Lucifer (Was Re: Myth)

From: george murphy <>
Date: Sat Jan 03 2004 - 00:28:35 EST

Peter Ruest wrote:

> george murphy wrote:

> > > > 3) Where mythical elements occur in the OT they are often in the form of "broken myth," the deliberate use of modifications of pagan myths to express aspects of the faith of Israel - e.g., the use of the Canaanite myth of an attempt by a younger god to rest control from the elder god to speak of the fall of Babylon. <
> > >
> > > I understand that this is your interpretation of Gen.1,
> >
> > No, I don't think Gen.1 is myth in this sense (though aspects of it are if one uses definition (a) below. Some have seen in the /tehom/ of Gen.1:2 an acho of Tiamat of the Babylonian creation story but this is debatable. If it were true it would be an example of broken myth"<
> See my comment above about an "outdated picture" of the world.
> > > but I am not
> > > aware of any other examples in the Bible where an apparent historical
> > > narrative could be interpreted as a broken myth (where do you find the
> > > example you mention?).
> >
> > Isaiah 14:12-20.<
> Some interpreters see in this text a prophecy intended to have two
> interpretations, one referring to the king of Babylon, the other to
> Satan (as a backwards-directed prophecy). The motivation for talking of
> myth here would seem to be an unwillingness to consider the possibility
> of such a double prophecy also referring to Satan.

        I had said that the previous post would be my last on the "Myth" thread but think I should clarify
this particular item, partly because my too-brief comment doesn't seem to have been understood and partly because I have seen other references recently to this idea that "Lucifer" is to be equated with Satan.

        /heylel ben-shachar/ is "Day star, son of dawn," a reference to the morning star, as modern study & translations back to LXX (/heosphoros/ = Hesperus, Venus as the morning star) who intended to ascend the "mount of assembly" and set up his throne there. Just as with some of the familiar Greek myths associated with stars and constellations, the morning star in the rays of the rising sun is the basis for a Canaanite myth of younger god who intended to supplant the elder and assume his rule on "the mount of
assembly" of the gods, but is defeated and cast down Isaiah has used the language of this pagan myth in a taunt song directed at the King of Babylon.

        This is exactly what is meant by "broken myth." To be quite clear, Isaiah here is not thinking in mythological terms. He is deliberately using the language of myth but freely redirecting it to speak of God's purpose in a contemporary political situation. To put it another way, he is demythologizing it.

        Jerome & others of the fathers _re_mythologized this passage by trying to make it refer to a pre-mundane fall of Satan from heaven. There is nothing at all in the text to suggest this, and this passage is never referred to in any other place in the Bible in support of such an interpretation of it.

        There are of course verses that speak of Satan falling from heaven like lightning (Lk.10:18) and the dragon and his angels being thrown down (Rev.12:9) but nothing to indicate that they are dependent on Is.14. In fact the whole Bible contains at best hints about the whole idea of a pre-mundane fall of Satan & his hosts, the kind of thing popularized by Milton's _Paradise Lost_. (& note that the Revelation passage which is often mentioned in this connection refers to something that happens in connection
with the birth & ascension of the Messiah, not something before the creation of the world.) I don't deny that this idea is a powerful one and probably contains some truth, but the notion that there is a full-fledged biblical doctrine of the fall of the evil angels is incorrect.

        In any case, that's not what Is.14:12-20 is talking about. While Luther didn't know about Canaanite myth &c, his statement in his lectures on Isaiah is clear: "This is not said of the angel who was once thrown out of heaven but of the king of Babylon, and it is figurative language." (LW 16, p.140)

        I explained the motivation for speaking of the language used by Isaiah as (broken) myth. It is not an unwillingness to consider such statements being made about Satan: Clearly they are in the other 2 passages I noted. But there is no evidence at all in the Isaiah text that that is what it's about.

Received on Sat Jan 3 00:30:48 2004

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