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In biblical literature Satan appears in later Old Testament writings as an angelic "son of God" within the heavenly court, as God's prosecuting attorney (Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:1-2; 1 Chronicles 21:1). In inter-testamental and New Testament literature Satan appears as the head of evil -- rebellious, defiant and in opposition to God. Lucifer's fall from heaven (Isaiah 14:14) is usually employed to explain this change in Satan's status. One Mennonite writer uses this text together with Ezekiel 28:12-16, 2 Peter 2:4, and Jude 6 to explain how Satan became the Devil (Hostetter, 15-20). Revelation 12:9 identifies Satan as the devil and "ancient serpent" (Genesis 3:1-5). It speaks also of war in heaven, the archangel Michael's victory over the dragon, and Satan's fall from heaven. The gospel news is that Christ destroys the works of the devil (1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15). Proclaiming the gospel dethrones Satan (Luke 10:18); Christ's death and resurrection disarms the powers (Colossians 2:15). Through new birth and freedom not to sin, God through Christ keeps the believer from Satan, while the world is under Satan's power (1 John 5:18-19). By wearing the full armor of God, the believer victoriously battles against the invisible evil forces which attack, deceive, and seduce believers personally and through structures (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Menno Simons, (engraving by Christoffel van Sichem, ca.1605)

Anabaptist writings show frequent use of the words devil and Satan. Though no doctrinal treatises are devoted to the nature and work of Satan, many pages mention the word or contain cognate ideas. In Menno's writings Catholic priests and sacramental abuses are often castigated with vituperate language, such as, the "people [who] have ... deserted the one God-pleasing position as to doctrine, sacraments, and life ... [and are] rather devils than Christians (Menno, Writings, 302). Menno regarded the writings of his opponents to be prompted by the evil one, for Satan has always been opposed to the truth (Writings, 838-39). Of the 14 references under Satan or Devil (possessed) in the index to Menno's Complete Writings, many contain Menno's polemic against the accusers of the Anabaptists (180, 269, 838-39). Several texts describe the deceitful, lying nature of Satan (469, 838-39, 994); one deals with church discipline, i.e., handing over to Satan (469); to admonish believers to be vigilant against the devil (1,028, 1,046); two defend against the accusation that the Anabaptists were demon-possessed (535, 571); and two emphasize Christ's destruction of, trampling upon, and power over the serpent (324, 838). Menno's "Hymn of Discipleship" (1,065) speaks of his and the believer's past experience: "Enmeshed was I in Satan's gauze, My life abomination was, Right well I served the devil's cause."

The index to the letters of Conrad Grebel and related writings (CRR 4) lists 29 references under devil. Ten of these are connected explicitly to disputes over baptism in which Anabaptists said or were reported to have said that "infant baptism is of the devil." Most uses are name-calling, though five of Zwingli's uses describe the devil's nature briefly, usually to extend the same to the nature of his opponents. Five times also Zwingli identified the Anabaptists as devil-inspired and four more times cited their claim that infant baptism is of the devil. The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck (CRR 2) has no entry for either Satan or devil in the subject index; a spot reading shows recurring references to Satan as seeking to beguile and lead astray the believers (91, 94). The evil one is often referred to as "the serpent" (108, 114-15).

Robert Friedmann's classic work on Anabaptist theology regards "The doctrine of the two worlds" and discipleship as constituent elements of Anabaptism, though an eschatological emphasis is the heart of Anabaptist theology in his view. He cites the light-darkness dualism in the third and fourth articles of the Schleitheim Confession. Thus, "All who follow the devil and the world have no part with those who are called unto God out of the world" (art. 3, Friedmann, 39). Hutterite theology has the same Christ/world dualism, he argues.

Peter Riedemann's Confession of Faith (1565) includes a brief 10-line statement "On the likeness of the Devil;" it emphasizes the devil's lying nature, pointing out that those who lie, sin, and do injustice are of the devil (54). Of the 33 Mennonite confessions of faith in Loewen's, Confessions, none has an article on Satan or the Devil, although the 1961 Church of God in Christ Mennonite statement has an article on "The fall of the angels" (Loewen, 209/207). Most contain an article on "The fall of man" in which the serpent's (devil's, Satan's) beguiling work is mentioned. Similarly, Walter Klaassen's Anabaptism in outline (CRR 3) has no section on evil, Satan, world or nonconformity. Of its 28,155 entries, Mennonite Bibliography: 1631-1961 lists twelve under devil. Volumes 1-4 of Mennonite Encyclopedia contained no article on Satan or Devil and no article on evil; it does contain a short article on worldliness and a lengthy article on nonconformity, both of which assert the Mennonite belief that evil is to be resisted in its sociocultural expression (see also J. C. Wenger's Separated unto God).

