Is Jesus Satan?

Now that I have your attention, I should presumably next reassure you by saying “NO!”

But hopefully you are still asking yourself why on earth anyone would ask the question in the first place.

The reason is a discussion in my Sunday school class last week. We’ve been working through the Book of Revelation, and reached the first reference to the “morning star.” Near the end of the book, Jesus himself will be described as “the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16).

The “morning star” refers to what we today call the planet Venus, visible and bright on many a morning and evening, and thus visible even in brightly-lit cities in our time.

There is also another reference to this celestial object in the Bible, in Isaiah 14:12, where some English translations have “morning star,” others “Lucifer,” and still others something else.

Given the long history of identifying Lucifer in Isaiah as Satan or the Devil, the question posed in the title of this post is not as odd perhaps as it first seems (although there are certainly some odd discussions of this topic online).

So why the emphatic and unhesitating answer “No”? Because, despite the long tradition of using “Lucifer” as a name for Satan, the passage in Isaiah is in fact about someone and something else.

In Isaiah, the figure who is metaphorically compared with Venus is unambiguously the king of Babylon. Now, it could be argued that there might already have been a myth of an angel that tries to exalt itself and is cast down, which Isaiah was drawing upon. But the text does not actually say that. It just compares the king of Babylon to Venus.

If we ask why that comparison was made, it clearly has to do with the fact that the planets, so named because they were “wandering stars,” move around in the sky in a different manner than the stars, or from the perspective of ancient people, the other stars.

As Venus ascends and then descends across the sky, it might seem to be trying to exalt itself among the heavenly host, and then getting sent lower and lower until it reaches the Earth. This presumably inspired the comparison in Isaiah, and whether earlier or later, the mythology about a fallen angel.

The author of Revelation clearly knew Isaiah, as well as the elaborate traditions about Satan that had grown up in Judaism since the compilation of the collection of Jewish Scriptures. So why identify Jesus as the “morning star”?

In fact, it would be going too far to call what we find in Revelation an “identification” since the first reference to the morning star in the book is in Revelation 2:28, where Jesus is depicted as saying that he will give the morning star to those who overcome.

It may have been nothing more than the brightness that was the point of the application of the imagery to Jesus, since brightness is the only thing emphasized in Rev. 22:16.

If the author had a view of Jesus as incarnating or embodying a celestial emissary, then it might also be that the astronomical movement of Venus was being recast as a descent and ascent. But perhaps the point was more likely than Jesus had ascended and was expected (as Revelation emphasizes) to descend once again.

It could also be that, just as divine imagery is transferred to Jesus in Revelation, while Satan at best offers parodies of the divine (with an unholy trinity and an apparent death and resurrection), so it was felt appropriate to transfer a potentially positive image once associated with Satan – the brightest “star” in the sky – and transfer it to Jesus.

Be that as it may, can there be any serious doubt, given the whole central thrust of Revelation, that the author’s point was not to identify Jesus and Satan?

  • VorJack

    I’m trying to remember … wasn’t this part of what got Origen in trouble? He suggested that in the next go-round, Satan might be the savior and Jesus the tempter?

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Origen got in trouble mostly posthumously, for several things, including his Christology. The one you are thinking of is presumably his saying that even the Devil could be saved. It has long struck me as ironic that a religion which, at least in theory, emphasizes salvation of the wicked, would condemn someone as a heretic for believing that was possible in the extreme.

      • Gary

        OK, since I didn’t know anything about Origen, and I also happen to be reading Pagel’s book that I mentioned, my jaw dropped to the floor! “Origen, also revered as a father of the church, had been so determined to win his struggle against passion that as a young man he had castrated himself, apparently without asking anyone’s permission, least of all the governor’s.” Ouch! If he was trying to follow Jesus, and in his logical processes, decided to take such action….maybe following to the extreme Paul? I don’t think I’d want to take any advice from him, either practical, or theological. I would consider him a cult leader if he lived today. Now that is extreme.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Now that I think about this, might it be a cool apocalyptic thriller to tell a story about a group that “figures out” that references to Jesus and Satan in the NT are references to Venus, and so to bring about the Parousia of Jesus and Satan falling like lightning from heaven, they hijack a top secret military spacecraft and use it to send the planet Venus hurtling towards Earth?

