A critical examination of the name Lucifer as it appears in translations of the Bible from 300 BC to the present day.
Part 1 – Where Does Lucifer Come From?
While doing research on the Goetic demons and undertaking a deep-reading of both the Old Testament and the Sefer HaBahir (Book of Light), I stumbled upon the name Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12. When I read the verse in Hebrew, I was surprised to discover that the Hebrew word for Lucifer is spelled He-Yod-Lamed-Lamed (HYLL or הילל). Given this spelling, there is no linguistic reason to translate this word as “Lucifer,” so I began to probe further into the mystery of this word and the verses surrounding it.
The Book of Isaiah was likely written in three separate parts by three authors. Each section deals with slightly different themes, but all relate to the historical Jewish prophet Isaiah Ben Amoz, who lived in Judah in the 8th Century BC. While the book may contain his actual words and teachings, only the first section, chapters 1 – 33, were written during his lifetime, possibly by Isaiah himself. The earliest scholarly-accepted date for this section is 745 BC, but the entire Book of Isaiah was completed prior to 586 BC at the very latest.
Chapters 1 – 33, sometimes referred to as “First Isaiah,” contain a series of oracles concerning the future tribulations of Israel and the eventual destruction of the enemies of Yahweh. It also foretells the arrival of a Messiah who will restore Jerusalem once and for all.
First Isaiah is especially interesting from a Kabbalistic perspective because it references stars and constellations. When these chapters are placed beside Egyptian astronomical texts from the same period, they often use the same language to describe the night sky. However, Chapter 14, Verse 12 switches from talking about the stars to referencing the planet Venus, which is often called the “morning star” for its bright appearance in the sky just before sunrise during certain months of the year.
In the King James Bible, this verse reads:
“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!”
From a Christian perspective, this passage is interpreted as Isaiah prophesying the fall of Satan during the end times and his final defeat by the armies of Christ after the second coming. Christian theologians have used this verse as evidence that Jesus Christ was familiar with the prophecies of Isaiah because in the New Testament, Luke 10:18, Jesus appears to reference Isaiah 14:12, saying, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”
Revelations 12:9 also uses similar imagery to describe the final defeat of the Devil: “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Before breaking down the verse, it's important to understand that ancient peoples' knowledge of astronomy and the basic mechanics of heavenly bodies was far superior than they're given credit for. As early as 2100 BC, the Egyptians had an intricate understanding of the movements of the stars and planets. By 800 BC, all ancient cultures from Greece to India knew the difference between planets and stars based on the differences of their motions. So when Isaiah 12 says “Lucifer, son of the morning,” if the author was referencing the planet Venus, they were aware that Venus is not a star.
But why was Isaiah suddenly talking about Venus in the first place? Chapter 12 describes the joy Israel will feel once the evil people among them are gone and says there will be a period of peace before their enemies—specifically the King of Babylon—will face final judgement. According to the traditional interpretation of this passage, the planet Venus, named Lucifer, will be among those enemies facing the wrath of Yahweh. Which makes absolutely no sense in the context of the Old Testament and Jewish theology.
The usual name for the Devil in the Bible is Satan, which is the Hebrew word (שטן) śāṭān meaning “adversary.” Both the spelling and the definition of this word make perfect sense from a linguistic and theological standpoint. In the New Testament, Jesus frequently refers to the Devil as “Satan” but never as “Lucifer.” In fact, the name Lucifer is only found one time among all the books of the Bible. It has no precedent as a name for the Devil in any ancient manuscript. So why would Isaiah invent an entirely new name for the Devil and link that name with the planet Venus?
Isaiah's prophecies never actually mention the planet Venus, and he never uttered the name “Lucifer.”
To figure out how this name was created, who was responsible for creating it, and how it came to be associated with the Devil or Satan, we must carefully pull apart words of Isaiah 14:12 and examine the many translations of the Bible.
Part 2 – The Early Jewish Translators
For much of ancient Jewish history, there was no single book that contained all the texts accepted as canon to be used by the faithful followers of Yahweh. Some of the material was carried orally, but most Jewish religious texts were in the form of manuscripts—long scrolls of papyrus or animal skin parchment upon which scribes wrote what would later become various books of the Bible.
