How art thou fallen from Heaven, oh Day Star -- son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, that didst cast lots over the nations. For thou hath 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." Isaiah 14:12-14.
One of the most famous and familiar stories in Judeo-Christian mythology is that of the rebel angels. Yahweh creates the first man, Adam, and demands that his angels bow down before him in recognition of the perfection of his creation. Most of the angels are content to follow this missive, being as they are the servants of the creator of the universe; one-third of them, however, led by the beautiful and powerful archangel Lucifer, refuse to do so, denying the supposed superiority of humanity over angelkind (I doubt this is a word). This leads to a calamitous battle in Heaven between the forces of God on one side and the forces of Lucifer on the other, with God of course being the ultimate victor. Lucifer and his rebel angels are cast down into Sheol (the theological precursor to the notion of Hell) and the leader of the fallen angels becomes Satan, the antithesis of God and the ruler of the temporal world.
The truly ironic thing about this well-known and iconic story, immortalized in epic medieval poetry like Paradise Lost and the Divine Comedy, is that it has little to no basis in biblical scripture and that it is not an original story. Rather, it's the product of consensual tradition among early religious "authorities" and their flock who like a good story as well as a willing conflagration of different figures and stories with one another for the sake of easy comprehension. It is difficult to know who exactly the Lucifer in the quote listed above is - the original Hebrew is Helel ben Shahar, which correlates to "day star, son of the morning." When translated into Greek and Latin, the term became Hesperos and Lucifer, both of which referred to the light given off by the planet Venus. In context with the rest of Isaiah 14, it seems that the Lucifer referred to is the King of Babylon, Merodach, who fell from power and lost his kingdom on two separate occasions in the late eighth century. Over time, however, "Babylon" in the Hebrew consciousness came to refer to the most hated aspects of the temporal world and for this reason, Lucifer became a metaphor for a metaphor, which I guess has the effect of a double negative in that Lucifer became a literal being in and of himself.
Another series of verses in the book of Ezekiel is similarly ambiguous:
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your adornment:
Carnelian, chrysolite, and amethyst;
Beryl, lapis lazuli, and jasper;
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald;
And gold beautifully wrought for you,
Mined for you, prepared the day you were created.
I created you as a cherub
With outstretched shielding wings;
And you resided on God's holy mountain;
You walked among stones of fire.
You were blameless in your ways,
From the day you were created
Until wrongdoing was found in you
By your far-flung commerce
You were filled with lawlessness
And you sinned.
So I have struck you down
From the mountain of God,
And I have destroyed you, O shielding cherub,
From among the stones of fire. Ezekiel 28:13-18
Ezekiel was written approximately 150 years after Isaiah and is a very angry screed against every real and perceived enemy of ancient Israel. The placement of this passage is somewhat perplexing as it has little to do with the rest of what is being discussed in the chapter. A materialistic reading has this referring to Nebuchadnezzar II, the famous King of Babylon who laid waste to Jerusalem and began the hated Babylonian captivity. But this passage and the one from Isaiah raise a question - why would God actively favor two infidel Babylonian kings in such a fashion? This might suppose that God is a rational entity, which is perhaps an unfair assumption, but it doesn't really follow that God would favor the destroyers of his chosen people over them unless they were the instruments of his punishment. Of course, it could also be that as Chaldean kings, Merodach and Nebuchadnezzar were inherently powerful and the authors are retrospectively applying favor and disfavor to them without considering the logical conundrum of God's approval of them (another example of this was the Babylonian Jewish community hailing the confirmed infidel Cyrus the Great as a "messiah" in the 6th century BC). This seems a bit like a non sequitur and the easier interpretation for many could very well have been that these passages and other similar ones referred to a literal Lucifer and a literal former "cherub."
