Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, April 11, 2014

Who is Lucifer (or Satan Misidentified)

  Who is Lucifer (or Satan Misidentified)

By Ron Corson

It may come as a surprise to many Christians that to the Jews and New Testament Christians there was no such person as Lucifer. To many Christians Lucifer is equivalent to Satan, the devil. How could it be that the Jews knew nothing of Lucifer, we find it clearly printed in our King James Bible in Isaiah 14. But then again it is not found in most contempary language versions. With the curiously notable exception of the New King James Version.

As way of introduction here is what The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia has to say about Lucifer:

Lucifer, the rendering of the Vulgate for the Hebrew phrase helal ("day-star") in Isa. 14:12; the verse is rendered in the Authorized Version as: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" The passage in question is a song of derision over the downfall of a Babylonian king; the figure used may trace back to a Hebrew or Babylonian astral myth like the Greek story of Phaethon, in which the day-star is cast out of heaven because of presumption. The term Lucifer is never used in Jewish legend; but Christian writers identified Lucifer with Satan who, according to the gospels (Luke 10:18), fell from heaven like lighting; accordingly, Lucifer became one of the terms for the devil in Christian theology. (Page 229)

Most Christians do realize that Jerome used the word in his Latin Vulgate Bible prepared sometime toward the latter half of the 4th century. But unfortunately that's about the sum total of their knowledge of the history of the word. Because tradition has for so long said that Lucifer is Satan, they do not question the word or concept any further. But where did this tradition come from, and why considering the many references to Satan in the New Testament did not the concept of Lucifer ever come up.

It is not to Jerome, however that we owe the teaching of Lucifer but to that most creative of theologians, Origen. (185-254 A.D.) It was he who first made the new connection between Satan and Lucifer. He brought together diverse Old Testament references from Job, Ezekiel and Isaiah. Arguing that Lucifer, the Prince of Tyre, and the Leviathan of Job, were all identical with the Devil. He used these texts to emphasize Satan's pride and his fall from heaven.

With the aid of Tertullian (155-After 220 A.D.) who taught that before Satan's fall he was not only an angel but the foremost angel. It is mainly to these three theologians, Origen, Tertullian, and Jerome that we derive the Lucifer myth. It should also be noted that the Lucifer myth can also be found in the Psedepigrapha in the book The Secrets of Enoch. But since it is currently felt that The Secrets of Enoch is likely a seventh century document (at least in its present form), therefor it is probably not the source of this Lucifer myth. ( I will for now refer to the idea that Lucifer is Satan as the Lucifer myth, hopefully by the end of the article you will agree that it is indeed a myth.)

An interesting side note is that Origen and later Augustine believed that the Devil's envy arose from pride. Thus the Devil envied God. Tertullian on the other hand believed that the Devil was jealous of humans. Believing that the Devil was furious that God had created humans in the divine image and had given them governance over the world. Needless to say Tertullian view lost out to that of Origen.

Origen's use of Isaiah 14:12 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 seem to be the two popular references used when people speak about Lucifer. Origen's third reference to Leviathan in Job 41:1-2 seems to have fallen into disrepute, possibly because it does not provide much information to add to the myth.

 When read in context it becomes clear that these verses are not at all referring to Satan. They are about Babylon and Tyre. As is clearly shown when one reads the prophecy. For example:

Isa 14:4 you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended! (NIV)
Ezek 28:2 "Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "`In the pride of your heart you say, "I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas." But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. (NIV)

One of the problems some people have when it comes to these verses is that they have a hard time distinguishing poetic language from literal language. So when they see something like:

Ezek 28:14-15 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. (NIV)

They jump from the subject previously identified (that being Tyre) to a literalistic who was a guardian cherub. They then think the answer must be Satan. But then when their literalistic approach falls apart in the next verse they return to the original subject matter (Tyre).

Ezek 28:16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. (NIV)

It no longer works to well to say that Satan was expelled from heaven because of his widespread trade and violence. When you use context as your primary guide to interpreting the Bible it is impossible to make these verses refer to Satan. Also there is no Biblical statements which identify Satan as a guradian cherub, that is produced when the reader inserts their preconcieved idea into the verse.

