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The Devil in the middle ages

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Particularly in the medieval period, Satan was often shown as having horns and a goat's hindquarters (though occasionally with the legs of a chicken or a mule), and with a tail.

He was also depicted as carrying a pitchfork, the implement used in Hell to torment the damned, or a trident, deriving from the regalia of the sea-god Poseidon. Occasionally more imaginative depictions were illustrated: Sometimes the Devil was depicted as having faces all over his body, as in the painting of a Deal with the Devil.

Depictions of the Devil covered in boils and scars, animal-like hair, and monstrous deformities were also common. None of these images seem to be based on biblical materials, as Satan's physical appearance is never described in the Bible or any other religious text. Rather, this image is apparently based on pagan Horned Gods, such as Pan, Cernunnos, Molek, Selene and Dionysus, common to many pagan religions.

Pan in particular looks very much like the images of the medieval Satan. These images later became the basis for Baphomet, which is portrayed in Eliphas Levi's 1854 Dogme et rituel de la haute magie (English translation Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual).

Even some Satanists use Baphomet as the image of Satan in Satanic worship. It has been alleged that this image was chosen specifically to discredit the Horned God.


What is known of the Cathars largely comes in what is preserved by the critics in the Catholic Church which later destroyed them in the Albigensian Crusade. Alain de Lille, c.1195, accused the Cathars of believing in two gods - one of light, one of darkness. Durand de Huesca, responding to a Cathar tract c.1220 indicates that they regarded the physical world as the creation of Satan.

A former Italian Cathar turned Dominican, Sacchoni in 1250 testified to the Inquisition that his former co-religionists believed that the devil made the world and everything in it.

The Reformation

Luther taught the traditional personal devil. Among his teachings was a recommendation of music since "the devil cannot stand gaiety."[24]

The devil being fought by Christian using a gold sword, Norwich Cathedral cloisters ceiling detail.
Calvin taught the traditional view of the devil as a fallen angel. Calvin repeats the simile of Saint Augustine: "Man is like a horse, with either God or the devil as rider." In interrogation of Servetus who had said that all creation was part of God, Calvin asked what of the devil?
Servetus responded "all things are a part and portion of God".

Anabaptists and Dissenters

David Joris was the first of the Anabaptists to venture that the devil was only an allegory (c.1540), his view found a small but persistent following in the Netherlands.

The view was transmitted to England and Joris's booklet was reprinted anonymously in English in 1616, prefiguring a spate of non-literal devil interpretations in the 1640s-1660s: Mede, Bauthumley, Hobbes, Muggleton and the private writings of Isaac Newton.

In Germany such ideas surfaced later, c.1700, among writers such as Balthasar Bekker and Christian Thomasius.

However the above views remained very much a minority. Daniel Defoe in his The Political History of the Devil (1726) describes such views as a form of "practical atheism". Defoe wrote "that to believe the existence of a God is a debt to nature, and to believe the existence of the Devil is a like debt to reason".

John Milton in Paradise Lost

Until John Milton created the character of Satan for his Paradise Lost, the different attributes of Satan were usually ascribed to different entities. The angel who rebelled in Heaven was not the same as the ruler in Hell. The ruler of Hell was often seen as a sort of jailer who never fell from grace.

The tempting serpent of Genesis was just a serpent. Milton combined the different parts of the character to show his fall from near-divine beauty and grace to his eventual skulking role as a jealous tempter. He was so successful in his characterization of Satan as a romantic hero who "would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven" that his version of Satan has displaced all others.

Rudolf Bultmann and modernists

Rudolf Bultmann taught that Christians need to reject belief in a literal devil as part of first century culture. This line is developed by Walter Wink.

Against this come the works of writers like Jeffrey Burton Russell, a believer in a literal personal fallen being of some kind. In Lucifer, the Devil in the Middle Ages, the third volume of his five volume history of the devil, Russell argues that such theologians are missing that the devil is part and parcel of the New Testament from its origins.

Modern Christian doctrines by denomination
Roman Catholic views

Luca Giordano's painting of Archangel Michael and Fallen Angels, Vienna, 1666

A number of prayers and practices against the devil exist within the Roman Catholic tradition. The Lord's Prayer includes a petition for being delivered from evil, but a number of other specific prayers also exist.

The Prayer to Saint Michael specifically asks for Catholics to be defended "against the wickedness and snares of the devil." Given that some of the Our Lady of Fatima messages have been linked by the Holy See to the "end times", some Catholic authors have concluded that the angel referred to within the Fatima messages is St. Michael the Archangel who defeats the devil in the War in Heaven.

