Questions, Insights, & Responses

shared from and with users

#18 - Lucifer, satan, hell, angels, devil: Are these terms from captivity in Persia?

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.


Question/insight #18: "It is my understanding that the early Hebrews did not have the concepts for Lucifer, satan, hell, angels, devil, and that they learned these things from the Zoroastrians when in captivity in Persia. The Persian god was Ahura-Mazda (Mazda as in light bulbs) the god of light. They had a very advanced religion. When the Hebrews came back to Jerusalem they tried to convey the awfulness of hell, for these terms were not part of the Hebrew language at the time. The worst thing they could think of was the city dump, down the Kidron Valley, it burned continuousy and smelled of sulphur. So they called hell "gehenna", their term for the dump. The other Persian terms came into the Hebrew vocabulary also at that time." (8/28/98)

Response #18:

This is largely correct, but some clarification might be helpful. You mentioned the terms "Lucifer, satan, hell, angels, devil." Below are some comments on each of these.

LUCIFER: "Lucifer" in the KJV simply means "morning star" and refers to the King of Babylon, though traditionally erroneously associated with Satan. Harper's Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985) writes:

SATAN and DEVIL: Satan (Hebrew: satan, Greek satanas) and the devil (Greek, diabolos) are virtually synonymous terms, as described on the BibleTexts webpage on "Satan" at It should be noted that what the KJV New Testament always incorrectly translates "devils" should have been translated as "demons," not as "devils." This is true for many of the KJV's references to "devil" as well. (All modern translations have made those corrections.)

HELL: In the Old Testament the Hebrew word translated "hell" in the KJV is "sheol." In the Greek Old Testament Septuagint (the Bible used by Paul and most of the early Christian church), more than 100 times "sheol" is translated "hades." The Greek word "geheena" is not used at all in the Septuagint. In the Hebrew Old Testament the Valley of Hinnom is referred to 12 times, including 4 times in the older book of Joshua. The Valley of Hinnom is translated in Aramaic as Gehinnom, which the New Testament Greek referred to as "gehenna." In the KJV New Testament, "gehenna" is translated as "hell," but some modern translations (Goodspeed, Moffatt, NAB, and others) use the word "gehenna" in the text instead of "hell." Harper's Bible Dictionary writes:

ANGELS: References to "angels" go all the way back to Genesis and are found throughout the Old Testament. As with "satan" and many other terms, the concept of "angels" continued to evolve in Jewish and Christian literature, especially during the Exile period, to which you referred. Gerhard von Rad in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), writes:


Other questions & responses
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer
Top of page homepage




For links to some other Bible-related Web pages, browse

To contact the BibleTexts Web site administrator, email

This Web page is located at

Copyright 1997 Robert Nguyen Cramer