Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Satan in Mark

This is probably not very significant. But I noticed this afternoon that Mark refers to the devil as "Satan" (or "the satan" [ὁ Σατανᾶς; ho Satanas]) six times (1.13; 3.23 [2x]; 3.26; 4.15; 8.33), which is almost half of the uses found in the four gospels (fourteen). In contrast, ὁ διάβολος [ho diabolos; "the devil"] is also used fourteen times in the gospels, but not at all in Mark. Unless we understand "Beelzebul" as another name for the devil, it looks like Mark only refers to him as ὁ Σατανᾶς.

In light of the frequently noted Aramaicisms in Mark—Semitic terms the evangelist explains/interprets for the benefit of his audience—I think it's interesting that nowhere in Mark does the evangelist interpret Σατανᾶς, a transliteration of שׂטן [śāṭān]. I'm not sure what to make of this lack, if indeed we should make anything of it at all. It may simply be that Σατανᾶς was the standard way in Markan circles for referring to God's chief adversary and so didn't need any interpretation. But if we can take the mixed use in the other gospels of both Σατανᾶς and διάβολος as evidence that, at least in other spheres, there was some need to explain who Σατανᾶς was, it may be somewhat surprising that Mark doesn't ever clarify ὁ Σατανᾶς with a phrase like, ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον· ὁ διάβολος [. . . Satan, "which is translated, 'the devil'"].

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