I am working on a paper for one my classes and I routinely run into the question of whether or not jewish individuals believe in view Satan in the same way Christians do. More specifically, are the Serpent, Lucifer, and Ha-Satan the same Satan as seen in Christianity. Several questions have addressed these individually but I have yet to find a comprehensive answer on this.

Also, if anyone could indicate a book going over this issue in greater depth, please let me know the title and author of the book.

Many of the comments in this forum have asked for clarification regarding terms so I will elaborate on the terms I am using to make sure we are using the same vocabulary.

I have been told that jewish and christian individuals have fundamentally different conceptions of Satan. These views change depending upon whom one is talking to. Some college professors, religious and non-religious have different views. Some rabbis differ with other rabbis. I am looking for the answer that 51% of Jewish individuals will agree with.

When describing Lucifer, Lucifer was referenced in the Nevi'im specifically in the Prophet Isaiah. Depending upon which jewish person one talks to this could refer to one of three different being: Satan (as the christains understand him), the king of Babylon, or HaSatan. Some individuals say this refers to the King of Babylon only. The word Lucifer appeared as a mistranslation and/or a christian reinterpretation of the text. These views are not mutually exclusive. Some individuals say that this text explicitly refers to the King of Babylon but is also a metaphor for Lucifer.

Which is the correct interpretation? Who is Lucifer?

In regards to the serpet, the serpet was referenced in the Torah, specifically in Genesis. Depending upon which jewish person you talk to this could refer to: a talking snake, HaSatan, or Satan (as Christians understand him). I had a professor who studied in Israel. This professor insisted that the serpent was a talking snake and nothing more. The serpent was no HaSatan, and the serpent was not Satan. There are others who argue that the serpent is HaSatan. In this context, the serpent is an accuser. This may or may not be the same accuser spoken of in Job. Some professor says that there are multiple Ha-Satans, whereas other suggest that there is only one accuser, that being Satan as the Christians understand him.

Which interpretation is correct? Who is the serpent?

  • 5
    Where is Lucifer referenced in Isaiah?
    – Double AA
    Jul 1, 2015 at 18:04
  • 1
    partial dupe judaism.stackexchange.com/q/9243/759
    – Double AA
    Jul 1, 2015 at 18:05
  • What is the difference between HaSatan and Satan?
    – Daniel
    Jul 1, 2015 at 18:21
  • There is a source in Talmud that states that the Yetzer Hara (various translations, but generally the Evil Inclination), Satan, and the Angel of Death are identical - The Y"H incites you to sin, the Satan prosecutes in the Heavenly court, and the Angel of Death executes the judgement. The idea of a theological opposite to God a la Lucifer is anethmatic to Judaism. Jul 1, 2015 at 18:39
  • @Daniel Sounds like "Satan" is the Christian interpretation, while "HaSatan" is the Jewish one.
    – Scimonster
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


i will answer you without citing very many sources, because to try and cite them, and then try to put them in context, and compare them to other sources, would be a dissertation and may be information overload.

So let's start with some of the simpler things that do not get involved with theology:

First, Lucifer is never mentioned in the Bible, in the Hebrew scriptures, nor in the Greek New Testament. Lucifer is the latin translation for "shining one" in Isaiah 14:12, which is why in spanish or other latin languages you see the word for light as luz, or having a similar sound to it. So if you were to travel back in time to meet any prophets, they would look at you like a crazy person for using the word Lucifer, as the word didn't exist until the latin Vulgate. And once the latin Vulgate had established Lucifer as the name of "satan," tradition carried it forward to most Christian English translations of the Bible.

Second: Satan is actually a normal Hebrew word, it can be used as a verb, or an adjective, or a noun, and is often used in many more contexts/scriptures than you realize. The Angel that opposes Bilaam and his donkey is actually described as a satan, because satan means to stand in opposition to, or to accuse. As far as i know, throughout the entire Hebrew Bible, it is never once used as a name. In the book of Job, many English translations say that "Satan was in heaven." But that ignores the obvious Hebrew wording for the sake of Christian tradition again, the phrasing is actually "THE Satan." The accuser/adversary. So as far as the book of Job is concerned, there was indeed a designated Angel who's job it was to accuse or oppose. Think of it like "the prosecutor." So you can find a normal angel who stands in opposition of someone using the verb/adjective of satan, or you can find references to THE satan, as a noun (though not a proper name).

Now for the theology parts:

You can find lots of examples within the centuries of Judaism that fit all the opinions and questions you are asking for. Some Rabbis will say it was The Satan in the garden, others would be horrified to hear such an idea. The main difference between Christianity and Judaism is that Christianity focuses on theology/dogma (correct belief) whereas Judaism focuses on orthopraxy (correct actions). No one is going to be upset at you for holding x belief of satan over y, but if you don't keep kosher the right way, that is an issue needing to be discussed.

So in Judaism who is the serpent? Some say it is the selfish animal nature of humanity, some say it's Satan, some say it was actually just a serpent. Some say it's all allegory for the sake of teaching a lesson. Judaism is about asking lots of questions, whose answers can bring insight and meaning to different people at different times. We aren't concerned with the right belief, because if the right beliefs were going to get us to the world to come, then the Bible would be a very different book. The Bible is full of examples of how to be righteous, it is NOT a book telling you the right things to believe.

  • 2
    You had me until the final two paragraphs, where I totally disagree with your evaluation that "Judaism focuses on orthopraxy" and that "we aren't concerned with the right belief." There is room in Judaism for a wide range of beliefs on many issues, but you have essentially reduced Jewish belief to something infinitely flexible and of minor significance at best. So instead of +1, I'm going with -1.
    – Fred
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:05
  • @Fred i would argue that before the middle ages, when Judaism was responding to Christianity, Islam, and Karaism, there was almost infinite flexibility. The only Talmudic dictum of beliefs is this: "These are (the men) who are excluded from the life to come: He who says there is no resurrection from death; he who says there is no Torah given from heaven, and the Epikurus." And as for why i make the argument that Judaism was originally almost infinitely felixble?
    – Aaron
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:18
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    @Fred Because you can have opinions like this that didn't cause excommunication: "Rabbi Hillel said: There is no messiah for Israel for he was consumed in the time of Chizkyahu." (Sanhedrin 99a) Believing in a future coming Messiah is most certainly a necessary belief of Judaism right? The answer might now be yes, but that's a recent yes in comparison to our history. To me, reducing the flexibility of beliefs is making Judaism less authentic, more Christian and Islam-like, and i have sources for which to rely.
    – Aaron
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:22
  • This is a topic that can be (and has been) discussed ad nauseam, so I'll just reiterate that the characterization of traditional Jewish belief in your answer is fundamentally incorrect. You yourself partially concede this in your comments about the necessary belief in Torah from Heaven and the resurrection of the dead, though there are plenty of definitive Talmudic statements that explain the more expansive parameters of heretical belief (e.g. Y'rushalmi B'rachos 5:3).
    – Fred
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:37
  • @Fred Could you provide the quote? Because i'm having a hard time finding a text for Yerushalmi Berakhoth 5:3 that fits contextually with non halachic beliefs. Possibly an order thing.
    – Aaron
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:46

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