Several Dutch Mennonite writings address the topic in sustained form. In a 15-page treatise, Korte Verhandeling van de Duyvelen ... (1676), the Collegient Frans Kuyper sought to prove that demons (devils) do exist as independent sense beings different from humans and animals. Again in 1678, in the hope of convincing atheists, he published a 38-page booklet of exceptional true stories which clearly prove that demons do exist. A 47-page treatise published in 1700 focused on the temptations of Jesus, exposing the crafty, beguiling nature of the devil (C. Tirion, De versoekinge onses Heeren Jesu Christi in de Woestijne ... ). In 1856 Douwe Simon Gorter's lectures included a 36-page treatise on "The higher world." In it he said he came to believe in the personal existence of the devil, as well as good and evil spirits, through his own study of the Bible. He was not taught it in church or in his theological studies. He said further that he believed that belief in the personal existence of the devil is the real Doopsgezind (Mennonite) view though it was not part of the confessions. A shorter essay appeared in 1896 by Bauke Haga, "Satan in de gedaante van een engel des lichts" (Zondagsbote, 9 [1896], 103, 107-08).

Daniel Kauffman

Daniel Kauffman's Bible doctrine (1914) devoted Part II to "Satan and his works" (143-80). George R. Brunk (d. 1938) wrote the section on Satan, A. D. Wenger on Temptation, and J. S. Hartzler on Sin. Brunk's treatment was comprehensive, succinct, and perceptive -- perhaps a classic Mennonite statement. He began with definitions for Satan and devil, and then distinguished between demons and devil which the King James translation of the Bible fails to do. He then warned against the modern tendency to rid the world of mystery and hence to eliminate both devil and God by holding that evil is the only devil. He then discussed the devil under six headings: "His personality, The author of evil, His power and influence, His unfathomable enmity, His devices, and His limitations and destiny." Brunk ended the section on "Enmity" saying, "He seems to be the fountain of every vice heated white hot by unquenchable hate, stirred up to the most intense and ceaseless activity to undermine the throne of God and to damn the whole world to eternal wretchedness and oblivion." Under devices he listed 10: "Fall of man, Temptation of Christ, Blindness, Unbelief, 'Lying wonders,' Hypnotic power, False elitists, Religious wars, Perverting the truth, and Heresies." In the 1929 edition, Doctrines of the Bible, a similar section appears as part IV and was titled "The Realms of darkness" (202-35). While much of the earlier content reappeared in modified form, the content of the 1914 sections titled "His power and influences" and "His devices," is largely missing. The hellish work of Satan is less evident. The section is divided into four parts: Satan (or Devil), Satan -- His dominion, Sin, and Unbelief. Daniel Kauffman, new author of this section, said that "it is important that we recognize this adversary as having a real personality, not as a mere evil influence or evil propensity working in man" (205). The chapter portrays Satan as "a roaring lion, . . . seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8), "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), " the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), and "the prince of this world" (John 14:30). He is "prince of the demons" (Matthew 12:28; 2 Corinthians 4:4) and seeks to seduce believers as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Der Bote carried a two-part essay, "Die alte Schlange, ihr Ursprung, Sein and Ende" by H. Lepp-Reesor in 1932. In 1941 Die Mennonitsche Rundschau carried a four-part series on "Das Satanische Reich" by N. N. Hiebert. These essays expound the biblical teaching. The former connects Satan's end to a premillennial view of end-times; the latter strongly warns Christians of Satan's seducing power and points also to Christ's victory over Satan and to God's keeping power. Two related studies appeared in the next few years: Arthur G. Willems' master's thesis at Dallas Theological Seminary, "The eschatology of Satan" (1944) and a textual study by Abraham H. Unruh, "Das Gehemnis der Bosheit: 2 Thessalonians 2:4-10" (Menn. Rundschau 70, no. 41-43, [Oct. 8-22, 1947]). Addressing directly and amply the topic of Satan, B. Charles Hostetter gave nine Mennonite Hour radio sermons, printed under the title Satan and his strategy (1953). This booklet not only exposed the deceptive, seductive tactics of Satan, but urgently calls men and women to turn from Satan's kingdom to Jesus Christ in whom is salvation and security.

J. C. Wenger's Introduction to Theology (1954) contains a four-page section on Satan which comes at the end of his chapter on "God as Creator" and follows a section on "Angels." He notes the minor role of Satan in the Old Testament and points to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 as texts referring to more than just the pagan kings of Tyre and Babylon (note the phrases: "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!" and "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God"). Wenger says further that the biblical view of Satan and his hosts is not that of the medieval concept "of playful and malicious imps" but that Satan works in respectable ways, wanting people "of social status and upright lives to represent the cause of morality, humanistic philosophy, and perhaps even religion if divorced from the blood of Christ" (117). Further, Satan puts forth greatest effort not upon unbelievers, who are already in his grip, but upon the Christian to lead " into discouragement or sin, and to provoke hostility and opposition . . .. " (117). Satan's deception is also the focus of Myron A. King's 1958 essay, "The working of deception" (Sword and Trumpet, 26, no. 3, pp. 29-34).

