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Bible Q

Where did the name “Lucifer” come from?

Lucifer is a Latin adjective meaning “light-bringer”. It was used of both the moon and more frequently of the planet Venus, the “morning star”, the brightest object in the sky just before dawn.


Early Christian usage

In Christian usage the word became used as a name widely from the Latin of 2 Peter 1:19 “lucifer oriatur in cordibus vestris” (the morning-star arise in your hearts). This was taken as a title of Christ and features in early hymns such as that by the 4th Century bishop Hilary of Poitiers with the line “Tu verus mundi lucifer” (you are the true light bringer of the world). At the same time Lucifer became a popular Christian name, including of two early bishops.


Later Christian usage

A sudden change in the associations of name came about in the 5th Century with increasing reference to another “morning star” (Latin lucifer) in the Latin Bible, namely the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:12

             Quomodo cecidisti de caelo, lucifer, fili aurorae 

This literally is “How you are fallen from heaven,  O Day Star, son of Dawn!” (NRSV) and from the context has nothing to do with angels – Isaiah 14:16-17 calls him a “man”

However it came to be used as a verse about the devil, and the original usage from 2 Peter 1:19 was largely forgotten.

In English Bibles the word was traditionally left untranslated as a name of the devil:

A! Lucifer, that risedest early, how fellest thou down from heaven; (Wycliffe Bible,  c. 1390)

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning… (King James Version, 1611)


Modern versions

Now the clock has turned back again to the early Christian understanding of these verses, and modern versions translate the word as “morning star” in both Isaiah 14 and 2 Peter 1.

The comparison to Venus is quite suitable; the king of Babylon was very proud and imagined himself to be a god. He said “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14) and apparently thought of himself as being “in heaven” like Venus. Instead, he fell to the earth in defeat. Isaiah describes him as a metaphorical morning star — appearing bright and elevated, but about to plunge below the horizon and disappear.

A similar passage is Ezekiel 28 which is about the king of Tyre, although it is also often incorrectly interpreted as applying to a wicked angel.

Further reading:

3 Replies to “Where did the name “Lucifer” come from?”

  1. Actually, the word “lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12 is actually a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for “the howl” often pronounced as “hillel” or “ha yalal”. See also the word “howl” at Isaiah 14:31, it is the exact same hebrew word. The name “the howl” was given to the one that fell from heaven.

    • From the NET Bible notes:

      The Hebrew text has הֵילֵל בֶּן־שָׁחַר (helel ben-shakhar, “Helel son of Shachar”), which is probably a name for the morning star (Venus) or the crescent moon.

      The Hebrew word for howl is spelt differently. In Isaiah 14:31 it is הילילי. Note the additional yodhs.

  2. Lucifer is one of many name’s for satan, the prophet Isaiah was speaking about lucifer being a deceiver of the nation’s, satan was cast out of heaven because he deceived eve into eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, he was Givin authority over all the earth, until jesus came, was crusified, and then rose again on the third day, after that happened Jesus was Givin all power and authority in heaven and on earth. So when Isaiah speaks in verse 16, he says “they that see thee, And CONSIDER thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth tremble, that did shake kingdom’s. Satan/lucifer/beast/false prophet/deceiver ect. Is deceiving everyone who has not been saved by Christ through the holy spirit, when Isaiah is writing about a “man” he is writing about the end time’s of man; when satan will heal the beast, and perform all different kinds of signs of deception, to gather as many followers as he can before Jesus comes back to defeat him once and for all.