When we read the chapters around the references used by those who support the Lucifer myth, we see that in both Isaiah and Ezekiel they are prophecies dealing with other nations. Many with equally poetic language. For instance:

Ezek 31:2-9 "Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his hordes: "'Who can be compared with you in majesty? 3 Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest; it towered on high, its top above the thick foliage...8 The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor could the pine trees equal its boughs, nor could the plane trees compare with its branches-- no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty. 9 I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God. (NIV)

Now maybe one could read these verses and say that again we have a reference to Satan. But that kind of creative eisegesis would just lead to more problems, such as who are these which envy the mighty tree in Eden. And of course there would be that pesky problem of what are the verses talking about in context.

Now when the above information is presented someone will usually say "yes the prophecy is about Babylon or Tyre but it is also about the power which is behind these kingdoms, and that is Satan. But by what method of exegesis can you arrive at that conclusion. Whenever the Bible speaks about wicked nations is it also referring to something about Satan's rise and fall. Should we ignore all we know about Biblical interpretation so that we can keep a myth about Lucifer that no one prior to the second century had any idea of. A myth which no New Testament author even vaguely referred too.

Some supporters of the Lucifer myth point to Isaiah 14:13-14:

You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (NIV)

They would suggest that this is referencing Satan since these ambitions exceed the reach of any human ruler. But of course they exceed the reach of Satan also. Further, delusions of grandeur are not uncommon in earthly rulers, and those that are farther away from God are more likely to think they have god like power (consider the Egyptian Pharaohs). Especially when you consider how distorted their view of God was. How could Satan who no doubt saw some of God's creative action think that he, Satan could do the same thing let alone usurp God's power. To think that he, Satan could be like God, he would have to think that he could do the same things as God. It would not take long for Satan to discover that he did not have any creative power like God had. And still after all this we must remember that these and other verses are filled with poetic exaggerations.

None of this is to say that Satan does not exist, for I am sure he does. It is merely to point out that some of the things we think we know about Satan are not necessarily true. Namely the references to Lucifer and the Prince of Tyre. We know that he is a liar and a murder from the beginning (what beginning is uncertain) John 8:44. And we know that he was kicked out of heaven Rev 12:8-10.

 Does it matter if we think Lucifer is Satan, maybe and maybe not. It could be possible that Satan fell in a similar way as described in Isaiah 14, or the astral myths of ancient religions. But then again it could be totally different. The question is really how do we interpret the Bible. Does context provide the key or can we place esoteric meanings wherever we want. Are there hidden meanings behind straight forward texts or not. Is it possible that Isaiah and Ezekiel wrote passages about Satan but did not let anyone else in the Jewish religion know that they were referring to Satan. Or maybe they wrote them but didn't understand that they were referring to Satan. Leaving them misunderstood until Origen and Tertullian discovered the hidden truth. How do you interpret the Bible?


Satan the Early Christian Tradition Jeffrey Burton Russell Cornell University Press Ithaca 1991

The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia

The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia

(See also the Expositer's Bible Commentary notes and Addendum which follows)

"NIV Calls Lucifer, "Jesus"', Follow this link to see what ignorance can produce. This anti modern translation web site shows why we can't trust what "Just about everybody knows".


References about Lucifer


Verse 12. O Lucifer, son of the morning- The Versions in general agree in this translation, and render kkyh heilel as signifying Lucifer,

fwsfwrov, the morning star, whether Jupiter or Venus; as these are both bringers of the morning light, or morning stars, annually in their turn. And although the context speaks explicitly concerning Nebuchadnezzar, yet this has been, I know not why, applied to the chief of the fallen angels, who is most incongruously denominated Lucifer, (the bringer of light!) an epithet as common to him as those of Satan and Devil. That the Holy Spirit by his prophets should call this arch-enemy of God and man the light-bringer, would be strange indeed. But the truth is, the text speaks nothing at all concerning Satan nor his fall, nor the occasion of that fall, which many divines have with great confidence deduced from this text. O how necessary it is to understand the literal meaning of Scripture, that preposterous comments may be prevented! Besides, I doubt much whether our translation be correct. llqh heilel, which we translate Lucifer, comes from llq yalal, yell, howl, or shriek, and should be translated, "Howl, son of the morning;" and so the Syriac has understood it; and for this meaning Michaelis contends: see his reasons in Parkhurst, under llh halal.




