BIBLICAL CONCEPTS:
IS “THE DEVIL” A SCRIPTURAL CHARACTER?

There are certainly several names in the Bible attributed by many to a common character ‘The Devil.’ These include proper nouns such as: Satan; Beelzebub, Lucifer; titles such as Prince of Demons; and other nouns such as Devil or Demon. Some suppose these different names and titles all refer to the same creature.

Clearly in scripture some characters possess many names and titles: God and Jesus being two examples everyone agrees about. Thus we shall use Jesus as a “control” case. We will construct a picture of how the many titles of Jesus can be shown to link together – ratifying that the person they all describe is a single character. Having done that, we will consider the many names attributed to the devil and see if they connect together in the same way. Of course the vast majority of scriptural characters do not need to be ratified by studying multiple titles, since they have but a single name. It is only more complex spiritual characters, such as God and Jesus, that the Biblical record presents through a multiplicity of names, connecting together to communicate the character.

Do the multiple titles attributed to the Devil actually combine to communicate a scriptural character as, for example, the multiple titles attributed to the Lord Jesus do? If they do, we can be confident the devil is also a scriptural character. If they don’t, we can only conclude the various titles and names refer to separate characters local to the text in each case.

Rules for constructing a valid scriptural character from multiple names
How do we decide when multiple titles are talking about the same person and when they are not? Here are the rules we will use. Every verse that gives an explicit, independent connection between one title and another when describing the same character will be employed

First a clear definition: What do we mean by a 1) explicit, and 2) independent proof?

  1. By “explicit” we mean a scriptural verse that directly equates one title to another. Here is an example of an explicit proof for Jesus = Son of Man:

    So Jesus said, When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. (John 8:28)

    We’re going to be very strict about what qualifies as a ‘proof’ to make sure we don’t make any mistakes. Here is an example of a verse that does not qualify as a valid proof for “Jesus” = “Son of Man” under our strict rules, here the association between the titles is only implicit:

    Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-20)

    It is totally reasonable to assume Jesus is referring to himself when he says “Son of Man,” in this example, nevertheless it is not explicit in the text; theoretically he could actually be referring to someone else. For this reason we do not include verses of this form.

  2. By “independent” we mean each verse of scripture shall only be employed for one connection. For example:

    …but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

    This verse will be used to prove either that Jesus is the Christ, or that Jesus is the Son of God, or that the Christ is the Son of God. We will not rely upon a single statement to prove more than one thing, so that no single statement shall be overburdened in establishing proof. (Parallel gospel records of the same declaration, therefore, are not independent proofs.)

Constructing the scriptural character: “Jesus”
Firstly we compile the list of titles that are most commonly proposed to belong to Jesus: Christ, Lord, Saviour, Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, High Priest. Next we collect from the Bible explicit, independent proofs connect these titles to Jesus and to each other. The results are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Valid scriptural proofs linking the titles of Jesus together.
No.
Argument
No. of Proofs
Example Proof
1
Jesus =
Christ
267
1 John 2:22
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?
2
Jesus =
Lord
168
Acts 2:36
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
3
Jesus =
Savior
10
2 Timothy 1:10
…the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
4
Jesus =
Messiah
1
John 4:25-26
The woman said to him, ”I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
5
Jesus =
Son of God
17
John 20:31
…but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
6
Jesus =
Son of Man
4
John 8:28
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me.”
7
Jesus =
Son of David
16
Luke 1:31-32
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David…”
8
Christ =
Lord
113
Acts 10:36
“You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)…”
9
Christ =
Savior
11
Luke 2:11
“…for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”
10
Christ =
Messiah
122
John 1:41
He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, ”We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).
11
Christ =
Son of God
11
John 6:69
“…And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
12
Christ =
Son of Man
1
Matthew 16:13-18
…he asked his disciples, ”Who do men say that the Son of man is?”… Simon Peter replied, ”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
13
Christ =
Son of David
4
Matthew 1:1
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
14
Christ =
High Priest
3
Hebrews 9:11
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come…
16
Lord =
Savior
7
Philippians 3:20
But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ…
17
Lord =
Son of God
2
1 Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
18
Son of God = Savior
1
1 John 4:14
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world.
19
Son of God = Son of Man
2
John 5:25-27
…the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God… For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
20
Son of God = High Priest
2
Hebrews 4:14
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
Total number of independent verse employed in construction: 370

We can also represent the information in Table 1 graphically (Figure 1). In all, 20 arguments are successfully established by scriptural proof, using 370 independent verses (a full listing of these verses is given in Appendix A).

