How did Lucifer Become Satan? (Thomas Aquinas answers)

The Sacred Scriptures teach that there good angels and bad angels. The bifurcation of angels into good angels (like Saint Michael) and bad angels (like Satan) is discussed by Saint Thomas at Summa theologiae I, qq. 63-64. Let’s take a look.


Following passages from the Old and New Testament, Saint Thomas teaches that the angels were tested. Some angels adhered to God and were rewarded with the beatific vision of God’s essence (good angels) and some rebelled and lost grace (bad angels or demons). According to Christian tradition, Satan was once a seraph and the highest angel of all.

A defect appeared in the bad angels. Thomas cites Job 4:18: “In His angels, He found wickedness.” When they were first created, the angels did not have the beatific vision of God’s essence. They were literally blind to vision of God. They were first tested (some say by a vision of Christ incarnate in Mary, see Revelation chapter 12) and certain angels could not accept serving God if it entailed serving a lower species—namely the human species. One third of the angels fell and became demons.

Maria de Agreda relates that when Lucifer learned that the Logos would become man through a human mother; Lucifer, the highest of all creatures, demanded the honor of becoming the Theotokos. He wanted the hypostatic union to occur through him. This is another reason why there is perfect enmity between Satan and Mary (see Gen 3:15). It is also why Mary now has the highest place in Heaven.

Thomas quotes Saint Augustine who says that the devil “is not a fornicator nor a drunkard nor anything of the like sort, yet he is proud and envious.” (City of God, 14, 3)

Lucifer and one third of the angels fell on account of pride and envy. Thomas explains that the devil wanted to be God and he cites Isaiah 14:13-14: “I will ascend into Heaven…I will be like the Most High.” Saint Augustine also confirms that Satan “wished to be called God.” (see his Concerning the Old Testament, 113) Michael, a lower angel, led the charge against Lucifer and his fallen angels by calling out: “Mi Cha El?” which is Hebrew for “Who is like God?”

Saint Augustine relates the fall of the evil angels to the book of Genesis: “And God saw the light that it was good, and he divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:4, D-R). Thomas picks up this allegory from Augustine, and identifies the separation here as the division of the good angels from the bad angels who became “dark.”

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  • Nancy

    Does Mary have the highest place in heaven? Above God and the Christ?

    • Mary is highest creature. The Holy Trinity (Father Son and Holy Spirit) are way above her – of course!

      Among creatures (angels, humans, animals, plants, rocks), Mary is the highest.



        Is 1 John 5:7 in the bible or not, Is John 7:53-8:11 in the bible, Is mark 16:9-20 in the bible or not

      • Joshua Tree

        Mary is human, and a saint, and surely especially cherished by God, but she is not higher than any human. Satan is way more powerful and the highest created creature. God is on a whole ‘nother level.

  • Sam


    The other day, while meditating on the Magnificat, the lines “He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble,” struck me profoundly. I realized that, in those words, Mary was indicating that she had replaced Satan in heaven—the humble replacing the proud.

    After all, Satan fell through pride, so it makes perfect since that his replacement would be the most profoundly humble creature. How it must enrage Satan to see a lowly, human peasant girl exalted as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven and Earth! And how it must enrage him to see the love, honor, and devotion that Mary receives.

    God sure knows how to turn the tables on his enemies. Who is like unto God, indeed!

    Anyway, thanks to St. Thomas, I now know that’s exactly what Mary meant. 🙂

  • JoeAllen

    After creating the Spiritual Universe, God put a Spirit-Creature named Lucifer in charge of the Spiritual Universe. Lucifer did a great job and God was very pleased with the Lucifer administration.

    Next God created the Physical Universe and Lucifer assumed God would also place Lucifer in charge of the Physical Universe. When God placed Adam and Eve in charge of the Physical Universe, Lucifer became very angry and developed a great, insane HATRED for humanity.

    Lucifer rebelled against God’s plan for humanity, and Lucifer invented DEATH (Hebrews 2: 14) as a way to exterminate humanity. God changed Lucifer’s name to Satan and warned Adam and Eve that Satan would try to murder them. Satan was able to get Adam and Eve to divorce themselves from God, and then Satan murdered them. Satan is now in the process of murdering us, the children of Adam and Eve.

  • James Finn

    Reminds me of The Silmarillion:

    “The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. But this story has entered History and the primary world. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. This story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men — and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.”

    – J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘On Fairy Stories’

    • JoeAllen

      Jesus is the sacrificial Messiah for us, the sacrificial human race. Jesus was murdered by Evil just as we are being murdered by Evil. Christ has risen from death, and we too will rise from our deaths.

      • James Finn

        Methinks that perhaps you have misunderstood my Tolkien excerpt. A fitting clarification would be to rephrase the citation; or as it is more commonly seen in its truncated form:

        “The Gospel is the most amazing fairy tale, because it is true.”

        Tolkien was a devout Catholic who demonstrated that mythology was a remarkable vehicle which could effectively deliver the majestic wonder of our faith, and by which the secular world could be conditioned to be more receptive of Christian truths. And, boy was he right! I’ve personally experienced inroads with an avowed atheist, and Lord of the Rings fan, who was shocked to discover that Tolkien’s world was purposely infused with Catholic theology.

        Tolkien and The Silmarillion fit perfectly in this discussion of the primordial battle between good and evil, between light and darkness.

    • I read the Silmarillion when I was a teen, and I was struck by the beauty of its cosmology. Mirroring how Genesis shows the universe being spoken into existence, he explained the creation of middle-earth through the use of music and harmony… and the manifestation of evil was a discordant sound that was disruptive and added dissonance to the harmony.

