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William Blake's illustration of Lucifer as presented in John Milton's Paradise Lost

Lucifer (/ˈlsɪfər/ or /ˈljsɪfər/) is the King James Version rendering of the Hebrew word הֵילֵל in Isaiah 14:12.[1] This word, transliterated hêlêl[1] or heylel,[2] occurs only once in the Hebrew Bible[1] and according to the KJV-influenced Strong's Concordance means "shining one, morning star, Lucifer".[2] The word Lucifer is taken from the Latin Vulgate,[3] which translates הֵילֵל as lucifer,[Isa 14:12][4][5] meaning "the morning star, the planet Venus", or, as an adjective, "light-bringing".[6] The Septuagint renders הֵילֵל in Greek as ἑωσφόρος[7][8][9][10][11] (heōsphoros),[12][13][14] a name, literally "bringer of dawn", for the morning star.[15]

In this passage Isaiah applies to a king of Babylon the image of the morning star fallen from the sky, an image he is generally believed to have borrowed from a legend in Canaanite mythology.[16]

The pseudepigrapha of pre-Christian Enochic Judaism, the form of Judaism witnessed to in 1 Enoch and 2 Enoch, which enjoyed much popularity during the Second Temple period,[17] gave Satan an expanded role, interpreting Isaiah 14:12-15, with its reference to the morning star, as applicable to him, and presenting him as a fallen angel cast out of heaven[18] for refusing, according to Jewish writings, to bow to Adam, of whom Satan was envious and jealous of the power over the earth granted to Adam.[19][20][21]

Christian writers explained the motives of the angel's rebellion and the nature of his sin in the same way, but added pride against God, which they mention more frequently than envy or jealousy with regard to humanity.[22][23][24]

Christian tradition, influenced by the Jewish presentation of the passage of Isaiah as applicable to Satan,[18] came to use the Latin word for "morning star", lucifer, as a proper name ("Lucifer") for Satan as Satan was before his fall.[25] As a result, "Lucifer has become a by-word for Satan in the Church and in popular literature",[3] as in Dante Alighieri's Inferno and John Milton's Paradise Lost.[14]

However, the Latin word lucifer kept its original positive sense for early Christians, as is evident from its use as a personal name by, among others, two 4th-century bishops, Lucifer of Cagliari and Lucifer of Siena, and its appearance in the Easter Proclamation as a description of Jesus.

Lucifer or morning star[edit]

Translation of הֵילֵל as "Lucifer", as in the King James Version, has been abandoned in modern English translations of Isaiah 14:12. Present-day translations have "morning star" (New International Version, New Century Version, New American Standard Bible, Good News Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Contemporary English Version, Common English Bible, Complete Jewish Bible), "daystar" (New Jerusalem Bible, English Standard Version, The Message), "shining one" (New Life Version, New World Translation, JPS Tanakh) or "shining star" (New Living Translation).

The term appears in the context of an oracle against a dead king of Babylon,[26] who is addressed as הילל בן שחר (hêlêl ben šāḥar),[27][28] rendered by the King James Version as "O Lucifer, son of the morning!" and by others as "morning star, son of the dawn".

In a modern translation from the original Hebrew, the passage in which the phrase "Lucifer" or "morning star" occurs begins with the statement: "On the day the Lord gives you relief from your suffering and turmoil and from the harsh labour forced on you, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended!"[29] After describing the death of the king, the taunt continues:

"How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: 'Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a wilderness, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?'"[30]

J. Carl Laney has pointed out that in the final verses here quoted, the king of Babylon is described not as a god or an angel but as a man.[31][32]

For the unnamed[33] "king of Babylon" a wide range of identifications have been proposed.[34] They include a Babylonian ruler of the prophet Isaiah's own time[34] the later Nebuchadnezzar II, under whom the Babylonian captivity of the Jews began, or Nabonidus,[34][35] and the Assyrian kings Tiglath-Pileser, Sargon II and Sennacherib.[31][34][36] Herbert Wolf held that the "king of Babylon" was not a specific ruler but a generic representation of the whole line of rulers.[37]

Mythology behind Isaiah 14:12[edit]

In ancient Canaanite mythology, the morning star is pictured as a god, Attar, who attempted to occupy the throne of Ba'al and, finding he was unable to do so, descended and ruled the underworld.[38][39] The original myth may have been about a lesser god Helel trying to dethrone the Canaanite high god El who lived on a mountain to the north.[40][41] Hermann Gunkel's reconstruction of the myth told of a mighty warrior called Hêlal, whose ambition it was to ascend higher than all the other stellar divinities, but who had to descend to the depths; it thus portrayed as a battle the process by which the bright morning star fails to reach the highest point in the sky before being faded out by the rising sun.[42]