Figure 1: Construction of the character of “Jesus” in the Bible using explicit, independent scriptural proofs. The numbered bars refer to the numbered arguments in Table 1.

We have therefore successfully demonstrated that even though we meet different titles for Jesus in the Bible; these multiple titles are focused on a single character: Jesus.

Constructing the scriptural character: ‘The Devil’
So now we will do exactly the same thing to see if we can build the scriptural character ‘the Devil.’ We compile the titles most commonly proposed to belong to the Devil: Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, Prince of Demons, Serpent, Demon, Fallen Angel and look for explicit, independent scriptural proofs to tie them together. The results are shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Valid scriptural proofs linking the titles of ‘the Devil’ together
No.
Argument
No. of Proofs
Example Proof
A1
Devil = Satan
2
Revelation 12:9
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
-
Devil = Beelzebub
0
No proof found: argument fails
-
Devil = Lucifer
0
No proof found: argument fails
-
Devil = Prince of Darkness
0
No proof found: argument fails
-
Devil = Prince of Demons
0
No proof found: argument fails
A2
Devil = Serpent
2
Revelation 20:2
And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years…
-
Devil = Demon
0
No proof found: argument fails
-
Devil = Fallen Angel
0
No proof found: argument fails
B1
Beelzebub = Prince of Demons
3
Matthew 12:24
But when the Pharisees heard it they said, ”It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
A1
A2
Serpent = Satan
2
Revelation 12:9 & 20:2 - both verses already employed in Table
Total number of independent verse employed in construction: 3

From the information in Table 2 we construct the graphical representation of the argument (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Construction of the character of “Devil” in the Bible using explicit, independent scriptural proofs. The numbered bars refer to the numbered arguments in Table 2.

Figure 2 reveals the result of attempting to construct the character of the Devil in scripture. The titles of the argument cannot in general be connected. Some of the proposed titles do not appear in the Bible at all: e.g. “Prince of Darkness” does not appear, and “Fallen Angel” does not appear, (although 2 Corinthians 11:14 connects the title Satan with the description “Angel of Light”); whilst others are extremely rare; e.g. “Beelzebub” is rare, “Prince of Demons” exists only once, and “Lucifer” exists only once in the Bible (Isaiah 14:12) – where it is clearly given as a name to the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4). In all only 2 arguments can be linked together and these only using quotes from Revelation – a book of dreams given to John as symbols for expounding the end times!

The case for a supernatural devil cannot be argued from scripture, therefore, as Figure 2 shows. To conclude the matter with some certainty, we can also add verses, using exactly the same stringent rules described above, where the Bible explicitly ties these titles to human beings. There are several such verses: here are just two examples:

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) (John 6:70-71)

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

Adding these two verses to the mix allows the remaining connected portions of Figure 2 to be represented as shown in Figure 3:

Figure 3: Completion of the construction of ‘The Devil’ in the Bible using explicit, independent scriptural proofs.

Conclusion
It is clear from a comparison of Figures 1 and 2 that the result is very different for the two studies. Figure 1 shows that multi-titled characters do exist in scripture: and Jesus is clearly one such. By contrast Figure 2 shows a lack of cohesion and Figure 3 shows the idea of assembling a supernatural character out of these titles collapses completely, as human characters – both successful and unsuccessful disciples! – are incorporated into what the Bible describes as ‘The Devil.’ Having said all of this, the main thrust of this article is not to demonstrated what the Bible does means when it refers to ‘The devil,’ or a demon, or Satan; it has merely demonstrated that these terms are not being used by the Bible to describe a single entity.


