The Conflict Over Different Bible Versions | Part 4
By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon | ©2002
Do Modern Versions Corrupt the Purity of God’s Word?
The Deity of Christ
In her book, New Age Versions, Gail Riplinger argues that evidence for the “satanic” nature of the new translations can be seen in how they translate Isaiah 14:12, where supposedly they mistranslate the person of Lucifer or Satan as the person of Jesus Christ. Obviously, making the Person of Christ become the person of Satan is a horrible blasphemy. But did this happen? The KJV reads, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” The NASB and NIV read, “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning” (or “O morning star”).
Why did the KJV use the term “Lucifer” and modern versions the term “morning star”? The term Lucifer came to us by way of Jerome’s Latin Bible, the Vulgate, which the KJV translators sometimes used for their own translation.
Do you know that the Latin word for morning star is “Lucifer”? This word was used to refer to Venus, the morning star, “the shining one,” “the light bearer.”
So what did Jerome intend when he translated the Hebrew word hilel as Lucifer? He only intended the meaning to indicate “the morning star.” As Jerome saw it, Lucifer meant nothing more than a designation of the planet Venus (the morning star) which brightly shines and precedes or accompanies the rising of the sun.
That’s why in Isaiah 14 the prophet likens the glory of the king of Babylon to the brightness and dominance of Venus in the morning sky. This was an apt description of the pride the king perceived and projected. He had become so vain as to think of himself as a God who resides in the heavens (Isaiah 14:13). Yet God Himself now tells the king in his arrogance that far from being a God in heaven, he will instead be violently thrown down to the earth and perish (vv. 12, 15). To indicate the severity and permanence of the king’s ruin, Isaiah depicts the king falling to earth as if the morning star (the Latin word is Lucifer) itself were falling from its place in the heavens, quenching its brightness and forever destroying its glory (v. 11).
Now, to associate the morning star with someone other than the king of Babylon is an interpretation which must be brought to this verse from somewhere else. But then, how did Lucifer (Latin for the morning star, Venus) become equated with the evil personage of Satan, the devil? This is something that the medieval Church Fathers imported into this text, but without scriptural warrant. Old Testament scholars C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch point out in their Isaiah commentary, “Lucifer, as a name given to the devil, was derived from this passage, which the Fathers… interpreted, without any warrant whatever, as relating to the apostasy and punishment of the angelic leaders. The appellation is a perfectly appropriate one for the king of Babel, on account of the early date of the Babylonian culture… and also because of its predominant astrological character.”
To associate the Latin word “the morning star”—Lucifer—with the concept of the devil or Satan can only be suggested in a secondary sense.
Now, with this in mind, examine how modern translations have rendered the Hebrew word hilel of Isaiah 14. They give it the same meaning that Jerome intended when he used the Latin word “Lucifer.” Thus, we find, “morning star” (NIV) and “shining one” (Rotherham), “star of the morning” (NASB), “day star” (ASV), “shining star” (Moffat), “light bringer and day star” (Amplified), and “bright morning star” (NEB), etc. All these Bibles are giving an accurate translation of the Hebrew word, and Ms. Riplinger is very mistaken.
Further, on page 43 of her book, Riplinger argues that one symbol cannot apply to Jesus and in another passage the same symbol be used to speak of Satan. In other words, if modern translations use “morning star” as a description of Satan in Isaiah 14 (which they do not), then they have done something wrong. Why? Because elsewhere in Scripture the morning star description is also applied to Jesus. But there are several reasons why Riplinger is wrong in making these comments.
First, the Isaiah 14 passage was not intended to speak of Satan in the first place. This is only an interpretation of the Church Fathers (not a translation). Second, Scripture itself associates similar symbols with Jesus and Satan. Obviously, the context must determine who is meant. For example, the Antichrist is said to ride on a white horse in Revelation 6:2 and Jesus rides on a white horse in Revelation 19:11. The King James Bible itself cross references the white horse in both passages. Further, in the KJV both Jesus and Satan are called a lion; Jesus being the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:25), and the devil is described as one who prowls about like a lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
We know that the bright and morning star is Jesus because in Revelation 22:16 Jesus says, “I am the bright and morning star.” But this does not mean that Isaiah can’t use the Hebrew word for morning star to speak of the king of Babylon. In fact, as Albert Barnes noted in his commentary on Isaiah 14:12, “The comparison of a monarch with the sun, or the other heavenly bodies, is common in the Scriptures.” Lange in his commentary on Isaiah 14:12 says, “Only that meaning will correspond with the context which takes this word in the sense of bright star,…”
In conclusion, there is nothing at all wrong with the modern translations rendering Isaiah 14 as “the morning star.” It is the proper translation of the Hebrew as is the Latin Bible when it uses the term Lucifer. It was only when an outside interpretation was placed on the word Lucifer, making it synonymous with Satan or the devil, that confusion began.
In essence, the KJVO writers may claim new translations have produced major doctrinal deviations from the faith, but this charge is entirely false. Anyone who wishes can examine any good English translation or any Greek text, whether the Textus Receptus (TR), Majority Text (MT), Nestle-Aland (27th or 28th edition), NIV, KJV, NASB, RSV, NKJV, NEB, etc. and guess what? They will derive the exact same doctrinal beliefs.
- C. F. Keil, F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Isaiah, Vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), 311–12.
- Albert Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament: Isaiah: Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker 1953 rpt), 185.
- John Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Isaiah–Lamentations, Vol. 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 1980), 185.
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Dr. John Ankerberg
Dr. John Ankerberg is founder and president of The John Ankerberg Show, the most-watched Christian worldview show in America. His television and radio programs are broadcast into 106 million American homes and are available in more than 200 nations in 12 languages. Author, co-author, or contributor of 158 books and study guides in 20 languages, his writings have sold more than 3 million copies and reach millions of readers each year online.
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Dr. John Weldon
Dr. John Weldon (born February 6, 1948) went to be with the Lord on August 30, 2014 following a long-time battle with cancer. John served for more than 20 years as a researcher for The John Ankerberg Show. During his tenure, he authored or coauthored more than 100 books, including the best-selling Facts On Series of books that has sold more than 2.5 million copies in 16 languages. His final book, published in July 2014 with Harvest House Publishers (coauthored with John Ankerberg), is especially fitting. How to Know You’re Going to Heaven offers a biblical and personal look at the way God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12) and the confidence the believer can have of eternity with Him in heaven (1 John 5:13). John’s life and work have touched countless others seeking to grow spiritually and better understand the Bible. His friends describe him as genuine, humble, and passionate to share the hope of eternal life with everyone he met. His work will continue through his many books, his online writings at The John Ankerberg Show website (JAshow.org), as well as through the many people John has personally influenced through his ministry.