The destruction of Babylon, and the death of its proud monarch. (1-23) Assurance of the destruction of Assyria. (24-27) The destruction of the Philistines. (28-32)

Isaiah 14:1 Vs. 1-23: The whole plan of Divine Providence is arranged with a view to the good of the people of God. A settlement in the land of promise is of God's mercy. Let the church receive those whom God receives. God's people, wherever their lot is cast, should endeavor to recommend religion by a right and winning conversation. Those that would not be reconciled to them, should be humbled by them. This may be applied to the success of the gospel, when those were brought to obey it who had opposed it. God himself undertakes to work a blessed change. They shall have rest from their sorrow and fear, the sense of their present burdens, and the dread of worse. Babylon abounded in riches. The king of Babylon having the absolute command of so much wealth, by the help of it ruled the nations. This refers especially to the people of the Jews; and it filled up the measure of the king of Babylon's sins. Tyrants sacrifice their true interest to their lusts and passions. It is gracious ambition to covet to be like the Most Holy, for he has said, Be ye holy, for I am holy; but it is sinful ambition to aim to be like the Most High, for he has said, He who exalts himself shall be abased. The devil thus drew our first parents to sin. Utter ruin should be brought upon him. Those that will not cease to sin, God will make to cease. He should be slain, and go down to the grave; this is the common fate of tyrants. True glory, that is, true grace, will go up with the soul to heaven, but vain pomp will go down with the body to the grave; there is an end of it. To be denied burial, if for righteousness' sake, may be rejoiced in, Matthew 5:12. But if the just punishment of sin, it denotes that impenitent sinners shall rise to everlasting shame and contempt. Many triumphs should be in his fall. God will reckon with those that disturb the peace of mankind. The receiving the king of Babylon into the regions of the dead, shows there is a world of spirits, to which the souls of men remove at death. And that souls have converse with each other, though we have none with them; and that death and hell will be death and hell indeed, to all who fall unholy, from the height of this world's pomps, and the fullness of its pleasures. Learn from all this, that the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned. The royal city is to be ruined and forsaken. Thus the utter destruction of the New Testament Babylon is illustrated, Revelations 18:2. When a people will not be made clean with the besom of reformation, what can they expect but to be swept off the face of the earth with the besom of destruction?

Isaiah 14:24 Vs. 24-27: Let those that make themselves a yoke and a burden to God's people, see what they are to expect. Let those that are the called according to God's purpose, comfort themselves, that whatever God has purposed, it shall stand. The Lord of hosts has purposed to break the Assyrian's yoke; his hand is stretched out to execute this purpose; who has power to turn it back? By such dispensations of providence, the Almighty shows in the most convincing manner, that sin is hateful in his sight.

Isaiah 14:28 Vs. 28-32: Assurance is given of the destruction of the Philistines and their power, by famine and war. Hezekiah would be more terrible to them than Uzziah had been. Instead

of rejoicing, there would be lamentation, for the whole land would be ruined. Such destruction will come upon the proud and rebellious, but the Lord founded Zion for a refuge to poor sinners, who flee from the wrath to come, and trust in his mercy through Christ Jesus. Let us tell all around of our comforts and security, and exhort them to seek the same refuge and salvation.



LUCIFER brilliant star, a title given to the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:12) to denote his glory.



12. Fallen - From the height of thy glory. Lucifer - Which properly is a bright star, that ushers in the morning; but is here metaphorically taken for the mighty king of Babylon. Son - The title of son is given in scripturenot only to a person or thing begotten or produced by another, but also to any thing which is related, to it, in which sense we read of the son of a night, Jonah 4:10, a son of perdition, John 17:12, and, which is more agreeable, to the present case, the sons of Arcturus, Job 38:32.

13. I - I will advance myself above the state of a weak man. Above - Above all other kings and potentates; or, above the most eminent persons of God's church. North - This is added as a more exact description of the place of the temple; it stood upon mount Moriah, which was northward from the hill of Zion strictly so called.


The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary 1987 page 267 (heading Daystar, no listing of Lucifer)

"Another name for the morning star (cf. 2 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 2:28) or the planet Venus, which appears in the sky before the sun. At Isa. 14:12 the babylonian ruler is compared to a "Day star" (NIV "morning star"), which has fallen from heaven and has been felled like a stately tree. Though the Church Fathers associated this verse with the fall of Satan from heaven (cf. KJV "Lucifer"), it actually speaks of the end of tyranny rather than a prelude to it, as with Satan who after the fall still retained much power. Some commentators link this idea with an ancient myth about the banishment of a divine person from heaven.

The New Testament, which contains Jesus' remark about the fall of Satan (Luke 10:18), does not identify Lucifer with Satan. Instead, the author of 2 Peter suggest that the morning star" (Gk. Phosphoros "light bearer") refers to Christ's second coming, while the aged John possibly alludes to Christ, who will support the church at Thyatira (Rev. 2:28, Gk. Aster proinos; cf 22:16)."


