Who the hell invented the sign

Swiss Society for Symbol Research


Please note:

This page is a sketch that still has errors.

The valid (and only citable) version is in the book

“Spider's Foot & Toad Belly. Genesis and symbolism of composite beings "
Writings on symbol research, ed. by Paul Michel, Volume 16, 472 pages with 291 black-and-white illustrations
PANO Verlag, Zurich 2013
ISBN 978-3-290-22021-1

(to mainsite)


Brief overview of the history of the devil

The word Satan denotes someone who is hostile (on charge), persecutes. (In the background there is perhaps the fear of slander among the ancient oriental princes.) Satan is not the name of a person or a specific figure, but rather describes a function (cf. Zechariah 3: 1ff .: Satan as a member of the heavenly court), which is why the word is used in the Hebrew Bible also with the article (ha-satan) as an appellative, not used as a proper name. Satan has nothing demonic either, he is not a tempter (exception: 1 Chronicles 21: 1), but he instigates a test as with Job or at most causes external evil on the basis of moral evil. The snake that seduces Eve and Adam is also simply an animal in the original Bible text (Genesis 3: 1ff.). Only in a later time will the demons (Azazel, Belial, Samael, Elilim, Schedim; they are disqualified by the Old Testament scholars as "pre-Israelite mythical remnants") with the idea of ​​Satan being mixed up.

In the literature of the rabbis there is also the idea that Satan, under various guises, seduces people to sin by stimulating their 'evil instinct'.

[Hermann Strack] / Paul Billerbeck, Commentary on the New Testament from Talmud and Midrash, 6 vols., Munich 1922–1961; Volume I, pp. 136-149.

The Greek translators of the Hebrew Bible and Paul use the word for Satan diabolos, i.e., 'the muddler' (confounder, twisting facts); the German word devil thats why. What is new in the New Testament is that the devil cunningly endeavors to induce man to fall away from God, and even to bring him into his power.

This is clear in the story of the temptation of Jesus, in which Satan acts as an independent anti-divine power (Mt 4,1-10 par. Luk 4,1-12), or in expressions like 1 Corinthians 7.5: so that Satan does not tempt you; Luke 22, 3 But Satan went into Judas, called Iscariot.

The devil is an adversary of God in the New Testament, "The Evil", "the arge", "the enemy", he is ruler over anti-divine powers such as illness and death. Jesus' work wants to lead to the disempowerment of Satan, which is then fulfilled at the end of time (Apocalypse 20:10: And the devil who seduced them was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone)

In the gospels and letters there is never any mention of the external form of Satan, but in the Apocalypse he is referred to as Dragon denotes what gives rise to the graphic design.

The idea of ​​the devil's own dark realm came more and more to the fore in the first centuries of Christianity. Correspondingly, the charitable means of protection against the devilish power provided by the church and priesthood also strengthened: preventive: catechetical instruction, sermon, baptism, prayer with the sign of the cross, mortification of the flesh; curative: confession, penance, exorcism, excommunication. (Conversely, the lucrative administration of these funds was possibly the breeding ground for the development of a rabid devil belief.)

With the development of a dogma, the devil also gets his place there. And sophisticated auxiliary constructions arise that secure God omnipotence, but at the same time allow the devil his influence; who discuss evil in the world, but still consider it a dangerous quantity.

Gradually the person of the devil becomes grimacing, he gets helpers. The fantasies run rampant in anecdotes and spiritual drama. They are then cruelly concretized in the witch hunts.

The extent of belief in the devil (also among Protestants) in the 16th century is shown by the collective publication, which first appeared in 1569 and had 1136 pages in the 1575 edition:

Theatrum Diabolorum, That is: True, actual and short description, All kinds of increased, terrible and disgraceful vices, so in these last, difficult and evil times, in all places and ends almost customary, also cruel in swing, Every pious Christian especially watch and learn diligently how in this miserable and laborious life, not with keys, kings, princes and lords, or other high, potentates, but with the most powerful and strongest prince in this world, the devil, to fight and fight Who is full of all cunning and secret trickery, creeping around (as S. Peter says) like an angry, roaring lion, devouring us, So that he lead us every day at all times, and finally with body and soul into the abyss Light ones fall down. And therefore learn to recognize his cruel tyranny and rage rightly, call on God for help and with the help of his divine graces and holy spirit, to throw up all poignant arrows, deadly projectiles, and to overcome in Christ Jesus, our one Heylandt, Victoriam and that Keep Feldt. All those who are trustworthy, who care about their souls and bliss, should be viewed with the utmost seriousness and the greatest diligence. [...]. Improved and increased with four new ones, as Sabbaths, Eydts, Sorg and Melancholisch Teuffeln, so never seen before with this print nor came out of a new, useful and necessary register. Printed in Frankfurt am Mayn, by Peter Schmidt, etc. Anno M D LXXV

digital in the BSB: http://www.bsb-muenchen-digital.de/~db/1014/bsb10148087/images/index.html