  • Isaiah

    You do know the reason that church had that on there sign in the first place right? It’s a statement about the King James only controversy. Temple Baptist Church is a KJV only church and they believe newer “corrupt” versions of the Bible are identifying Jesus and Lucifer as the same being. They either believe this was an accident that shows the superiority of the KJV translators or more likely some sort of demonic signature left by the “obviously” Satanically inspired translators of newer versions. I only mention it because if someone sees that sign and reads your post where you are talking about a discussion in your church they might get the impresssion that you are endorsing KJV onlyism, which obviously you don’t.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I would be very surprised if someone got the impression that I am a KJV-onlyist! There was a tag in the photo that made me think it was actually a sign made by one of those online sign generators, rather than an actual church sign, but now I am not so sure. But either way, the sign illustrates the post nicely, and if one reads the KJV and understands it, the same issue arises. Not understanding what one reads – and thus being able to interpret around e edges of the difficult older English – is probably one of the reasons that KJV-onlyism is popular. Newer translations are too clear! :-)

      • Isaiah

        I know you are not KJV only. I just thought you might want to know how some readers (first timers, no one who has read this blog for long would peg you as a KJVO guy) might see this post. When I was a kid my pastor at the time gave this sermon. I bet the people over at SFL are pretty familiar with this sermon as well.
        You mentioned apocalyptic thriller, a few years ago I talked to a man who said he had a dream (he might call it a vision) that scientists would eventually clone Jesus, from the Shroud of Turin, and that clone would take over the world and be the antichrist! Kind of goes with the mixing up Jesus with Satan theme.
        Anyway, he also was voted in as an Indiana state senator a few months later!

        • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          A local politician who envisages Jesus being cloned from the Turin Shroud? I can’t help but wonder who that is…

          Anyway, I have the vague sense that someone actually wrote a novel exploring that scenario, too!

  • Gary

    “The Origin of Satan”, Elaine Pagels, “…satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity. The root stn means “one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as adversary”.”….”As the literary scholar Neil Forsyth says of the satan, “If the path is bad, an obstruction is good”.” Then an example is given of Balam. Num 22:23 “and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary”, a satan?. So in a rather convoluted sense, Satan and Jesus have something in common. Both are adversaries to humans. But in Jesus’s case, he is a roadblock, adversary, obstruction, to what we really ALL want to do, that is sin. And maybe as an angel of death is sent to us eventually, Jesus is its adversary too, conquering death. Then again, maybe all the writers, as in the synoptic gospel problem, were all on drugs. Certainly, if someone projects the author of the Gospel of John was on drugs, the author of Revelation was on a super, Timothy Leary drug.

  • angievandemerwe

    As ancient tribes believed in fate, it was easy for “kings” and rulers to dominate them….it is similar today in uncivilized societies. Superstition abounds. And God or Satan is identified as the culprit, when in reality, the culprit is man. Politics drives what goes on in the world.
    Is Jesus the same as “Satan”? Yes, IF those that are religiously inclined think their understanding dictates what everyone “should be” and do! “Satan” then, would be them obstructing the way of others, in the name of “God” and in opposition to those that desire to do something other than their “design”!!! But, there would be little difference for “secularists” that believe that humans are to be “conformed” into a certain “image”, behavior or “standard”….as to political action….the humanists, social activists, or Statists, who value “the global” without discrimination.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

