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It is well known that in many cases in the Old Testament that whenever Satan is described, it is accompanied by a definite article rendering it as ‘Ha-Satan’ (The Satan).

(This question will not go into the connotations of what this means about the view of Satan in the OT as there are many questions on this already).

However, watching the bible project podcast (see 20:00-22:40) OT scholar Tim Mackie asserts that the actual Greek of the New Testament follows this same tradition of rendering Satan with a definite article, making it The Satan.

Yet in our translations, we only ever see ‘Satan’ as a Proper Name and never a title. I tried to research if this did happen in translation, but information is very scarce.

So, does the original Greek of the NT render Satan as “The Satan”?

Or did it originally render it this way and do our translations of the Greek text word Satan differently?

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    Young's Concordance lists 35 instances of the original word Σατανᾶς - Strong 4567. I have checked a few and the few I have looked at all have the Greek article preceding. I assume the article merely follows the normal grammatical usage depending on whether it is a title/name (John 13:27) or a description (of a disciple, Luke 4:8). I assume the renderings may be anarthrous or arthrous, in regard to conceptual context, as all nouns may be.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 24, 2022 at 12:57
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    You need to learn basics of Greek. All names often comes with article, including God, Jesus, Satan. In English there is no such thing as The God, The Satan. I suggest you to ignore misguided preachings and rumours. Start with John Dobson's self learning Greek book.
    – Michael16
    Oct 24, 2022 at 13:13
  • And Peter, Paul, etc. Languages work differently, and so not all definite articles should be transferred to English.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 25, 2022 at 2:28
  • Note : There is one 'article' in Greek. It should not be termed 'definite'. The English 'definite article' does not behave in the same way as the Greek 'article'.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 25, 2022 at 8:33

2 Answers 2

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In addition to Dottard's excellent response regarding the Greek articles, I would point out a few related details from the original Hebrew.

In Hebrew, the article has a grammatical function which converts an otherwise common noun into a proper noun. This is unlike English. In English, if I say "the tree is tall," "tree" is still a common noun. But every Hebrew word prefixed by a definite article is grammatically proper, and made so by the article.

Names in Hebrew do not have articles before them (unlike Greek) because names are already proper.

There are three things that will make a Hebrew word proper (or, more precisely, definite).

  1. It is a name.
  2. It has a definite article.
  3. It has a pronominal suffix.

Any one of these three, or any combination of them, will cause a Hebrew word to become proper. In Hebrew, this has more than just an impact on how "titled" the noun may be. In fact, it has nothing to do with respect at all. It is purely grammatical.

For example, in Hebrew, "the light day" would combine a proper noun "the light" with a common noun "day", thus forming a sentence due to the inequality of the two nouns' "definiteness." The translation would be "the light is day." But if the two juxtaposed nouns are either both common or both proper, and have the same definiteness, they form a Hebrew "construct chain," which means they have a prepositional (e.g. belonging) relationship. So "light day" would be translated as "the light of day."

In the Old Testament, Satan is prefixed by "the" because the word is not a name, and it is made proper, and more specific to "THE" adversary, by the addition of the article. The word "Adam" may help illustrate this, because, without the article, it would generally be translated as "man", yet with the article, which makes it proper, it becomes "Adam." So when we say "the adversary" in Hebrew, the article is what causes it to become a name, i.e. "Satan." (Keep in mind that an article may also be necessary to distinguish between a construct chain and an implied statement of being necessitating the use of "to be" in the translation. However, "Satan" seems not to appear in these forms in the Old Testament.)

Greek articles serve a different function than do Hebrew articles. In Greek, many texts will use the article before Satan, but not all of them do. Greek articles are far more complex than in English, and a definite article in Greek is sometimes properly translated as "the" or as "a/an" or not even translated at all into English.

Essentially, unless one understands Greek grammar well, it would be advisable to be cautious about making unwarranted conclusions from its existence in a particular text. It is not equivalent to English.

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  • thanks for the answer. i don’t know greek myself hence the question, but it’s weird that Tim Mackie makes such an assertion as he is usually a super smart guy and knows Greek & Hebrew very well. I guess I should start learning the language myself!
    – ellied
    Oct 25, 2022 at 0:49
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    Hebrew is one of the most complex languages in the world. (Greek is more easily explained.) I've taken about two years' worth of classes in Hebrew, yet I would consider myself as far from being an expert. Even my Hebrew professors would sometimes vacillate on a particular point of interpretation and have to think and analyze a bit before answering as to how they understood it. Hebrew is, after all, a human language, and like any other language, there are shades of meaning and ambiguities which even a native speaker might be hard-pressed to understand or explain.
    – Biblasia
    Oct 25, 2022 at 1:06
  • Thanks for these extra remarks - very helpful. +1.
    – Dottard
    Oct 25, 2022 at 2:40
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First, the rules governing the definite article are quite different in Greek and English. For example, English never has a definite article before a proper name: In English we would never say, "I gave a dress to the Susan".

Yet, in Greek this is commonly the case. That is, quite often, proper names have the definite article. The proper name "Jesus" most often has a definite article. Most other proper names follow a similar pattern.

In the Greek NT, the word Σατανᾶς (Satanas) occurs 36 times, 27 have the definite article, which is not surprising - it follows the rules of Greek grammar which requires the article and English does not.

Here is an example to illustrate the point with my literal translation:

  • Matt 3:13 - Then comes the Jesus from the Galilee to the Jordan unto the John to be baptized by the him.

Note that good Greek demands these articles and good English omits them. This is part of the difference between the two languages that translators understand.

Further, there are times when the Greek has no definite article but English demands one, but this is outside the scope of the question.

Here are two more cases:

  • Matt 4:10 - Then the Jesus says to him, Get away Satan; for it has been written: Lord the God of you shall worship and Him alone shall you serve.
  • Matt 12:26 - And if the Satan casts out the Satan, he is divided against himself. ...

Again, notice that articles are used quite differently in Greek from English.

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