Zechariah 3:1–”And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and ha-satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” This reading has since been erroneously interpreted by some to mean Satan, “the Devil”, but such is not the case. Here again we see “ha-satan” as an angel ministering to the desires of God, acting as Chief Prosecutor.
The ‘Devil’ meme remains an unexamined assumption in much of Christianity, and in most societies and religions. The presence of unexamined assumptions in our lives and hearts, as well as in societies, ought to be a red flag. Why, in this age of apparently fearless examination, eager toppling of paradigms, deconstruction of just about everything, rigorous research, trashing of tradition, brutal testing of assumptions… does the Devil idea remain an unexamined assumption?
I suggest it’s because to reject that tradition of a personal Satan and get down to living out the Biblical position on the Devil demands just too much. It’s hard to accept all negative experience in life as ultimately allowed and even sent by a loving God, it’s humiliating to realize we’re only naive children, whose view of good and evil isn’t fully that of our Father; and it’s the call of a lifetime to recognize that our own personal, natural passions and desires are in fact the great Satan / adversary.
Isaiah 14: 12-14: “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! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
Early Christian tradition interpreted the passage as a reference to the moment Satan was thrown from Heaven. This view was popularized by John Milton in his epic “Paradise Lost” and so the term “Lucifer” became another name for Satan and has remained so due to Christian dogma and popular tradition to this day.
First, the passage expressly refers to a “king of Babylon”, a “man” who seemed all-powerful, but who has been brought low. Second, it should be pointed out that the words ‘devil’, ‘satan’ and ‘angel’ never occur in this chapter. This is the only place in Scripture where the word ‘Lucifer’ occurs. Thirdly, why is Lucifer punished for saying, “I will ascend into heaven” (v. 13), if he was already there?
It should be noted that the idea of ‘morning star’ is translated ‘Lucifer’ in the Vulgate [Latin] translation of the Bible made by Jerome. Significantly, he uses ‘Lucifer’ as a description of Christ, as the ‘morning star’ mentioned in Revelation. Indeed, some early Christians took the name ‘Lucifer’ as a ‘Christian name’ in order to identify themselves with Jesus (1). It wasn’t until Origen (circa 200 A.D.) that the term ‘Lucifer’ took on any connotation of ‘Satan’ or a force of evil. ‘Lucifer’ in its strict meaning of ‘bearer of the light’ actually was applied in a positive sense to Christian communities, e.g. the followers of Lucifer of Cagliari were called ‘Luciferians’. As an aside, it’s worth pointing out that they were one of the groups who insisted that the devil was not a personal being and held to the original Biblical picture of sin and the devil being one and the same.
Isaiah 14 is a proverb (parable) against the king of Babylon, the star represents the king’s royal majesty. Daniel chapter 4 explains how Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, proudly surveyed the great kingdom he had built up, thinking that he had conquered other nations in his own strength, rather than recognizing that God had given him success. “Thy greatness (pride) is grown, and reacheth unto heaven” (v.22). Because of this the king was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles feathers, and his nails like birds claws (v. 33). This sudden humbling of one of the world’s most powerful men to a deranged lunatic was such a dramatic event as to call for the parable about the falling of the morning star from heaven to earth. Stars are symbolic of powerful people, e.g. Genesis 37: 9; Isaiah 13:10 (concerning the leaders of Babylon); Ezekiel 32: 7 (concerning the leaders of Egypt); Daniel 8:10, cp. v. 24. Ascending to heaven and falling from heaven are Biblical idioms often used for increasing in pride and being humbled respectively – see Job 20: 6; Jeremiah 51:53 ( about Babylon); we even find this in the New Testament, Matthew 11:23 (about Capernaum): “Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell”(the grave).
There’s a good reason why the King of Babylon is described as “the morning star”, or Venus. The Babylonians believed that their king was the child of their gods Bel and Ishtar, both of whom were associated with the planets- they thought that their King was the planet Venus.
In conclusion, it was not until post-Biblical times that Lucifer was associated with Satan, or that Satan was thought to have been cast out of heaven before the creation of Adam and Eve, or that Satan had some connection with Adam and Eve. All these ideas may be mainstream Christian memes today but, in fact, they were not shared by the Hebrews who wrote the Bible.