The Temple

Believing a Lie Doesn’t Make It True

I am amazed at what people believe, or think is true. I am amazed at what I hear pastors say is taught in the Scriptures, when what they are espousing is at best speculation. Let me give some examples:

* Satan’s name is Lucifer.
* The end of the world will come in our lifetime.
* All babies go to heaven.
* There is an age of accountability
* God is building me a mansion in heaven.
* People go to hell because they don’t believe in Jesus.
* God has to love everyone equally.
* Man has a free will.

Repeating these ideas in a sermon, book, or teaching doesn’t make them true. Saying them emphatically does not make them true. As Christians, we believe that in order for something to be true (theologically), it must be demonstrated to be true from the teachings of the Scriptures.

Satan is never given the name Lucifer in the Bible. In fact the Bible was written in Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) with some small amounts of Aramaic (Daniel). Lucifer is a Latin word which means “light bearing.” Latin as a language was not biblically significant until the 5th century when Jerome translated the Bible into Latin. Jerome translated the Hebrew term “helel” by using the Latin term “lucifer.” Most modern translations translate “helel” as “star of the morning” (shining one in the marginal note) or “Day Star.” The King James (New King James as well) and the Geneva Bible choose to simply transliterate the Latin term into English, and capitalize it as well to intimate that it refers as a title to a person, namely Satan.

A careful reading of the context will nullify this translation. Chapter 14 of Isaiah is a passage which speaks of God having compassion on Israel and restoring them from the captivity in Babylon. When God restores them they will “take up this taunt against the King of Babylon…” (Isaiah 14:4). Isaiah 14:5-21 is the taunt that Israel will take up and declare in their restoration. All of these verses refer to the King of Babylon. They are sarcastic words of mockery at the self-inflated ego of the king.

Verse 12 reads: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!” If you continue to read you will read of the arrogance of the king, who felt he was the most powerful entity in the universe, and why not? He ruled the world.

Many readers of this passage have said that the language of the passage cannot be referring to a human entity. Two responses mitigate against this:
1. It is identified as a taunt directed specifically to the king. In a taunt, you would use extreme language to make the taunt more effective. “You think you are so great….maggots will eat your flesh.” The contrast is heightened by the extreme language.
2. Verse 16 further identifies the subject of this taunt as a “man.” Satan is not a man.

Somewhere in history a tradition began based on a mis-interpretation of this passage. It probably started in a riveting sermon – a good sermon delivered with good intentions, but rooted in a misunderstanding. It gained a popularity of its own, and began to be repeated. People began to accept it as true, and to further repeat it. Unfortunately it made its way into the King James Bible and the rest is history. The influence of this translation with its capitalized “Lucifer” became the standardized interpretation of this passage. Presently, in some circles, it is accepted without question or inquiry as to its Biblical validity – and as such has become a popular lie, believed by many to be true.

This reveals a disturbing trend. The motivation and goal of many pastors in crafting a sermon has changed from rightly dividing the word and teaching the meaning of a particular passage. There are many different types of preaching these days, much of it designed to capture an audience. Now there is nothing wrong with capturing an audience, but the preachers starting point must be with the unchanging and eternal word of God. It is our job to expose, explain, exhort, encourage the body with the word of God. That is the starting place, we call this exegesis. Exposition is added to exegesis and it is at this later stage of sermon development that capturing the audience comes into play; after determining the meaning of the text.

Many pastors are adept at capturing the audience and it becomes an addiction. The capturing of the audience becomes the pursuit. This tail wagging the dog approach has taken us away from the classic call of the ministry: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” It is being replaced with shallow, plagiarized, oft-repeated, cliched and alliterated witticisms masquerading as “preaching the word” or “teaching the whole counsel of God.”

There is a dying breed out there, the scholar pastor. It is rare to find a pastor who has taken the time to sharpen his skills, hone his intellect, discipline his study – so that he is truly a resource to the body. What we have now, are people who desire to be trend-setters, good speakers who attract large crowds, populist preachers with a pragmatic approach to church growth and management. As a result, we think Lucifer is Satan’s name…and believe other more egregious lies.

More to come…..

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October 19, 2006 - Posted by | Theological

1 Comment »

  1. […] I have written previously about this phenomenon. This is the most remarkable myth surrounding Satan. Lucifer is not a Biblical term for Satan. In fact, the term is a Latin term that was not introduced into the Biblical text until the first Latin translations (Jerome’s Vulgate in the 5th century AD &  the Vetus Latina which is a hodgepodge collection of Latin translations that preceded the Vulgate by about a century). The only place “lucifer” occurs is in Isaiah 14:12, but remember “lucifer” is a Latin term and the book of Isaiah was written in Hebrew. The Latin language is thought to have had its beginnings in the 5th century BC, some three centuries after the writing of the book of Isaiah. Safe to say that Isaiah never heard of the word “lucifer” and certainly didn’t write it in his prophecy. In Isaiah 14:12 the term he uses is “helel” which means light source, the ESV translates the term “Day Star” with unfortunate capitalization. Even the vulgate the term “lucifer” is not capitalized. Jerome was translating the Hebrew term “helel” with the Latin equivalent “lucifer” which means source of light. It was in the Middle Ages that the passage in Isaiah came to be associated with the figure known popularly as “Satan” and not until the King James Translators chose to translate the term “lucifer” as a name by capitalizing and transposing as opposed to simply translating. It is also interesting to note the dependence of the KJV translators (at least here) on the Vulgate! Long explanation made short: there is nowhere in the Bible a figure known as Lucifer. […]

    Pingback by Tim was such a little devil « The Temple | September 9, 2008 | Reply


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