  • Christopher Bowen

    Thanks Dr. Marshall, but I have not seen any evidence that Satan was ever named Lucifer. St. Jerome used the latin word lucifer in Isaiah 14:12 and the King James version translators decided to capitalize the latin word Lucifer, instead of actually translating the the Hebrew term הֵילֵל (heylel) to shining one, light bearer or morning star (which Acts 17:11 uses in reference to Jesus). I recognize that there is a long tradition linking Satan/the devil to the passage in Isaiah, but find no credible reason to conclude that Satan’s name was ever Lucifer, aside from Protestant folklore.

    Peace in Christ

    • JoeAllen

      I agree, but many famous names in history hang by an even thinner thread than Lucifer and Satan. The first man was called ADAM or AD-HAM which is NOT a name but a description and literally mean “THE MAN”; so, God created “the man” and told “the man” to name the animal species.

      • Christopher Bowen

        You make a good point, but the point I’ve made is that the fallen Angel we call the devil, Jesus has identified as Satan. The only reason anyone today connects the word Lucifer to Satan is because of the choice made by the King James translators to pluck that word out of the Vulgate translation, not to any real historical evidence.

        God did create “the man” but an important distinction is that Jewish tradition has always held that “the man”‘s name was Adam, who gave particular names to his children. Adam’s name has an historical pedigree, my point again is that the same cannot be said for attributing the word lucifer, as a proper name, to the devil. Again, Protestant folklore does not equal legitimate tradition.

        Peace in Christ!

        • JoeAllen

          You are correct. I’m surprised that St. Thomas wrote about the connection.

          Eve was formally given a name, but “the man” was never formally given a name. Satan is NOT a name either; it’s a description: “the resister”; in Revelation 9: 11, “the resister” is given a Hebrew name and a Greek name.

          • Christopher Bowen

            That’s another good point, we are given a number of descriptors for the enemy of our souls, but not a formal name. We are given the formal names of certain angels who are faithful to God, St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael because we can call on them for protection, but it seems to me that attempting to formally name any spiritual enemy of God is not a wise thing.

            Peace in Christ!

          • Jonathan Rafa’El Alphonso Alfa

            It’s not ‘Challa’, it is ‘Chava’. It too is a title.

        • HowardRichards

          You are neglecting to read what Catholic exorcists have written on the subject. “Lucifer” is not used only by Protestants in debt to the King James Bible.

          • Christopher Bowen

            Thanks for your thoughts Howard, but it’s not polite to presume that a person has “neglected” to read certain information just because you disagree with their position. It’s also helpful if you thoroughly read a person’s comments before you comment on them, so that you don’t misrepresent their position.

            I never stated that “only” Protestants used Lucifer as a proper name for the devil. What I did state was that before the translation of the King James Bible, I’ve found no credible evidence to suggest that the Latin word “lucifer” was ever used as a proper name for the devil. This modern practice, which is widespread inside and outside of Christianity, is the result of Protestant folklore.

            Regarding the writings of Catholic exorcists, they don’t even begin to answer the objection I’m making to this practice. I’m not at all surprised to find that spiritual entities have adopted the use of the name Lucifer, after all, most Christians wrongly believe this is the formal name for a fallen spiritual entity. My objection to this practice is that it has no historical basis before the Protestant Reformation. I’m open to being mistaken about this, but no one has yet shown me I’m mistaken by pointing me to some historical evidence or a Magisterial declaration.

            Peace in Christ!

  • Theo-Philo SWO

    I find it fascinating that St. Thomas argues in ST I, q. 63, a. 7 that while Satan was the highest angel of all, he was a Cherub rather than a Seraph. Seraphim excel in the love of God, while Cherubim excel in knowledge of God. It is far easier for one to sin out of pride with regards to knowledge of God (revealed truth of the Incarnation/Immaculate Conception), rather than out of love of God.

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  • Michel Roi

    Would the idea that certain angels fell because the incarnation of the Logos and the exultation of the BVM was revealed to them, provoking jealous pride, mean that the Second Pereon would have taken flesh even had Adam and Eve not fallen? After all, the fall would not yet have occurred.

    • Boo

      This is precisely what boggles my mind…. I submit my mind and understanding to God, yet I do wonder why Lucifer fell rejecting the Logos if there was no need at this point to redeem man who had not yet been made, nor yet fallen. Adam and Eve fell because of the serpent tempted them and they chose to sin – although they could have sinned of their own volition also… so perhaps that answers it? If mankind could choose to reject God even without the devil then we would still need a Redeemer, Lucifer had a choice and chose to reject God and thus made it far harder for us to accept and benefit from Christ’s redemption.
      The only other answer I can think of at this point is that God, who is out of time, saw all (as He does see past present and future all at once, like He is ‘above’ time and watching it all), and because free will of angels and man is still intact, the outcome of falling from grace was still possible…..but still it seems out of sync to me!

  • Marie Dean

    To use Thomas Aquinas in the same article as a private revelation, which is not infallible and does not have to be accepted by good Catholics may not be a good idea.. Quoting Maria de Agreda is misleading to good readers. In fact, not all the teachings of the Doctors of the Church are held in the same categories of truth, such as dear Hildegard of Bingen’s notes on herbs for healing.

    For such serious questions as the nature of Satan’s sin, one should stick with the traditions of the greatest doctors and what the Church in the Teaching Magisterium have actually said. Too much is made of private revelations at a time in our history when Catholics really need to learn the doctrinal truths. Speculations abound. We need more basics.

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