Fallen Angels


Christian writers applied the words of Isaiah 14:12 to Satan. Sigve K Tonstad argues that the New Testament War in Heaven theme of Revelation 12:7-9, in which the dragon “who is called the devil and Satan … was thrown down to the earth”, derives from the passage in Isaiah 14. Origen (184/185 – 253/254) interpreted such Old Testament passages as being about manifestations of the Devil; but of course, writing in Greek, not Latin, he did not identify the devil with the name “Lucifer”. Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225), who wrote in Latin, also understood Isaiah 14:14 (“I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High”) as spoken by the Devil, but “Lucifer” is not among the numerous names and phrases he used to describe the devil. Even at the time of the Latin writer Augustine of Hippo (354–430), “Lucifer” had not yet become a common name for the Devil.

Some time later, the metaphor of the morning star that Isaiah 14:12 applied to a king of Babylon gave rise to the general use of the Latin word for “morning star”, capitalized, as the original name of the devil before his fall from grace, linking Isaiah 14:12 with Luke 10:18 (“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”) and interpreting the passage in Isaiah as an allegory of Satan’s fall from heaven.

However, the understanding of the morning star in Isaiah 14:12 as a metaphor referring to a king of Babylon continued also to exist among Christians. Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393 – c. 457) wrote that Isaiah calls the king “morning star”, not as being the star, but as having had the illusion of being it. The same understanding is shown in Christian translations of the passage, which in English generally use “morning star” rather than treating the word as a proper name, “Lucifer”. So too in other languages, such as French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. Even the Vulgate text in Latin is printed with lower-case lucifer (morning star), not upper-case Lucifer (proper name).

Calvin said: “The exposition of this passage, which some have given, as if it referred to Satan, has arisen from ignorance: for the context plainly shows these statements must be understood in reference to the king of the Babylonians.” Luther also considered it a gross error to refer this verse to the devil.

Gustave Doré, illustration to Paradise Lost, book IX, 179–187: “… he [Satan] held on /His midnight search, where soonest he might finde /The Serpent: him fast sleeping soon he found …”

Lucifer as Satan or the devil

Adherents of the King James Only movement and others who hold that Isaiah 14:12 does indeed refer to the devil have decried the modern translations.

Treating “Lucifer” as a name for the devil or Satan, they may use that name when speaking of such accounts of the devil or Satan as the following:

  • Satan inciting David to number Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1)
  • Job tested by Satan (Book of Job)
  • Satan ready to accuse the high priest Joshua (Zechariah 3:1–2)
  • Sin brought into the world through the devil’s envy (Wisdom 2:24)
  • “The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2)
  • “The god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
  • The devil disputing with Michael about the body of Moses (Jude 1:9)
  • The dragon of the Book of Revelation “who is called the devil and Satan” (Revelation 12:9;20:2)

They may also use the name Lucifer when speaking of Satan’s motive for rebelling and of the nature of his sin, which Origen, Chrysostom, Jerome, Ambrose, andAugustine attributed to the devil’s pride, and Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Cyprian, and again Augustine attributed to the devil’s envy of humanity created in the image of God. Jealousy of humans, created in the divine image and given authority over the world is the motive that a modern writer, who denies that there is any such person as Lucifer, says that Tertullian attributed to the devil, and, while he cited Tertullian and Augustine as giving envy as the motive for the fall, an 18th-century French Capuchin preacher himself described the rebel angel as jealous of Adam’s exaltation, which he saw as a diminution of his own status.