Lucifer Isn’t Satan’s Name [But It Tells Us Something About Him]

How Satan Came To Be Called Lucifer

Lucifer is probably the most well-known name for the evil spirit otherwise known as Satan. If you say “Lucifer” there’s no confusion about whom you’re speaking. So in a way it’s accurate to say that Lucifer has become Satan’s name. There is a TV show right now in the USA entitled Lucifer and yes, it’s about Satan and no, I haven’t seen it.

Lucifer on his way to attack Eve and Adam

Gustave Doré’s illustration for Milton’s Paradise Lost, III, 739–742: Satan on his way to bring about the fall of man

But Lucifer isn’t Satan’s name according to the Bible. Calling Satan Lucifer was actually a decision made by the translators of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Here’s what happened. They translated Isaiah 14:12 this way,

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!

The problem is they translated the Hebrew word הֵילֵ֣ל or helel as “Lucifer.” The word helel is only used here in the Bible. It comes from a root meaning “shining one.” However, Lucifer isn’t an English translation of the Hebrew word helel. It’s a Latin translation of the word. The KJV translators borrowed the word Lucifer from the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible. In Latin Lucifer has the sense of “light-bearing” and “morning star.” Rather than translate the Hebrew word helel as “shining one” or “morning star” like modern translations do, the KJV translators inserted the Latin term “Lucifer” in this verse. Since many scholars understood this passage as referring to Satan, Lucifer became synonymous with Satan’s name.

What’s The Real Name of the Being Known As Lucifer?

If Lucifer Isn’t Satan’s name, what Is it? Technically he has many names, Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, ancient serpent, god of this age and more. I say technically because none of these are really names. They’re all descriptors. Even in the book of Job, where our English translations call him Satan, that isn’t what we find in Hebrew. Satan is a transliteration of the Hebrew word “satan” which means adversary. In Job the word “satan” has “the” in front of it. It would be more accurate to translate each occurrence in Job as “the adversary.”

So what was this being’s name before he sinned? We don’t know. It may be that it was “shining one.” I’m sure it was a glorious name due to his power and position. It’s significant that we don’t know what it was. Names are important to God. A person’s name reflects their character. We see this when God changed the names of Abram to Abraham Genesis 17:4-6 and Jacob to Israel Genesis 32:29 to reflect His work in their lives.

Even though God has given him great power and he’s followed by many other fallen spirits he is still under God’s control. It is a small thing but I take comfort that God’s control extends to the point where we don’t even know his original name.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

 

If you have a question or comment please leave it below. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kai Thorsen

    Hello! You miss a bit in your article:

    1. First, regarding Satan: in the Old Testament, Satan at times clearly worked FOR God. He was God’s “bad boy”, who God sent smiting. He was allowed to stand in the presence of God, sometimes rebuked, sometimes not, but what arch enemy gets to hob nob with the object of his hate? When Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus didn’t say, “begone”, He said, “Get behind me.” An odd thing for the son of God to say to God’s “opponent”.

    2. Only in the early Medieval period was the Old Testament Satan lumped together with all Pagan deities by church fathers and depicted as the “devil” that we know today. He was given the horns and cloven hoofs of the Pagan god Pan, for example. This was done to demonize non-Christian religions.

    3. Jesus spoke of good versus evil but he never spoke of absolute evil (personified by Satan) competing with absolute good. His followers later did, and that “absolute/versus” concept was found in Persian Zoroastrianism, 1,000 years before Christianity even existed.

    4. The passage in Isaiah that speaks of the “morning star” does NOT refer to a fallen angel. It’s a reference to an earthly king, Nebuchadnezzar. Only in the 1611 version of the King James Bible do we see, in English, for the first time, the name “Lucifer” used in this passage, a name which, by that time, had become synonymous with “Satan”.

    5. “Lucifer” simply means “light bringer”. To the Romans, Lucifer was a minor deity equated with Venus, the morning star. Jesus Himself was once described by Christians with this adjective, and – there was at least one early Christian bishop NAMED “Lucifer”. Clearly, “Satan” and “Lucifer” are one, and eternally evil and in opposition to God, only because over centuries, Christians have made them so.

    • Josh Cottrell

      @Kai, you state, “Jesus spoke of good versus evil but he never spoke of absolute evil (personified by Satan) competing with absolute good.”

      Actually there are several references that Jesus spoke of Satan or the Devil:
      John 8:44; Mathew 12:26; Mark 3:23; John 17:15; Luke 22:31 and then there is 1 Peter 5:8 and Rev. 12:9-12 and Rev. 20:2.
      1 Chronicles 21:1 can be thrown in there for Jesus cited the old testament numerous time and therefore legitimized the old testament as being true.