Monday, January 09, 2006

Does the word 'Lucifer' refer to Satan?

The word Lucifer is commonly associated with Satan from the Bible. However, it is interesting to note that the word might not even refer to Satan at all. It is not found in most translations of the Bible. In fact, it only appears once in the King James Version, in Isaiah 14:12.

Let’s take a look at the verse from the King James Version:

“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!”

Many Christians interpret this verse as Satan’s banishment from heaven. Interestingly, it has been argued that this is not the correct interpretation at all. The Latin word Lucifer does not refer to Satan, but is actually the name given to the morning star (the most common Latin name for the morning star is Venus). In the original Hebrew context, this verse was actually referring to a fallen Babylonian king, not Satan. This makes the most sense if you read the Isaiah passage in context. The Hebrew word used in this verse is heylel (or heilel), which can mean “star of the morning”.

But how did the word Lucifer become associated with Satan? The word first appeared in the Latin Vulgate Bible, around 400 AD. St. Jerome, who was responsible for the Vulgate, translated the word into the Latin lucifer, which refers to Venus. However, the English King James version kept the Latin word, and expressed it as a proper name. Through the years - possibly due the King James’ use of the word as a proper name, and the similarity of the story to Jesus’ account of Satan in Luke 10:18 - this verse became associated with the fall of Satan, and the word Lucifer was eventually attributed to him. The works of Milton and Shakespeare, who used the word Lucifer to refer to Satan, further reinforced this view.

Newer translations of the bible have corrected this erroneous belief. If we have a look at the New International Version, the verse is as follows:

“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations.”

And the Good News Bible:

“King of Babylon, bright morning star, you have fallen from heaven! In the past you conquered nations, but now you have been thrown to the ground”

For a more in-depth discussion of the Lucifer debate, click here, and here.

In conclusion: the word Lucifer was not originally intended to refer to Satan at all, but to Venus, the morning star. Moreover, Isaiah 14:12 refers to a fallen king, not Satan.


Cori said...

Kevin and I discussed this blog at some length and I commented to him that many words in our language (or any language) are appropriated from unusual and interesting sources; a word's meaning is not affected by its origin. Although the term 'lucifer' may not originally have been meant to refer to the Christian concept of the devil, it has been appriopriated to mean that today, and thus it does mean that.

I would be interested to know if anyone knows more about the original Isaiah passage; whether it is a metaphorical passage for the devil or only refers to the Babylonian king. I believe Babylon is often seen as the place of all evil, in the same way as Jerusalem is seen as a metaphor for heaven. I was wondering if the metaphor carried through to the Babylonian king.

Anonymous said...

All this is off the cuff and I'm certainly not a Biblical scholar.

Venus is equally the evening star when it appears in the evening. In antiquity it was not realised this was the same heavenly body and it was then known as Hesperus.

'Lucifer' as latin would have at its root the word 'lux' or light, so that 'lucifer' would actually refer to a 'bringer of the light' - (" lux" = light, 'ferre' = bring, or bear) - a strange appellation for one generally regarded as the Lord of darkness!

Of course the authors of Isiah would have known nothing of latin and Jerome was probably merely making a straight translation - or was he?.

My pennyworth is that the 'prophecy' in Isaiah 14 of the fall of Babylon was either the kind of wishful ranting of the kind we are getting today against the US from some Moslem clerics, or was actually added to Isaiah after the sacking of Babylon by Xerxes in 482 BCE, during which the great temple of Esagila with its ziggurat was destroyed and the statue of Babylon's patron God Marduk was melted down.

My money would be on the latter explanation. In the third Tablet of the Enuma Elish (the Mesopotamian Creation Saga), Marduk is enthroned as King of the Heavens after proving his fitness for the role by making his robe disappear and then reappear, at which all the Gods proclaim "Marduk is King".

One of Marduk's first acts as King of the gods is to 'create' a calendar by organising the heavens, and set down months by the moon's changes. He later creates man in order to serve the gods.

Marduk himself was associated with Jupiter but his consort was Sarpanitu, the shining one = the planet Venus.

Marduk's father was the earth and water god Ea, also called Enki, the god of the abyss and of wisdom. Aa is a variant of Ea, but is also a way of writing A’u or Ya’u without the ending of the nominative - Aa’u, Ya’u, Yau, and Ya—all Yehouah (Jehovah?) - which makes Marduk God’s son!

