Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lucifer: Bringer of Light?

The first problem is that Lucifer is a Latin name. So how did it find its way into a Hebrew manuscript, written before there was a Roman language? To find the answer, I consulted a scholar at the library of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. What Hebrew name, I asked, was Satan given in this chapter of Isaiah, which describes the angel who fell to become the ruler of hell?

The answer was a surprise. In the original Hebrew text, the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah is not about a fallen angel, but about a fallen Babylonian king, who during his lifetime had persecuted the children of Israel. It contains no mention of Satan, either by name or reference. The Hebrew scholar could only speculate that some early Christian scribes, writing in the Latin tongue used by the Church, had decided for themselves that they wanted the story to be about a fallen angel, a creature not even mentioned in the original Hebrew text, and to whom they gave the name "Lucifer."

Why Lucifer? In Roman astronomy, Lucifer was the name given to the morning star (the star we now know by another Roman name, Venus)...

...Jerome had mistranslated the Hebraic metaphor, "Day star, son of the Dawn," as "Lucifer," and over the centuries a metamorphosis took place. Lucifer the morning star became a disobedient angel, cast out of heaven to rule eternally in hell. Theologians, writers, and poets interwove the myth with the doctrine of the Fall, and in Christian tradition Lucifer is now the same as Satan, the Devil, and --- ironically --- the Prince of Darkness.


I've started some research for a new short story, although I have to think SOMEONE has come up with this idea already and probably explored it more thoroughly and more creatively than I ever could. But if that doesn't turn out to be the case, I'm hoping to begin work on a story tentatively titled, "The Gospel of Mephistopheles" with the angle that Yahweh is, in fact, an evil God to whom Lucifer rebels against. After all, history is written by the victor --wouldn't an evil God smear, distort, and punish those who challenged him? This could be the tag line:

"The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he wasn't already God."

It sure does explain the problem of evil and suffering. I would also borrow from the Gnostics and deify Judas as some kind of real savior having made the ultimate sacrifice by betraying Jesus -- eternal damnation. I think it's a really interesting inversion of the Bible mythos.


Mack Ramer said...

If Satan is already God, then why would Yahweh be more powerful than him? And why would Satan choose to hide his true identity?

Jay said...

I haven't thought it through quite yet. But Yahweh=Satan=Currently on God's throne while Lucifer=the Light=currently banished to Hell. I'm still working out the motivations and the power relationship. I'd say, Lucifer is the Creator, the first God, but Yahweh manages to dethrone Him, then Yaweh rewrites history to cast Lucifer as the Great Evil. "God" is not so much an entity but a title; whosoever takes the throne becomes "God" and has infinite (well probably not infinite) power.

The problem from the original story remains though. It makes no sense that Satan would rebel against a God who he understood to be infinitely powerful -- it's a useless gesture! So I'll have to come up with some kind of loophole.

Mack Ramer said...

The problem from the original story remains though. It makes no sense that Satan would rebel against a God who he understood to be infinitely powerful -- it's a useless gesture!

There was a lot of interesting speculation by medieval theologians on just that matter. For a summary see the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on The Devil; for some examples, see St. Anselm's lengthy dialogue De Casu Diaboli [PDF], and Questions 63 and 64 of St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica.

ΦZ said...

The basic principle is that the western religions have given no value or wisdom held within the "dark" or "evil" side of consciousness / subconsciousness. For more in depth discussion on this please see bc recordings "devil as the shadow of god"