The story of Lucifer the fallen angel may not be explicitly detailed in mainstream scriptures, but tales of a disobedient angel falling from heaven continue circling around religious groups. Modern culture has linked the name “Lucifer” with the idea of an evil devil. Lucifer literally translates to “light-bearer” or “morning star.” Early Christians, such as Origen and Tertullian, believed that Lucifer was the devil’s name before he found himself evicted from heavenly realms. Other angel names ascribed to him are Satan-Sataniel or Samael. Legends of Lucifer as a fallen angel are most common in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions.
The Story of Lucifer the Fallen Angel
Controversy and questions surrounds Lucifer’s beginnings. His name could suggest that he was the angel of light while residing in heaven. Some rumors state that Lucifer was the head of the music ministry in heaven. These ideas might be inspired by the words directed to the “morning star” in Isaiah 14:11, “Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol,” or Job 38:7, “When the morning stars sang together and all sons of God shouted for joy.”
Other churches have taught that Lucifer was the most beautiful of all the angels, or that he was God’s favorite angel. In some Judaic traditions, he is depicted as an archangel. Some even say that Lucifer was God’s own son – later replaced by Jesus.
Majority of Lucifer’s stories feature him falling on the account of his growing pride and ambition. Some accounts are vague, but others give details such as Lucifer attempting to build a throne for himself so large that it could be seen from Earth. Others suggest Lucifer tried to overthrow God’s reign and take his place. A lesser-taught Islamic tradition claims that Lucifer was the most loyal and loving of all God’s subjects, but when God created mankind and instructed his angels to bow to them, Lucifer refused to bow to anyone but God alone and became envious of man. He soon found himself cast away for his disobedience. Some scholars, such as Gary Anderson of Harvard University, believe this version may have also been popular among Judeo-Christian traditions prior to the fifth century.
Christian legends include that as Lucifer fell from heaven, he brought one-third of God’s angels with him. This belief is inspired by Revelation 12:4, which reads “and his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.”
Lucifer: Fallen Angel or Babylonian King?
Although the story of Lucifer the fallen angel exists within at least three major world religions, majority of their adherents and theologians do not necessarily subscribe to these beliefs. It is commonly argued that the oft-quoted passages of Isaiah 14, a supposed telling of Lucifer’s fall, actually tells the tale of a Babylonian king.
Verses 12 through 15 read: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn. You have been cut down to earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.”
While these words seem to reflect the popular stories of Lucifer the fallen angel, many modern day theologians feel that the context of the chapter points to a prophecy concerning the ambitious and oppressive Babylonian king. It was Saint Jerome who first tied this verse to Satan by translating “star of the morning” to “Lucifer” in his Latin version of the bible, the Vulgate.
NASB Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999.
Bullock, C. Hassell, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1986.
Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies: The Fall of Satan in the Thought of St. Ephrem and John Milton, accessed January 11th 2012.
North Carolina State University: From Gods to Monotheism. From Demons to the Devil. An Examination of Biblical Texts Concerning the Singularization of the Devil in Light of Freudian Metapsychology, accessed January 11th 2012.