Around 250 BC, the Greek Pharaoh of Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, ordered 72 Jewish scholars to translate the primary Jewish texts into the Greek language. At this time, the Library of Alexandria was flourishing and scholars from all around the ancient world were visiting the city, bringing collections of manuscripts from their home countries. In this academic melting pot, ideas concerning religion, science, mathematics, astrology, astronomy, medicine, and literature were exchanged freely between Egyptians, Jews, Persians, Greeks, and others. The efforts of those philosophers in the Library of Alexandria laid the path for major advances in human understanding of the natural world.
The completed translation done by the Jewish scholars was called the Septuagint (the Book of Seventy) and it became the standard version of the Old Testament used in the ancient world outside of Jewish communities. Oddly, Jews themselves, and even Greek Jews, preferred to use their old manuscripts because they believed the Septuagint to be a seriously flawed text. After the rise of Christianity, the Septuagint became a fundamental text for early Greek Christians.
The Jewish translators of the Septuagint appear to have been the first ones to interpret HYLL as an aspect of the planet Venus, although they did not invent the name Lucifer. When they came to the word HYLL, instead of attempting to reconcile this word with the theme of the surrounding text, they replaced it with the Greek word ἑωσφόρος, a word with no linguistic connection to the original Hebrew word. [see Isaiah 14 from the Septuagint]
The Greek word ἑωσφόρος is the name for the Greek god Eosphorus or Heōsphoros, which was a name the Greeks used to refer to the planet Venus when it was in the sky during the early morning. Eosphorus was specifically the morning god, while in the evening, Venus was called Phosphorus and was viewed as a separate god. It is difficult to make the logical or linguistic leap from HYLL to Eosphorus, but let's see if we can do it...
The verse says: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” But the Hebrew is a little less specific. The word used for “heaven” could more accurately mean “sky” and the word used for “morning” (שָׁחַר) is not just morning, but more accurately signifies the “breaking” of something, which was interpreted by the translators as the way the “dawn breaks” [see Strong's H7836]. Curiously, the word “star” does not appear anywhere in the verse.
This means the most accurate rendering of the passage is: “You will fall from the sky, HYLL, child of breaking.” The translators interpreted the verse to mean something was coming out of heaven at the break of dawn and they replaced the unfamiliar word HYLL with the Greek name for the god of the morning, Eosphorus. We'll come back to this translation, but first, let's move forward to the evolution of Lucifer.
Six-hundred years after work on the Septuagint was started by Jewish translators, much had changed in the ancient world. Rome was now the dominant power over Egypt, Israel, and Greece. Christianity had become the primary religion, and consequently, a new translation of the Bible was needed that incorporated the texts of the New Testament as well as various manuscripts that were now considered canon.
Although other versions of the Bible existed in Latin, none was considered good enough for widespread use by all Christian churches. In 382 AD, Pope Damasus I commissioned a Christian priest, Jerome (later Saint Jerome) to undertake a new Latin translation of the Septuagint and all other relevant manuscripts in Greek and Hebrew. Jerome traveled to Jerusalem and set about this monumental task on his own. He told the Pope and others that he did not believe the Septuagint was a reliable text and preferred to work with the original Hebrew manuscripts instead.
It took Jerome 18 years to complete the translation, which became known as the Vulgate (Biblia Vulgata). This version of the Bible was the most widely used translation until 1530. The Vulgate marks the first appearance of the word “Lucifer” anywhere in written history. The word itself had no linguistic precedent, so how did Jerome come up with it?
Although he claimed to have eschewed the Septuagint in favor of Hebrew texts, it's unlikely Jerome could have constructed “Lucifer” from the Hebrew letters HYLL. Instead, he took the Greek word “Eosphorus” and Latinized it. It should be noted that by the 300s AD, the Greeks had combined their gods of Venus in the dawn and Venus in the night into a single god: “Phosphorus.”
Phos (light) = Lux in Latin.
Phóros (bearing) = Ifer in Latin.
