13)

Yesterday, Mark said only that Jesus was tempted by Satan. Luke and Matthew go into a lot more detail, telling us what the temptations were and what Satan and Jesus said to each other.

What I want you to notice today is that Matthew also calls Satan “the tempter.” Pay really close attention to what the tempter says: “Since you are the son of God….” I especially chose the ISV today because it’s the only electronic Bible I have that has “since” instead of “if.”

In English we have a couple of ways to use “if.” “If he was here…” implies that I don’t know one way or the other. “If he were here…” means that I know he’s not here.

Greek has four ways of using “if,” and the one that Satan uses presents the information as a fact: The ISV’s translation of “Since…” captures this exactly. Why is this important? The Devil isn’t tempting Jesus to do something to find out whether he’s the Son of God. He already agrees with that. The Devil is tempting him to do something because he is the Son of God.

There’s no way the Devil can tempt me to embezzle $5,000,000 from my company, because my company doesn’t have $5,000,000. But I have to be on guard, because the Devil will try to tempt me to misappropriate $50, and that’s just as bad in the eyes of God. Stay on guard against the tempter!

From the International Standard Version (courtesy of the ISV Foundation):
Luke 4:1-13 (5/1/13)

Mark’s account of the temptations says only “Satan,” and Matthew’s account uses both “devil” and “Satan.” Luke says only “devil.” (In a couple of case where your translation may say “devil,” Luke has “he.” I’ve marked those with an asterisk.) The accounts of Mark, Matthew, and Luke are so similar, however, that we can easily tell that the personal name used for the Devil in the Gospels is Satan. You might file that for future reference, because we’re going to come back to it in a couple of weeks. Matthew also refers to the Devil as “the tempter.”

I noticed that when the Devil tempts Jesus, the word used is peirazo, but when Jesus responds that we should not tempt God, the Greek shifts to ekpeirazo. According to Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, both words mean the same thing: (a) try or attempt, and (b) try, make a trial of, or put to the test (to discover what kind of a person someone is). The latter can be for several purposes: We see at least four of these in the temptations of Jesus. Satan is probably trying a little bit to see if Jesus really will work flashy miracles for no particular reason (#1), although he, Satan, represents himself as trying to get Jesus to prove himself (#2). Satan certainly is enticing Jesus to sin (#4) when he says he’ll give him the world (a lie, because he doesn’t own it!) if Jesus will worship him. And Jesus responds with #5, “You must not put God to the test.”

Anyway, the main point is that whenever you see “tempt” or “test” in the New Testament, it’s one of these two words. It’s worth thinking about which meaning is the right one in that context.

From the International Standard Version (courtesy of the ISV Foundation):
John 8:28-41 (5/2/13)

Today’s reading is the first part of a selection from long passage in which Jesus is debating with some Pharisees. The Devil makes no appearance today, but I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of points – enslavement and parentage – because these will be important tomorrow.

In verses 33-35, the Pharisees say that, as children of Abraham, they’ve never been enslaved to anyone. Really? What about the Egyptians? The Babylonians? The Assyrians? Jesus wasn’t talking about that, however, and he makes it clear that whenever we commit a sin, we are the slaves of sin. He, the Son, is going to set us free from sin and its eternal consequences.

In verse 41b, the Pharisees retort, "We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father – even God." Remember that adultery is a very common Old Testament image for falling away from God and worshipping idols. When Jesus accuses them of “doing the works of their father,” rather than the works of Abraham, he is accusing them of apostasy, not of being the children of unmarried parents. They understood him perfectly, and that’s why they reply that they weren’t born as a result of sexual immorality.


John 8:42-59 (5/3/13)

Earlier this week we learned something important about the Devil: he works mainly through temptation, so much so that he’s sometimes called “the tempter.” Today we learn a second important thing that you should always remember: the Devil lies.

Oh, he might use the truth – “Since you are the Son of God…” But he doesn’t tell the truth – he can’t give Jesus the world, because he doesn’t own it.

A good illustration is the official-looking envelope that tells you on the outside “Winners List Enclosed.” Your name peeks out through the window. Have you won? No – the name of a previous winner is on the list, and it isn’t you. But the sender hopes you will be tempted to open the envelope, buy the product, and get onto a mailing list for the rest of your life and beyond the grave. Don’t buy the Devil’s lies, which also have consequences beyond the grave.

From the English Standard Version (courtesy of Good News Publishers):
More of The Big Lie
The Son of God and the Father of Lies
The OT satan is always an adversary, but not always the Devil.
The Hebrew satan is translated various ways.
In the New Testament, both satanas and diabolos normally refer to the Devil.
Sometimes satanas and diabolos are used figuratively to refer to someone acting like the Devil.
Poneros – Evil in the New Testament
Demons cause sickness, not sin.
Sometimes Satan and demons cooperate with each other.
Neither Baalzebub nor Lucifer is a Biblical name for the Devil.
Belial means "worthless," and once it's used as a nickname for the Devil.
Satan's job description: Temptation and Lies
Our job description: Resist him!

Copyright 2013 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.
The illustration showing the temptation of Jesus is from the Binns family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.


Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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