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The Bible and Popular Culture

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In popular culture the image of Satan in movies and most print media shows a stereotypical Satan, as a malicious, horned and hoofed creature sporting a pointed tail and a pitchfork or a suave businessman however, does this modern day image fit with that of the Christian scriptures?

Satan is often portrayed in popular culture with the demonic appearance consisting of thick leathery red skin, long curled goats horns and hairy goats legs and a serpent like pointed tail. This image is frequently teamed with a Devil whose personality fits with the ideology of a daring and almost cheeky character. Comparing this seemingly loveable character to that of the aggressive and fear inspiring one found in the Bible brings one to question how such a difference occurred.

The character of Satan, in the Bible has taken on many different guises. Some examples are, in Genesis (3:1)1 Satan appears as the serpent that tempted Eve "Now the serpent was more crafty", the book of Luke chapter 4 "he was tempted by the devil." as the tempter of Christ and also in Revelations (20:2)2 as a dragon "He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil". Satan's appearance continually varies throughout the Bible with each story and situation in which he is used. Although very little detail is given about his actual appearance, popular culture has managed to create an image all its own for the figure of Satan.

Many of the ideas and images to which Satan is solicited are tenuous with in the bible itself. Many of the things such as the horns, wings and leathery skin to which most in modern society have grown accustomed have been created and over time added to from alternate sources. These depictions though, can be related to the text through the use of terms such as dragon or serpent, because of the general interpretation of these terms into images by medieval artists and scholars.

Some of the images that are presented in modern media of the Devil appear to be derived from past ancient societies. One such example is that of the Greek god Pan (see appendix 1 & 2), a horned, hoofed goat-like monster. Another aspect of Satan which can be attributied to the modern veiw which his persona has adopted is that of extreme self-indulgence, involving excess eating, drinking and fornicating. Although the Bible shows no evidence of the Devil appearing in this particular form, it does however make connections between the Devil, debauchery and bribery(3 & 4)


Another image used to portray Satan, which is similar to that given in the scriptures depicts a smooth talking, manipulative and charasmatic Satan. This has, in recent times, become the favored form for Satan in movies with temptation themes. Some example of this are, The Devil's Advocate, Bedazzled and End of Days (see appendix 3, 4 & 5). In each of these films the Devil is represented as the charming and attractive character closer fitting to that of the tempting and vindictive Satan in the Bible. In the movie End of Days, Satan takes on the body of a common man. His appearance is simple yet neat and pleasing to the eye and he has an overall charasmatic demeanor. This general description also applies to that of the Devil's Advocate who proudly displays an air of deceptivness. Contrast to this however is the movie Bedazzled, in which Satan is played by a young attractive woman. Of course, this ties into the Biblical ideology of Satan being a tempter sent to test the people's strength. Thus the use of a seductive woman as Satan fits perfectly in the hollywood stylised veiw, as men are unable to resist her due to their sexual natures and weakness.

In the Bible, actual physical descriptions of Satan are rare and generally vague. The most well known examples are found at the start and end of the Bible in Genesis 3 "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals" and in Revelation 20 "He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil". It is in these chapters' passages that Satan is given the culminating descriptions on which his Biblical appearance is based, and to which some of the modern day views can also be attributed, such as the wings and tail. These can be linked to the interpretation and elaboration of the vague description as a dragon or serpent.

In Genesis where Satan is said to take on the form of a serpent, he tempts Eve and convinces her to eat the forbidden fruit. He does this by twisting Gods words and manipulating



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