The article that follows was written by Mr. David Rothwell, a long standing member of God's Church who has written extensively on a variety of issues. Although he is not directly affiliated with Blow the Trumpet we consider him a dear and respected friend.
This particular article was selected because of its thoughtful analysis and succinct approach to an issue that profoundly impacts the lives of God’s people. It has been formatted to be consistent with the design of our website. However, virtually no edits to the text were made.
Whose Name is Lucifer
By David Rothwell
What was Satan’s name before he sinned? Was it Lucifer? The majority of people in God’s Church take it for granted that this is true. But to some the name Lucifer means something far different. To them it is one of Christ’s names.
This controversy has been around for years, but has recently come up again within the churches of God. Its importance is underscored by allegations that to use Lucifer as a name for the archangel who became Satan is to take God’s name in vain, and is tantamount to worshipping Satan. These are serious charges and we do not want to be guilty of dishonoring God, so it is important that we seek the truth on this matter.
Origin of the Word Lucifer
The word Lucifer appears only one time in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. It is found in Isaiah 14:12, where a prophecy about the King of Babylon is directed not against a physical king, but against a spiritual ruler:
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!
Lucifer was originally a Latin word, a word which came to us via the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, completed by Jerome in the early 5th century. Jerome’s work was not a complete re-translation, however. He used older Latin translations of the Old Testament which were most likely translated from the Septuagint (a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek). As Jerome was fluent in both Greek and Hebrew, he also referred to the Greek and Hebrew Old Testament texts.
In the Hebrew, or Masoretic text, the word translated Lucifer in the KJV is “heylel.” This word is also found only one time in the Bible. According to Jewish sources, the word is literally “shining one” and was the Hebrew word for the morning star. Young’s Literal Translation renders this verse:
How hast thou fallen from the heavens, O shining one, son of the dawn! Thou hast been cut down to earth, O weakener of nations.
The Jewish Publication Society Bible:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, that didst cast lots over the nations!
The Complete Jewish Bible:
How did you come to fall from the heavens, morning star, son of the dawn? How did you come to be cut to the ground, conqueror of nations?
The Jewish translators of the Septuagint also understood the meaning of heylel to be the morning star. They translated it as “eosphorus,” which was the Greek word for the morning star.
Astronomers now know that the morning star (or day star) and the evening star are the same heavenly body – the planet we now call Venus -- but the ancients didn’t know this. Until Pythagorus discovered around 530 B.C. that they were one and the same, the Greeks called the morning star eosphorus or phosphorus, and the evening star hesperus. Eosphorus is literally “bringer of dawn,” and phosphorus is literally “bringer of light.” In classical mythology the morning star was personified as a male figure bearing a torch.
Jerome understood that eosphorus, phosphorus and lucifer were almost identical in meaning. Like the Greek eosphorus and phosphorus, lucifer was the Latin word for the morning star. In addition, lucifer literally means “light bringer.” Some have made the claim that Jerome coined the word, but Roman astronomy had given the name Lucifer to the morning star long before Jerome made his translation of the Bible.
Understanding the Context
The Jewish understanding of the word heylel is rejected by those who disagree with the Church’s usage of Lucifer. According to them, the only way to understand the meaning of the word heylel is to delve into the meaning of the word “halal”, which is the root word from which heyel is derived.
Strong’s primary definition of halal is “to shine,” but these people reject this definition as well. They say that context is the only way to determine which meaning of halal applies to Isaiah 14:12. According to Strong’s, halal is found 165 times in the Old Testament, and is translated as thirteen different words: praise, glory, boast, mad, shine, foolish, fools, commended, rage, celebrate, give, marriage and renown. The negative translations -- boast, mad, foolish, fools and rage – account for only 25 of the 165 usages, but those who condemn the Church’s usage of Lucifer claim that because the context is about Satan, and because Satan is boastful, mad, foolish and raging, therefore the word heylel must mean boastful, mad, foolish and raging.
This argument, however, ignores the actual context of the verse itself. The phrase “son of the morning,” or “son of dawn,” which follows the word heylel, makes no sense if the meaning of heylel is boastful, mad, foolish and raging. It only makes sense if the meaning of heylel is morning star. As the morning star (when it is visible) always precedes the dawn, there is an obvious relationship between the morning star and the morning.