Summary in Roskoff II, 378-427. - See a selection of the Devil Books, ed. v. Ria Stambaugh, Berlin: de Gruyter 1970-1980 (editions of German literature from the XVth to XVIIIth centuries; volumes 23; 33; 41; 77; 88)

Justification of diversity

The constantly mixed up diversity of the devil shows on the one hand that he is the negation of the one God, but also that he is a confounder.

Already in the hymn »Pange lingua« des Venantius Fortunatus (2nd half of the 6th century) the devil is called multifarious spoiler (multiformis perditor) designated.

The Jesuit Peter Thyraeus (1546–1601) found a plausible reason why the devil has to show himself as a composite being. In his treatise on the modes of appearance of the spiritual beings (Caput IX, § 162-163, p.23) he writes that the devilish never appear as a dove or a lamb, because the divine majesty does not allow evil spirits to be in the form of God is to assume; conversely, they would have such a hatred of the creatures that they would not want to resemble them. And so they do not appear as animals, but imitate monsters: from centaurs, chimeras, harpies, the three-headed Cerberus and a thousand other monsters.

Reverendi P. Petri Thyraei ... De variis tam spirituum quam vivorum hominum prodigiosis apparitionibus, et nocturnis infestationibus libri tres, Coloniae Agrippinae ex officina Mater. Cholini, sumptibus Gosuini Cholini, 1594.

One of the most interesting depictions of the devil can be found on the title page of an extensive book by Erasmus Francisci (1627–1694), whose title is telling:

The infernal proteus / or thousand-way pretender / mediates the narrative of the various image mix-ups of appearing ghosts / throwing and rumbling ghosts / ghostly omens of deaths / as well as other adventurous dealings / malicious antics and strange pretenses of this damned actor / and / partly scholars / for the human life-spirit erroneously-regarded deceiver / (next to the preliminary basic proof of the certainty / that there really are ghosts) depicted by Erasmum Francisci… Nuremberg / published by Wolffgang Moritz Endters. Anno M.DC.XC

In the preface he uses a parable to explain the diabolical multiformity: If a prisoner of war has freed himself in the middle of a war, he will try to evade hostile pursuits by pretending:

he needs all sorts of cunning / and Rencke / puts on false flags / or standards / gives himself out / through the secretly explored word / for friend / and for good keyserish / by being / in the heart of a Turk / or Tarter / or on robbery / murder and the fire that went out from Frantzosen. - In the same state of uncertainty, the entire human race stands against Satan / as his denied enemy. For even though our king and supreme commander / Christ / redeemed us from his power and made us free: if we were not put out of necessity / we bit at the end of the dispute / wanted to foresee / that we would not again through his nets / Larvae / and deceitful disguises / are seduced into the previous servitude: because this Hellenic Leu [see. 1 Peter 5,8] always spreads his claws against us / sometimes in the people, sometimes in the dragon or snake hide his hostile plan disguises / and sets us with all sorts of deceitful inventions; so that he might harm our souls / or at least our physical health /.


The diversity on the title page should therefore be read dynamically as a permanent change in shape. (The three-headed group can be seen as a mockery of the Trinity, the angel wings allude to the fall of Lucifer [Isaiah 14:12 in combination with Luke 10:18].) - Also the ghosts, which in the opinion of Erasmus Francisci are by no means imaginary , but real evil beings, are multifaceted:

But the ghosts (through which I actually understand the bad / and not the good heavenly spirits) in many forms; he seems / sometimes like a person / sometimes like an animal / bird / or something else: as the poets usually attribute to the proteo / that he can disguise himself in all sorts of figures.

He quotes the story of Aristaeus who asks his mother, Cyrene, why all his bee colonies died; this refers him to the seer Proteus, who will reveal the secret to him, but to whom he will have to bind with force:

You will soon be fooled by changing shapes with the grimaces of animals.
Suddenly he becomes a bristly pig, then a grim tiger,
Then a blue-scaled dragon and a yellow-maned lion;
Or he rises in a crackling flame ...
(Virgil, Georgica IV, 406ff.)

There is apparently no image in antiquity that depicts Proteus in his metamorphoses, possibly this was beyond the imagination of the artist. On the other hand, Sebastian Brant suggested a woodcut for his edition of Virgil's works in 1502, which provisionally banishes the change in shape in the picture:

Publij Virgilij maronis opera cum quinque vulgatis commentariis […] expolitissimisque figuris atque imaginibus nuper per Sebastianum Brant superadditis, […], Strasbourg: Grieninger 1502; fol. CXVIIIrecto.

