This article is about Lucifer the star or fallen angel; for other meanings, see Lucifer (disambiguation).

Lucifer is a Latin word made up of two words, lux (light; genitive lucis) and ferre (to bear, to bring), meaning light-bearer. Lucifer does not appear in Greek or Roman mythology; it is used by poets to represent the Morning Star at moments when "Venus" would intrude distracting imagery of the goddess. "Lucifer" is Jerome's direct translation in his Vulgate (4th century) of the Septuagint's Greek translation, as heosphoros, "morning star" or "Day Star," literally "bringer of the Dawn", of a phrase in from Isaiah 14:12 that originally intended no reference to Satan (see below). From the viewpoint of the Christian mythology that developed after Jerome, Lucifer came to be seen as having been second in command to God himself; he was the highest archangel in heaven, but he was motivated by pride and greed to rebel against God and was cast out of heaven with the angels who followed his lead. Then he became the Devil, and his followers were known as demons.

Modern astrologers identify the planet Venus as having been known by the name Lucifer in Roman astrology before being given its current name. See poetical instances below.


"Lucifer" and the Hebrew Bible

"Lucifer" is used by Jerome in the Vulgate (4th century) to translate into Latin Isaiah 14:12-14, where the Hebrew text refers to helel ben-shachar (הילל בן שחר in Hebrew). Helel signifies the planet Venus, and ben-shachar means "the brilliant one, son of the morning", to whose mythical fate that of the King of Babylon is compared in the prophetic vision. The Jewish Encyclopedia reports that "it is obvious that the prophet in attributing to the Babylonian king boastful pride, followed by a fall, borrowed the idea from a popular legend connected with the morning star". Isaiah 14 starts out discussing the King of Babylon, and the reference "morning star, son of the dawn" originally applied specifically to that king's pride:

14:4 that thou shalt take up this parable against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!...
14:10 All they shall answer and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?
14:11 Thy pomp is brought down to Sheol, [and] the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and worms cover thee.
14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations!
(Isaiah, American Standard Version)

The compilers of the Jewish Encyclopedia note that Isaiah was drawing on some star-myth familiar to his hearers for his passing image, and they suggest a comparison with the Greek star-myth of Phaton, who suffered for his hubris.

The later Jewish tradition, with which the early church fathers were familiar, elaborates on the fall of the angels under the leadership of Samhazai ("the heaven-seizer") and Azael (Enoch, book vi.6f). Another legend in the midrash represents the repentant Samhazai suspended star-like between heaven and earth instead of being hurled down to Sheol. The Helel-Lucifer myth was transferred to Satan in the 1st century BC, as may be learned from Vita Ad et Ev (12), where the Adversary gives Adam an account of his early career, and the Slavonic Book of Enoch (xxix. 4, xxxi. 4), where Satan-Sataniel (Samael?) is also described as a former archangel. Because he contrived "to make his throne higher than the clouds over the earth and resemble 'My power' on high", Satan-Sataniel was hurled down, with his hosts of angels, and since then he has been flying in the air continually above the abyss.

"Lucifer" in Roman poetry

"Lucifer" is a poetic name for the "morning star", a close translation of the Greek eosphoros, the "Dawn-bringer", which appears in the Odyssey and in Hesiod's Theogony.

A classic Roman use of "Lucifer" appears in Virgil's Georgics (III, 324-5):

Luciferi primo cum sidere frigida rura
carpamus, dum mane novum, dum gramina canent"
"Let us hasten, when first the Morning Star appears,
To the cool pastures, while the day is new, while the grass is dewy"

And similarly, in Ovid:

Aurora, watchful in the reddening dawn, threw wide her crimson doors and rose-filled halls; the Stars took flight, in marshalled order set by Lucifer, who left his station last."

A more effusive poet, like Statius, can expand this trope into a brief but profuse allegory, though still this is a poetical personification of the Light-Bearer, not a mythology:

"And now Aurora, rising from her Mygdonian resting-place had scattered the cold shadows from the high heaven, and shaking the dew-drops from her hair blushed deep in the sun’s pursuing beams; toward her through the clouds rosy Lucifer turns his late fires, and with slow steed leaves an alien world, until the fiery father’s orb be full replenished and he forbid his sister to usurp his rays."
Statius, Thebaid 2.134

"Lucifer" in Astronomy

Given the fact that the planet Venus/Lucifer is an inner planet, meaning that its orbit lies between the Sun and Earth, it can never rise high in the sky at night, from our Earthly point of view, since it is physically located closer to the Sun than our own planet. It can be seen in the morning sky for an hour or so before the Sun rises, and in the evening sky for an hour or so after the Sun sets, but never during the dark of midnight.