Planet Venus rising above the horizon at dawn

Similarities have been noted with the East Semitic story of Ishtar's or Inanna's descent into the underworld,[41] Ishtar and Inanna being associated with the planet Venus.[43] A connection has been seen also with the Babylonian myth of Etana. The Jewish Encyclopedia comments:

"The brilliancy of the morning star, which eclipses all other stars, but is not seen during the night, may easily have given rise to a myth such as was told of Ethana and Zu: he was led by his pride to strive for the highest seat among the star-gods on the northern mountain of the gods ... but was hurled down by the supreme ruler of the Babylonian Olympus."[44]

The Greek myth of Phaethon, whose name, like that of הֵילֵל, means "Shining One", has also been seen as similar.[42]

The Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible points out that no evidence has been found of any Canaanite myth of a god being thrown from heaven, as in Isaiah 14:12. It concludes that the closest parallels with Isaiah's description of the king of Babylon as a fallen morning star cast down from heaven are to be found not in any lost Canaanite and other myths but in traditional ideas of the Jewish people themselves, echoed in the Biblical account of the fall of Adam and Eve, cast out of God's presence for wishing to be as God, and the picture in Psalm 82 of the "gods" and "sons of the Most High" destined to die and fall.[26] This Jewish tradition has echoes also in Jewish pseudepigrapha such as 2 Enoch and the Life of Adam and Eve.[26][44][45]

Latin word lucifer[edit]

As an adjective, the Latin word lucifer meant "light-bringing" and was applied to the moon.[6] As a noun, it meant "morning star", or, in Roman mythology, its divine personification as "the fabled son of Aurora[46] and Cephalus, and father of Ceyx", or (in poetry) "day".[6] The second of the meanings attached to the word when used as a noun corresponds to the image in Greek mythology of Eos, the goddess of dawn, giving birth to the morning star Phosphorus.[46]

Isaiah 14:12 is not the only place where the Vulgate uses the word lucifer. The Vulgate uses the same word in contexts where it clearly has no reference to a fallen angel: 2 Peter 1:19 (meaning "morning star"), Job 11:17 ("the light of the morning"), Job 38:32 ("the signs of the zodiac") and Psalms 110:3 ("the dawn").[47] To speak of the morning star, lucifer is not the only expression that the Vulgate uses: three times it uses stella matutina: Sirach 50:6 (referring to the actual morning star), and Revelation 2:28 (of uncertain reference) and 22:16 (referring to Jesus).

Other indications that in Christian tradition the Latin word lucifer did not carry connotations of a fallen angel are the names of Bishops Lucifer of Cagliari and Lucifer of Siena, and its use in the Easter Proclamation prayer to God regarding the paschal candle: Flammas eius lucifer matutinus inveniat: ille, inquam, lucifer, qui nescit occasum. Christus Filius tuus, qui, regressus ab inferis, humano generi serenus illuxit, et vivit et regnat in saecula saeculorum (May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death's domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever). In the works of Latin grammarians, Lucifer, like Daniel, was discussed as an example of a personal name.[48]


The Hebrew term הֵילֵל (heylel)[2] in Isaiah 14:12, became a dominant conception of a fallen angel motif[49] in Enochic Judaism, when Jewish pseudepigrapha flourished during the Second Temple period,[17] particularly with the apocalypses.[18] Later Rabbis, in Medieval Judaism, rejected these Enochic literary works from the Biblical canon, making every attempt to root them out.[17] Traditionalist Rabbis often rejected any belief in rebel or fallen angels, having a view that evil is abstract.[50] However, in the 11th century, the Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer, drawing on ancient legends of the fallen angel or angels, brought back to the mainstream of rabbinic thought the personification of evil and the corresponding myth.[51] Jewish exegesis of Isaiah 14:12–15 took a more humanistic approach by identifying the king of Babylon as Nebuchadnezzar II.[52]


Early Christians were influenced by the association of Isaiah 14:12-18 with the Devil, which had developed in the period between the writing of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament,[53] also called the Intertestamental Period when the deuterocanonical books were written. Even in the New Testament itself, Sigve K Tonstad argues, the War in Heaven theme of Revelation 12:7-9, in which the dragon "who is called the devil and Satan … was thrown down to the earth", derives from the passage in Isaiah 14.[54] Origen (184/185 – 253/254) interpreted such Old Testament passages as being about manifestations of the Devil; but of course, writing in Greek, not Latin, he did not identify the Devil with the name "Lucifer".[55][56][57][58] Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225), who wrote in Latin, also understood Isaiah 14:14 ("I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High") as spoken by the Devil,[59] but "Lucifer" is not among the numerous names and phrases he used to describe the Devil.[60] Even at the time of the Latin writer Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430), "Lucifer" had not yet become a common name for the Devil.[55]

