5

I realize that in popular culture, Satan, Lucifer, and The Devil are synonyms, but on a more theological level, they have distinct meanings, which may overlap to varying degrees, and in some belief systems, aren't even synonymous at all.

Is it appropriate that the tags then are synonymous?

I noticed it with this question: What is the Biblical basis for saying Lucifer is an angel?

It should be tagged for sure, as it's clearly about that. But it's not (necessarily, depending on one's theological framework) about Satan or The Devil--and whether it is or not, is irrelevant to the specific question at hand.

So I'd be in favor of splitting the synonym in this case.

On the other hand, I can see a lot of room for mis-use of these tags, with people tagging every question about "Satan" as all three , , and , or perhaps worse, one of these, randomly.

10
  • I think so. There's one single mention of Lucifer in the Bible. If you want to discuss Lucifer as distinct from Satan then it can be tagged Isaiah.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 23:41
  • It might be different if there were any denominations which taught that they were different beings, but I'm not aware of any.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 2:52
  • 1
    @curiousdannii: There are denominations that teach that Satan is not a person, but more a personification of evil, and thus that Satan is not a being at all.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 6:28
  • 1
    Yeah, but they wouldn't consider Lucifer a personal being either, would they? The name Lucifer is used in two ways that I've seen: with the belief that it's a more personal name than Satan or devil, or to refer to its use for the Assyrian king. Neither warrant a separate tag IMO.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 6:59
  • @curiousdannii: Whether they consider Lucifer a personal being or not doesn't seem relevant. What's relevant is whether they consider Lucifer and Satan to be synonymous.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 8:14
  • It might be best for someone who holds, or at least intimately understands, this view, to comment.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 8:15
  • 2
    Agreed, but considering how long the synonyms have been around, I'd consider the silence a sign that no one has been too bothered by it so far...
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 12:33
  • I believe I see The Freemason always bringing it up in comments.
    – user3961
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 22:24
  • @curious Good point. Though the taxonomy may be more accurate as separate tags, is that actually better or useful for this site?
    – user3961
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 22:25
  • @curiousdannii: There is one mention of "Lucifer" in the KJV...but in the Vulgate --- since lucifer is a Latin word --- there's a plethora.
    – user900
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 16:43

2 Answers 2

9

As far as I can figure, pretty much any time there would be a meaningful distinction to be made between the two it's reasonable to expect the question and answers to specifically delineate their own scope—as far as a general taxonomy of topics go I don't see a problem with them being lumped together.

If there was a substantial amount of expertise that covered one or the other separately, that might be different, but even if some theological frameworks hold the two as distinct, the interest and expertise on the topic is pretty much a 100% overlap.

2

For general discussions among believers, Satan, Lucifer and the Devil are synonymous. However distinctions are sometimes important.

Satan

Satan does not appear in the Bible until the time of 1 Chronicles or Job, long after Moses reportedly wrote the Torah, and also after the period of the Divided Kingdoms. In Job, Satan is not a proper name but a title: "ha-satan," the adversary. This becomes important for understanding, for example, what Jesus meant when he said "Get behind me Satan," (Matthew 16:23) to Peter. We have it in Greek, not Jesus' own language, and even in Greek there were no capital letters in the original. So Jesus may well have scolding Peter for acting as adversary, but the way it reads in English he could easily be saying that Peter was literally inspired or possessed by the Devil.

Lucifer

The name Lucifer is even more illusive that Satan in terms of its evolution. In Isaiah, it does not refer to Satan or the Devil. It refers to the actual King of Babylon.

You will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:

The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers, that smote the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution... Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are the bed beneath you, and worms are your covering. How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! (Is. 14:4-12)

Christians would later interpret this to refer to the Archangel Lucifer, a name closely related to the Day Star in the original. But the proper name Lucifer appears nowhere in the Bible.

The Devil

The Devil is another matter. The word does not appear in the Hebrew OT, which speaks of demons. It comes from the Greek "diabolos" which can translate as "accuser," and thus shares a meaning with "ha-satan." Devils were also spoken of in Jewish literature of the pre-Christian century in Greek, including several arch-demons, though not Lucifer. There are dozens of examples of its use in the NT. Many of these make it clear that the Devil is both the "adversary" and "Satan.

In everyday use, the three terms are definitely synonymous. But it is useful to know the background of the terms. For example in speaking to Jews, they will certainly know what a Christian means when when he talks about Lucifer but the story of Satan/Lucifer being cast down and conquered by St. Michael (Rev. 12:9) is a Christian tradition, not a Jewish one.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .