Old Testament

Why Lucifer is Not Satan’s Name

photo of lucifer the shining one

For most people, Lucifer is synonymous with Satan. Christians and non-Christians regularly refer to Satan as Lucifer, whether in Bible studies about Satan’s fall, or in classic literature, music, and poetry. For example, John Milton’s epic “Paradise Lost” regularly refers to Satan as Lucifer. “Lucifer Rising,” a 2008 release by Candlemass (a so-called Swedish “doom metal” band) also contains the following lyrics:

Oh, blessed the children of doom
As they dance on the meadows
Oh, poet and merchant and witch
You know the master is here

Lucifer, Lucifer, Lucifer rising

For the record, I have never heard the above song, but just was looking through different songs that contained a reference to Lucifer. Regardless, it is rather easy to see with brief searches that Lucifer is a popular name to reference Satan. This identity was even picked up by Hollywood, where Jerry Bruckheimer and DC entertainment were involved in a TV series called Lucifer, a show about the devil who abandons his place in hell to move to Los Angeles.

Where We Get the Name Lucifer

Why is it so common place to assume Lucifer is another name for Satan? The answer comes from Isaiah 14 in the King James Version. Isaiah 14 is a passage many believe refers to Satan and his fall, and in verse 12 the KJV reads the following:

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!

So, for the KJV, Lucifer is the one who fell. This has led to the belief that Lucifer was Satan’s angelic name, before he became Satan. However, if we compare the KJV with other translations we notice the absence of the name Lucifer.

NIVHow you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
ESVHow you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
NASBHow you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!
CSBShining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens!
You destroyer of nations, you have been cut down to the ground.
NETLook how you have fallen from the sky, O shining one, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the ground, O conqueror of the nations!

Why Other Translations don’t Use Lucifer

The name Lucifer is noticeably absent from the non-KJV translations. Are these translations trying to hide something about Satan? Not really. These translations are highlighting the Hebrew word as a description or title, not as a name.

The difference in translation from the KJV concerns the Hebrew word הֵילֵל (helel), which occurs nowhere else, but is almost certainly related to the verb הלל (halal), which means “to shine,” or “flash forth light.” The Greek translation of the OT translates this Hebrew word as ἑωσφόρος (“morning star,” cf. 2 Pet 1:19). The Latin Vulgate translation uses Lucifer both in Isaiah 14:12 as well as 2 Peter 1:19. Lucifer is related in Latin to the verb luceo which means “to shine.”

In churches today you will often hear Satan referred to by name as Lucifer, however, it seems clear to me that Lucifer was not intended by the translators of the Latin Vulgate to be understood as a name. Whether or not the KJV translators intended it to be used as a name is also in question. They likely would have understood Latin well enough that Lucifer would communicate the notion of a shining star. The KJV translators might be as surprised as anyone that their use of the word “Lucifer” turned into a proper name. In any case, it seems clear that Lucifer is not a name for Satan. It is either a description or a title.

Note: I have deliberately ignored the whole question as to whether Satan is even being addressed in Isaiah 14:3ff (many scholars think it is not a reference to Satan at all). I’m not sure that Isaiah 14 is a reference to Satan at all, but this is a bigger issue that will have to await a future time. For the time being, we will have to be satisfied in understanding Lucifer is not Satan’s name.

Photo by Farid Askerov on Unsplash

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs The Bible Sojourner podcast and Youtube channel.

One Comment

  • Peter

    Hi Peter, dont want to dispute so much whether Lucifer is his name, people use yhe word Christ for Jesus, Yehoshuah all the time and that is a title.
    I just wondered whether you have come across the book by Gail Riplinger called New Age Bible Translations. Another of hers, thicker, by the title Corrosive Materials.
    The point is all modern translations from 1611 KJV have been meddled with, often seriously.
    If youre about to dismiss this information, please dont do so without reading that first title. It amazes and disturbs me that seminaries are doing a very poor job of teaching their students about Westcott, Hort, Kittel, Nestle and many other culprits, and perpeuate the story that the Septuagint is a valid scripture source.
    David Daniels of Chick.com does a great job in researching things like this including Sinaiticus. See his videos.
    I did enjoy your article on What does Cut Off mean. Thanks

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