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When did the serpent become Satan?

Postby The Thinker » Sun Feb 22, 2015 3:37 pm

When did the serpent become Satan? In Genesis there is no labelling of the serpent as Satan. It is only referenced as a talking snake whose punishment spread to all its 'kind'. It is only much later that the snake is Satan. I was wondering when this theological shift happened.
The Thinker

Re: When did the serpent become Satan?

Postby jimwalton » Fri Mar 06, 2015 1:24 pm

Genesis 3 doesn't refer explicitly to Satan. The Hebrew words for "serpent" and "bronze" (or "shining") are almost identical: nahash and nehoset, respectively. Serpents in the ancient world were associated with deities, wisdom, and immortality, so there is every reason not to think that this is a "talking snake," but a bright upright spiritual being of some kind. It's a clever literary word play. Since he/it is a spiritual being, that's most likely why he/it speaks to Eve about spiritual things and why she is so easily convinced.

The Old Testament never makes any connection between the serpent and Satan, and no one in the OT would have understood the serpent as such.

In the NT, however, the serpent in the garden is directly identified as Satan in Rev. 12.9. When did this shift happen? Presumably with the writing of Revelation, though there are many places in the NT where Satan is identified as a liar, an adversary, and a deceiver, consistent with what happened in Genesis 3.

As far as the "punishment spread to all its 'kind'," the Bible never teaches that Satan had any children. The curse of Gn. 3.15 probably refers to the people on earth who will also rebel against God, or possibly evil spirits (the former is a more likely interpretation).

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