    In many obvious ways of course, this seems like an overstated and even crazy topic. However, to be sure, the fact is that many persons, and even important scholars like William Wrede, have noted this curious and even devasting fact: that Jesus himself,never seems to have openly, unambiguously said that he was specifically the “Christ.” Over and over, when others ask him who he is, or when others suggest he is Christ, Jesus merely responds that “you say that”; or “who do you say I am”? While amazingly too, all those persons around him who say Jesus is the promised Christ, are characterized in the Bible itself as “unclean” persons like gentiles, or persons with “demons.” (Even Peter is bad in Mat. 16.23).
    Finally it seems that there is perhaps only one place where Jesus himself, seems specifically to say he is the Christ. But that passage in Mark 15.62, is narrated differently in parallel texts in other gospels, like Mat. 26.64 Which notes in effect that Jesus himself does not say he is Christ; while the text indicates that it is only the priests, that make that claim. That put those words into Jesus’ mouth, when he himself did not utter them.
    Amazingly and shockingly therefore, it has seemed to many that … Jesus himself never quite unambiguously said that he was the Christ, specifically. (References to “Son of man” and so forth, are slightly different, and ambiguous, etc.).
    Which leads us finally, to this strange possibility: that Jesus was not merely trying to keep his status as Christ a “Messianic Secret”; but in fact, Jesus himself … did not really think he was the promised Christ. Instead, that is only what the priests mistakenly told us.
    And as a matter of fact, scholars today agree that Jesus did not completely fulfill all of the prophesies that a “Christ” was supposed to fulfill; he did not completely deliver the full, ideal “kingdom” of God, not just in “spirit” but also in material form here on this earth. As had been promised in say, Isa. 65-6; Rev. 21.
    While indeed? At his crucifixion, Jesus thought that he was no longer supported by God, at his death; but had been “abandoned” or “foresaken” by God; and could not be the full promised savior, therefore. While John – in the Gospel of John and then in Revelation – at times seems rather ambigious about Jesus’ status.
    While others agree that the first coming of Jesus was not quite enough to fully realize all of the “kingdom” that had been promised; that a “Second Coming” of Christ would be necessary to do that.
    So that, what would be our point here? It would be that shockingly it often appears from a closer look at the Bible itself, that the whole doctrine that Jesus was the full and adequate expression or fulfillment of promises of a “Christ,” was not really always unequivocally endorsed by Jesus himself.
    So that all those who insist that Jesus was firmly and adequately all we need to see of “Christ,” are presenting a “false christ” to the world.
    As some might say, here.

    • angievandemerwe

      Using “sacred” language or “sacred’ texts, or “sacred” images is a way for those in power to politically manipulate others…..which is what the Church did in the past (and still does). But, as I statedin my statement below, those that have a certain agenda/policy also use such tactics to politically manipulate others…..

  • Russ

    In that church sign, I’m actually more confused as to why so many fundamentalist baptists pick names like “Temple” or “Tabernacle” (like uber-fundamentalist John Rice’s Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle). I guess it’s no weirder than having an altar call when there’s no altar.

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    Jesus and Satan are also compared in different places in Scripture to the same animal, the lion.

  • Sane

    There is not such thing as Satan Lucifer or Jesus. Satan is a symbol for darkness, and a slure to Jews. Lucifer is the planet Venus, and Jesus is a solar myth. The bible is the bronze age myht of astrology, and humans are bat shit stupid.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Clearly, given that some can be appropriately skeptical in other areas, and yet completely fall for onlin pseudoscholarship about Jesus being a solar myth.

      • Sane

        James I learned this when I was nine on my own fifty years ago.
        Long before the internet. I fell sorry for any grown person that believes any religion. After 300 years of classical physics, Physicist
        now know we live in a universe where the only reality is consciousness, and matter, and space time is an illusion of perception. Hard science backed up by M theory not a pseudoscience like religion has been warped into. So the consciousness that makes up the entire multiverse is what we
        personify as the metaphor of God just like we do the Sun as Jesus Christ in the myths that are old myths form other times. So when I say the bible is the myths of bronze age astrology that does mean
        that there is no God. I just means myths are not real history they are stories meant to teach us. When you get caught up in believing

        them literally you lose the real meaning of the myth. Religion

        served Us in the bronze age as it pulled Us together now it is
        killing the world. Please go educate yourself if you are just ignorant.
        If You are stupid well like Ron White says {You can’t fix stupid}

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          My comment was not about whether there is a God or not, and if so what sort. Nor was it about physics. It was about your rejection of the conclusions of mainstream history and preference for the nonsense proffered by Dorothy Murdock.

