Home > Beliefbusters > Beliefbusters: “Lucifer is Satan”

Beliefbusters: “Lucifer is Satan”

Welcome to the first ever Beliefbusters! In this feature, we will examine popular beliefs, traditions, and “Christian myths” to see if there is any Scriptural warrant for us to believe them. Many of us have grown up with such beliefs, traditions, and myths that we held unquestioningly, never checking to see if the Bible actually taught these things. As a result, much of what the average Christian believes is actually un-Scriptural, and therefore un-Christian.

Today we will look at a very popular and unquestioned belief, namely:

Lucifer is Satan

What is this belief? Well, quite simply, it is the belief that the Lucifer of the Bible is a name for the devil, Satan. Some say that it is even “his original name before he fell from heaven.” As the story goes, Lucifer was the chief of the archangels in heaven, until in his pride he tried to dethrone God. Lucifer got a third of the angels to side with him against God Almighty, and he and his ilk were cast out of heaven to the earthly realms, where he roams to this day until the judgment. But is such a belief biblical? Let’s examine the Scripture.

The only instance of the word (not merely the name) “lucifer” occurs in Isaiah 14:12 in the King James Version:

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!

Interestingly, the KJV is the only translation in which it occurs. It also occurs in the New King James. Why is that? Because the KJV translators did not translate the Old Testament exclusively from the Hebrew, but adjusted their translations to fit the Greek Septuagint (LXX, or the Hebrew Scriptures in Greek) or the Latin Vulgate. This was usually done to conform to Christian tradition or when the then-more familiar Vulgate was deemed appropriate. Most modern translations do not contain these Latinized forms of Scripture, translating the actual meaning of the Hebrew words.

This is not to disparage the KJV, for “lucifer” actually is a Latin translation of the Hebrew here. Here’s the verse as it appears in the New American Standard Bible (NASB):

How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!

This literal translation shows us what the Hebrew actually says. “Lucifer” in Latin means light-bearer. In Roman poetry, “lucifer” was used often to signify “morning star” (or “star of the morning,” above), and it often was the name given to the planet Venus. So “Lucifer” is an appropriate Latin translation.

Now, we must ask the question, who is the “morning star” of this verse? Context is king here, so let’s expand the context to the 14th chapter of Isaiah, beginning with verse 4:

You will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: “How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased! The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers, that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution. The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.’ Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’ Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities,who did not let his prisoners go home?’ All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot. You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people. May the offspring of evildoers nevermore be named! Prepare slaughter for his sons because of the guilt of their fathers, lest they rise and possess the earth, and fill the face of the world with cities.”

Whew, that was a long quote.

We can see from the context of this passage that the name “Lucifer” does not in fact refer to Satan, but to the king of Babylon. What is interesting is that most Jewish theologians do not attribute this name to Satan, but correctly attribute it to the king of Babylon as a play on an honorific title. So where do we get the idea that Lucifer is equated with Satan?


The roots of this “Christian myth” lie in the very language the word “lucifer” is from, that is, from the Latin. As the earliest Christians dealt with Scriptural interpretation of Revelation 12, such early fathers as Tertullian and Origen, who read the Vulgate, made the identification of “Lucifer” with Satan. The early church fathers made intensive use of the allegorical method of interpretation, that is, giving a figurative meaning to the Scripture interpreted rather than what the Scripture actually said, and perpetuated this identification. This identification was further connected with an allegorical interpretation of a second account of a kingly fall found in Ezekiel chapter 28, which describes the king of Tyre being cast down from the “mount of God.” This connection laid the foundation for the modern “Lucifer” doctrine which I roughly outlined at the beginning of this post. The identification then became a tradition which carried through the centuries until it was immortalized in two popular classical literary works, Dante’s Inferno and John Milton’s Paradise Lost. With the addition of the “war in heaven” of Revelation 12, we are given the idea that Lucifer/Satan gathered an “army” of a third of the “stars” (meaning angels) in heaven and at his defeat he and this third were cast out of heaven.

As such many Christians have looked at the occurrence of the “Lucifer” passage, seen that it refers to the king of Babylon, and ascribed Satanic possession or influence over the king of Babylon. But again we must ask, where is that seen in the Isaiah passage? It is nowhere to be found. Such ascriptions have been read into the passage, rather than allowing the passage to speak for itself. The same applies for the Ezekiel 28 and instance. In Revelation 12, however, we do have warrant to see some of the “fallen angel” belief, but we still do not have any warrant to conflate this fallen angel with the “Lucifer” of Isaiah 14. There is simply no connection to be made without making giant hermeneutical leaps between the testaments.

So we have now seen and hopefully understood that the “Lucifer” of Isaiah 14 is not Satan. “Lucifer” instead is an honorific title, “Morning Star,” given to the king of Babylon. There is no need to believe that Lucifer is Satan. This belief is a “Christian myth,” invented by tradition. In true “Mythbusters” tradition, we can declare this belief:

Busted!

Discarding this “Christian myth” from your faith will not cause you to lose your salvation, make you less godly, or prove that Christianity is false, nor does it mean I’m saying the KJV isn’t “pure.” How silly and immature! Instead, it should encourage you to further mature in your ability to read the Bible critically and test what you are told and expected to believe, especially if you are expected to believe it unquestionably.