Helping this process was the fact that Lucifer, Satan, the Serpent from Genesis, Baal, and others all became the same figure - the Devil. In the original Judaic conception of the word, "Satan" was not so much a specific individual as it was a title, namely that of "adversary," but more similar in meaning to provacateur. This is where part of the mix-up comes from: Satan was an established member of the Heavenly Court, as evidenced by the whole book of Job, which is based entirely around a wager between God and Satan where the latter argues that Job, an outwardly righteous and pious man, will forsake God if his success and happiness are taken away from him. This is one of the oldest books in the Bible, and the main question it asks -- why does God allow evil to exist? -- seems to have been borrowed from an earlier Sumerian poem/treatise called the Hymn to Marduk in which the author/narrator complains that despite his piety, he has been treated very poorly by the gods. He, like Job, accepts his punishment but cannot comprehend it, which is the most maddening part; like Job, the anonymous author is eventually relieved of his burdens and his faith is reaffirmed and stronger than ever.
Kingdom of Heaven
It should not surprise anyone that the Old Testament, being the product of a culture of nomads and cosmopolitans, counted among its influences the traditions of other religions and cultures. Aside from the Book of Job, another example would be the assimilation of the Egyptian Great Hymn to the Aten into Psalm 104. Atenism was the first state-sponsored monotheistic religion and was founded by the so-called "heretic Pharaoh" Amenhotep IV, better known as Akhenaten, that briefly supplanted the Theban polytheistic paganism that had ruled Egyptian spirituality for millennia. Passages seem to have been lifted verbatim from the former and incorporated into the latter, which has caused some thinkers (for example, Sigmund Freud) to suppose that Judaism is a form of crypto-Atenism that survived Akhenaten's death because of the emigration of the hardcore Atenists into Canaan. Some even claim that Moses and Akhenaten were the same person and that the Exodus was actually an Atenist escape! This notion is self-evidently somewhat far fetched but underscores the notion that the religions of antiquity did not exist in isolated vacuums.
Perhaps more relevant to this story is a series of figures and stories from the Near East that undoubtedly infuenced the development of the fallen angel myth. In Egypt, Sumeria, Greece, Asia Minor, and the Levant, there are several myths that have at their heart the rebellion of one deity (or class of deities) against another. Typically, this is a younger generation going up against an older one and there are at least somewhat Oedipal overtones to many of these. One of the older tales deals with a Hurrian story called the Kingdom of Heaven (not starring Orlando Bloom) and deals with the sky god Kumarbi. Kumarbi is a god who quarrels with his father, Anu. The reasons for the fight are obscure, but it's clear that Kumarbi wishes to overthrow Anu and claim Heaven as his own domain. Like most disagreements between fathers and sons, this one involves Kumarbi biting off his dad's penis and spitting it onto the ground. In the process of this struggle, Anu informs his son that he is now pregnant and being quite naturally horrified, Kumarbi spits the severed member onto the ground, which in turn impregnates the soil. Kumarbi eventually gives birth to his own son, Teshub, who becomes the storm god. Kumarbi becomes a despot and is eventually overthrown by Teshub. There's so much wrong with this story that I really wouldn't know where to start with a full critique, so I'm not going to bother.
The really significant thing about the Kingdom of Heaven story is how it relates to other similar myths in the Near East, specifically those of Greek extraction. Uranus is the sky god and dislikes (and is disliked by) his children. One of these children is Kronos, who covets his kingdom and dethrones him by the act of removing his genitals with a scythe. Kronos becomes arrogant and spiteful and is overthrown by his own son named Zeus. The similarities between the Titanomachy ("war of the Titans") and the Kingdom of Heaven are obvious, though the former is, in my opinion, at least slightly less awful since there isn't any biting involved.
