Yesterday I posted my notes from my study of Matthew 13.1-23; Mark 4.1-20; and Luke 8.4-15 (see “Studying the Synoptic Problem: The Sower”). As I read through these versions of the parable of the sower I noticed that Satan is mentioned in all three Gospels as a character who comes like birds eating seeds that have fallen alongside the road devouring the message of Christ from people’s hearts. Also, I noticed that each Evangelist describes him by a different name.

In Matthew 13.19 he is “the Evil One” (ὁ πονηρὸς). In Mark 4.15 he is “the Satan” (ὁ Σατανᾶς). In Luke 8.12 he is “the Devil” (ὁ διάβολος).

If we assume Markan priority than Matthew didn’t want to call him “Satan” but settled for the more cautious “the Evil One”. Luke would have avoided the more Hebraic name “Satan” (השטן). If we assume Markan posteriority then Mark took the more cautious “Evil One” and named him Satan choosing to go with the more Hebraic form against Luke’s “Devil”.

In a sense this reminds me a bit of how these Evangelists discuss the Kingdom of God/Heaven. Mark and Luke call the Kingdom of God (e.g. τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ in Mk 4.11 and Lk 8.10) while Matthew settles for the generalized Hebraic “of Heaven” (e.g. τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν in 13.11).

At least from this small sample we see (1) Matthew is not comfortable naming divine and semi-divine beings to some extent; (2) Mark shows a more Hebraic mindset by using the name “Satan”; (3) Matthew does the same by talking about the Kingdom “of Heaven”; (4) Luke settles for Gentile friendly language.