The preface by Erasmus Francisci goes on to say: A right Proteus may most appropriately be titled Satan; as he / also on the title of this book / both the name / and the likeness of Protei leads: since he not only hypocritically paints and adorns his hidden malice / with all sorts of colors / but also deceives people with some ghostly figures / or deludes them .

The whole text> http://www.zeno.org/nid/2000478524X

This is a learned explanation of the many forms of the devil, inspired by the knowledge of antiquity; a more trivial one is that the demonic, the frightening can be represented by means of a composite being, the sight of which strikes us, confuses us, fascinates us - at best makes us laugh.

That the depiction of the devil was meant ugly is evident from the following pretty legend: A painter painted the picture of the Blessed Virgin as beautifully as he could, but the devil as ugly (turpis) as he could. Once when he was standing on the scaffolding at a great height, the devil confronted him and ordered him not to mock him like that. When the painter refuses, the devil tears down the scaffolding. Then the image of Mary stretches out her hand and holds it until ladders have been brought in so that he can descend unharmed. (Joseph Klapper, Tales of the Middle Ages in German translation and original Latin text, Breslau 1914; number 52)

Places of encounter with the devil

There are some prominent scenes where the devil shows himself.

God talks to Satan about Job. The story of Job is framed by a prelude in heaven:

Job 1.6 But one day, when the Sons of God came and stood before the Lord, Satan also came among them. 8 The Lord said to Satan, Did you watch out for my servant Job? For there is no like him on earth, pious and righteous, godly and avoiding evil. 9 Satan answered and said, Do you think that Job fears God in vain? 10 You have protected him, his house, and all that he has on all sides. You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch everything that he has: what does it matter, he will refuse you in the face! 12 The Lord said to Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your hand; just don't put your hand on him.

Satan is allowed by the Lord to test Job's piety by stealing riches from him. (It will then also be a test of the somewhat antiquated piety of his friends.)

Hans Leonhard Schäufelein (c. 1480 - 1540) - http://www.zeno.org/nid/20004276418


Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert. The story (Matthew 4: 1–10 parallel to Luke 4: 1–12) contains some complications. (Why does Satan not notice that he has no chance against the Messiah? Is it about glorifying Jesus by resisting temptation? Should Jesus be portrayed as the 'new Moses' through the many biblical parallels? Is it about the power to demonstrate the Holy Scriptures?)

Matthew 4.1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert so that he might be tempted by the devil. 2 And having fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came to him and said, If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written (Deuteronomy 8: 3): "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God."

5 So the devil brought him with him into the holy city and set him on the battlements of the temple 6 and said to him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down; for it is written (Psalm 91: 11-12): “He will command his angels on your account; and they will carry you on their hands, so that you do not strike your foot on a stone. "7 Jesus said to him," Again it is written (Deuteronomy 6:16): "You shall not the Lord your God to attempt."

8 The devil then took him with him up a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and its glory. 9 And said to him, I will give you all this if you will fall down and worship me. 10 Then Jesus said to him, Get away with you, Satan! For it is written (Deuteronomy 6:13): "You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only." 11 The devil then left him.

The Emeis. This is the book of the Omeissen, [...] by the highly qualified doctor Joanes Geiler von Keisersperg [...] Strasbourg, Johannes Grüninger 1517; fol XVIII verso - 5.5 x 7.5 cm

A full-page representation with all three temptation scenes by the master Hans Furtenbach is available in:

Euangelia with presentation of the highly qualified Doctor Keiserspergs: vnd vß the plenary vnd sunst vil good example useful / […] Strasbourg: Johann Grüninger 1517; Fol.XLI recto

> http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0001/bsb00014615/images/index.html?seite=79&fip=

The vision of Saint Anthony in the desert. As a result of akedía, i.e. a discouragement that arises in the long loneliness, demons occasionally appear to the desert monks - or even the incarnate.

The most important ancestor of the ascetic life is Antonios the Great, called "Star of the Desert". He was born in Middle Egypt around 251; the parents were already Christians. He gave away his inheritance and began an ascetic life on the outskirts of his home village.In order to escape the influx of the crowd, he later relocated to a necropolis in the Libyan desert. The crowd worshiping him follows again, and he moves on up a mountain into solitude. He dies at the age of over 100 (356).

