Friday, June 10, 2016
Back in August 2010 I posted an article explaining the origin of the name “Lucifer” being applied to Satan. I decided to clean extraneous stuff from it, and explain the information in a more chronological flow. I also added some clarifying statements, and this much better article replaces that old one.
Satan’s name was never originally “Lucifer.” Nope, it never was, even though one of the things which KJV Only people say is that the new Bibles have left out “Lucifer’s” name when they change the word in Isaiah 14:12. When you understand the origin of this name, you realize how ridiculous this argument becomes.
Step one: In ancient days people thought the “morning star” and the “evening star” were two different astrological objects, when in reality they were really both the planet we now call “Venus.” The Greeks called it “Hesperus” in the evening and “Phosphorus” in the morning, while the Romans (with the Latin language) called in “Vesper” in the evening and “Lucifer” in the morning. So, “Lucifer” was nothing more than the name Romans gave to the planet we now know as Venus. The word meant “light bearer” but identified the “Morning Star.”
Step two: Early Church fathers Origen (died 254) and Tertullian (died 220) spiritualized this passage and incorrectly decided that it was talking about Satan and his rebellion against God (read Jude 6; Matthew 25:41). In fact, the prophet Isaiah was talking about the wicked king of Babylon who claimed to be like God, and who boasted that his throne would lie beyond the stars (Isaiah 14:13-14). The king sought the glory associated with “Helel,” but God had other plans. He would bring this wicked king down to the depths of the Earth where he belonged (verse 11).
Step three: When Jerome translated the Hebrew book of Isaiah into Latin (while writing the Latin Vulgate Bible), he had only a vague idea what the Hebrew word “Helel” meant. Helel means something like “shining one.” Isaiah 14:12 described this “shining one” as “the Son of the Dawn,” so Jerome concluded that Helel was the Hebrew name for Lucifer, the morning star.
Step four: The people who translated the King James Version in 1611 borrowed heavily from Jerome’s Latin Bible, and when they came to Isaiah 14:12 they didn’t understand the Hebrew “Helel,” so they just kept the Latin “Lucifer” rather than trying to translate “Helel” into English. Their translation of Isaiah 14:12 then went like this: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!”
Step five: John Milton, in 1667, put the idea of Isaiah 14 applying to Satan, along with the KJV use of “Lucifer,” into his famous book, “Paradise Lost,” which had Lucifer as an angel who sinned and was cast out of heaven. And this is how Satan became Lucifer.
Satan’s name never was Lucifer, so anyone who makes such a claim is basing their belief really on John Milton’s story and NOT on the Bible. Unfortunately, this has become a well-held tradition in the Church, both the idea that Isaiah 14:12 is about Satan, and that Satan’s name was Lucifer. Traditions die hard.
Today, in order to avoid this confusion, modern translations use “Morning Star” or “Day-Star” instead of “Lucifer.”
We have no idea what Satan’s name may have been prior to his fall. “Satan” (Hebrew) and “Devil” (from Greek) both mean “adversary.”
I had never heard of the Lucifer/Satan connection when I first read the Isaiah passage, and I never would have gotten the connection from the context; this doctrine is disputed by many theologians in commentaries I have read.
Nevertheless, if Christians quit using this term to name Satan, then we will cease forcing the Scriptures to say something they don’t say.