Satan, A.K.A. Lucifer?

Lucifer

Have you seen the new TV show, Lucifer? It is very entertaining, and I confess, with all the appropriate embarrassment, that I really enjoy it. Nevertheless, it is a combination of charming and horrifying.

In full disclosure, I voluntarily admit I am a Christian who absolutely believes the words of St. Peter in the New Testament, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8). That’s the horrifying part of my above description of the TV show. As attractive and entertaining as the character, Lucifer is on the show, he/it also gives us direct flashes of the truth that he is the incarnation of evil.

The show is just a show, but I am an analytical person who happens to have a good theological education from two seminaries and a lifetime of Bible study. For instance, read on to the last portion of this essay, and I will explain, for those who are interested, from an academic point of view, that Lucifer is not really the same as Satan, and that he’s not really even a legitimate biblical person/character. As for the rest of this article, I simply cannot help analyzing this silly/scary character and TV comedy/drama. As Captain Kirk might say, “I HAVE to, Mister.”

Lucifer (in the show) is depicted as a person who is able to tap into the temptations of human beings and get them to tell him the truth about their desires and intentions. He drinks and parties ‘all the time,’ instantly seduces every woman he’s attracted to (except the female detective who plays his foil), is titillated by danger and totally lacks empathy for most of the characters hurt by such danger. He relishes his job as the punisher of those who meet his idea of Law-breakers. Occasionally, he drops the charming mask and reveals his true nature, reducing the meanest, harshest, most violent characters to trembling, screaming wretches in fear of hell.

Like the real Satan, depicted in the New Testament, this Lucifer, while appearing, outwardly to be a charming, witty, and loveable guy, is far more complex than his exterior persona. He is handsome and desirable on the outside (a veritable angel of light), but every now and then, he reveals his horribly ugly inner self to those he wants to torment. He is focused totally on his own desires, importance, whims, and so forth, but makes others think he is focused on them. Unlike the Bible version, he occasionally appears to be growing a conscience and a decent heart, which is TV’s latest ploy (starting with The Sopranos, I guess) to insure that the character, while really, really bad, can be “liked” by the audience. Some other examples of sociopaths that TV and ‘the movies’ have presented as possessing redeeming qualities include the title character on “Dexter,” the wicked queen, Mr. Gold and other characters on “Once Upon A Time,” Dr. House on “House,” and the title character in the new Marvel movie, “Dead Pool.” Trust me, there are many more in the same category on TV and in Hollywood movies.

As I said in the beginning, I enjoy the show, but I have to say it is disturbing to think of the affect it could have on the masses of Americans who get most of their education from TV. I worry that entertainment like this may confuse many things in the minds of people who will arrogantly challenge the greatest truths from the brightest minds, yet accept any sort of drivel on TV as “reality,” (including certain ‘news’ shows). The current election process has displayed several candidates who make a great deal of noise designed to bring out passionate emotions with no real content or solutions at all on the complex issues facing most of us. Incredibly, those are the candidates who are attracting the allegiance of the masses.

If the result of the charming, witty, funny “Lucifer,” is that most of the TV watchers of America begin to believe that down deep, Satan is really a nice guy (you know, like Tony Soprano and Dexter), the makers of the show could not have done more to place those people in danger should they ever face the real “prowling lion” Peter warned us to avoid.

Anyway, now that I’ve “gone to preaching,” let me move on to clear up some confusion in the minds of those who still think Lucifer is a legitimate biblical character. Maybe he is, because King James’ translators decided he is, but maybe he isn’t since all the evidence from the original manuscripts that were translated into our modern Bibles says the name is a mistake in translation, and they make a darn good case for that.

There is much argument and debate among both conservative and liberal Bible scholars as to whether Lucifer and Satan are the same being. Some interpret Isaiah 14:12 as referring to Satan, described in Luke 10:18 as falling from heaven like lightning. And it may be referring to Satan, but not to someone named “Lucifer,” even though the KJV scholars translated the manuscript words as if they were a proper name. While there is little direct evidence in the original Hebrew manuscripts that an angel with the name Lucifer is anything more than a confusion about a ‘description’ of such a being (misinterpreted or mistranslated by St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430), Tertullian (A.D. 155-240), and St. Jerome (A.D. 347-420), some of the early Church fathers), most Christians think of Lucifer as an alternate name for Satan.

The same idea is assumed in the popular literature, even as far back as Dante’s The Divine Comedy (1472) and Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). The manuscripts from which all versions of the Bible are translated do not contain the proper name, Lucifer. They contain a description of a being who fell from heaven, comparing that being to Venus (the morning star). The Hebrew word can be translated “light bearer,” and the aforementioned Church fathers decided to translate those words as a proper name in the absence of any other proof. The scholars King James hired to translate those manuscripts into the King James Bible followed that same tradition, but modern scholarship has refused to do so in the absence of any legitimate evidence that Satan was also known as Lucifer.

