Jonathan Edwards on Christ and Lucifer: a misunderstanding making the rounds

There is a charge that is making the rounds on the web that Jonathan Edwards (1703 - 1758) believed that Satan was initially a superior being to Jesus and that Jesus was an exalted man. The text of Edwards cited in relation to this charge is the following from “Fall of the Angels,” in “Miscellaneous Observations on Important Theological Subjects,” Chapter XI, of The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Hendrickson Publishers, 1998), II, 609. The charge is an utterly silly one based on a failure to read the text closely. Here is the text. My comment follows.

Corol. I. Hence learn that Satan before his fall was the Messiah or Christ, as he was the anointed. The word anointed is radically the same in Hebrew as the word Messiah: so that in this respect our Jesus is exalted into his [Satan’s] place in heaven.

Corol. II. These things show another thing, wherein Jesus is exalted into the place of Lucifer; that whereas he had the honour to dwell in the holy of holies continually, so Jesus is there entered, not as the high priests of old, but to be there continually, but in this respect is exalted higher than Lucifer ever was; that whereas Lucifer was only near the throne, or kneeling on the mercy-seat in humble posture, covering it with his wings, Jesus is admitted to sit down for ever with God on the throne.

Corol. IV. In another respect also Jesus succeeds Lucifer, viz. in being the covering cherub. The word translated cover, often and commonly signifies to protect. It was committed to this archangel especially, to have the care of protecting the beloved race, elect man, that was God’s jewel, his first-fruits, his precious treasure, laid up in God’s ark, or cabinet, hid in the secret of his presence. That was the great business the angels were made for, and therefore was especially committed to the head of the angels. But he fell from his innocency and dignity, and Jesus in his stead becomes the Cherub that covereth, the great Protector and Saviour of elect man, that gathereth them as a hen her chickens under his wings.

Corol. V. Lucifer, while a holy angel, in having the excellency of all those glorious things that were about him, all summed up in him, was a type of Christ, in whom all the glory and excellency of all elect creatures is more properly summed, as the head and foundation of all, just as the brightness of all, that reflects the light of the sun, is summed up in the sun.

“… Therefore, seeing Lucifer was the head, and captain, and prince of all, and the highest creature in the whole universe, we may suppose that he had, as God’s chief servant, and the grand minister of his providence, and the top of the creation, in some respect committed to him power, dominion, and principality over the whole creation, and all the kingdom of providence; and as all the angels are called the sons of God, Lucifer was his [God’s] first-born, and was the firstborn of every creature. But when it was revealed to him, high and glorious as he was, that he must be a ministering spirit to the race of mankind which he had seen newly created, which appeared so feeble, mean, and despicable, so vastly inferior, not only to him, the prince of the angels, and head of the created universe, but also to the inferior angels, and that he must be subject to one of that race that should hereafter be born, he could not bear it. This occasioned his fall; and now he, with the other angels whom he drew away with him, are fallen, and elect men are translated to supply their places, and are exalted vastly higher in heaven than they. And the Man Jesus Christ, the Chief, and Prince, and Captain of all elect men, is translated and set in the throne that Lucifer, the chief and prince of the angels, left, to be the head of the angels in his stead, the head of principality and power, that all the angels might do obeisance to him; for God said “Let all the angels of God worship him;” and God made him his first-born instead of Lucifer, higher than all those thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, and made him, yea, made him in his stead the first-born of every creature, or of the whole creation, and made him also in his stead the bright and morning star, and head and prince of the universe; yea, gave this honour, dignity, and power unto him, in an unspeakably higher and more glorious manner than ever he had done to Lucifer, and appointed him to conquer, subdue, and execute vengeance upon that great rebel.”

My comment: A close and careful reading of the text reveals simply this: Edwards is arguing that the unfallen Lucifer is a type of glorified humanity of Christ—the chief responsibilities of Lucifer before his fall have now been given to the glorified humanity of Jesus Christ. There is nothing heretical in this, though, in true Edwards style, this is something I had never thought of before. But the latter is of no import, there is so much in Edwards that we lesser minds would never have thought of if we did not read it in Edwards. As a theologian, he was stellar. Is he right: that is another question. Again, Edwards is not exalting Lucifer over our Lord. He is simply arguing that the unfallen Lucifer has typological aspects to his character when it comes to his relationship to the glorified humanity of Christ.