The Popular and Critical Bible Encylopedia and Scriptural Dictionary Vol 2. 1902 ed. Samuel Fallows pub. The Howard-Severance Co. page 1082

" Lucifer. A word that occurs once in the English Version in the lines--

How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou felled to the ground, that didst weaken the nations! (Is xiv:12)

The Hebrew seems to mean 'brilliant,' 'splendid,' 'illustrious,' or as in the Septuagint, Vulgate, the Rabbinical commentators, Luther, and others, 'brilliant star;' and in this sense was the proper name among the Hebrews of the morning star. Tertullian and Gregory the Great understood this passage of Isaiah in reference to the fall of Satan; in consequence of which the name Lucifer has since been applied to Satan; and this is now the usual acceptation of the word. But Dr. Henderson who in his Isaiah renders the line, 'Illustious son of the morning!' justly remarks in his annotation: 'The application of this passage to Satan, and to the fall of the apostate angels, is one of those gross perversions of Sacred Writ which so extensively obtain, and which are to be traced to a proneness to seek for more in any given passage than it really contains, a disposition to be influenced by sound rather than sense, and an implicit faith in received interprtations. The scope and connection show that none but the king of Babylon is meant. In the figurative language of the Hebrews a star signifies an illustrious king or prince ( Num. xxiv:17; comp. Rev. ii:28; xxii:16). The monarch here referred to having surpassed all other kings in royal splendor, is compared to the harbinger of day, whose brilliancy surpasses that of the surrounding stars. Falling from heaven denotes a sudden political overthrouw--a removal from the position of high and conspicuous dignity fromerly occupied ( comp. Rev. vi:13; viii:10)."


Encyclopedia Biblica A Dictionary of the Bible Vol 3 1952 Ed. T.K. Cheyne pub. Adam and Charles Black page 2828

Lucifer, Av (mg) and RV Day Star, the epithet applied to the king of Babylon who in his pride boasts that he will ascend to the heavens and make himself God's equal; his fate is to be cast down to Sheol to the uttermost recesses of the pit (Is. 14:12-15). By Jerome and other Fathers the passage was applied to Satan (cp. Lk. 10:18).

...Helal ie brillant...

The description of the doings and of the fate of Helal is so peculiar (note the expressions 'son of the dawn,' stars of God,' 'mount of assembly' [see Congregation , Mount of], 'recesses of the north') that Gunkel ( Schopf. U. Chaos, 132 f.) recognises an allusion to a Hebrew nature-myth, analogous to the Greek legend of Phaethon. The overpowering of the temporary brilliance of the morning-star by the rays of the sun is compared to a struggle between Elyon and the giant Helal. References to a mythic tradition of 'warfare in heaven' are abundant (see Dragon, Leviathan, Stars, Orion). But if so why is there no Babylonian equivalent of Helal? It seems better to read either...

{The section continues by going into a reference to a theory of Herahmeel and Helal as new moon or dawn.}


The Jewish Encyclopedia Vol 8. 1904 Funk and Wagnalls Co. page 204

"Lucifer: Septuagint translation of Helel [read "Helal"] ben Shabar " =" the brilliant one," " son of the morning"), name of the day, or morning, star, to whose mythical fate that of the King of Babylon is compared in the prophetic vision (Isa. xiv. 12-14). It is obvious that the prophet in attributing to the Babylonian king boastful pride, followed by a fall, borrowed the idea from a popular legend connected with the morning star: and Gunkel ("Schopfung und Chaos," pp. 132-134) is undoubtedly correct when he holds that it represents a Babylonian or Hebrew star-myth similar to the Greek legend of Phaethon. 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 (comp. Ezek. xxviii. 14; Ps. xlviii. 3 [A.V. 2] but was hurled down by the supreme ruller of the Babylonian Olympus. Stars were regarded throughout antiquity as living celestial beings (Job xxxviii. 7).

