Sydney Page has a fascinating article about Satan [“Satan: God’s Servant.” Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society 50.3 (2007): 449-465]. More specifically, it is about the biblical portrayal of the Satan figure. More often than not, our thinking about angelic beings and mysterious figures like Satan is shaped more by popular imagination, movies, and artwork (like William Blake’s historical piece above). Page has gifted the church with a sound biblical basis for thinking about Satan.
In the article he studies the story of Job (and Satan’s role in the Job account). He demonstrates convincingly how “the Joban conception of Satan exercised significant influence on the rest of the biblical canon…how Satan is portrayed as a servant of God in Job, then…how later biblical texts pick up and use the Joban ideas” (449). Here is a great example how later biblical texts can echo earlier ones. And conversely, how earlier biblical texts can affect later ones. (Similar to Richard B. Hays’ project on the Gospels and also Paul)
The motif that Page finds recurring in various forms in the developing biblical tradition around the Satan figure has to do with Satan’s inimical subordination to God: “Although there is incontrovertible evidence of change and development in the concept of Satan in the biblical literature, this basic notion that Satan is under divine control appears repeatedly” (465). This has significant implications for our doctrine of God and the age old questions of theodicy.
One of the take-aways from the article relates to how we speak about Satan: “One must, therefore, be careful to avoid exaggerating the power of Satan and setting up a dichotomy between God and Satan that would suggest a particular action must be attributed to either one or the other. These alternatives are not mutually exclusive. Satan is God’s adversary, but whatever he does falls under the overarching sovereignty of God” (465).