This gives us the Latin rendering Lux-ifer.
Students of early Christianity and the Greek language will know that the letter X was an early symbol for Christ, not only because it was shaped like a cross, but also because it was pronounced as “Chi.” Thus, Jerome combined the Greek “c” and the Latin “x” to create the name “Lucifer” out of thin air, giving Christianity a new name for their adversary. No longer was the Devil only called Satan, but now HYLL, which fell from the sky as a child of breaking, was transformed into LUCIFER, the enemy of Yahweh and Christ.
But all is not as it seems...
Part 3 – What Isaiah Really Says
The unlikely evolution of HYLL to Lucifer makes little sense. Nor does Isaiah's shift from oracles concerning stars to the sudden appearance of Venus in the text. It simply does not fit in with the astrological beliefs and practices of that time period. Not to mention the linguistic issues and logical leaps which have to be made to force the Greek and Latin names to fit into the original Hebrew letters.
Fortunately, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the digitization of nearly the entire corpus of scrolls, we now have access to some of the original, handwritten Hebrew manuscripts similar to those used by the Jewish translators who created the Septuagint. In a strange coincidence, the best-preserved Dead Sea Scroll happens to be a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah. This text, known as the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) dates to at least 356 BC, making it one of the oldest known Jewish manuscripts ever discovered.
By examining the Great Isaiah Scroll, it becomes immediately obvious that a translator or scribe copying the manuscript made an error at some later point in history. The handwritten Hebrew does not say HYLL, which had no previous precedent and has been thought to be a proper name or nickname with the root meaning “shining” or “glorious.” Instead, the actual text says HYLYL (היליל), which is a Hebrew word meaning “wailing” or “howling.”
Searching through a digital copy of the Hebrew language Bible, the word “wailing” can be found written several ways, and, perhaps shockingly, it is even written as HYLL (הילל) in Zechariah 11:2. This verse reads: “Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.” The King James Version has translated HYLL as “howl” which makes perfect linguistic sense.
If HYLL indicates the mournful sound a tree makes when it is falling down, then if we return to Isaiah 14 and look at the surrounding verses, we should expect to find some reference to cedar trees, and we do! Isaiah 14:8 reads: “Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.” Note that the verse in Isaiah uses virtually identical wording as the later verse in Zechariah.
Now, if we again pull apart Isaiah 14:12 and read it in the context not of an astronomical body or a god, but in the context of a cedar tree which has been chopped down, we can gain a better understanding of the real meaning of the verse, “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!”
“How art thou fallen from heaven” = “You fell from the sky” [like a towering tree in the air]
“O, Lucifer, son of the morning!” = “Howl, o child of breaking” [like a tree being broken]
“How art thou cut down to the ground” = “The cut tree fell down to earth” [note use of CUT]
“Which didst weaken the nations!” = [The dead wood is gone and Israel is strong now]
When read with this new understanding and the correct translation of HYLL as “howl,” Isaiah 14:12 makes much more sense in the context of a mighty tree being chopped down. It's also telling that the word “cut” is used to describe this falling, a word used frequently in both the Old and New Testaments to describe the destruction of a tree, but never to describe the destruction of Satan. When speaking about battling Satan or destroying demons, the phrase “cast out” is nearly always used by Biblical authors. This makes perfect sense when one considers that although you may cast out Satan, you would only cut down a tree.
In the original Hebrew text, Lucifer, as a name for the Devil, is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament because the name was purely an invention of Saint Jerome intended to replace the Greek god representing the planet Venus. Saint Jerome must have relied more heavily on the Septuagint than he cared to admit because he could not have invented the name on his own.
Part 4 – Conclusions and Consequences
We can only speculate why the Jewish translators of the Septuagint chose to insert a foreign god into Isaiah 14:12. The fact that ancient Jews were disinclined to use the Septuagint due to their lack of confidence in the translation does not bode well for the sudden insertion of a Greek word with no prior precedent in Hebrew. Given the tensions between Israel and their neighboring countries, it's possible the Jewish translators deliberately wished to demean a foreign god by portending his downfall.