Appendix A: Arguments for the existence of “Jesus”
Notes:
i) Italicized references are duplicate references and cannot be counted as independent proofs
ii) Underlined references are parallel accounts of a single event, and cannot be counted as independent proofs
iii) A reference which should be excluded for both reasons will only appear marked as excluded under i).

Direct Arguments for the existence of “Jesus”
  1. Jesus = Christ (267 proofs)
    Matthew 1:1; 1:16; 1:18; 16:20; 26:63-64; 27:17; 27:22; Mark 1:1; 14:61-62; John 1:17; 17:3; 20:31;Acts 2:36; 2:38; 3:6; 3:20; 4:10; 5:42; 8:12; 9:34; 10:36; 11:17; 15:11; 15:26; 16:18; 16:31; 17:3; 18:5; 18:28; 19:4; 20:21; 28:31; Romans 1:1; 1:3; 1:6; 1:7; 1:8; 2:16; 3:22; 3:24; 5:1; 5:11; 5:15; 5:17; 5:21; 6:3; 6:11; 6:23; 7:25; 8:1; 8:2; 8:11; 8:39; 13:14; 15:5; 15:6; 15:8; 15:16; 15:17; 16:3; 16:18; 16:20; 16:24; 16:25; 16:27; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 1:2 x2; 1:3; 1:4; 1:7; 1:8; 1:9; 1:10; 1:30; 2:2; 3:11; 4:15; 5:4 x2; 8:6; 9:1; 15:31; 15:57; 16:22; 16:23; 16:24; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 1:2; 1:3; 1:19; 4:5; 4:6; 5:18; 8:9; 11:31; 13:5; 13:14; Galatians 1:1; 1:3; 1:12; 2:4; 2:16 x2; 3:1; 3:14; 3:22; 3:26; 3:28; 4:14; 5:6; 6:14; 6:15; 6:18; Ephesians 1:1x2; 1:2; 1:3; 1:5; 1:17; 2:6; 2:7; 2:10; 2:13; 2:20; 3:1; 3:9; 3:11; 3:14; 3:21; 5:20; 6:23; 6:24; Philippians 1:1 x2; 1:2; 1:6; 1:8; 1:11; 1:19; 1:26; 2:5; 2:11; 3:3; 3:8; 3:12; 3:14; 3:20; 4:7; 4:19; 4:21; 4:23; Colossians 1:1; 1:2; 1:3; 1:4; 1:28; 2:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1 x2; 1:3; 2:14; 2:19; 3:11; 3:13; 5:9; 5:18; 5:23; 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1:2; 1:8; 1:12 x2; 2:1; 2:14; 2:16; 3:6; 3:12; 3:18; 1 Timothy 1:1 x2; 1:2; 1:12; 1:14; 1:15; 1:16; 2:5; 3:13; 4:6; 5:21; 6:3; 6:13; 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:1 x2; 1:2; 1:9; 1:10; 1:13; 2:1; 2:3; 2:8; 2:10; 3:12; 3:15; 4:1; 4:22; Titus 1:1; 1:4; 2:13; 3:6; Philemon 1; 3; 6; 9; 23; 25; Hebrews 3:1; 10:10; 13:8; 13:21; James 1:1; 2:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 1:2; 1:3 x2; 1:7; 1:13; 2:5; 3:21; 4:11; 5:10; 5:14; 2 Peter 1:1 x2; 1:8; 1:11; 1:14; 1:16; 2:20; 3:18; 1 John 1:3; 1:7; 2:1; 2:22; 3:23; 4:2; 4:3; 5:1; 5:6; 5:20; 2 John 3; 7; Jude 1 x2; 4; 17; 21; Revelation 1:1; 1:2; 1:5; 1:9 x2; 12:17; 22:21