The depiction of the temptation of St. Antonius on the Isenheim altar of Mathias Grünewald (1506 / 1515):


Here is the stitch from Martin Schongauer (around 1450 - 1491):

(from: Wikimedia / commons)

Here the copper engraving by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) from 1506:

The text from which the image was developed: Athanasius the great (298–373) wrote a vita of Antonius. It says:

[Cape. 7] So he consulted with himself on how to get used to an even harsher lifestyle. Many admired him, but he himself easily endured the effort. For the willingness of his soul, which so long resided in it, had brought about an excellent condition in him, so that when he had received even the slightest nudge from others, he then showed an ardent zeal; he woke so long that he often even passed the whole night sleepless, and this not once, but often and often; then the others wondered about it. He ate food once a day after sunset; Sometimes he only ate every two days, but often only every four days; he lived on bread and salt, the only drink he served was water. It is superfluous to just talk about meat and wine with him, since one did not find such a thing even with the other pious. To sleep he contented himself with a rush mat; but mostly he lay down to rest on the bare earth.

[Cape. 8th] This is how Antony mastered himself. Then he wandered away to graves that were far from the village, and asked one of his acquaintances to bring him bread from time to time, but only at long intervals; then he went into one of the graves and, after the latter had closed the door behind him, remained alone inside. The evil enemy couldn't stand it, he was afraid that Antonius would soon also fill the desert with his asceticism, and so one night he went there with a crowd of demons and hit him so hard that he was speechless with agony on the Floor lay. Afterwards, Antonius assured me that the pain was so cruel that it could be said that human blows had never caused such pain. But through God's care - for the Lord does not forsake those who hope in him - his friend appeared the next day to bring him bread; he opened the door and saw him lying on the floor as if dead; so he picked it up and carried it to the church in the village and laid it on the ground. Many of his relatives and the people from the village sat down next to Antonius, whom they believed to be dead. But at midnight he came to, woke up, and when he saw them all asleep while only his confidante was awake, he motioned for him to come to him and asked him to pick him up again and bring him to the graves without to wake someone up.

[Cape. 9] He was carried away by him and was alone again inside after the door had been locked as before. He couldn't stand because of the blows, so he prayed lying down; but after the prayer he called out loudly: 'Here I am again, Antonius; I am not afraid of your blows; if you torment me even more, nothing will separate me from the love for Christ ”. Then he intoned the psalm: 'Even if an army rises up against me, my heart will not be afraid'. So thought and spoke the ascetic; but the infernal enemy, full of hatred of the good, was astonished that Antonius had dared to come back after the blows; he called his dogs together and shouted, bursting with anger: 'You see that we have not silenced him either by the spirit of fornication or by blows! On the contrary, he is even cheeky towards us. Well, we want to deal with it differently! 'For it is easy for the devil to assume all sorts of forms of sin. At night they made such a noise that the whole place seemed to tremble. It was as if the demons wanted to break through the four walls of the little building and enter; to do this, they turned into the forms of wild animals and snakes; and very soon the place was filled with apparitions of lions, bears, leopards, bulls and vipers, aspisnakes, scorpions and wolves. Each of these beasts moved in its own way: the lion roared as if it were about to jump, the bull seemed to thrash its horns, the snake curled up but it did not come, the wolf stormed off, but remained spellbound; the noise of all these apparitions at the same time was really terrible, and their anger was fierce. Antony, whipped and stabbed by them, felt violent physical pain, but lay there without trembling and alert in his soul; he sighed as a result of his physical pain, but with a clear mind and full of scorn he cried: 'If you had power, it would be enough if only one of you came. But since the Lord has taken your strength, you may be trying to instill fear through your crowd. It is a sign of your weakness that you imitate the shape of wild animals. ”And full of courage he said further:“ If you are able to do it and have received violence against me, then do not hesitate, come closer! But if you cannot, why do you confuse yourselves in vain? For a seal is for us and a safe wall is faith in our Lord. 'But they tried everything possible and gritted their teeth against him because they mocked themselves and not Antony.

[Cape. 10] But the Lord did not forget his struggle, but came to his aid. For when Antony looked up he saw the roof open and a ray of light came down on him. The demons suddenly became invisible, the pain in his body immediately ceased, and the house was again undamaged as before. But Antonius noticed the help, breathed a sigh of relief, he was relieved from his pain and asked the apparition: 'Where have you been? Why didn't you come at the beginning to end my torments? 'And a voice rang out to him:' Antonius, I was here, but I waited to see your fighting. Since you passed the quarrel without being defeated, I will always be helpful to you, and I will make you famous everywhere. When he heard this, he got up and prayed. He gained so much strength that he realized he was stronger now than before. He was close to thirty-five at the time.

Athanasius, Life of Saint Antonius = Selected Writings Volume 2. Translated from the Greek by Anton Stegmann. (Library of the Church Fathers, 1st row, Volume 31) Munich 1917.