Either way, it seems fairly reasonable to infer that the Greeks were influenced by the Hurrian fable by way of the Hittites. Something else that seems reasonable to suppose is the fact that this is probably one of the older stories in the Greek mythological canon. Zeus is certainly the oldest of the Greek gods in terms of reverence -- his name is the most obvious clue to this. Zeus is so clearly related to the Greek "theo-," the Sanskrit "Dyaus", the Germanic "Tiwaz", the Latin "deus" and "Jupiter" (as the full name of the original Indo-European god was most likely something like Dyeus P'ter) that he cannot be anything but the oldest Greek god. It stands to reason, I would say, that the origin story of the oldest god in a pantheon is itself one of the oldest stories in the tradition, especially considering its relation to the Kingdom of Heaven.
By this point, you're hopefully convinced of the connection between the Greek and Hurrian myths, but you're not sure what exactly this has to do with the Judeo-Christian one. The essential feature of the Lucifer story is that his rebellion fails because of his own arrogance; Kumarbi, Teshub, Kronos, and Zeus all succeeded in their revolts. How can they be related? The answer to this is the fact that both Teshub and Zeus faced their own rebellions but were able to suppress them, which serves the purpose of affirming their positions as the chosen ones; Heaven has already been through two generations of revolts, so why should it be supposed that these upstarts will survive? Teshub was set upon by a beast named Ullikummi whom he was able to defeat with the help of Ea; Ullikummi was thrown from Heaven as a result of this. Zeus was attacked and injured by the beast Typhon, but he was also eventually thrown out of Olympus with a lightning bolt. Lucifer as you'll recall was also thrown from Heaven and down into Hell. In the New Testament, Luke 10:18 states that Satan fell like lightning from heaven, although the original Koine Greek is somewhat ambiguous as it could be taken to mean that he fell like lightning from Heaven or that he fell like lightning from the heavens (i.e. the sky without the religious connotation). The author does not elaborate on the reason for Satan's fall, suggesting the story had at least some currency among late first century Christians or that it's a generic reference to Jesus' eventual victory of Satan.* The Book of Revelation makes a reference to Satan being cast out of heaven by the archangel Michael, although it is in the form of a prophecy rather than a description of a prior event.
Judaism almost certainly grew out of some form of Near Eastern polytheism and it seems likely to me that the fallen angel story which gained currency -- however unofficially -- was probably preceded by another set of stories featuring a couple of successful rebellions in Heaven. This of course would be an incredibly awkward and inconvenient proposition since there is only one god in Judaism as we know it and such a story would obviously require the presence of at least one other god whom Yahweh would have had to have overthrown at some point. Gnosticism came up with at least a partial bridge for the gap, which included the notion that Yahweh was a blind creator god that, while not evil, was not really good either. Christ, in his capacity as the chosen one, would supplant Yahweh through the force of truth and knowledge, bringing to mind a successful rebellion in the form of Teshub or Zeus. While this notion is far too late in the chronology to be considered a likely answer, it's an interesting idea that is obviously related to the arbitrary behavior of other gods whose reigns are cut short by their progeny.
What is the appeal of this sort of story? On the one hand, it has a lot to do with the archetypal desire to step out of the shadow of one's forebearers. There are basically three rebellions here: the first is a rebellion for one's naked ambition (Kronos and Kumarbi); the second is a rebellion against oppression (Zeus and Teshub); the third is a failed rebellion by an unspeakable evil that is the final test for the victor of the second rebellion. Lucifer's rebellion has a tinge of all three types and his complete failure is a revealing look into what, aside from monotheism, sets the Judeo-Christian religious tradition apart from other similar Semitic and Indo-European ideas on similar subjects.
Then, of course, there's the possibility that it's coincidental and it's just a good story.
* Thanks to drownzsurf for pointing out this passage to me.
Kingdom of Heaven and Song of Ullikummi: http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sitchin/guerradioses/guerradioses05a.htm
Great Hymn to the Aten: http://touregypt.net/hymntoaten.htm
Summary of Freud's Moses and Monotheism: http://www.bibliomania.com/1/7/68/2031/frameset.html
Elaine Pagels, the Origin of Satan.