Is Satan really there?

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus briefly refers to Peter as "Satan". A sharp word. Talking about Satan and the devil raises questions. What is it and is there a difference between the two?

If you first look at the linguistic background of the occurrence of the devil and Satan in the Bible, there is an essential difference, which biblical scholar Gunter Fleischer points out:
"Devil comes from the Greek 'diabolos', which translates as: 'the muddler'. But first of all, Satan is quite neutral 'the adversary'." And the linguistic background is still known today, namely the prosecutor developed from it. "That's the prosecutor," says Gunter Fleischer.

They mess up and accuse

Now, "confounders" and "accusers" do not look exactly evil, but with Satan it quickly becomes clear that the biblical texts are about someone who accuses for base motives and appears as an opponent of God.

And that's basically the second in the league: the devil. He wants to confuse and thus lead away from the right path. The best example is the serpent in paradise, which is an image for the devil. It appears right at the beginning of the Bible, in the first chapters of the book of Genesis. It wants to tear people out of their intimate closeness to God by twisting the truth and thus tempting them to commit evil deeds.

These are pictures. But ultimately the talk of the devil and Satan describes an experience that people have had at all times: when stimulated by certain influences, people can tend to evil and even become deeply entangled in it. Gunter Fleischer puts it this way: "There are powers of evil who express themselves in the fact that people are doing something terrible that they may not even want to do inside themselves. Then it is often impossible to understand why." And the biblical scholar adds, following the Christian tradition: "There is obviously a power of evil."

Biblical images describe the mysterious power of evil

This power is taken seriously in the Christian faith simply because Jesus himself calls it by name and openly fights it. Often in the Bible it is reported how Jesus met people who do not seem to have a grip on themselves, who talk about confused things or are tossed to and fro, as if controlled by a ghostly hand. Such phenomena also exist today, believes Gunter Fleischer, referring to the example of an epileptic, "who has a seizure and cannot control it. He simply experiences himself to be externally controlled. There are forces that influence life can tie a person and ruin life. " In the Bible there are repeated stories that Jesus met such people and then freed them from these constraints. For those around Jesus, the ability to free people from calamity was a proof of the power of God.

Jesus of Nazareth put an end to the game - and caused a stir

With all this, however, the talk of the devil and Satan seems to raise more questions than to solve them; such as where evil comes from, if God created the world well. There is the myth of the fallen angel, according to which the devil was initially a being created well by God, but who chose evil through the gift of freedom. A background to this is the quote from Jesus that is handed down in the Bible: "I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning" (Luke 10:18). Here it becomes clear: With the arrival of Jesus into the world, evil no longer has any final power. Yet the question of evil remains a mystery. This is why the Church has always remained cautious in defining evil in its history, as the biblical scholar Fleischer points out:

"There is not a single magisterial description of what one has to imagine in concrete terms. However, it is clear that there are opposing divine powers, whatever their origin. Biblically, one can summarize about these powers: They are always less than God and with Jesus the power of evil came to an end. "