Richly illustrated literature on iconography: Michael Philipp, (exhibition and catalog), Schrecken und Lust. The temptation of St. Anthony from Hiernonymus Bosch to Max Ernst, Munich: Hirmer 2008.

The "Vita sancti Guthlaci" (8th century) describes how devilish demons penetrate the cell of the saint. Image: St Guthlac, tormented by demons, is handed a scourge by St Bartholomew, Guthlac Roll, 1210, British Library.


The devil as tempter of men. There are many pictures in which the devil tempts people. He is often portrayed as a small being who inspires people to do a bad deed. Blowing in has the doctrine of the as its moral theological background suggestio: The adversary only whispers, but the person has to agree (consentire), and thus becomes a sinner. As a clear aid, the devil now and then holds a bellows in his hands (or paws). The blowing in is a parody of the inspiration of the holy writers, who have a dove blowing the text to be written into their ears. Occasionally he lays snares to catch people (cf. Ps 18: 6 The bonds of the dead surrounded me, and the ropes of death overwhelmed me.)

from: The selenium consolation with some pretty examples through the toes command and with other guoten lere, Ausgsburg: Anton Sorg 1478. - Schramm, Bilderschmuck der Frühdrucke, Volume 4, No. 394.

Israhel van Meckenem (around 1440/1445 - 1503), Who wears the pants in our marriage? Cf. Gerhard Jaritz, Die Bruoch, in: Gertrud Blaschitz / H.Hundsbichler / G.Jaritz / E.Vavra, symbols of everyday life, everyday life of symbols. FS Harry Kühnel, Graz: ADVA 1992, pp 395-416.
The invention of gunpowder is also traced back to diabolical whispering:

Anno do. In 1380 the zesame disposition of two disgusting materials, swab and saltpetre, was first invented and the rifle pulver started to be made. […] This vnedel murderous kleinot is supposed to have been invented by a Münch and gone out into the world.Common praiseworthy Eydgnoschektiven Stetten / Landen vnd Völckeren Chronik williger thaatenbeschreybung […] described by Johann Stumpffen […] Zurich by Christoffel Forschouer M.D.XLVII. Volume II, 419 recto. - © private

Register of sins. The old concept of Satan, who only reports sinners and sues in court, has a reflex in the scenes where the devil notes sins on a piece of paper. There is not only the ›Book of the Living‹, in which the godly are entered, but also a negative balance in the heavenly bookkeeping: ... and the books were opened / And another book was opened / What is life / and the dead were judged according to the scriptures in the books / according to jren. (Apocalypse 20:12; Luther 1545).

Attributed to Hans Weiditz: The devil notes that (what) the two prayer sisters gossip instead of praying the rosary. - Zeno.org


The devil brings people into his kingdom. The fact that the devil picks up sinners or people promised to him by stupid oaths in person is often described.

In the Schedelschen Weltchronik (1493) the following is reported (on an undisclosed date; fol.CLXXXIX verso): A nasty zawbrerin what in Engelland the wardt after his death, while the briests terribly pulled the psalm sings from the devils and set on a hideous horse. thrown through the air and probably four meyl heard a terrifying forehead screeched.

Liber cronicarum cum figuris et imaginibus ab initio mundi, auctore Hartmanno Schedelio, Nuremberg: Koberger 1493. Fol. CLXXXIX verso

Heinrich Wirri von Solothurn (proven until 1572) wrote a leaflet around 1550/55 with the title "A wonderful and funny story / of a priest and his cellar / how the devil takes them away in the face of his eyes. Neatly described in rhyming white / vnd as a warning to all pious maidservants or daughters."

An impoverished man has a beautiful daughter. A priest ("a priest") in the neighborhood has an eye on her and offers her his"Basement"To become (house maid) and promises her a life of joy. You don't see anything good, but he appeases her, he also has the power to forgive sins; besides, marriage is an arduous state. She lets herself be persuaded and lives seven years "in the sau". After that "the devil came in shape | Found the priest's house with violence | The cellar will be handed over to you The priest just came out of the churches He heard the maid screeching in horror."The devil does not allow himself to be dissuaded by the priest's pathetic complaints from leading the woman to hell.