Marduk was is almost every way a direct competitor to the Hebrew Yahweh/Jehovah. With his defeat of the chaos-dragon Tiamat (associated with the salt-water ocean) Marduk brings order out of chaos. He then regulates the heavens and creates man out of clay. The Enuma Elish is contained in seven tablets which seem to have been 'played out' during a seven-day New Year Festival, and which can, if you look asquint in a dim light, resemble the Seven Days of Creation in Genesis.

As the patron god of Babylon, the Superpower of the age and area (with Egypt), Marduk and the worship based on him would have been the greatest rival to the Creator/god of the Hebrews so it can be little wonder at their gloating when 'he' fell, and I suspect the temptation to further enhance Isaiah's powers of prophecy by having him seem to have prophesied it were just too great for Isaiah's later authors and editors to resist.

Ye why would the authors of Isaiah use the Hebrew 'heilel ben-shachar' for Marduk? .

I can only speculate. If that is indeed the case, it might come down to the Hebrew word 'heylel' which only appears once in the Bible - in this verse. And its translation as 'morning star' is not that clear cut. If 'heylel' is derived from 'halal' this appears 165 times in the Old Testament, translated 13 ways in the King James Version but mostly with connotations of 'praise' or 'glory'. Thus 'halal ben-sachar' as 'praised glory, scion of the morning' seems a reasonable description of the morning star, but the more specific 'heylel' might have been recognisable to the authors and contemporary readers of Isaiah as a reference to the 'false' claimant to the title of Creator of the Morning of the World - a long bow, I know.

Jerome used both the Greek Septuagint and the original Hebrew texts in his translation, but in this instance was probably guided by the Greek text's 'heosphoros' = 'bringer of the dawn" when dealing with Isaiah 14:12. The subsequent use of similar phrases in the Bible describing Jesus - as a bringer of light to the world (John 3:19) - clearly caused problems.

Again I speculate. In Jerome's day and with Constantine still warm in his grave the early Church was still facing great competition from the mystery cults such as that of Mithras, which having originated in Persia might well have had its roots in or shared them with the Babylonian cult of Marduk. Mithras was the God of light and wisdom to whom the title 'Lucifer' could easily have been applied (and may well have been!), and in quite deliberately using this title in Isaiah in the description of what God did/intended to do to the God of the Babylonians, Jerome may well have been quite intentionally and deliberately sniping at the mystery cults or engaging in a bit of propogandising/ranting/wishful thinking of his own!

A song to Mithras

"Mithras, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the Wall!
Rome is above the Nations, but Thou art over all!"


Mithras, God of the Midnight, here where the great bull dies,
Look on Thy children in darkness. Oh, take our sacrifice!
Many roads Thou hast fashioned: all of them lead to the Light!
Mithras, also a soldier, teach us to die aright!

(Rudyard Kipling, 'Puck of Pook's Hill')

Anonymous said...

The name of Satan is Heylel Ben Shachar, no denying that.

But what is of concern is that the word Heylel is now being used as a commercial trademark just as prophesied in the book of Revelations.

Do you know what that word is known as today? YES...the root word of Heylel, which is HALAL.

Check this out guys.


Anonymous said...

Lucifer, devil and demon are three different words. People use mix them. Find the truth by yourself. Ask for a free book at Practice what is written in it and then you will KNOW..

blanc_morte said...

Anonymous said -
"The name of Satan is Heylel Ben Shachar, no denying that...
Do you know what that word is known as today? YES...the root word of Heylel, which is HALAL."

Firstly the root of the 'heylel' brings us to the hebrew word for HOLY, that is why muslims use the word for what is considered clean/pure food.

The metaphor of Satan idea came later, most commentators seem to ignore the historical situation referred in the text, a case among many of twisting the text to make it spell out a belief, in this passage the general rules of hermeneutics are thrown out the window, notice that generally conservative/fundamentalist christians insist that the text is to be taken literally?

Anonymous said...

The concept of Anti-Christ too is not found anywhere as well defined as in the Holy Bible where it says "Who is the Liar? It is he who denies the Father(God) and the Son(Jesus)" - 1 John 2:22.

You cannot go any more clearer than that. The religion of the Anti-christ has an agenda to denounce the deity of Jesus. And since it will seek to destroy God's kingdom it should come as no surprise that they will seek to slaughter Jews and Christians.

So, all these 'metaphor' regarding the Heylel - Halal case only ADDS to the answering, and not the puzzle. Piece them all together and you get a NAME-TAG on the religion of the Anti-Christ : ISLAM.