One author who condemns the Church’s usage of Lucifer tries to make the context of the verse fit by claiming that “son of the morning” means “son of Jesus Christ.” In other words, this “boastful, mad, foolish and raging” archangel was created by Christ, and therefore is His “son.” This author is trying to make a connection between “son of the morning” and Revelation 22:16, where Jesus is called “the bright and morning star.” But Isaiah 14:12 doesn’t read “son of the morning star.” It simply reads “son of the morning,” or “son of the dawn.”
This same author takes an aggressive stance in defense of the accuracy of the Masoretic text over the Septuagint text. His primary reason for this stance is not without merit. It is based on Romans 3: 1-2, where we read:
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
But this author’s reasoning becomes inconsistent when he applies this argument to the discussion of Lucifer. He accepts (up to a point) that the Jews faithfully preserved the Old Testament manuscripts, but rejects their definitions of the words found in the manuscripts.
If in fact we can rely upon the Jews for the faithful preservation of the Old Testament Scriptures, then we can also rely upon them for an accurate understanding of the Hebrew language. The two cannot be separated. The Jews wouldn’t really have preserved the oracles of God if they faithfully copied the words in the Hebrew manuscripts, but didn’t preserve the knowledge of what those words mean.
The Bright and Morning Star
It may be confusing to some that Jesus Christ is called “the bright and morning star” when the archangel who later became Satan is also called the “morning star,” but it need not be. Consider that the being called heylel in Isaiah 14:12 was at one time a righteous angel. We know this because Ezekiel 28:15 says that he was perfect in his ways until iniquity was found in him. God does not create evil. Neither would God have given the throne of rulership over the earth to a sinful being. So there was a time when this great archangel was righteous.
2Corinthians 4:4 tells us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. The implication is that righteous angels are angels of light! Some would have us believe that Satan was never an angel of light, but the truth is that he must have shone brilliantly when he was righteous. Jesus said that He saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven (Luke 10:18). A flash of lightning is brilliant enough to illuminate the sky on even the darkest of nights. In every biblical example where a man sees an angel in full angelic glory, he falls on his face out of fear. That is how brilliantly righteous angels shine. The righteous angels shine so brightly that God uses the stars to as physical symbols for them (Job 38: 7, Rev. 1:20, Rev 12: 4).
Lucifer was no ordinary angel. He was the anointed cherub that covered the very throne of God. He was the one chosen to rule over the earth. Ezekiel 28 tells of his great beauty and 1Corinthians 15: 41 implies that different spirit beings shine with varying degrees of brilliance. He probably shone brighter than any of the other angels. Does it not seem fitting that God would give this archangel the title of morning star, the brightest object -- after the sun and the moon -- that can be seen in our sky?
God does not name people or beings the same way that we do. Most of us were given a name because our parents liked the sound of it, or perhaps because the name was in the family. But God names people and beings for what they are and what they do. Quite possibly the name “morning star” was like a title, or rank to show Lucifer’s role as ruler of the earth. If that is the case, it make sense that God would strip Satan of the title “morning star” and give it to Jesus Christ, as He has qualified to replace Satan on the throne of the earth.
The fact that Satan now sits on the throne of the earth is made clear in 2Corinthians 4:4, where he is called “the god of this world.” As such, Satan holds a position and title that belong to Jesus Christ. He is now ruler over the earth, but Christ is coming back to claim the throne of rulership over the earth. There is not a person in God’s Church – so far as I am aware – that would dispute that fact, yet some balk at the idea that pre-fall Satan was given the title of morning star, a title that Jesus Christ now holds.
Lucifer in 2Peter 1:19
Those who disagree with the Church’s usage of Lucifer often refer to 2Peter 1:19 as a proof text. The KJV translation of this verse reads as follows:
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
The phrase “day star” in this verse is translated from the Greek word phosphorus, which is the Greek word for the morning (or day) star. This same word was rendered by Jerome in the Latin Vulgate as “lucifer.” Some claim that the KJV translators knew better than to translate phosphorus as day star. They contend that the KJV translators knew that Lucifer was a name for Jesus Christ, but were at best lazy, or at worst knowingly part of an evil plot inspired by Satan to steal one of Christ’s names for himself.
