The Origins of Lucifer

A few months ago, before the release of my latest book Reviving Old Scratch, I was asked to give a guest lecture about the Devil to my son's English class. They were about to start an assignment on C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters.

At the start of the lecture I took the class on a tour through some of the names we use for the Devil.

One of those names is Lucifer.

Interestingly, I pointed out, Satan is never actually named Lucifer in the Bible.

The name "Lucifer" comes from the King James Version translation of Isaiah 14.12:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Most modern translations translate the Hebrew word helel here as "day star" or "morning star." The meaning can also be "bringer of light" as the "morning star" (Venus) was considered to be a bringer or herald of the dawn.

The Latin for "bringer of light" is "lucifer," so that's what we find in Isaiah 14.12 in the Latin Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible from the late 4th century:
quomodo cecidisti de caelo lucifer [bringer of light, morning star] qui mane oriebaris corruisti in terram qui vulnerabas gentes. 
For some reason, the KJV translators didn't translate "lucifer" as "morning star." Rather, they transliterated the word, keeping it "Lucifer" in the English.

So who was the original Lucifer in Isaiah 14.12?

The original Lucifer in Isaiah 14 was the Babylonian king being decried by the prophet of God, perhaps king Nebuchadnezzar but the text isn't specific.

However, and perhaps due to the diabolical connection with Babylon, the New Testament writers appear to use the image from Isaiah 14.12--a wicked star falling from heaven--for the Devil. At multiple locations in the NT Satan is described as a star or light, and as one falling from heaven:
Luke 10.18
Jesus replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."

2 Corinthians 11.14
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

Revelation 12.3-4a, 7-9
Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth...Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
The imagery here is so close to that of Isaiah 14.12--"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer!"--that the proper name Lucifer became associated with the Devil.

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