  1. Steve Dye
    March 25, 2008 at 7:20 am

    Seems still a little foggy. Every pastor that I have asked about this when it was brought up…even in my own research, still ties Lucifer with Satan. Lucifer is the past…Satan is the now. Think you might need to bring this about again more clear

  2. March 25, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Steve, go back and read it again. I very clearly show that “Lucifer” does not refer to Satan, but to the King of Babylon, and that nowhere in Scripture is Lucifer ever connected with Satan. Better yet, open up your Bible and look at the passage in question — there is no connection whatsoever between Lucifer and Satan. This is a “myth” perpetuated by faulty interpretation and tradition.

  3. March 26, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Thank you for writing on such a frequently-held misunderstanding. I still remember the first time I read a commentary that suggested Isaiah 14 was not connected to Satan…it blew my young mind! But, as you have pointed out, there is little or no support for that interpretation.

    I do have to wonder, however, if perhaps you could have gone a bit further. Instead of stopping where you did, maybe you could have explained what we DO know about Satan from Scripture. I think that might help address those questions that will naturally come up from those who find their “belief” busted.

    Thanks for getting this started, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

  4. Steve Dye
    March 26, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Oh I read what you wrote clearly, Stephen. Just not enough to get any new Christians to seperate the two. I cant seem to remember exactly what I found when I seperated the two but it was something to do with the interpretation of the Lucifer being the “Light-Bearer” but then again in that study it also showed that there was a small percentage who still argued that Lucifer, who being an angel before he fell to earth with 1/3 of heaven, was a “Light-Bearer” and then was no more. Was kicked out, resided in a new domain, and apparently assumed the job to tempt us in many ways. The study showed very littlle proof of that but also did not prove enough of exactly what you was saying. The verse in Isaiah is widely used to seperate the two (Lucifer and Satan) but sometimes the belief isnt busted (as Mark puts it) on just the Isaiah scriptures. I grew up all my life assuming they were both the same until I read that study but it wasn’t enough to help me accept it. And you know me, I not one to research hours or days into something because why should I when I have a Stephen Newell? SMILE

  5. March 26, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Steve, here’s the problem as I see it from your last comment. There’s no Scriptural evidence of the whole “light-bearer” myth either.

    The Isaiah passage is more than enough to “bust” this belief, because it is the passage on which the entire myth hinges. Just the fact that the “lucifer” verse is referent of a human is enough to bust it.

    Assumption is deadly for the Christian. We are commanded (by Scripture itself, I must add) to study the Scriptures for ourselves and not to rely on the traditions of men. Pastors need to be putting in hours and days of study, it’s a requirement if one is to teach. A ministry built on assumption and reliance on other people is not going to be successful in the ways that matter.

  6. Steve Dye
    March 26, 2008 at 11:20 am

    True, cant assume things all the time and build our sermons on assumptions. Scriptures are the base of any sermon or anything that we do related to the job. But to put in more than average hours or days rather than spending time one on one with a fallen brother..I would take the spending time one on one anytime. That is what builds up a church as well. The Isaiah passage is good enough if people KNOW the history behind the meaning of why they called him Lucifer. Without additional studies or history info of a specific event or person, then most are left assuming what they was taught growing up or fed to by their pastors, etc. I do agree that it is up to those who preach His Word to make it clear when it is needed.

    For example, there is a passage in Revelations (sorry for going off the point here) that explains what the angel had shown to John about the details of what the new heaven will look like. Revelations 21:14 to be exact…it mentions that on each of the stones was written the name of one of the Lamb’s apostles. Someone had challenged me in getting my opinion on who’s name I thought would be on that stone: Judas (the betrayer), Matthias (later picked), or Paul. Well after thinking about it, I told him that even if I am wrong, I will think it would be Matthias without any reason of explaining why of my choice. But do I need to know that answer now, no. It wouldn’t help me as a pastor to know that.

    Sometimes I leave the mysteries up to God and just do what He asks me to do..and thats to shepherd the flock and feed what I am given from Him. That may be wrong in the eyes of some people, but I do know think Jesus cared about people first, not information. If something pops up that I need to read up on, then I will read up on it… Sorry so long bro! We do need to get together soon for the four…er five of us…blessings! And great blog series, by the way!

    Im gonna start up a deaf ministry series soon…. maybe this week.

  7. Fern
    August 26, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    I have heard an excellent teaching on this topic by Dr. Rick Painter (available through Tom Kraeuter’s Training Resources website), and I feel that, in addition to what has been said here, there is one even more definitive answer to the question of whether or not Satan was ever a angel, archangel, or whatever, who then fell. It’s found in John 8:44, where Jesus says that Satan is the “father of lies, and a murderer FROM THE BEGINNING”. If Jesus is telling the truth, and of course we must believe that He is, then Satan could never have been a “good angel who went bad”. No, he was a liar and a murderer from the moment he was created by God, to be used as the agent by which God gives his children, endowed with free will, a choice — to willingly love Him, or to follow the enemy.
    Thanks for a great forum.
    Blessings,
    Fern

  8. Words Of Vision
    November 12, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    This is a wonderful and informative piece that you have written. The truth is growing at a rapid pace- as churches, books, blogs, and websites are telling the truth about the TRUE ORIGIN of Satan. God’s will is being done and as the truth grows we will no longer be a slave to such a blatant lie that has manipulated millions of people. We should be BOLD and not be afraid to tell others, because GOD is with us. Thank you!

    Yours in Christ Jesus!
    Words Of Vision
    Author of God Reveals a Mystery!
    http://www.wordsofvision.wordpress.com

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