Wickiana PAS II 12/31 - on Wikicommons

The collection of examples "Le livre du chevalier de La Tour Landry pour l'enseignement de ses filles", created in 1371/72 and intended for the education of young women, was translated into German by Marquart von Stein and appeared as: "Der Ritter vom Turn von den Examples of gotsforcht and erberkait «, Basel: Michael Furter 1493. In it you can read the following copy:

There were vff eyn zyt two eegemecht [spouses] jn eyner instead / who were both visibly angry and even often moved against each other jn vneynikeit / They had now ynen young boys of [eyn] folly had committed / the huobent sy an too so ser that the kynd was angry / and gave the foolish answer / who measured the father and muoter were so greatly angry about it / the sy it in your anger gave up / he came vff that and grasped it by synen armen / vnnd threw it nyder to the earth / and where he understood it began to burn so much that it syn arm and hend lost.

The illustrator (one suspects the young Albrecht Dürer) goes beyond the text: his devil seems to want to drag the boy away according to the usual pattern, which corresponds to the parents' fox. Facsimile reprint: Unterschneidheim: Uhl 1970. [G vj a]

The devil at the particular court. In Herrad von Landsberg's "Hortus deliciarum" (end of the 12th century), one of two devils seizes the soul escaping from the soul of the rich (fol. 123v). This story of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Gospel of Luke 16, 19–31) is indirect biblical evidence of the doctrine of weighing up the good and bad deeds of a person immediately after their death. The council of 1274 declared, and the council of Florence confirmed this in 1439, that souls free from all sin will be taken to heaven immediately when they die, but the souls of those who die in mortal sin without having given satisfaction through repentance immediately descend to hell. This judgment must be distinguished from the Last Judgment, before which all people then have to justify themselves again. (Denzinger No. 857f. And 1304–1306.) The 'invention' of the particular court, like that of purgatory, led to a socio-psychological relaxation: The dead are really dead, and that makes the painful question of what they are up to until the Last Judgment superfluous whether they will return?

Heinrich Denzinger / Peter Hünermann, Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum = Compendium of creeds and church teaching decisions, 37th edition, Freiburg etc .: Herder 1991.

The death books of the late Middle Ages (›ars moriendi‹) in particular love the scene where devils and angels crowd around the dying and try to harass them with temptations or encourage them with encouragement. In one representation (Falk p.15) the dying person is shown in a central zone (in comic terminology one would speak of a ›panel‹) surrounded by accompanying people; in an upper zone angels hold out sentences on banners such as "God's mercy is ready | den ir sund is leit"while devils in the lower zone with sentences like"You have done so vil sin to yourself | you are not worth recommending"seek to deprive of all hope.

Ars moriendi. The devils try to draw the dying into their realm with their calls. But an angel receives the soul portrayed as a small child (›eidolon‹). From: Franz Falk, Die deutscher Sterbebüchlein from the oldest period of book printing to the year 1520, Cologne: Bachem 1890. - Cf. Jezler 1994, pp. 262–265.

In 1872, Wilhelm Busch depicts the struggle between a devil and an angel for the soul emerging from the fireplace Pious Helene and writes: "The spirit of the underworld wins. | He grabs the poor soul fast | and drives with her to the abyss of hell."


Christ delivers the righteous from the underworld (Harrowing of Hell / La Descente aux Limbes). In the creed it says: crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, descendit ad inferos; tertia die resurrexit a mortuis - crucified, died and buried, descended into the realm of death, rose from the dead on the third day. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christ descended into the realm of the dead. Like many pious stories, this one also comes from the context of the canonical scriptures, from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which had a strong effect on piety. The Council of Trent then put it on the index in 1558.

Edgar Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha in German translation,
3., completely reworked. Edition by Wilhelm Schneemelcher, Tübingen: Mohr 1959–1964; Volume 1, pp. 348-353. See the website of Hans Zimmermann, Görlitz (www.12koerbe.de), whose translation is also used here.

The pre-Christian righteous, i.e. Adam, Seth, the patriarchs, the prophets and John the Baptist are in the underworld and await the prophesied early arrival of God's Son.A dispute ensues between Hades and Satan (whether this duplication is a literary trick to dialogue the considerations or a split of the villain in order to take away his monopoly of power?): Satan believes in the purely human Essence of Jesus and is therefore carefree, while Hades, because of his completed raising of the dead, worries that Jesus could raise all the dead in the underworld (and thus rob the rulers there).

"While Satan and Hades were talking to each other, a powerful voice sounded like thunder: Open, you rulers, your gates, go to eternal gates! Moving in will be the king of glory " (Ps 23: 7-10 Vg.).

Although Hades orders the gates to be barricaded: "the King of Glory came in, and all the dark corners of Hades were lighted. Immediately Hades shouted: We have been defeated, woe to us! But who are you who has such authority and power? Then the King of Glory grabbed Satan's head and handed him over to the angels with the words: Hand and feet, neck and mouth are bound with iron chains!"

Jesus leads all the righteous trapped in the underworld out of limbo and into paradise.

