The essay written by Elaine Pagels, "The Social History of Satan," illustrates the transformation of Satan from his depiction in the Hebrew Bible to the Gospel's vision of him as a Prince of Darkness who brings about the struggle between good and evil. In her essay, Pagel illustrates the concept of an evil entity and its functions.
Satan, or the Devil, plays various evil roles in ancient and modern literature and in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious traditions. Satan is seen as the opponent of God. "He" is often described as an angel named Lucifer who was cast out of heaven for rebelling against God. "He" was also condemned to roam the earth and rule hell. That legend is not found as such in the Bible but is based on interpretations of scattered Bible passages and later literary portrayals. Satan is also variously seen as a supernatural force that really exists as a scriptural figure that can be read symbolically represent evil in the world. In the essay Pagel describes the three different versions of Satan's creation.
In the Jewish religion, they identified their enemies who were unfaithful as satan. Satan is not seen as animal or monster but one of God's angels. Israelites saw their intimate enemies not as monsters but as superhuman beings whose qualities could make them more dangerous than alien enemy.
Satan first appears in the Hebrew Bible as not evil but a dissenter to God. On the contrary he also appears as one of God's servants in the book of Numbers and in Job. In the Hebrew Bible, the angels were also called "'sons of God'." Pagel states in her essay that Hebrew term the satan describes am adversarial role. In the early sixth century Hebrew story tellers introduced supernatural character, satan, as one of the angels sent by God for a specific purpose of obstructing human activity. Hebrew also attribute misfortunes to human sins. They believe that God has sent satan, angel of death, to perform specific tasks on earth which human beings might not like. Pagel quotes a scholar, Neil Forsyth stating that `"If the path is bad an obstruction is good.'" The quote implies that satan may be sent to us to protect us from worse harm.
Similar to the Hebrew version of Satan, the book Job also describes satan as a supernatural messenger. One difference is present that in the Hebrew version satan protects from harm rather than opposing Job stating in the book of Job. The story begins with when God asks satan where he had come from where satan answers, `"from roaming on the earth, and walking up and down on it.'" This quote brings out the similarity between Hebrew satan and shut, the Hebrew word `"to roam.'" This suggests that the role of satan is kind of a nomadic "intelligence agent."