With the publication of H. Berkhof's Christ and Power (Scottdale, 1962) Mennonite discussion of evil has focused mostly on sociopolitical dimensions, i.e., the principalities and the powers. John Howard Yoder's Politics of Jesus (chg. 8 and 12 especially) have further developed this emphasis. This led to a fresh emphasis in Mennonite higher education on the Christus victor view of the atonement, emphasizing Christ's conquest of Satan, the powers and demons through his death and resurrection (see Driver, ch. 3). Thomas N. Finger's Christian Theology addresses the larger topic of evil, Satan and the devil extensively: in his treatment of atonement in which Christ defeats Satan and the powers of evil and in his treatment of sin (vol. 1, 291-367; vol. 2, ch. 7).

Edmund G. Kaufman's Basic Christian Convictions (1972) considers numerous ways to explain the origin of evil, among them the devil. He says this explanation raises more problems than it solves (88-89); he thus opts for the view that evil originates in the human will (90). Gordon D. Kaufman's Systematic Theology (1968) does not discuss Satan or the devil; he addresses the problem of evil (theodicy) in discussing God's goodness (162, 309-12).

In the midst of popular American sensationalized attention to the demonic in the 1970s, Paul M. Miller wrote The Devil Did not Make Ne do It in an effort to save personal responsibility for human sin against the trend to easily blame sins and sickness on the devil. With influences from the charismatic movement and missionary experience overseas, Mennonites studied anew the topic of the demonic (Jacobs, Demons). In 1987 Finger and Swartley coauthored a study of the biblical teaching on "bondage and deliverance," investigating the topics of evil, Satan, devil, exorcism, and Christ's victory. Other essays prepared for the same consultation (as was the Finger/Swartley paper) addressed the topics of evil and Satan from various perspectives -- historical, Roman Catholic and Evangelical theology, psychological, anthropological, and pastoral.

The Kauffman-Harder survey of Mennonite beliefs (Anabaptism Four Centuries Later, 1975) reports 93 percent of sampled North American Mennonites believing in a personal devil (p. 106), 71 percent experiencing a sense of being tempted by the devil, 15 percent feeling that some personal misfortune was caused by the devil, and 11 percent feeling that the devil used them as his agent (p. 94).


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Driver, John. Understanding the Atonement for the Mission of the Church. Scottdale: Herald Press, 1986, esp. 71-86.

Finger, Thomas N. Christian Theology: an Eschatological Approach. 2 vols. Nashville: Nelson, 1985; Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1989.

Friedmann, Robert. The Theology of Anabaptism. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1973: part 11.

Gorter, D. S. "De Hoogere Wereld" in Doopsgezinde Lektuur 2 (1856): 199-235.

Harder, Leland, ed. The Sources of Swiss Anabaptism: the Grebel Letters and Related Documents, Classics of the Radical Reformation (CRR), vol. 4. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1985.

Hiebert, Nicholas N. "Das satanische Reich." Mennonitische Rundschau 64, no. 5, 9-11 (29 January, 26 February, 5 March, 1941).

Hostetter, B. Charles. Satan and His Strategy. Harrisonburg, VA: Mennonite Hour, ca. 1953, nine radio sermons, 64 pp.

Kauffman, Daniel, ed. Bible Doctrine. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Pub. House, 1914: 145-80.

Kauffman, Daniel. Doctrines of the Bible. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Pub. House, 1929: 201-35.

Klaassen, Walter, ed. Anabaptism in Outline: Selected Primary Sources. Classics of the Radical Reformation (CRR), vol. 3. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1981.

Klassen, William and Walter Klaassen, eds. The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck. Classics of the Radical Reformation (CRR), vol. 2. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1978.

Kuyper, Frans. Korte Verhandeling van de Duyvelen ... 1676.

Kuyper, Frans. Filosofisch en Historiaal Bewijz dat 'er Duyvelen Zijn ... Rotterdam: Isaak Naeranus, 1678.

Lepp-Reesor, Herman. "Die alte Schlange, ihr Ursprun Sein und Ende." Der Bote 9, no. 50, and 51 (14 & 21 December 1932.

Springer, Nelson P. and A. J. Klassen, Mennonite Bibliography, 1631-1961. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1977.

Swartley, Willard M., ed. Essays on Spiritual Bondage and Deliverance. Occasional Papers, 11. Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1988.

Wenger, John Christian. Introduction to Theology. 2nd ed. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Pub. House, 1954: 114-18.

Wink, Walter. Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986.

Yoder, John Howard. The Politics of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972.

Author(s) Willard M Swartley
Date Published 1990

Cite This Article

MLA style

Swartley, Willard M. "Satan." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 21 Sep 2021.

APA style

Swartley, Willard M. (1990). Satan. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 September 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 791-794. All rights reserved.

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