Author Timothy Robertson takes the position that the Consecration of Russia was a step in the eventual defeat of Satan by the Archangel Michael.

The process of exorcism is used within the Catholic Church against the devil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: "Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing".

The Catholic Church views the battle against the devil as ongoing. During a May 24, 1987 visit to the Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel, Pope John Paul II said:

"The battle against the devil, which is the principal task of Saint Michael the archangel, is still being fought today, because the devil is still alive and active in the world. The evil that surrounds us today, the disorders that plague our society, man's inconsistency and brokenness, are not only the results of original sin, but also the result of Satan's pervasive and dark action."

Pope Paul VI expressed concern about the influence of the devil and in 1972 stated that: "Satan's smoke has made its way into the Temple of God through some crack".
However, Pope John Paul II viewed the defeat of Satan as inevitable.

Father Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, warned about ignoring Satan, saying, "Whoever denies Satan also denies sin and no longer understands the actions of Christ".

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Church regards the devil as being created as a good angel by God, and by his and his fellow fallen angels choice fell out of God's grace.

Satan is not an infinitely powerful being. Although he was an angel, and thus pure spirit, he is considered a creature nonetheless. Satan's actions are permitted by divine providence. 395

Eastern Orthodox

In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Satan is one of humanity's three enemies, along with sin and death (in some other forms of Christianity the other two enemies of mankind are "the world", and self (or the flesh), which is to be taken as man's natural tendency to sin).

Evangelical Protestants

Evangelicals agree with the Protestant orthodox of theology that Satan is a real, created being given entirely over to evil and that evil is whatever opposes God or is not willed by God. Evangelicals emphasize the power and involvement of Satan in history in varying degrees; some virtually ignore Satan and others revel in speculation about spiritual warfare against that personal power of darkness.

Anglican Church

The literal existence of the Devil is referred to in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

Unitarians and Christadelphians

Some Christian groups and individuals view the devil in Christianity figuratively. They see the devil in thlilithe Bible as representing human sin and temptation, and any human system in opposition to God. Early Bible fundamentalist Unitarians and Dissenters like Nathaniel Lardner, Richard Mead, Hugh Farmer, William Ashdowne and John Simpson, and John Epps taught that the miraculous healings of the Bible were real, but that the devil was an allegory, and demons just the medical language of the day.

Simpson in his Sermons (publ. posthumously 1816) went so far as to comment that the devil was "really not that bad", a view essentially echoed as recently as 2001 by Gregory Boyd in Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy. Such views today are taught today by Christadelphians and the Church of the Blessed Hope.

Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs and Eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Satan was originally a perfect angel who developed feelings of self-importance and craved worship that belonged to God. Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to obey him rather than God, raising the issue—often referred to as a "controversy"—of whether people, having been granted free will, would obey God under both temptation and persecution. The issue is said to be whether God can rightfully claim to be sovereign of the universe.

Instead of destroying Satan, God decided to test the loyalty of the rest of humankind and to prove to the rest of creation that Satan was a liar.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Satan is God's chief adversary and the invisible ruler of the world.
They believe that demons were originally angels who rebelled against God and took Satan's side in the controversy.

Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that Satan lives in Hell or that he has been given responsibility to punish the wicked. Satan and his demons are said to have been cast down from heaven to the earth in 1914, marking the beginning of the "last days".

Witnesses believe that Satan and his demons influence individuals, organizations and nations, and that they are the cause of human suffering. At Armageddon, Satan is to be bound for 1,000 years, and then given a brief opportunity to mislead perfect humanity before being destroyed.

Latter Day Saints
Latter Day Saint movement

In Mormonism, the Devil is a real being, a literal spirit son of God who once had angelic authority, but rebelled and fell prior to the creation of the Earth in a pre-mortal life. At that time, he persuaded a third part of the spirit children of God to rebel with him. This was in opposition to the plan of salvation championed by Jehovah (Jesus Christ). Now the devil tries to persuade mankind into doing evil. Mankind can overcome this through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the Gospel.

The Latter-day Saints traditionally regard Lucifer as the pre-mortal name of the devil. Mormon theology teaches that in a heavenly council, Lucifer rebelled against the plan of God the Father and was subsequently cast out.

Mormon scripture reads:
"And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, and was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning. And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!

And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; for we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ—Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about."

After becoming Satan by his fall, Lucifer "goeth up and down, to and fro in the earth, seeking to destroy the souls of men".

Mormons consider Isaiah 14:12 to be referring to both the king of the Babylonians and the devil.

Unification Church
The Unification Church teaches that Satan will be restored in the last days and become a good angel again.

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