“Devil” is one of those words, which no one has bothered translating ever since Bible translations have existed. One of those words, which have been victims to the traditions of the religious organizations and whose original meaning no one even remembers.
When we say “devil” we know full well what or who we are referring to. We are speaking of the enemy, the father of lies, the dragon, the old serpent. We know as well what the Bible says about him, his demons, his purpose, and the thread that he poses to the salvation of the world. He is the one that battles day and night without rest against all that is good to try and deceive even the assembly of the living god. But did you know that the word is not a proper noun, a name, but in fact a substantivized adjective with its own meaning?
In the language of the new contract (known as the new testament), ancient Greek (koine), the original word for “devil” is διάβολος [diabolos]. For example, in Luke 4:3,4
And the devil said unto him, “If you are the son of the god, command this stone that it be made bread.” And Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of the god.”
Καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ διάβολος, Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰπὲ τῷ λίθῳ τούτῳ ἵνα γένηται ἄρτος. Καὶ ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς πρὸς αὐτὸν, λέγων, Γέγραπται, Ὅτι οὐκ ἐπ᾽ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι θεοῦ.
As we can see the original word is very similar to the English one (being taken from the Latin diabolus), since instead of being translated, it has been transliterated. Which isn’t something that should be done for a non-in any self-respecting translation of any type, as doing so voids it of actual meaning. If we open the Ancient Greek to English dictionary and search for διάβολος we see the following translations: slanderous, backbiting; subst.: slanderer. We can also take a look at other words with the same root such as διαβολή – false accusation, slander.
Aside from the fact that devil is not a proper noun, we can also observe in the new contract the use of διάβολος to describe people. Out of the 36 occurrences of the word in the new contract, there are four cases in which the author does not refer to the enemy:
The first one is in 1Timothy 3:11 where Paul speaks about women’s behavior:
Even so the women [be] grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
Γυναῖκας ὡσαύτως σεμνὰς, μὴ διαβόλους, νηφαλέους, πιστὰς ἐν πᾶσι.
It is the exact same word, except in feminine plural. And if the translators deemed necessary translate it as “slanderers”, it is unfair to only do so here and not in the whole Bible. If not, then the text should read, “… women be grave, not devils, sober…” And if you think that’s silly (which it is), then we must translate properly.
Let’s continue with 2Timothy 3:3
… without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
… ἄστοργοι, ἄσπονδοι, διάβολοι, ἀκρατεῖς, ἀνήμεροι, ἀφιλάγαθοι,
Here the context are the end times and all the evil in the hearts of humans.
Another similar case in Titus 2:3
The elder women, likewise, that [they be] in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things…
Πρεσβύτιδας ὡσαύτως ἐν καταστήματι ἱεροπρεπεῖς, μὴ διαβόλους, μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ δεδουλωμένας, καλοδιδασκάλους…
And lastly there is a text in John 6:70 where Jesus speaks to Judas right after the twelve declared their desire and need to stay with him.
Jesus answered them, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a slanderer?”
Ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐκ ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς τοὺς δώδεκα ἐξελεξάμην, καὶ ἐξ ὑμῶν εἷς διάβολός ἐστιν;
Although most of the Bible version in English say, “one of you is a devil”, the original clearly uses the same word as with the elder women and the evil men in the end times. And that’s when the text starts making a lot more sense, as it doesn’t make much sense for Jesus to call Judas “a devil”.
One could ask why is that important? Does it matter if the text reads devil or slanderer? Yes, it does matter. I believe that it is vital for the spiritual understanding since that is his nature. If the Bible uses this specific word to refer to the slanderer so many times, there is a reason for it. This is how the god describes the most defining feature of the enemy and thus helps us in being vigilant and escaping his traps. He isn’t simple the “devil”, an evil being, but undefined. No. he is the slanderer, the one who makes false accusations, who twists the truth and presents it in a way that serves his needs. This is, in fact, his primary mode of operation and is how the sin entered into the world – with a series of false accusations against the god. Let us read.
Mas la serpiente era astuta, más que todos los animales del campo que el señor el dios había hecho. Y dijo a la mujer: «¿ConqNow the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the lord the god had made. And he said to the woman, “Yes, has the god said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the middle of the garden, the god has said, ‘You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” And the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die. For the god knows that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”ue el dios os ha dicho: “No comáis de todo árbol del huerto”?» Y la mujer respondió á la serpiente: «Del fruto de los árboles del huerto comemos, mas del fruto del árbol que está en medio del huerto dijo el dios: No comeréis de él, ni le tocaréis, para que no muráis». Entonces la serpiente dijo a la mujer: «No moriréis, mas sabe el dios que el día que comiereis de él, serán abiertos vuestros ojos, y seréis como dioses sabiendo el bien y el mal».
1. Is it true that the god has forbidden you from eating from any of the trees in the garden? Knowing this to be a lie, he accuses the lord of prohibiting Adam and Eve from eating any of the fruits in the garden. He is setting up the playing field for the next lie, planting seeds.
2. No, no, this is a lie, the god has forbidden it not for your sake, but because he fears that you will become like him. The second false accusation of the slanderer is that the god has forbidden them to eat from the tree not for their own good, but because he is selfish and wants to keep for himself the knowledge of good and evil and doesn’t want Adam and Eve to also become gods like him. Of course, it is a lie, but that is how it is presented.
And this is what manages to deceive Adam and Eve and consequently bring sin into the world – the false accusations of the slanderer. And this is what he has always done and continues doing even today. These false accusations can be directly against the god, against other people, or even against ourselves. If one is not ready to face them, one can fall gravely, which is why the importance of knowing that he is not named “the devil”, but rather is “the slanderer”, is so great – so that we may take the necessary precautions to keep our hearts in the truth.