The text is already set up as a scene, so it is not surprising that the medieval Easter and Passion plays recorded the scenes. During the Easter celebrations, the angels accompanying Christ ask the antiphon three times Great portas (Open the gates ...), and the devils ask Quis es iste rex gloriae? (Who is this King of Glory?)

Das Redentiner Osterspiel, Middle Low German / New High German, translated and commented by Brigitta Schottmann, (RUB 9744), Stuttgart: Reclam 1975; Verses 513ff.

See the article "Christ's journey to hell" by E. Lucchesi Palli in: Engelbert KIRSCHBAUM / Wolfgang BRAUNFELS et al. (Eds.), Lexikon der Christian Ikonographie, Freiburg 1968–1976, Volume I, Sp. 322–331.

Christ's descent into hell and liberation of the righteous of the old covenant; Albrecht Dürer, The Great Passion, 1510

The story of the liberation of the righteous from limbo has an aftermath: the devils discover the break-in of Jesus and are indignant about it. They advise how they can regain possession of the stolen inmates of Hell € and initiate a process against Jesus for theft. But the legal battle between Lucifer and Jesus is a fiction: the »Processus Belial«By Jacobus de Theramo († 1417) is a model staging of the canonical legal process in which all problem cases (for example the bias of God the Father, who therefore cannot serve as a judge!) Are dealt with. The prints from the incunable period are adorned with pretty pictures in which the devils have their place. See Jezler 1994, pp. 354-367.

Digital copies:
Strasbourg: Heinrich Knoblochtzer, 1478

Augsburg, 1490


The devil is laughed at

• An egg leaf print by Barthel Beham (around 1502 to 1540) shows an exchange between a devil and a woman. The text says (the roles are assigned by the editor):

The devil wolt auff buolschwork gan
Eyn alts weyb sach he stan in eyner corners
T: "What are you looking for, old man?" (Possibly clay dishes)
W: "What do you think about you hideous fool?"
T: »You tell me you old rybeyßen (grater; bad, quarrelsome woman)
You can't go to Pfarrhoff Weysen "
W: "What have you lost in it?"
T: "I want to see if I want to find an old huor or two"
The old weyb huob an zuofluochen
W: »Wiltu me looking for something in the asshole
Far, you old lorber sack
Don't worry / I'll give you a whack "
Sy eyn wants a long beating
W: "I pewt you, you old fallentybel"
[I'll take it with you, you old falling evil, i.e. epilepsy as an insult]
T: "I am called Belzepock
Kayn pößer weyb i knew my day [during my lifetime]
Guard yourselves in front of the old huoren
Which one had a little gnawing worm [gnawing worm?]
The one [husband] leydt mer peyn und quel [torments]
He had here Fegfewr and Hell «


Geisberg I, 161
Max Geisberg, The German Single-Leaf Woodcut: 1500-1550. 4 vols. Revised and edited. by Walter L. Strauss. New York 1974.

First of all, the paper would be classified in the misogynist tradition: even the devil cannot harm such a woman, and her husband is to be pitied. But the woman is very arguably preventing the devil from getting the concubine of a priest in the parsonage, presumably to lead her to hell. The piece oscillates somehow between misogyny and women's solidarity.

• For the last chapter of the apocalypse, Tobias Stimmer (1539–1584) draws a devil who is chained by Christ and who crawls into his hell and can only show the viewer his ass. The title says: "Hell what is your power."based on the sentence"Death where is your sting - hell where is your victory?"(1 Corinthians 15:55). The verses of Fischart read:

You old snake / what rattles long
With your kitten / are you worried?
Christ has through his wounds
Wound you and bound you:
So we are still released from you /
Because we are connected with jm:
Dan his death / has swallowed up death.

New artificial figures from Biblical histories and devotional hearts to Gotsförchtiger with good rhymes conceived by J. F. G. M / green torn by Tobia Stimmer, Basel: Gwarin 1576. Reprinted Munich 1923.


There are still several scenes to add:

• Lucifer's fall from hell

• the fall of the devil on the occasion of the Last Judgment (starting points: Matthew 25: 31-46 and Apocalypse 20: 11-15; the book of Enoch, Augstinus, "Civitas Dei", books 20-22)

• the fight of the archangel Michael with the devil - see the picture of the Zurich carnation master or that of Dürer

• the devils as tormentors in hell (A splendid picture can be found in the »Hortus deliciarum« of Herrad von [Landsberg, Abbess of] Hohenburg, († approx. 1196), fol. 255r = Pl. 146; Herrad of Hohenbourg, Hortus Deliciarum, ed. Rosalie Green, M. Evans, C. Bischoff, M. Curschmann, (Studies of the Warburg Institute 36), 2 vols., London / Leiden 1979. http://www.heiligenlexikon.de/Fotos/Hoelle .jpg)

• exorcism scenes; The expulsion of demons by Jesus in Gadara or Gerasa is often depicted (Mark 5: 1-20: VND there on the mountains was a large herd Sew in the pasture / And the devils asked everyone and spoke / Las vns in the Sew faren / And as soon to see Jhesus. There for the clean spirits out / and for the sewer / and the hearth threw itself with a storm into the sea / Jr was but two thousand and one drowned in the sea - Parallel passages: Matthew 8: 28–34; Luke 8: 26-39) Cf. the Lenten veil in Gurk.


