Re: Lucifer (Was Re: Myth)

From: Peter Ruest <>
Date: Sun Jan 04 2004 - 01:08:22 EST

george murphy wrote (regarding Isaiah 14:12-20):
> Peter Ruest wrote:
> ...
> > 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.
> Shalom, George


thank you for this explanation. I think I can accept this now as an
example of a "broken myth". I have to apologize that I wasn't careful
enough in my formulation about "unwillingness". I was thinking more
generally of theologians, particularly liberal ones, but didn't really
want to suggest it for you, because I know you are not liberal in the
sense of the old German movement of liberal theology. I appreciated your
recent statement about Jesus' "I am" and similar ones very much!

Just one more question regarding the Satan interpretation of Isa.
14:12-20: would you give a similar interpretation to Eze. 28:11-16?

I agree that there is no "full-fledged biblical doctrine of the fall of
the evil angels" (about _how_ it happened), but I think we still can say
that there must have been a fall of evil angels (_that_ it happened).


Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Sun Jan 4 01:06:40 2004

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