  2. Jesus = Lord (168 proofs)
    Matthew 9:28; 13:51; 17:4; 20:30; Mark 10:51; Luke 5:12; 7:6; 23:42; 24:3; John 8:11; 11:21; 11:32; 11:39; 13:36; 20:2; 21:12; 21:15; 21:17; 21:20; 21:21; Acts 1:21; 2:36; 4:33; 7:59; 8:16; 9:5; 9:17; 9:29; 10:36; 11:17; 11:20; 15:11; 15:26; 16:31; 19:5; 19:10; 19:13; 19:17; 20:21; 20:24; 20:35; 21:13; 22:8; 26:15; 28:31; Romans 1:3; 1:7; 4:24; 5:1; 5:11; 5:21; 6:11; 6:23; 7:25; 8:39; 10:9; 13:14; 14:14; 15:6; 15:30; 16:18; 16:20; 16:24; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1:3; 1:7; 1:8; 1:9; 1:10; 5:4 x2; 5:5; 6:11; 8:6; 9:1; 11:23; 12:3; 15:31; 15:57; 16:22; 16:23; 2 Corinthians 1:2; 1:3; 1:14; 4:5; 4:10; 4:14; 8:9; 11:31; 13:14; Galatians 1:3; 6:14; 6:17; 6:18; Ephesians 1:2; 1:3; 1:15; 1:17; 3:11; 3:14; 5:20; 6:23; 6:24; Philippians 1:2; 2:11; 2:19; 3:8; 3:20; 4:23; Colossians 1:2; 1:3; 2:6; 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:1 x2; 1:3; 2:15; 2:19; 3:11; 3:13; 4:1; 4:2; 5:9; 5:23; 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1:2; 1:7; 1:8; 1:12 x2; 2:1; 2:14; 2:16; 3:6; 3:12; 3:18; 1 Timothy 1:1; 1:2; 1:12; 5:21; 6:3; 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:2; 4:1; 4:22; Titus 1:4; Philemon 3, 5, 25; Hebrews 13:20; James 1:1; 2:1 x2; 1 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:2; 1:8; 1:11; 1:14; 1:16; 2:20; 3:18; 2 John 3; Jude 4; 17; 21; Revelation 22:20; 22:21
  3. Jesus = Saviour (10 proofs)
    Acts 13:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6; 2 Peter 1:1; 1:11; 2:20; 3:18
  4. Jesus = Messiah (1 proof)
    John 4:25-26
  5. Jesus = Son of God (17 proofs)
    Matthew 8:29; 26:63-64; 27:54; Mark 1:1; 5:7; Luke 8:28; John 9:35-37; 20:31; Acts 3:13; 3:26; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Hebrews 4:14; 1 John 4:15; 5:5; 5:20; 2 John 3
  6. Jesus = Son of Man (4 proofs)
    Matthew 16:13; Luke 22:48; John 6:53-54; 8:28
  7. Jesus = Son of David (17 proofs)
    Matthew 1:1; 1:6-16; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 20:31; 21:9; 21:15; 22:42; Mark 10:47; 10:48; Luke 1:31-32; 3:23-31; 18:38; 18:39; Romans 1:3
  8. Jesus = High Priest (6 proofs)
    Hebrews 2:9-17; 3:1; 4:14; 6:20; 7:14-17; 7:22-26

