Some demons try to tempt you towards infidelity, others want to drive you to drink. But there’s one creature from Hell who is apparently so evil that he’s constantly confused with Satan himself - the demon Beelzebub. Who is this horrific fallen angel with designs on wiping out the world and everything in it? Is he the Devil or just one of his beleaguered minions? The difference between Satan and Beelzebub isn’t as simple as you might think - while they are similar, they serve very different purposes in the Christian mythos.
While Beelzebub only appears briefly in the Bible, he’s found throughout Christian mythology, from the Testament of Solomon to the Salem witch trials. Writings on Beelzebub detail how to summon him using a magic ring, as well as various ways to engage him in devilish conversation. So who is Beelzebub, the ancient demon with a checkered past and an affinity for flies?
Throughout the New Testament, the Pharisees - a religious group that became the basis for Rabbinic Judaism - question Jesus's motivations and abilities in an attempt to undercut his "savior" role. When Jesus picks grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees catechize him, and when he drives demons out of a person's soul, they claim he's using the power of Beelzebub to do so.
The Pharisees claim in Mark 3:22, "[Jesus] is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." Jesus responds that, if that were so, Satan would be working against himself. The Bible fails to clarify, however, whether the Pharisees and Jesus see Beelzebub as an analog for Satan or if the two are simply interchangeable.
Beelzebub often uses the moniker "Lord of the Flies." This nickname stems from the translation of Ba’al Zebub, literally meaning lord or husband of the flies. Flies are representative of corrosion and excrement, thus equating Beelzebub with demonic filth.
Representations of Beelzebub often depict him as either a giant fly himself or as a creature with bat wings and a lion's tail. In Season 2 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, he is even featured as one of the three main demons of Hell.
Towards the end of the 17th century, Beelzebub was allegedly a major player in the Salem witch trials. He was blamed for most of the demonic occurrences in Salem, specifically those related to witchcraft. When the women of Salem confessed to witchcraft, they often claimed that Beelzebub tricked them.
He was even said to have worked his way through Salem, corrupting the town's inhabitants and turning them towards Satan. New England minister Cotton Mather wrote about the influence of the Lord of the Flies in the pamphlet Beelzebub and his Plot.
In Milton's Paradise Lost, the author lists Beelzebub as one of Satan's primary minions rather than his analog. Milton writes that Satan consults Beelzebub on most of his plans, and the two even conspired against God before they were thrown out of Heaven.
Throughout Milton's book, Satan uses Beelzebub as a mouthpiece. He even sends his second-in-command to order a gathering of demons to move their fight with Heaven to the earthly plane. Of all the demons in Hell, Beelzebub is the one whom Satan most trusts, although as soon as the King of the Underworld arrives, Beelzebub essentially disappears from the story.