Some time later, the metaphor of the morning star that Isaiah 14:12 applied to a king of Babylon gave rise to the general use of the Latin word for "morning star", capitalized, as the original name of the Devil before his fall from grace, linking Isaiah 14:12 with Luke 10:18 ("I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven") and interpreting the passage in Isaiah as an allegory of Satan's fall from heaven.[61][62]

However, the understanding of the morning star in Isaiah 14:12 as a metaphor referring to a king of Babylon continued also to exist among Christians. Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393 – c. 457) wrote that Isaiah calls the king "morning star", not as being the star, but as having had the illusion of being it.[63] The same understanding is shown in Christian translations of the passage, which in English generally use "morning star" rather than treating the word as a proper name, "Lucifer". So too in other languages, such as French,[64] German,[65] Portuguese,[66] and Spanish.[67] Even the Vulgate text in Latin is printed with lower-case lucifer (morning star), not upper-case Lucifer (proper name).[5]

Calvin said: "The exposition of this passage, which some have given, as if it referred to Satan, has arisen from ignorance: for the context plainly shows these statements must be understood in reference to the king of the Babylonians."[68] Luther also considered it a gross error to refer this verse to the devil.[69]

The modern translations have been decried by adherents of the King James Only movement and others who hold that Isaiah 14:12 does indeed refer to the devil.[70][71][72]

Those who, like the King James Only movement, treat "Lucifer" as a name for the devil or Satan may use that name when speaking of accounts of the devil or Satan. Such accounts include the following:
- Satan inciting David to number Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1)
- Job tested by Satan (Book of Job)
- Satan ready to accuse the high priest Joshua (Zechariah 3:1-2)
- Sin brought into the world through the devil's envy (Wisdom 2:24)
- "The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2)
- "The god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Gustave Doré, illustration to Paradise Lost, book IX, 179–187: "... he [Satan] held on /His midnight search, where soonest he might finde /The Serpent: him fast sleeping soon he found ..."
Motives of rebellion

As Lucifer's or Satan's motive for rebelling and as the nature of his sin, Christian writers mention pride against God (Origen, Chrysostom, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine) or, less often, envy of humanity created in the image of God (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Cyprian, Augustine)[22][23][24] A modern writer, who denies that there is any such person as Lucifer, says that, according to Tertullian, the Devil was jealous of humans, created in the divine image and given authority over the world,[73] and an 18th-century French Capuchin preacher, citing Tertullian and Augustine as giving envy as the motive for the fall, describes the Rebel Angel as jealous of Adam's exaltation, which he saw as a diminution of his own status.[24]

Conflicts with Archangel Michael

- Michael fighting against the dragon (Revelation 7-9) "who is called the devil and Satan" (Revelation 12:9;20:2)
- Michael contending with the devil, disputing about the body of Moses (Jude 1:9)


In Islam the Devil is known as Iblīs (Arabic: إبليس‎, plural: ابالسة abālisah) or Shayṭān (Arabic: شيطان‎, plural: شياطين shayāṭīn) and has no name corresponding in meaning to that of the Latin word lucifer. Iblis is banished from heaven for refusing to prostrate himself before Adam. Thus, he sins after the creation of man. He asks God for a respite until the Last Day rather than being consigned to the Fire of Hell immediately. God grants this request, and Iblis then swears revenge by tempting human beings and turning them away from God. God tells him that any humans who follow him will join him in the Fire of Hell at Judgement, but that Iblis will have no power over all mankind except who wants to follow Iblis. This story is cited multiple times in the Holy Qur'an for different reasons. While in Judaism and Christianity, Satan is a fallen angel, Iblis is a jinn. Muslims believe that angels are the servants of God and cannot disobey him, but jinn, like men, can choose to obey or disobey.[74]


The Seal of Lucifer a magical sigil[75] used occasionally as an emblem by Satanists

Luciferianism is a belief system that venerates the essential characteristics that are affixed to Lucifer. The tradition, influenced by Gnosticism, usually reveres Lucifer not as the Devil, but as a liberator or guiding spirit[76] or even the true god as opposed to Jehovah.[77]

In Anton LaVey's The Satanic Bible, Lucifer is acknowledged as one of the Four Crown Princes of Hell, particularly that of the East. Lord of the Air, Lucifer has been named "Bringer of Light, the Morning Star, Intellectualism, Enlightenment."[78]

