Who or what is…

Latin: Luciferum

Hebrew: הֵילֵל —transliteration: helel or heylel —meaning: a shining one; day star; brilliant star

also known as “heōsphoros” or “heosphoros”

The name Lucifer does not appear in the source manuscript languages of the Bible: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The Septuagint translation renders הֵילֵל in Greek as Ἑωσφόρος (transliteration: heōsphoros), “bringer of dawn,” the Ancient Greek name for the morning star. Similarly the Vulgate renders הֵילֵל in Latin (the language of Rome) as “lucifer,” the name in that language for the morning star.

Lucifer is the name of various mythological and religious figures associated with the planet Venus. Due to the unique movements and discontinuous appearances of Venus in the sky, mythology surrounding these figures often involved a fall from the heavens to Earth or the underworld.

Interpretations of a similar term in the Hebrew Bible, translated in the King James Version (and earlier in the Wycliffe Bible) as the proper name “Lucifer,” led to a Christian tradition of applying the name Lucifer to Satan (the Devil), but modern translations almost always translate the Hebrew term in the relevant Bible passage (Isaiah 14:12 NASB) as “star of the morning,” “morning star” or “shining one” rather than as the proper name “Lucifer.”

New American Standard Bible: “…star of the morning, son of the dawn…” —Isaiah 14:12 NASB

The King James Version and New King James Version use the name Lucifer only once (Isaiah 14:12 KJV).

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!” —Isaiah 14:12 NKJV

In the context of this verse, an unnamed king of Babylon is referred to in Isaiah as הֵילֵל as Isaiah mocks his his perceived glory. The king of Babylon is described not as a god or an angel but as a man. The KJV and NKJV translate the Hebrew word as “Lucifer,” the NIV uses “morning star,” and the NRSV uses “day star.”

Commentator Dr. Henry M. Morris states:

“Although the prophecy [in Isaiah 14] is directed toward the Earthly king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4), here it goes far beyond him (he could never fall from heaven) to the wicked spirit possessing his body and inspiring his actions. Just as Satan possessed and used the serpent’s body in Eden, so he does here with Babylon’s king…”

Thus, the names “Lucifer” or “Day Star” became bywords sometimes applied to the fallen angel, Satan, the Devil of whom Jesus Christ said,

…I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning. —Luke 10:18 NASB

Vulgate Version (Catholic Vulgate)

The Vulgate uses the Latin word lucifer in verses other than Isaih 14:12, in contexts where it clearly has no reference to a fallen angel: 2 Peter 1:19 (meaning “morning star”), Job 11:17 (“the light of the morning”), Job 38:32 (“the signs of the zodiac”) and Psalms 110:3 (“the dawn”). Lucifer is not the only expression that the Vulgate uses to speak of the morning star: three times it uses stella matutina: Sirach 50:6 (referring to the actual morning star), and Revelation 2:28 (of uncertain reference) and Rev. 22:16 (referring to Jesus Christ).

Article Version: April 24, 2021

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