The planet Venus/Lucifer is the third brightest object in the sky, with the Sun being first, and the Moon being next. As bright and as brilliant as it is, ancient people couldn't understand why it couldn't be seen at midnight like the outer planets, or during midday, like the Sun and Moon, so they invented myths and stories about it being "cast out of the high heavens" or "fallen from heaven" to explain why it can't be seen high in the sky during the majority of the day or night.

In contrast to the observations of an actual shiny planet in the sky that people can see with their own two eyes, certain religions such as Christianity, which seem to shun or reject astrology, have invented an invisible spirit world where the shiny Devil character named Lucifer supposedly exists, but no one can actually see it with their eyes open.

Anyone who has actually looked up in the sky and seen the planet Venus in its brightest moments will tell you that it's quite a sight to behold. It's curious how it can be considered Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, since it appears so bright in the sky, as well as the root word meaning "light bringer" or "light bearer" which is mentioned elsewhere in this article.

"Lucifer" in the Christian tradition

Jerome, with the Septuagint close at hand and a general familiarity with the pagan poetic traditions, translated Helel as "Lucifer". Much of Christian tradition also draws on interpretations of Revelation 12:5 ("He was thrown down, that ancient serpent"; see also 12:7 and 12:100) in equating the ancient serpent-god with the serpent in the Garden of Eden and the fallen star, Lucifer, with Satan. Accordingly, Tertullian (Contra Marrionem, v. 11, 17), Origen (Ezekiel Opera, iii. 356), and others, identify Lucifer with Satan.

A description of the supernatural fall

"the whole day long I was carried headlong, and at sunset I fell in Lemnos, and but little life was in me"

relates the fall of Hephaestus from Olympus in Homer's Iliad I:591ff, but it was drawn upon by Christian authors embellishing the fall of Lucifer.

In the fully-developed Christian interpretation, Jerome's Vulgate translation of Isaiah 14:12 has made Lucifer the name of the principal fallen angel, who must lament the loss of his original glory as the morning star. This image at last defines the character of Lucifer; where the Church Fathers had maintained that lucifer was not the proper name of the Devil, and that it referred rather to the state from which he had fallen; St. Jerome transformed it into Satan's proper name.

It is noteworthy that the Old Testament itself does not at any point actually mention the rebellion and fall of Satan directly. This non-Scriptural belief assembled from interpretations of different passages, would fall under the heading Christian mythology, except that the very idea of a Christian mythology is widely attacked as offensive. For detailed discussion of the "War in Heaven" theme, see Fallen angel.

In the Vulgate, the word lucifer is used elsewhere: it describes the Morning Star (the planet Venus), the "light of the morning" (Job 11:17); the "signs of the zodiac" (Job 38:32) and "the aurora" (Psalm 108:3). In the New Testament, "Jesus Christ" (in II Peter 1:19) with "lucifer".

Not all references in the New Testament to the morning star refer to Lucifer, however; in Revelation:

Rev 2:28 And I will give him the morning star.

Rev 22:16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, [and] the bright and morning star.

In the Eastern Empire, where Greek was the language, "morning star" (heosphorus) retained these earlier connotations. When Liutprand, bishop of Cremona, attended the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus II in 968, he reported to his master Otto I the greeting sung to the emperor arriving in Hagia Sophia:

"Behold the morning star approaches, Eos rises; he reflects in his glances the rays of the sun— he the pale death of the Saracens, Nicephorus the ruler." [1] (


"Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav'n."Paradise Lost, Book I, 263

Lucifer is a key protagonist in John Milton's Protestant epic, Paradise Lost. Milton presents Lucifer almost sympathetically, an ambitious and prideful angel who defies God and wages war on heaven, only to be defeated and cast down. Lucifer must then employ his rhetorical ability to organize hell; he is aided by Mammon and Beelzebub. Later, Lucifer enters the Garden of Eden, where he successfully tempts Eve, wife of Adam, to eat fruit from the Tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Lucifer naturally makes appearances in fiction offering a suggestion of esoterica. In Miguel Serrano's Nos, Lucifer is identified as the King of the White Gods.

Space Odyssey Series

In Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey Series, Jupiter was renamed Lucifer after its transformation into Earth's second sun.

See also

External links

de:Luzifer es:Lucifer fr:Lucifer ja:ルシファー la:Lucifer nl:Lucifer (Satan) pl:Lucyfer pt:Lcifer zh:路西法


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