In the modern occultism of Madeline Montalban,[79] Lucifer's identification as the Morning Star (Venus) equates him with Lumiel, whom she regarded as the Archangel of Light, and among Satanists he is seen as the "Torch of Baphomet" and Azazel.[citation needed] However, in lesser-known Kabbalah lore, Lumiel was also described as an angel of the earth, though usually Sandalphon and Uriel are the only Archangels associated with the element of earth.[citation needed] In any case, Lumiel's precise identity has always been controversial and many people, who tried to discover his true nature, eventually came to refer Lumiel as a "dark angel".[citation needed]

Author Michael W. Ford has written on Lucifer as a "mask" of the Adversary, a motivator and illuminating force of the mind and subconscious.[80]

Taxil's hoax[edit]

Léo Taxil (1854–1907) claimed that Freemasonry is associated with worshipping Lucifer. In what is known as the Taxil hoax, he claimed that supposedly leading Freemason Albert Pike had addressed "The 23 Supreme Confederated Councils of the world" (an invention of Taxil), instructing them that Lucifer was God, and was in opposition to the evil god Adonai. Supporters of Freemasonry contend that, when Albert Pike and other Masonic scholars spoke about the "Luciferian path," or the "energies of Lucifer," they were referring to the Morning Star, the light bearer,[81] the search for light; the very antithesis of dark, satanic evil. Taxil promoted a book by Diana Vaughan (actually written by himself, as he later confessed publicly)[82] that purported to reveal a highly secret ruling body called the Palladium, which controlled the organization and had a satanic agenda. As described by Freemasonry Disclosed in 1897:

With frightening cynicism, the miserable person we shall not name here [Taxil] declared before an assembly especially convened for him that for twelve years he had prepared and carried out to the end the most sacrilegious of hoaxes. We have always been careful to publish special articles concerning Palladism and Diana Vaughan. We are now giving in this issue a complete list of these articles, which can now be considered as not having existed.[83]

Taxil's work and Pike's address continue to be quoted by anti-masonic groups.[84]

In Devil-Worship in France, Arthur Edward Waite compared Taxil's work to what today we would call a tabloid story, replete with logical and factual inconsistencies.


See also[edit]


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  2. ^ a b c Strong's Concordance, H1966: "shining one, morning star, Lucifer; of the king of Babylon and Satan (fig.)"
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  71. ^ David W. Daniels (2003). Answers to Your Bible Version Questions. Chick Publications. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-75890507-9. Retrieved 2012-12-22. 
  72. ^ William Dembski (2009). The End of Christianity. B&H Publishing Group. p. 219. ISBN 978-0-80542743-1. Retrieved 2012-12-22. 
  73. ^ Corson, Ron (2008). "Who is Lucifer...or Satan misidentified". Archived from the original on 2013-02-02. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  74. ^ Jung, Rabbi Leo (2004). Fallen angels in Jewish, Christian, and Mohammedan literature (Reprint ed.). Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Reprints. pp. 34–35. ISBN 0-76617938-9. 
  75. ^ Alternative Religions
  76. ^ Michelle Belanger (2007). Vampires in Their Own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 175. ISBN 0-73871220-5. 
  77. ^ Spence, L. (1993). An Encyclopedia of Occultism. Carol Publishing. 
  78. ^ LaVey, Anton Szandor (1969). "The Book of Lucifer: The Enlightenment". The Satanic Bible. New York: Avon. ISBN 978-038001539-9. 
  79. ^ "Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star". Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  80. ^ "Adversarial Doctrine". Bible of the Adversary. Succubus Productions. 2007. p. 8. 
  81. ^ "Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who bears the Light, and with its splendors intolerable blinds feeble, sensual, or selfish Souls? Doubt it not!" (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, p. 321). Much has been made of this quote (Masonic information: Lucifer).
  82. ^ "Leo Taxil's confession". Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. 2001-04-02. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  83. ^ Freemasonry Disclosed April 1897
  84. ^ "Leo Taxil: The tale of the Pope and the Pornographer". Retrieved 14 September 2006. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Charlesworth, edited by James H. (2010). The Old Testament pseudepigrapha. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson. ISBN 1598564919. 
  • TBD; Elwell, Walter A.; Comfort, Philip W. (2001). Walter A. Elwell, Philip Wesley Comfort, ed. Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Dayspring, Daystar. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers. p. 363. ISBN 0842370897. 
  • Campbell, Joseph (1972). Myths To Live By ([2nd ed., repr.] ed.). [London]: Souvenir Press. ISBN 0-285-64731-8. 

External links[edit]