We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is Satan’s Name “Lucifer”?


One of the things which KJV Only people say is that the new Bibles have left out “Lucifer’s” name when they change the word in Isaiah 14:12. When you understand the origin of this name, you realize how ridiculous this argument becomes.
In the past I have read much about the translation of the term, but I found it quite interesting that my wife gave me a copy of a children’s magazine sample we picked up at a home-school conference. It is called Discovery, and the March 1999 issue has the following on page 20:
Have you ever heard of a “morning star”? Or an “evening star”? Many years ago, early in the morning as the Sun began to rise, people saw what they thought was a bright star in the sky and decided to call it the “Morning Star.” At a different time of the year. . . they saw another light, which they named the “Evening Star.”
They did not realize for a long time that the Morning Star and the Evening Star actually were the same thing. They also did not realize that what they were seeing wasn’t a “star” at all, but the planet Venus. … In their own language, the Greeks called it Hesperus in the evening, and Phosphorus in the morning. Later, the Romans called it Vesper in the evening, and Lucifer in the morning. Hesperus and Vesper mean “evening.” Phosphorus and Lucifer mean “light-bearing.”
Does the name “Lucifer” sound familiar to you? Perhaps you have heard people use it as another name for Satan, but this is not at all what the Bible teaches. The story begins with a man called Jerome who translated the Bible into Latin. . . . When he came to the book of Isaiah, he found the Hebrew name Helel, which means something like “the Shining One.” It described Helel as “the Son of the Dawn.” Jerome concluded that Helel was just another name for Lucifer - the Morning Star.
Next, the people who prepared the King James Version borrowed heavily from Jerome’s Latin Bible. Their translation of Isaiah 14:12 went like this: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” The confusion was started when someone incorrectly decided that this was talking about Satan and his rebellion against God (read Jude 6; Matthew 25:41). In fact, the prophet Isaiah was talking about the wicked king of Babylon who claimed to be like God, and who boasted that his throne would lie beyond the stars (Isaiah 14:13-14). The king sought the glory associated with Helel, but God had other plans. He would bring this wicked king down to the depths of the Earth where he belonged (verse 11).
Today, in order to avoid this confusion, modern translations use “Morning Star” or “Day-Star” instead of “Lucifer.”
Isn’t it odd how weird ideas sometimes get started and then everyone seems to think they are right?
So here’s the summation: Tertullian and Origen originated the teachings that Isaiah 14 referred to Satan.  Then “Lucifer” first entered the Bible in 405 A.D. when Jerome translated the O.T. into the Latin Vulgate.  In 1611, the KJV translators left the word “Lucifer” in the text instead of translating the Hebrew.  This led to John Milton, in 1667,  putting the idea of Isaiah 14 applying to Satan, along with the KJV use of “Lucifer,” into his famous book, “Paradise Lost,” which had Lucifer as an angel who sinned and was cast out of heaven.  And this is how Lucifer became Satan.
I had never heard of the Lucifer/Satan connection when I first read the Isaiah passage, and I never would have gotten the connection from the context, and this doctrine is disputed by many theologians in commentaries I have read.  
Nevertheless, if Christians quit using this term to name Satan, then we will cease forcing the Scriptures to say something they don’t say.

6 comments:

Crystal's Ministry Updates said...

cool and interesting

Drew said...

The passage is obviously talking about the last king of Babylon who winds up using the sacred temple cups to honor the god of gold. But it does seem to me that he is specifically comparing that king to Satan.

Here's a note from the NET Bible:

"These verses, which appear to be spoken by other pagan kings to a pagan king (cf. vv. 9-11), contain several titles and motifs that resemble those of Canaanite mythology, including references to Helel son of Shachar, the stars of El, the mountain of assembly, the recesses of Zaphon, and the divine title Most High. Apparently these verses allude to a mythological story about a minor god (Helel son of Shachar) who tried to take over Zaphon, the mountain of the gods. His attempted coup failed and he was hurled down to the underworld."
(http://net.bible.org/bible.php?search=isaiah%2014&book=isaiah&chapter=14#n23)

It's clearly a reference to the supernatural; the question is whether it's Satan's supernatural coup attempt or a mythological Canaanite one.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I think the "supernatural" part is that Satan is the influence behind the king. But I do NOT believe this passage has anything to do with Satan as has been taught for a long time with the doctrine of "Lucifer." Unfortunately, the NKJV keeps this same word, most likely to avoid the charge of "hiding satan's name"!

Teri Campbell said...

You stated that in recent versions, Lucifer is translated as "Morning Star". How does this associate with the use of "Morning Star" in 2 Peter 1:19 where it is used as a name for Jesus? (I know this is kind of off subject, I just always wondered about this)

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Teri,

Same words can be used in many different contexts. In Isaiah the reference was to being like a star, which commentaries I have read say was like being a god. The point was really a sarcastic remark about the King having placed himself in a position of being like a god, but he has now been cast down and overthrown. His pride went before his fall, so to speak.

I don't see 2 Peter 1:19 as a reference to Jesus, contrary to much traditional teaching and many commentaries. As I note in my newest post on biblical interpretation, we shouldn't be looking for meanings beyond the obvious. Peter is making an analogy; he just got through talking about how we should pay attention to the Word as a light shining in a dark place, and then he says "until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." What he is saying is that the light of the Word should continue to shine in the dark, and then makes the analogy of the light bringing the dawn of day in our hearts, and with the dawn comes the morning star. In the real world he is referencing, the morning star - i.e. venus - appears at the dawn of day. Peter is saying to let the light of the Word continue shining in your heart until day is fully replaced the dark.

Anyway, that's the way I have always understood this passage.

However, since tradition and most commentaries say this refers to Jesus, the point is still the same, that the Word of God will continue to light the darkness until night has been replaced by day, signified by the morning star, which is representative of Christ bringing the full light.

The overall point is that the same phrase, the same referent (i.e. Venus) can be used metaphorically of many things.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Daniel Wallace has an excellent post on the same subject at:
http://danielbwallace.com/2012/03/27/is-lucifer-such-a-bad-guy-after-all/