The familiarity of the people of Palestine with such a myth is shown by the legend, localized on Mount Hermon, the nothern mountain of Palestine and possibly the original mountain of the gods in that country, of the fall of the angels under the leadership of Samhazai (the heaven-seizer) and Azael (Enouch, vi. 6 et seq: see Fall of Angels). Another legend represents Samhazai, because he repented of his sin, as being suspended between heaven and earth (like a star) instead of being hurled down to Sheol ( see Midr. Abkir in Yalk. I. 44; Raymond Martin, "Pugio Fidei," pl 564 ). The Lucifer myth was transferred to Satan in the pre-Christian century, as may be learned from Vita Adae et Evae (12) and Slavonic Enouh (xxix. 4, xxxi.4), where Satan- Sataniel (Samael?) is described as having been one of the archangels. Because he contrived "to make his throne higher than the clouds over the earth and resemble 'My power' on high," Satan-Sataniel was hurled down, with his hosts of angels, and since then he as been flying in the air continually above the abyss (comp. Test. Patr., Benjamin, 3; Ephes. Ii.2, vi. 12) Accordingly Tertullian ("Conta Marionem." V. 11, 17) Origen (Ezekiel Opera,"iii. 356), and others, identify Lucifer with Satan, who also is represented as being "cast down from heaven" (Rev. xii. 7,10; comp. Luke x. 18)."

 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge Vol 1 1908 Funk and Wagnals page 56.

"Lucifer ( Hebr. Helel, "shining one," R. V. " Day star"): A term applied by Isaiah to the King of Babyon (Isa. xiv. 12) and not occuring elsewhere in the Bible. By Tertullian, Jerome, and others the name was applied to Satan, and in the Middle Ages it became common in this sense. By Gunkel (Schopfung und Chaos, pp. 132 sqq., Gottingen, 1895) the passage in Isaiah is regarded as embodying a reference to a nature myth."


The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Vol 1 page 229

"Lucifer, the rendering of the Vulgate for the Hebrew phrase helal ("day-star") in Isa. 14:12; the verse is rendered in the Authorized Version as: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" The passage in question is a song of derision over the downfall of a Babylonian king; the figure used may trace back to a Hebrew or Babylonian astral myth like the Greek story of Phaethon, in which the day-star is cast out of heaven because of presumption. The term Lucifer is never used in Jewish legend; but Christian writers identified Lucifer with Satan who, according to the gospels (Luke 10:18) fell from heaven like lightning; accordingly, Lucifer bacame one of the terms for the devil in Christian theology."


The Oxford English Dictionary 2nd edition Vol. 9 page 81

I As proper name, and allusively

  1. The morning star; the planet Venus when she appears in the sky before sunrise
  2. The rebel archangel whose fall from heaven was supposed to be referred to in Isa. xiv. 12; Satan, the Devil. Now rare in serious use; current chiefly in the phrase as proud as Lucifer.

The scripture part of a parable against the king of Babylon' (Isa. xiv. 4); but the mention of a fall from heaven led Christian interpreters to suppose that 'King of Babylon was to be interpreted spiritually, as a designation of the chief of 'the angels who kept not their first estate'. Hence the general patristic view that Lucifer was the name of Satan before his fall. The Latin word was adopted in all the Eng. Versions down to 1611; the Revised version has daystar.


Expositor's Bible Commentary Isaiah 14 General Editor Frank Gaebelein, Zondervan

Scholars have shown particular interest in possible connections with the use of the same root in Ugaritic in the Ras Shamra texts from northern Canaan. It is clear enough that in all these Semitic languages the root suggests 12-17 The taunt song continues. Isaiah's prophecies make some use of what has been called "dead mythology," and this may well be an example of this. The language of the myth--known but not, of course, accepted as true by the prophet and his hearers--becomes a vehicle for his thought by supplying the basis of an analogy. Moreover, this passage itself seems to be echoed by the Lord Jesus in Luke 10:18, where language applied here to the king of Babylon is used of Satan. Nothing could be more appropriate, for the pride of the king of Babylon was truly satanic. When Satan works his malign will through rulers of this world, he reproduces his own wicked qualities in them, so that they become virtual shadows of which he is the substance.

To interpret v. 12 and the following verses in this way means that the passage points to Satan, not directly, but indirectly, much like the way the kings of the line of David point to Christ. All rulers of international significance whose overweening pride and arrogance bring them to ruin under the hand of God's judgment illustrate both the satanic and the Antichrist principles, for these principles are really one.


12 helel (helel, "morning star") has possible links with Akkadian elletu ("Ishtar") and Arabic hilal ("new moon"). brightness. In the Ras Shamra polytheism, the morning star attempts to climb beyond all other heavenly bodies to the mountain of the gods in the far north. This would challenge the supremacy of 'el `eleyon (el elyon), the Monarch of the gods. He is cast down. It seems likely that elements of the myth, probably well-known throughout Canaan, provide features of the analogy that runs through vv. 12-15. Such an analogy from mythology would be particularly appropriate when applied to the polytheistic Babylonians, whose mythology had many links with that of Ugarit.