These people claim that this diabolical plot started with Jerome and that the KJV translators followed his lead, blindly or otherwise. But it should be self evident that the KJV translators didn’t follow his lead. Where Jerome had “lucifer” in 2Peter 1:19, the KJV has “day star.” And where Jerome had “lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12, the KJV translators capitalized “Lucifer,” making it a proper noun.
Some have furthered demonized Jerome by claiming that he added insult to injury by giving Satan a capital “L” in Isaiah 14:12, while giving Jesus a small “l” in 2Peter 1:19. They cite this as further proof that Jerome was in the clutches of Satan. But Jerome didn’t capitalize Lucifer in Isaiah 14. The KJV translators did.
The translators of the KJV no doubt recognized that heylel in Isaiah 14:12 was an appellation for the archangel that became Satan, and they chose to use the Latin word lucifer for morning star to represent this title. They also chose to capitalize Lucifer, making it a proper noun, or name. Perhaps they did this because we are not given any other clue in the Bible as to what Satan’s name was before he fell. Does this mean that the translators thought that Lucifer was the actual name that God had originally given this anointed cherub? Unless they believed that Latin is the language spoken in heaven, the answer has to be “no.”
They also no doubt recognized that the Greek phosphorus or Latin lucifer in 2Peter1:19 was a reference to Jesus Christ. Rather than confuse the reader by using the same Latin word used in Isaiah to denote pre-fall Satan, they chose the English translation, “day star.” They also chose to regard “day star” as a description rather than a proper noun. They made the same choice in Revelation 22:16, where Jesus is quoted as saying:
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.
The KJV translators did not capitalize descriptions of people, or even descriptions of God. Nor did they capitalize pronouns for God as we do now. This was not done out of disrespect, it was simply the writing style at the time.
Consider the possibility that the KJV translators were neither lazy, nor dupes of Satan. God says that “the powers that be” are ordained by Him and are His ministers (Romans 13: 1-6). Is it possible that King James of England and those he appointed to translate the Bible were used by God as His ministers to accomplish His purpose? Is God powerful enough to have orchestrated the creation of what most experts agree is the most accurate English language translation of the Bible?
Is Lucifer One of Jesus Christ’s Names?
Lucifer is a Latin word, so unless the language spoken in heaven is Latin, it is highly unlikely that God has ever addressed Jesus Christ by the name Lucifer. By the same token of course, neither is it likely that He addresses Him as Jesus Christ, Logos, Yeshua or any other English, Greek or Hebrew name.
God and Christ probably have a language that is unlike any human language. Notwithstanding, we know from Jesus’ example that it is perfectly legitimate to communicate with God using a human language. Matthew 27:46 preserves for us -- in the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke -- the actual words He prayed to His Father in the final moments of His human life:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
When we pray, we are told in Romans 8:26, we are actually given assistance by the Holy Spirit in our communication with God. By implication, God the Father and Jesus Christ communicate with one another through the Spirit.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
By contrast, our earthly communication is subject to corruption. Our human languages are imprecise and temporal. With the passage of time some words have changed meanings; some words we have borrowed from other languages; and too often our words are inadequate because others can so easily misunderstand our meaning. The Bible foretells that one day God will give mankind a pure language (Zephaniah 3:9), but until that time we must communicate with God and with one another in the languages we know.
So given the limitations of human language, is it appropriate to use the name Lucifer to designate the archangel that later became Satan? We can be pretty sure that the actual name that God gave him was neither Latin, nor Hebrew, nor Greek nor any other language that we know. But Lucifer is not an inappropriate name. It conveys the meaning of what this being was. God inspired the Hebrew word for “shining one” or “morning star.” When we say Lucifer, we know that we are talking about the shining, righteous archangel who later sinned and became the adversary, Satan the Devil.
Of course if an individual in God’s Church chooses for conscience sake not to use the name Lucifer, we should not judge or condemn that individual for his choice. And just as Paul directed the Church in his time not to offend others with regard to eating meat, we should if possible avoid offending a brother who disagrees with the Church’s use of the name Lucifer.
On the other hand, those who accuse God’s people of taking His name in vain and worshipping Satan would do well to examine their own behavior. The irony of their accusations is that they may be the ones who are under the sway of Satan. After all, he is the accuser of the brethren:
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night (Revelation 12:10).
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