Friday, August 12, 2011

Who is Lucifer?

Everyone knows that Lucifer is another name for Satan, the Devil. Yet if you go to Biblegateway and look for it, chances are you’ll have to go through a few translations to find it. That’s because modern translations have chosen to render the verse, Isaiah 14:12, a little differently. The King James Version has it thus:

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!
It’s a veritable “in your face”. Though the context shows that Isaiah’s message was for the King of Babylon, many would agree that this is part of a slam on the one working behind the scenes. God is mocking Satan.

Yet the word here could also be rendered “shining one” or “morning star”. In the Latin Vulgate, translated by Jerome in the 4th century, the word selected was Lucifer, which was maintained when translators were working on the King James Bible in the early 1600s.

Yet we do not really understand the passage if we believe Lucifer or even “morning star” is Satan’s proper name.

The morning star, a literal object in the night sky we know as Venus, was associated with the coming of the dawn, making it the “light bearer”. The point God is making through Isaiah the prophet is that Satan is not the light bearer. God is mocking him—a kind of ancient sarcasm, if you will.

Think back to Han Solo’s remark to his old “friend” Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when he says “You’re a real hero,” after Lando betrays him. Lando was not a hero in Han’s eyes. Likewise, Satan was not the “morning star” in God’s eyes.

The real morning star was none other than Jesus Christ. Though “morning star” is used in other places in the New Testament to refer to Jesus, none is as clear as Revelation 22:16,

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” (NET)
Perhaps because of the association between “Lucifer” and Satan, some modern translations do not use the same word or phrase in Isaiah 14:12 and the other New Testament references. The ESV uses “day star” in the Isaiah passage and “morning star” in the others. The NASB uses “star of the morning” and “morning star”, which is much closer. Others use the same phrase but add a different adjective, such as “shining morning star” and “bright morning star”.

Regardless, the real morning star is Jesus Christ, not Satan. Though technically “Lucifer” should be a moniker for Christ, it still has an association with Satan in the minds of believers and unbelievers alike. Telling your friends that Lucifer is really Jesus would probably confuse them and you’d be called a heretic. Instead, we should do away with the old Latin word and stick with “morning star”, “day star”, or “star of the dawn” and emphasize the true bringer of light, Jesus Christ.

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