          • Sane

            Mainstream history the ancients knew it was about the stars, planets, and the Sun. It is modern man that has twisted the
            bible into a history book (talk about pseudoscience). I do not know who Dorothy Murdock is but I have been studying this for over half a century, and the bible is the bronze age myths of astrology I could could on for weeks. My problem with this, and so called mainstream history is that it is not history at all but myths about people, and beings that never existed. There is no Satan or Jesus ever period as humans or beings period. What you are talking about is cults like the cult of Christians that have turned the greatest story ever told (not the truest story ever told) into this modern lie that it is history. Physics explains the real universe, and yest science changes over time as we learn more, and if we are wrong we change it. Religion never changes because it is Darkness, and a lie.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              It is interesting that people avow no knowledge of Acharya S and yet repeat her claims and her terminology quite precisely. They claim to be freethinkers and yet clearly they are not coming up with the technical terms on their own.

              The notion that religion never changes is nonsense, that even a tiny bit of reading or a single religion course would disabuse you of.

              And so you are illustrating that one can accept reasoned argument in one area, and yet be a conspiracy theorist in another, and that this is particularly likely if one is prone to spouting opinions confidently about topics one has never studied other than from online fringe sources.

              • Sane

                James,

                I sure hope you get your mind free of this garbage you have been brainwashed into believing. Religion is dieing because it is garbage, and a lie, and people (sane intelligent people)
                in this age of instant global information can see it has done far more harm in all ages of the zodiac than any other Idea.
                Someday it will be a crime to brainwash children with this
                nonsense (I mean a recognized crime it has always been a crime against humanity, children, and the human race).
                Get well mentally soon James I hope you live long enough
                to learn you are wasting your time living a lie. good luck, and goodby.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  This is not about religion. This is about the conclusion of secular historians. It is sad that you can discuss brainwashing and yet show no concern that you are engaging in dubious conspiracy theory thinking about secular history, in a manner that directly mirrors religious phenomena like creationism of which you would rightly be skeptical. I hope you will come to apply your skepticism more evenly to the claims that cranks and crackpots make, and not only apply it to those you are inclined to disagree with anyway.

                  • Tran Draskell

                    Hi James,

                    I also agree with you. The people who hold to Jesus is a solar myth is just wacko. In fact that there is more support that all the solar myth stories are made up and try to copy the old testament. When you study the solar myth and so called dying Savior that Acharya S pushes I believe that you have not really done any studying and trying to reach and say all of these myth have the same thing in common just like the Flood myth so therefore the Bible copied it.

                    I have been studying the Bible for 22 years and I am student of History. I have researched these claims of Acharaya S and none of them are the same, If you go to the original myths none of them died at all that Jesus claim to copy. It has been found that most if not all the solar myths came about after 33 A.D. Scholars have proven that with text proof that most of the Old Testament was written and complied in 600 B.C.E while in Babylon and Matthew, Mark and Luke where written in 50-60 A.D. We have more manuscripts of the Bible then any other Book yet people still want to call Jesus fake and a solar myth god. While yes you can pull parallels with Jesus and the other myth god, I believe it is the Miracles that Jesus performed proved he was real. Just the 8 miracles in the Book of John alone. Just as God proved himself against the Egypt, I believe he did the same thing against the Rome deities to prove that He is the one true God.

                    I have read Arachya S. books about Solar and Dying Saviors and how they try and say that Jesus is the same as Horus and another crack pot myth god. All the myth god are actually the same base of Babylon myths. Even the Jewish say that Jesus was real, while they don’t hold that he was the Messiah they knew he was a teacher and he existed and was put to death by the Romans. It just like those who hold to ancient aliens theory, these people the hold to Solar deity are lost for sure and need to do some real studying of history and not rely on fringe writers to guide them. Once again Science and history of the 19th century has created one of the most dumbest ideas and it is still around even though it has been debunked by scholors both Biblical and Main stream.

                    I hold to that Lucifer was Satan original name until he lost his position in heaven. In my study of the passage for school I understand that the passage is a two folded, at time it seems to be talking about Satan and then other time it seems to be talking about the King of Babylon, which I hold that Satan was the figure head behind. We know that each nation has an angel that deals out God’s blessing and punishment. As Michael is for Israel, Maybe Satan is for Babylon. I am not dogmatic on it but that is how I see it. We see the same thing when the judgement against the King of Tyre, we see the same type of imagery used in though out the Old Testament.
                    When we see Christ given the same titles as Satan had I see when Christ conquered death and took back the Titles and that is why he is called the Morning Star in Revelation because he is the original Morning star Satan is the false morning star.
                    Just my two cents


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