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Question Box








Unless otherwise denoted, all Scripture references are to the

New International Version (NIV; British text)


Question: Does the Bible teach that Satan is a personal being, or only the evil principle?


Answer: Many have rejected the thought that Satan is a personal being, instead believing that he personifies ‘the evil principle.’

This may result from their serious reservations as to the often comic creedal portrayal of Satan, which they suppose to be based on the Bible, and consequently many reject the Scriptures without further examination of the subject. But what does the Bible actually tell us about Satan?


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Zechariah 3: 1, 2: Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”


The angel of the Lord, contending against Satan and calling upon God to rebuke him as Satan resisted the high priest, gives the clear impression that Satan is a personal being.


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Matthew 12: 24-26: But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?”


Jesus stating that Satan’s adopting policies contrary to his usual procedures to uphold his weakening cause, convincingly supports the idea that Satan is an individual.


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John 8: 44: You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.


Jesus here indicates that Satan was once in the Truth, but that he later foisted his falsehoods on the human family and in fact murdered them by his introduction of sin into the world. If Satan were the evil principle, how could he ever have been in the Truth?


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2 Corinthians 2: 10, 11: . . . I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.


Scheming implies thinking and planning, and therefore personality. An evil principle cannot think, plan, and scheme.


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2 Corinthians 11: 14: And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.


Satan’s deceptively passing himself off as an angel of light suggests a sense of morality, thought and reasoning, which again implies personality.


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1 Peter 5: 8, 9: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.


His walking about as a roaring lion, seeking Christians as his prey, and the necessity for them to take countermeasures are evidences that Satan is a personality.


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Jude 9: But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”


Michael’s contending with Satan over the body of Moses, perhaps because Satan sought to use it as an object of worship in Israel, is proof of Satan’s reality, and not merely the abstract evil principle.


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