CTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd”>When did God create the devil?

Each year, at the beginning of the Sunday of Lent, we hear the Gospel reading about Jesus being tempted by the devil. Where did the devil come from? When did God create the devil, because when the book of Genesis talks about the creation of heaven and earth, there is no mention of the devil?

Before going directly to the questions just raised, it is ideal to note the word and form of the devil. We carry in our heads many pictures of the devil as an unlucky, winged beast with a tail, sticking out a red tongue, disgusting! But in Vietnamese, perhaps the devil is not so ugly and fierce. If I’m not mistaken “ghost” just means the spirit of the dead (the zombie). From there we go to the funeral. As for the word “demon” perhaps just refers to a quick, sly character; it has a bad connotation when accompanied by “devious” (devious). Anyway, perhaps the ancients weren’t so afraid of ghosts. They just naughty messing around, not harming anyone: “First ghost, second ghost, third student”. It’s about words in Vietnamese, and I’ll admit I’m not very good at it. Now onto the biblical wording. In Old Testament Hebrew, Satan only means “accuser”, “adversary” (in a political or military sense). When translated into Greek, the word Satan is translated as diabolos, which means hostile, accuser, or seducer. We should note that in the Bible, Satan does not always mean evil. As we just said, Satan only means accuser or adversary. In the classical texts of the Old Testament, Satan is not an opponent of God but only an opponent of man. It can even be said that he played the role of a secret police, going to spy on people’s jobs to report to God as we read in the book of Job (chapter 1, verse 6). -12; chapter 3 verse 17), or the book of Dakaria (chapters 3, verses 1-3).

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Demons go by the name of Luxipher too, right?

We must make a distinction: Luxipher is a biblical name, but it does not refer to the devil. In Latin, Lucipher means “light-bearer,” and is used to translate “Morning Star” as applied to the king of Babylon, based on the book of Isaiah (chapter 14 verse 12). Later, the Church Fathers applied to the demon sign, when explaining its fall, it was because he saw himself as bright (Lucifer: carrying light) so he became proud.

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Now, let’s get straight to the question: When did God create Satan?

Sorry, I can’t answer right away, because I need to add more about the wording issue. With that said, Satan itself simply means “opponent”. In the classical writings of the Old Testament, Satan simply means the adversary of man. In the last centuries of the Old Testament and into the New, Satan referred to the opponent of God, and as such had a bad connotation. He tempts people to sin, against God. Satan became the symbol of Evil. And Christ came to confront it, smashing its evil influences, especially sin and death. Through the Cross and Resurrection, Christ freed people from sin and death, that is, broke the power of Satan. Thus, when we want to understand the origin of Satan, it is necessary to determine: in what sense do we understand Satan? Understood in the sense of the opponent of man, or in the sense of the opponent of God as well?

If Satan is understood only in the sense of an opponent of man, when was he created?

We should know that the Bible is not an encyclopedia in which we can rummage through and find all the details concerning everything in heaven and on earth. The Bible can be compared to a love story, the love between God and humanity. The heart of the Bible is that love; and other things are ignored. Therefore, anyone who is curious to flip through the Bible to find out when God set up Mars, and if there are any living things on it, will waste their time.

From that premise, we must confess that it is impossible to know when Satan was created, just as we do not know when the angels were created. Anyway, we should not forget that the Old Testament writers had a slightly different conception of God than we do today. In ancient times, anything, whether good or bad, was done by God: wars, diseases, epidemics, all were sent by God to punish people. So it is not surprising that even Satan is sent by God to test people, to see how loyal they are to God.

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And if Satan is understood in the sense of being an opponent of God himself, when was he created?

This question is both easy and difficult to answer. It is easy to answer in the sense that it is impossible for God to set up an opponent for himself. God is absolute Good. God could not create Evil. What if God is good and creates evil? It’s like self-destruction. But here we find the answer difficult. If Satan was not created by God, who created it? Theological history has recorded three different answers.

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1/ The first answer of the dualism. Duality means two origins. From time immemorial, there have been two opposing principles of Good and Evil. We call God the origin of Good; and Satan is the origin of Evil. Those two origins are the clue of all Good and Evil in this world. We humans are victims of the conflict between those two forces, and as the proverb says: “buffaloes butts each other, flies and mosquitoes die”. Dualism began in Persia, and influenced the Manichean theories of the Fathers, the Albigensianism of the Middle Ages.

2/ The second answer denies the existence of the Devil. According to them, the devil is just a symbol of evil. Evil is not an existing entity, but it resides in the very heart of man. It is man who commits sin, and is the focal point of all evil in this world: exploitation, hatred, war, etc. People need to take responsibility for themselves, not blame the devil, because there is no devil. Admittedly, this theory has its fair share, and exegetes have difficulty dealing with certain passages of Scripture. A specific example is the book of Job. Today exegetes class it as a book of Wisdom, not a history book. In other words, Job is not a historical figure, but a typical figure reflecting on the origin of suffering in this world. The work does not belong to historical literature, so the role of Satan appearing in the first chapters of the book is only a literary character.

3/ The third doctrine holds that God did not create the devil. God only created good angels. But due to the fall, the angels became demons. This is the teaching of the Church, established at the IV Lateran council (1215), against the dualism of the Albigensians. The council went no further. However, theologians as well as the people were curious, wanting to know more about what crimes the angels had committed. In the time of the Fathers of the Church, there were people who thought they committed adultery, as if this was the most terrible sin in the world. From the fourth century on, however, the Fathers of the Church unanimously agreed that they were guilty of pride. But how arrogant? At this point, theologians have given many opinions. Some people think that Lucifer saw himself as too bright, so he became arrogant, refused to submit to God, and drew some colleagues to follow him. I told you earlier that the name Lucifer was used in the Old Testament to refer to the king of Babylon, not to any demonic general. Another idea is that when God offered to let the Second Person come to earth as a human, some angels protested, because that way they had to worship a human, of a lower rank than themselves.

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In fact, as you can probably guess, it’s all hypothetical, not based on any evidence, and the Church has made no statement about it either. I think, there is one thing worth thinking about more, that is: why can angels fall to sin? We humans sin because we are ignorant and ignorant, we do not know where the right path is, so we do wrong. And the angels are intelligent and wise, knowing well what is the truth and what is true happiness, but still being able to commit a crime is really strange! Anyway, this is a whole mystery of freedom, which God wanted to respect. He respects the free will of angels, just as He respects the free will of man, including the freedom to reject the One who made him.

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In short, God did not create demons, but He only created angels, and because of sin, they became devils. But we cannot know when God created angels. On the other hand, let us not place all the blame on the devil; Don’t blame the devil for the evil deeds we have done. Not a hundred crimes in the devil. Sin is rooted in our selfish hearts.