Thursday, August 14, 2014

The real meaning of "Lucifer"

The name "Lucifer" as the personification of evil is almost as famous today as the name The Devil. When one says the word, it is instantly associated with Prince of Darkness.

As Lucifer is a Latin word (therefore Roman), Lucifer today is arguably the most famous named negative spirit of Roman culture.

So it may surprise some that the connection between the word and the supreme spirit of evil is no older than the past four hundred years. Prior to that, the word was most commonly understood to mean Venus as the morning star.
So how did another name for Venus end up being another name for the personification of evil?

The origin of the word "Lucifer"

Lucifer is a Latin term meaning "Light-Bringer" (from lux, lucis, "light", and ferre, "to bear, bring"). Its common usage was as a name for Venus as the "morning star".

Cicero (106-43 BCE) wrote:
The star of Venus, called Φωσφόρος in Greek and Lucifer in Latin when it precedes, Hesperos when it follows the sun.

Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) wrote:
The star called Venus … when it rises in the morning is given the name Lucifer … but when it shines at sunset it is called Vesper

St. Jerome (347-420) used the word twice in his translation and major re-writing of the Greek Nicene Bible in order to create the Catholic Bible known as the Vulgate.

The first instance of Jerome using the word was in Isaiah 14:12 where the title "Morning Star" is given to a tyrannous Babylonian king.

The second instance of Jerome using the word was in his re-write of 2 Peter 1:19 to translate the greek word Phosphoros which has exactly the same literal meaning as "light-bringer" to Lucifer.

The fact that Jerome made no deliberate or implied connection between the word and the Devil or Satan is completely ignored by many scholars.

In 1316, Dante Alighieri in writing his epic poem The Divine Comedy was alleged to have been the first to explicity use the word as another name for Satan. However, the only surviving manuscripts which reference this word were made by Giovanni Boccaccio (1360's) who himself did not have the original manuscript as a source. As a result, it is possible the word was "inserted" for its meaning.

It was not until the printing of the epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton in the 17th Century using the word Lucifer to mean Satan that the meaning of Lucifer as Satan became accepted into common use.