Summary of direct arguments: 8 upheld; 0 failed

Supporting Arguments for the existence of “Jesus”
  1. Christ = Lord (113 proofs)
    Luke 2:11; John 11:27; Acts 2:36; 10:36; 11:17; 15:11; 15:26; 16:31; 20:21; 28:31; Romans 1:3; 1:7; 5:1; 5:11; 5:21; 6:11; 6:23; 7:25; 8:39; 13:14; 14:9; 15:6; 16:18; 16:20; 16:24; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1:3; 1:7; 1:8; 1:9; 1:10; 5:4 x2; 8:6; 9:1; 15:31; 15:57; 16:22; 16:23; 2 Corinthians 1:2; 1:3; 4:5; 8:9; 11:31; 13:14; Galatians 1:3; 6:14; 6:18; Ephesians 1:2; 1:3; 1:17; 3:11; 3:14; 5:20; 6:23; 6:24; Philippians 1:2; 2:11; 3:8; 3:20; 4:23; Colossians 1:2; 1:3; 2:6; 3:24; 1 Thessalonians 1:1 x2; 1:3; 2:19; 3:11; 3:13; 5:9; 5:23; 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1:2; 1:8; 1:12 x2; 2:1; 2:14; 2:16; 3:6; 3:12; 3:18; 1 Timothy 1:1; 1:2; 1:12; 1:14; 5:21; 6:3; 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:2; 4:1; 4:22; Titus 1:4; Philemon 3; 25; James 1:1; 2:1; 1 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:8; 1:11; 1:14; 1:16; 2:20; 3:18; 2 John 3; Jude 4; 17; 21; Revelation 22:21
  2. Christ = Saviour: (11 proofs)
    Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6; 2 Peter 1:1; 1:11; 2:20; 3:18
  3. Christ = Messiah (2 proofs)
    John 1:41; 4:25
  4. Christ = Son of God (11 proofs)
    Matthew 16:16; 26:63; Mark 1:1; Luke 4:41; John 6:69; 11:27; 20:31; Acts 9:20; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 John 5:20
  5. Christ = Son of Man (1 proof)
    Matthew 16:13-18
  6. Christ = Son of David (4 proofs)
    Matthew 1:1; 22:42; Mark 12:35; Romans 1:3
  7. Christ = High Priest (3 proofs)
    Hebrews 3:1; 5:5; 9:11
  8. Lord = Saviour (7 proofs)
    Luke 2:11; Philippians 3:20; Titus 1:4; 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:2; 3:18
  9. Lord = Son of God (2 proofs)
    Romans 1:3; 1 Corinthians 1:9
  10. Son of God = Saviour (1 proof)
    1 John 4:14
  11. Son of God = Son of Man (2 proofs)
    Matthew 16:13-18; John 5:25-27
  12. Son of God = High Priest (2 proofs)
    Hebrews 4:14; 5:5
Total number of independent arguments: 20
(8 direct arguments + 12 supporting connected arguments)
Total number of proofs employed: 649
Total number of independent proofs employed: 370


Appendix B: Arguments for the existence of “Devil”
Notes:
i) Italicized references are duplicate references and cannot be counted as independent proofs
ii) Underlined references are parallel accounts of a single event, and cannot be counted as independent proofs
iii) A reference which should be excluded for both reasons will only appear marked as excluded under i).

Direct Arguments for the existence of “Devil”

  1. Devil = Satan (2 proofs)
    Revelation 12:9; 20:2
  2. Devil = Beelzebub (no proofs – argument fails)
  3. Devil = Lucifer (no proofs – argument fails)
  4. Devil = Prince of Darkness (no proofs – argument fails)
  5. Devil = Prince of Demons (no proofs – argument fails)
  6. Devil = Serpent (2 proofs)
    Revelation 12:9; 20:2
  7. Devil = Demon (no proofs – argument fails)
  8. Devil = Fallen Angel (no proofs – argument fails)

Summary of direct arguments: 2 upheld; 6 failed

Supporting Arguments for the existence of “Devil”
  1. Satan = Serpent (2 proofs)
    Revelation 12:9; 20:2
  2. Beelzebub = Prince of Demons (3 proofs)
    Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15
Total number of independent arguments: 2 + 1
(2 direct arguments (6 direct arguments failed))
Total number of proofs employed: 9
Total number of independent proofs employed: 2 + 1


SOME RESPONSES YOU MAY HAVE TO THE ABOVE ARTICLE

This analysis doesn’t include the fact that Jesus is also God.
 

So if man is the devil what consequences does this have on the world God has made?

What about the mention of Satan in the book of Job?
 

This doesn’t address demons. Aren’t they connected with the devil too?

If man is the devil, how are we ever to overcome our own nature?