Saturday, 4 May 2013

Is Lucifer Satan?

Isaiah 14:12  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!

There are many, particularly those who hold to the view that the Authorised King James Version of the Bible is the preserved Word of God or the only acceptable translation for use in English-speaking congregations today, who believe that because more modern translations do not use the word Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12, they have not only removed Satan from this passage but, by translating this word as ‘morning star’ or ‘day star’, they have put Christ in the place of Satan, as these terms are synonymous with Christ in 2Peter and the Revelation.  They assert that this is either knowingly or unknowingly a part of some satanic conspiracy.
Let us examine these claims.

The word ‘Lucifer’ actually comes from the Latin Vulgate and is not to be found in the Hebrew.  The Hebrew literally means ‘shining one’ or ‘morning star’ and was translated in the Vulgate as a derivative of 'lux', meaning the light bearer.  Strong’s Lexicon confirms the meaning for us:
‘…(in the sense of brightness); the morning star…
And Thayer’s Lexicon agrees, as well as the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon which recognises the use of the word in Hebrew antiquity: ‘
ac: Shine co: Star’.
So, firstly, the more modern translations have done nothing but to translate the Hebrew.  Which Protestant would dare suggest that the Latin Vulgate was 'more inspired' than the original Hebrew?  Therefore, by not reusing the word ‘Lucifer’, these translations are actually getting closer to the original meaning.
The word ‘Lucifer’ isn’t a name for Satan either as this verse does not even implicate the devil at all.  The vast majority of commentators and certainly the best of them recognise that the king of Babylon is being spoken of in Isaiah 14.  Anything else is just speculation.  The context itself declares this:
Isaiah 14:4  That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say…

The very best commentators are in complete agreement, their view being summed up by Barnes here:
There can be no doubt that the object in the eye of the prophet was the bright morning star; and his design was to compare this magnificent oriental monarch with that. The comparison of a monarch with the sun, or the other heavenly bodies, is common in the Scriptures.

So then why is Lucifer such a commonplace term for Satan?
It was Tertullian, whose tongue was Latin, who began to speculate that Lucifer was actually Satan, but he seems to have been alone in this interpretation as other writers, even later Latin writers like Augustine, interpreted Lucifer as the king of Babylon.  The Reformers too did not share this view but rather saw it as ridiculous.  For example, the most famous of the Reformers, John Calvin, also translated the word ‘Helel’ as ‘Lucifer’, as seen in the Geneva Bible.  However, both he and the Geneva Bible commentary reject the idea that Lucifer could possibly be referring to Satan.  Calvin sums up the Reformed position, and indeed the historical position of the church, here: 
‘The exposition of this passage, which some have given, as if it referred to Satan, has arisen from ignorance; for the context plainly shows that these statements must be understood in reference to the king of the Babylonians. But when passages of Scripture are taken up at random, and no attention is paid to the context, we need not wonder that mistakes of this kind frequently arise. Yet it was an instance of very gross ignorance, to imagine that Lucifer was the king of devils, and that the Prophet gave him this name. But as these inventions have no probability whatever, let us pass by them as useless fables.’  
It was only the later writings of the Puritan poet, John Milton, in his Paradise Lost, which depicted Satan as Lucifer, which cemented the idea in the minds of the masses.  Therefore, this interpretation has no Scriptural warrant, no historical pedigree and being based on one man’s imagination (a piece of fiction) no one should be dogmatic about it.

But this was not just the understanding of the church, but the Jews also understood it of the king of Babylon; Dr. Gill quotes the Jewish Targum in his commentary to confirm the interpretation: ‘[H]ow art thou fallen from on high, who was shining among the sons of men, as the star Venus among the stars.’
The Jews fully understood the meaning of this word ‘Helel’.  They could clearly see that this was referring to ‘the morning star’ or Venus and a particular god of the Babylonian people.  The NET Bible notes are exemplary in helping us understand the historic and cultural context of ‘Helel’:
‘The Hebrew text has הֵילֵל בֶּן־שָׁחַר (helel ben-shakhar, “Helel son of Shachar”), which is probably a name for the morning star (Venus) or the crescent moon…
What is the background for the imagery in vv. 12-15? This whole section (vv. 4b-21) is directed to the king of Babylon, who is clearly depicted as a human ruler. Other kings of the earth address him in vv. 9ff., he is called “the man” in v. 16, and, according to vv. 19-20, he possesses a physical body. Nevertheless the language of vv. 12-15 has led some to see a dual referent in the taunt song. 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. The king of Babylon is taunted for having similar unrealized delusions of grandeur. Some Christians have seen an allusion to the fall of Satan here, but this seems contextually unwarranted (see J. Martin, “Isaiah,” BKCOT, 1061).’

Venus, even today is still referred to as ‘the morning star’, as it shines at its zenith to herald the dawn. 

Well, even if Satan isn’t being spoken of in this verse, could it be possible that there is a satanic conspiracy in the modern versions of the Bible to liken the king of Babylon to Christ by using terms like ‘day star’ or ‘morning star’, which are specifically used to speak of Christ?
2Peter 1:19  …the day star…
Revelation 22:16  I Jesus…am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

I don’t think that anyone reading the clear words concerning the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14 could mistake this figure for Christ any more than they might mistake the lamb which speaks like a dragon for the true Lamb of God.  His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.  But, nevertheless, the King James translators, who never claimed for their work the perfection and even inspiration attributed to it by many in the second-half of the 20th century, listed the term ‘day star’ as a valid translation for the word ‘Helel’: ‘O Lucifer: or, O day star’ (see marginal notes).
Were the King James translators party to this satanic conspiracy too?  No.  As we have seen, ‘morning star’ etc. is a legitimate translation of the Hebrew here.

Personally, I prefer the NET’s translation, ‘shining one’, and would add a marginal note to indicate the reference to Venus and, briefly, the historic context.

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