The State of Satan Studies

Saturno Butto - Devil's Chair
Saturno Butto - Devil's Chair

Derek R. Brown has prepared a useful survey of research into Satan, aka the Devil, aka Belial, aka Beelzebub, etc:

Brown gives a summary of both the ancient texts and modern research, covering the books of the Old Testament and other Jewish Second Temple works separately, the latter divided into “pseudepigrapha”, works from Qumran, the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, Paul, and the Revelation of John. Thirteen of the twenty-eight pages provide a satanic bibliography.

Brown quotes Paolo Sacchi on the second-century BC book of Jubilees, which is one of the earliest books in which we can witness the transformation of Satan (“Belial”) from an angel of Yahweh into a figure who is largely opposed to Yahweh and has his own servants in his Kingdom of Darkness, just as Yahweh does in his Kingdom of Light.

[I]n Jubilees, “[t]he devil has therefore changed from being the metaphysical principle of evil to the head of a kind of kingdom, parallel to that of God, to whom God actually assigns as subjects the souls of the giants, that is, the evil spirits”
– Paolo Sacchi, The History of the Second Temple Period (Sheffield, 2000): 224-225.

In Jubilees, God and Belial/Satan still get on to some extent, and even bargain together about the fate of humanity. But Satan is well on his way to becoming the oppositional ruler of death and evil whom, in most New Testament works, Jesus must defeat in order to free humankind.

So when Jesus was going around casting out evil or unclean spirits, he may well have imagined that he was dealing with disembodied Giants.

This may partly explain the early Christian typology in which the story of David’s defeat of Goliath is reinterpreted as a type of Jesus defeating Satan.

On a related note, here’s Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, with “The Last Song About Satan”:

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