The devil is on the list of extinct species

It is often harder to explain why a concept disappears in the course of intellectual history than why it appears; so did the devil's economic downturn since the end of the 17th century. Why did Satan gradually turn from a real person outside of mankind to the abstract "evil"? This is certainly related to (1) a change in the type of piety in the epoch of the early enlightenment. Instead of a moral theology of horror, in which the devil had his role, there was a piety of love for the one good God and conscience as the authority for moral judgment. Furthermore (2) the so-called ›natural theology‹ emerged around 1700, which, in contrast to the theology of revelation, trusts human cognitive faculties to make reasonable judgments, including about things of religion. Then (3) new hermeneutical premises put an end to the devil: At the end of the 17th Jhs. one recognizes in the biblical interpretation that the biblical authors, including Jesus himself, use the language of their environment, i.e. use idiomatic language and myths that are only understandable from their temporal understanding and should not be naively taken literally. This makes a justification of belief in the devil on the basis of a literal understanding of the Bilbel obsolete. - In the »Encyclopédie« (1751 is the entry Diable just half a column long and meaningless; also a judgment.

The polemical writings for and against the belief in the devil, which were triggered by the criticism of superstition by Balthasar Bekker (1634 - 1698) and then rampant especially in the 1770s, are presented in detail in Roskoff, II, pp. 427–613.

Balthasar Bekker, The Enchanted World: Or A Thorough Investigation Of General Superstition / Concerning / The Arth And The Faculty / Violence And Effectiveness Of Satan And Evil Spirits Over Humans / And What They Do Through The Same Power And Community ..., Amsterdam 1693. (Second translation from Dutch: Leipzig 1781/1782)
Digital: http://digital.slub-dresden.de/werkansicht/dlf/61061/

Nobody put the secularization of the devil into the word better than Mephistopheles (and he must know!) With his cynical (how different?) Remark:

The witch dancing.
I almost lose sense and reason
I see the Junker Satan here again!

I forbid the name, woman!

The witch.
Why? What has he done to you?

It has long been written in a book of fables;
But the people are nothing better off
The bad guys are rid of them, the bad guys have stayed.
(Goethe Faust I, verse 2509)

In recent theology the question arises whether the devil is a real, supernatural person or a personification of the evil in us, which has its own dynamic and powerfully attacks people everywhere. But one can also sharpen the question as follows: Does it matter for moral action whether the devil is understood as a real being or a symbol? Is God or is man justified as not guilty by one of the two ideas? (And what is achieved with it?) Which of the two options leads to fairer action, which leads to psychological relief?

Of course, 'the incarnate' lives on - as surveys have shown - despite all the demythologization. The catechism of the Catholic Church, which has been in force since 1992, states in § 395: He is a creature. It is far more effortless to say, "The serpent seduced me, therefore I ate of it" (Genesis 3:13) than to admit that evil is part of my own personality. It is more convenient to project the guilt onto a composite being outside than to recognize yourself as an inextricable composite being. In that sense it was "The word 'devil' was a boon: one had an overpowering and terrible enemy - one need not be ashamed to suffer from such an enemy." (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, § 23)



Article by several authors »Teufel«, in: TRE = Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Volume 33, Pages: 113-147, Berlin / New York: de Gruyter 2002.

Gustav Roskoff, Story of the devil. A cultural-historical satanology from the beginnings to the 18th century, Leipzig 1869; Reprint: Nördlingen: Greno 1987. [Still rich, although from the 19th century originating]

Peter Jezler (Ed.), Heaven - Hell - Purgatory. The Beyond in the Middle Ages, Zurich: Verlag NZZ 1994. [Catalog for the exhibition of the Swiss National Museum with extensive, carefully documented image material]

Jeffrey Burton Russell, Biography of the devil. The radical evil and the power of the good in the world, Vienna: Böhlau 2000 (English: The prince of darkness, 1988).

Kurt Bottle, The devil and his angels. Story of a seduction, Munich: C.H. Beck 2015.