I was recently told that the original Hebrew word for Satan, is in fact a
different word completely, when compared to the word “devil” which is used
in the New Testament. The claim is that Satan, and the devil are actually
two different entities. What do we actually know about Satan and the Devil
from the Bible? It seems that there is lack of information concerning
Satan, especially in the Old Testament. Recently I have spoken to a number
of Catholic friends. They believe that miracles are still occuring today
just as they were when Jesus was on earth. I do not really dispute this,
but certain “miracles” of theirs are suspicious to me. For example, they
were actually telling me very detailed stories concerning things such as
stigmata, or holy statues/paintings that would cry a form of “holy oil”
which could heal people. This is not the first time I have heard of these
things. However now I am hearing it first hand from people I know and
trust. They have witnessed these things, and they proven true to them.
What disconcerns me though, is if these things are all true and real, are
they from God? How can we tell what is Holy and from God, and not just a
trick by the devil?


It is difficult to nail down absolutely a doctrine of Satan, as the Bible
is occasionally somewhat enigmatic in its description, but there are a few
things we can be confident of. First of all, the statement that there are
two different names for Satan is not true. Naturally, the word in the
Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament are not exactly the same,
as they are different languages. However, the words are almost
identical. Let us look at the relevant words. First of all there is the
Hebrew word which is translated as Satan, for example in Job 1:6,
Zechariah 3:1 and so forth. In this case the word is literally satan,
which means adversary or accuser. In the New Testament the word Satan is
found in many passages; for example Matthew 4:10, Mark 3:23, Acts 5:3 and
others. In this case, the Greek word is satanas, which means hostile
opponent. Obviously, these are one and the same name.

There is a second common name used for Satan in the New Testament, which
is not found in the Old Testament. This is the word Devil. This word is
found in Matthew 4:1, Luke 8:12, Acts 10:38 and many more. The Greek word
is diabolos, which means malicious slanderer. It seems to me that the
meaning of devil and Satan are almost identical. Perhaps we could
describe Satan as the accuser’s personal name, and devil as a description
of what he is. Proof that these words refer to the same person is found
in Matthew 4:1-11. In this passage there is no doubt that Satan and devil
are used of the same person–the one who tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

There is one reference in Isaiah chapter 14:12 to a “shining morning star”
which has fallen from the heavens. Some have said that this is a
reference to Lucifer; anther name for Satan. This is almost certainly not
correct. The passage is an apocalyptic reference to the destruction of
Babylon–the enemy of Israel. There is not evidence at all in the Bible
that Lucifer is a name for Satan or any other spiritual evil force.

There are a lot of things we can conclude about Satan. He is a deceiver
(Genesis chapter three). He is an accuser (Revelation 12:10). He
masquerades an an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:15). He prowls the
earth, looking for souls to devour, wanting to cause them to go to hell (1
Peter 5:8). To be honest, you do not really need my help on this. All
you need to do is find a concordance and do a word study on the word devil
and Satan. One thing you can be assured of is that anyone who claims this
is two different people is not correct. We know from Matthew four (and
other passages as well) that this is one and the same person: the
deceiver, the prince of this world (John 12:31).

Your second question is about the supposed miracles commonly claimed by
Roman Catholic believers. These include stigmata: wounds which supposedly
appear on people which are similar to those which happened to Jesus.
Another kind of Catholic-inspired “miracles” are phenomena such as
statues, idols and paintings which supposedly cry or bleed etc.. I
believe we need to be careful in characterizing such phenomena, as it is
difficult to say with absolute certainty what is going on. Let me mention
a few possibilities, and leave you to decide. As for the stigmata, I
believe some of these are the result of mentally unstable people who have
hysterical reactions. I cannot say this is true in every case, nor do I
feel it is my place to say so, but I am confident that some of this is
self-induced emotional trauma. There have been a very small number of
such cases which have been documented. In every case I have seen the
subject was a psychologically very troubled person. I cannot say that
every case of stimata is explainable as a psychological phenomenon. As
for statues which supposedly cry or bleed, I would remind you that God is
not pleased with the worship of idols which is such a common practice in
Catholicism. I believe that some of these are hoaxes. Others are the
result of very gullible people. People see pictures of the “Virgin” on
grilled cheese sandwiches, on drive-in theatre screens and so forth.
Given that these phenomena are being observed by believers in a form of
Christianity which is very far from biblical truth, I believe we need to
be extremely skeptical. Could some of these events be real miracles?
Perhaps, but more likely they are from Satan than from God. 2
Thessalonians 2:9 tells us that the working of Satan will include false
miracles, signs and wonders.

In the end, I am sure I will not be able to explain all such phenomena. I
have painted a very negative picture of these supposed miracles. I should
be careful here. It is really not my place to judge such things,
especially ones which I have not witnessed personally. I cannot
absolutely rule out the possibility that God might work some sort of
miracle such as those Roman Catholics report. What I can say is that this
seems to me to be extremely unlikely. I cannot see God supporting a
distorted version of Christianity, but none of us is a prophet. I am not
in a place to speak of God. In any case, it is my personal experience
that we do not gain much by denying other’s belief in the miraculous. Our
place is to teach the accurate gospel. Many people are thoroughly
convinced of the validity of such things. Such beliefs are emotional
rather than rational. For this reason, logical arguments are not likely
to be persuasive. I believe it is more likely we will be able to bring
them around to a correct understanding to the gospel by exposing them to
real Christianity, not by trying to prove that their anecdotes of the
miraculous are bogus.

Are your friends foolish? Are they gullible and deceived? Are they
witnesses to the work of Satan? Might they have seen an actual miracle,
worked by God to validate their Catholic Christianity? In the end, you
cannot prove the correct answer either way. I suggest you listen to your
friends respectfully, but then try to change the subject to the true
gospel of Jesus and biblical Christianity.

John Oakes

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