To add to the above confusion, there are abundant legends (or speculations) created by Christian and Jewish writers from the early centuries A.D. that provide a totally non biblical account of Lucifer’s rebellion and expulsion from Heaven. They seem to be influenced by Greek and Roman mythology about their ‘gods,’ e.g. Zeus/Jupiter, Hades/Pluto, and many others, and stories of betrayals, demotions, and other related issues.

These extra biblical (as in not from the canonized Bible) stories come from imaginative storylines constructed by pasting together passages from various places in the Old and New Testaments as divergent as Job, Isaiah and Revelation. These form an assumed continuous history of rebellion in Heaven and the characters that were supposedly involved. They refer to Lucifer as a prideful angel who was the chief in the hierarchy of heaven and as above all other created beings.

Depending on which stories one reads, or which modern Christians’ points of view one accepts, Lucifer takes on a wide variety of characteristics and flaws, but most are agreed that his main downfall is pride. The only problem is that a plain reading of the Bible, especially in its original form of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, does not provide this exact story. It only provides hints that can be put together in a variety of ways, depending on the imagination of the editor.

I’d like to make one last point about the TV show. It is very interesting to me that the title character refers to God as “his father.” The feeling is much more akin to the relationship of Zeus and Hades or Jupiter and Pluto than of Satan and God Almighty.

There are 5 places in the Bible that angels are referred to as “sons of God,” and Bible scholars (including those from the earliest centuries of the Church) have been trying to explain them away for at least the last 2,000 years. The five texts to which I’m referring are:
  1. Genesis 6:1-4, where the ‘sons of God’ “saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose;” and “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”
    1. This is a strange story that sounds so much like the mythology of gods (from Mt. Olympus or other myths) fathering children with humans. Scholars consider it legends that crept into Scripture in an ancient world where monotheism was a new concept.
    2. Perhaps it has meaning for Jews, Christians and Muslims (who all agree the OT is Holy Scripture), but the problems with it are difficult to resolve, e.g. Jesus indicated angels to not marry and the implication is they do not reproduce, so how did this happen?
  2. Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6 where the first passage begins, “One day the sons of God” (the Hebrew is translated into ‘angels’ by some modern versions) came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came with them;” and the second passage (which is a second meeting of God, the sons of God/angels and Satan) begins, “On another day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him.”
    1. These two passages are strange as well, in part because the same Bible translators that translated the Hebrew words in Genesis 6 literally as “sons of God” in Job translated them angels. Additionally, this story is unique in the Bible in that it gives us a picture of Heavenly board meetings or court sessions where God marches his angels in to report on matters related to humans.
    2. Here, Satan is not called Lucifer, or described as a “light bearer,” rather, he appears to be some sort of prosecutor or investigator who “roams the earth and goes back and forth in it.” God allows Satan to “test” Job’s faith in both stories, by inflicting the worst hardships a human being can endure: loss of family, loss of worldly belongings, and loss of health.
    3. This story is also considered to be legendary in quality and character, perhaps far older than the Hebrew people, but adapted by the author of Job to describe true faith in God in a personal vignette.
  3. Job 38:7, is out of the long passage where God chastises Job for questioning God’s actions. The verse in question says, “while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
    1. Again, in this passage, the Hebrew words on the original manuscripts are as I have written them (sons of God), but several modern Bibles translate them instead to ‘angels.’
    2. You can imagine as well, that stars do not sing, and we know that the description of Satan that resulted in misnaming him Lucifer (in Isaiah 14:12) was describing him as one of the “morning stars,” which probably refers to, not a star, but the planet Venus. Nevertheless, when the Bible mentions stars singing, it is obviously talking poetically (or mythologically) about angels.
    3. Revelation 12:3-9 refers to Satan as an enormous red dragon. “His tail swept a third of the stars (angels) out of the sky and flung them to the earth.” Later in the passage it tells even more about this casting out of Heaven of Satan and his angels: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
    4. When you read THIS description of Satan, Lucifer from the TV show takes on a far more malevolent demeanor and personality. The TV Lucifer is more like one of Zeus’ tragic sons than the evil, originally heavenly being who decided to rebel against God and to test, torment and damn God’s children.
    5. Psalm 29:1 and Psalm 89:6 refer to “heavenly beings” or “sons of the mighty,” or “angels,” or “sons of God,” depending on which translation you read.
      1. When one compares all these efforts at translating the same Hebrew words that clearly say “sons of God” into something more palatable, it is clear that ancient and modern Bible translators had trouble with the concept of angels being known as sons of God.

If I were to do justice to this paper, it would be a good-sized book, incorporating much theology, mythology, and history of the Bible and it’s peoples. If you’re sort of interested, I recommend you Google some of the keywords in my essay. If really interested, you should take out a few books on the subject from a good library.

Text copyright © 2016 Robert B. Clemons III

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