Father Fortea, why does Satan appear more frequently in the New Testament than in the Old?
The term Satan appears eighteen times in the Old Testament and thirty-five in the New. The devil can be found thirty-six times. The term demon appears twenty-one times in the New Testament, while the Old Testament’s equivalent terms for demon (Lilith, etc.) appear much less. The New Testament is shorter than the Old, yet the demons appear more frequently. Why is this?
I believe that this is because the Lord did not want to infuse fear into His chosen people. Also, He wanted to prevent false, dualistic beliefs about good and evil from taking root among them – i.e., the belief in a “god of good” and a “god of evil.” That is why God gives the demons a lower profile in the Old Testament than in the New. God Himself is the central figure of the Old Testament, and the angelic world only appears on a certain number of occasions so as not to encourage idolatry. Nevertheless, in the New Testament, divine revelation is completed and the existence of this spiritual world is shown in a more profound way. With the coming of Jesus, the kingdom of God was at hand; He was reclaiming the world from slavery to sin and the temptations of the devil.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. Fortea’s excellent book Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.
Art for this post on why Satan appears more often in the New Testament than in the Old: Satan Before the Lord, Corrado Giaquinto, circa 1750, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; detail of Padre José Antonio Fortea 2017, photographed by Elgatoconbotaselgatoconbotas, 5 May 2017 own work, CCA-SA 4.0 International; both Wikimedia Commons. Cover of “Interview with an Exorcist” used with permission, all rights reserved.