It is also possible—even likely—that, given the secretive nature of Kabbalistic mysticism, the translators decided to hide or obscure elements of the original text so the power of Yahweh would be denied to the gentiles. They had no incentive to provide a perfect translation of their most holy texts to the Graeco-Egyptian Pharaoh. Deliberate errors such as substituting Eosphorus for HYLL would help ensure the awesome power of the Kabbalah stayed in the hands of those who know how to read the Torah in Hebrew.
Of course, the simplest explanation is the best: the translators made an error which was expounded upon by all later translators—including those of the modern day. Given that modern translators generally replace the incorrect “Lucifer” with the equally incorrect “shining” or “morning star” indicates they're conscious the verse does not read as the original author intended.
What are the consequences of this discovery and why should it be of significance to anyone? From the perspective of Christian theology, the mistranslation of HYLL suggests that the doctrine of Biblical infallibility leaves a lot to be desired. The original Hebrew text could still be the infallible word of Yahweh, but every translation that has ever been created can conclusively be said to be flawed by at least that one word (there are others).
From the perspective of the many people and organizations that have created new translations of the Bible over the past 2,300 years, the fact that nobody bothered to do the work required to properly translate Isaiah 14:12 is downright scary. Each new translation merely used the translations that came before them. Even worse, when translators did use different manuscripts, they still used the pre-existing, flawed interpretation of HYLL as some kind of astronomical entity (be it Venus or Phosphorus). One shudders to think of how many other Biblical words have suffered the same mistranslation. If the God of Abraham was working through these translators, their connection was obviously quite faulty.
From the perspective of the occult community, especially the many people who call themselves Luciferians—people who worship Lucifer—it may be time for them to find another patron deity. True, the god they worship did exist from a purely technical standpoint, under the Greek name Phosphorus; however, the mythology surrounding Lucifer is based entirely on Christian theology.
The corpus of literature about Lucifer deals with the saga of his downfall as the torch bearer of Yahweh. Milton's Paradise Lost, Dante's Divine Comedy, among countless others repeat the false myth of the fallen son of the morning. These stories have their root in the misunderstanding of Isaiah 14:12, therefore, they are all fictions based on an entity that never existed.
If Luciferians or demonolaters wish to revere Lucifer, it's the functional equivalent of worshipping Santa Claus. Yes, there was a real person named Saint Nicholas of Myra, but Santa Claus is a fictional character invented to sell stuff during Christmas. This is analogous to the fundamental differences between the Greek god of Venus, Phosphorus, and Lucifer, a fictional character created as an enemy of the Jews. Saint Nicholas never flew in a sled with Rudolph, and Phosphorus was never cut down from heaven by Yahweh. Perhaps he was cast down by Zeus, but not Yahweh.
From my own perspective, Lucifer's non-existence causes no religious turmoil, but it does create a pretty big inconvenience. In my Occult Tarot deck, Lucifer is depicted on the Death card. When I was creating the deck, there was no other entity I could imagine on that card, considering Lucifer's spiritual significance as a source of illumination and a symbol of downfall. Obviously, the Occult Tarot was not divinely inspired, or my higher power would have told me to leave Lucifer out of the deck!
By highlighting the flaws of the Bible, I'm forced to confront the flaws in my own work. I guess the saying from Romans 3:10 is true: “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
Now I have to figure out what entity should replace Lucifer on the Death card, then convince my publisher to release a new edition with the replacement card. Ironically, the Book of Isaiah provides a convenient substitute entity. A passage from Isaiah 34:14 is often interpreted as a reference to the demon Lilith: “And desert beasts shall meet with wolves, and one hairy one shall cry out to another; there Lilith has lain down and found rest for herself.”
The Hebrew word for Lilith in Isaiah 34:14 is straightforward and requires no translation: LILIT (לילית), which makes one wonder why the King James Version translated the word as “screech-owl” instead of the more obvious choice of Lilith. Perhaps it's just more evidence of the fallibility of Biblical translators, and the need for a Saint Jerome-type figure to undertake a new translation of the Old Testament without the fetters of religious dogma getting in his way.