If you have read the KJV much you will notice that it differs from modern translations in Isaiah 14:12. It can be quite confusing unless you know the original biblical languages and the history and etymology of certain words. The way this issue usually arrises is a KJV reader points out that Jesus is called the Morning star in Revelation 22:16. So how can Jesus and Satan both be the morning star? I will cover the entire issue, top to bottom in this article.
KJV vs NIV on Isaiah 14:12
First, let’s look at the two English translations and see how they are different.
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! (KJV)
How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! (NIV)
Before we jump into the difference between O Lucifer and morning star, let’s point out that son of the morning and son of the dawn are the same thing. We do not need to venture down that road and pick the phrase apart. That would be a fruitless effort as there is no discernible difference in English. However, there is definitely a difference between Lucifer and morning star.
Let us now look at the underlying Hebrew text.
אֵ֛יךְ נָפַ֥לְתָּ מִשָּׁמַ֖יִם הֵילֵ֣ל בֶּן־שָׁ֑חַר נִגְדַּ֣עְתָּ לָאָ֔רֶץ חוֹלֵ֖שׁ עַל־גּוֹיִֽם׃
The word in question here is going to be “הֵילֵ֣ל” (heleel or hêlēl). Many KJV apologists have sought to have this word translated as “light-bearer” which would point to one who possess light and it’s not a terrible translation. However, the KJV has stuck with the word Lucifer. This is not a faithful translation of the root word. For starters Lucifer is Latin, not Hebrew or English. The root of the word is “הָלַל” is a generic verb meaning “to shine.” It is used a number of times in the Old Testament. One example is in Job 29:3.
When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through (Job 29:3 KJV)
It’s also used in various places in Isaiah, especially around the passage in question. It should come as no surprise that this root word is used multiple times in a passage that refers to the shining heavily bodies multiple times.
For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: (Isaiah 13:10)
So it’s not hard to see that the root verb is a pretty basic root. It gets used in the OT almost aways to describe something shining. But what about the specific conjugation in Isaiah 14:12?
Understanding the conjugation
The conjugation of הָלַל into הֵילֵ֣ל makes the root into a participle noun rather than a verb. What is a participle noun? It’s a participle that gets used as a noun. For example, “painting” is the particle form of the verb “to paint.” But that participle can be used as a noun. I could said say something like “I like that painting.” In this usage the participle is acting as a noun.
Likewise, the participle form of shine (הָלַל) would be shining (הֵילֵ֣ל). The word can be used as a title or a noun or it can also be used like “the shining one” or “the one who shines.” It is possible also for it to be translated as “light-bearer” but that is not the best translation, at least not in modern English.
How was it understood in ancient times?
How was the word interpreted in the time of Isaiah?
This word is commonly used in Semitic literature to refer to both the planet of Venus and the goddess named Venus. In ancient Arab regions it also became synonymous with the moon god. Venus was the brightest object in the morning sky. The term was synonymous with the phrase “morning star.” It should come as no surprise that it’s followed by “son of the morning/dawn.” Now, to understand how sure this is we can check the Greek Septuagint which translated the Hebrew into Greek almost 200 years before Jesus walked the earth.
The Greek translators used the word “ἑωσφόρος” to replace “הֵילֵ֣ל“. What does ἑωσφόρος mean? It’s a combination of two words. The first word is “Ἕως” which means “dawn”. The second part comes from “φέρω” which means “to carry/bring”. Thus, the early Greek translations would give it the rendering “bringer of the dawn” or “dawn bringer”. It’s clear that the Septuigint translators want to readers to know that the one who shines is related to the one who brings the morning (Venus). This was also obvious to the KJV translators who made note of it in the margin. (Image on the right in desktop view, above for mobile).
The Greek was also a derivative form of another word, “Φωσφόρος” which means literally “Day-Star.” Φωσφόρος and ἑωσφόρος are virtually interchangeable words depending on the dialect of Greek. One can see that it’s only one letter different. Plato refers to ἑωσφόρος as the dawn bearing god. The same is true for others of the time. The title of light or dawn bringer was synonymous with various gods known as the Day Star. The specific god or goddess depended on your location and regional mythology.
So, it should not be a surprise to today’s KJVO advocates that modern translations use the actual reference for clarity, just like the translators of the Setpuagint did; “Day star”. But which one is better? Should it be Morning/Day Star or Bringer of Light?
I think that either would be a fine rendering, just not Lucifer because that is a Latin translation not and English one.
How did Day Star become Lucifer?
Some KJVO advocates insist that we must use the word Lucifer rather than Day Star. But that is one interpretive step too far. I will demonstrate why.
Lucifer is the Latin for light-bearer, which is not disputed. The Latin translation of this passage was based on the Greek Septuagint version of the OT. Parts of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate as a translation of a translation. This was due in part because he didn’t set out initially to translate the whole Bible, just make a revision of the old Latin manuscripts. Some of the old Latin was based on the Septuagint. However, he did eventually seek guidance from Jewish rabbis to aid his weak Hebrew skills. This explains why the Latin matches the Greek better than the Hebrew in some passages.
On it’s face nothing is wrong with matching the LXX, except that the KJV sometimes used the Latin for translating into English. So parts of the KJV are literally a translation of a translation of a translation.
Either way, over time the word Lucifer had become synonymous with Satan. This was because the Latin was the authoritative translation for centuries. But Hebrew has a word for Satan and it was not used in Isaiah 14:12. The word Lucifer was fine for the Latin text but it should be used in Latin only, since it’s a Latin word. Lucifer has an entirely different meaning in today’s English. We did not need to carry over the Latin into English since we have both the Greek and the Hebrew copies of the OT.
Additionally, KJV translators and other early translators wanted to make sure people knew that this passage was an illusion to Satan (which is interpretive translating). They feared that translating הֵילֵ֣ל as morning star or the shining one would result in people not understanding the theology of Satan. So Lucifer stuck. But since Lucifer and Satan are now interchangeable in English, simply keeping Lucifer in the Bible masks what is actually being said in the passage. For example, the passage is clearly about the king of Babylon in it’s most basic reading. If it has any allusion to Satan it’s merely interpretive and also debatable. The readers can decide for themselves based on their own study of scripture.
We can discuss whether or not this passage is really about Satan in a later post but keeping Lucifer in the text removes any ability to have such discussions on the proper way to interpret the Bible. KJV advocates don’t like removing Lucifer because they think day star in confusing or too difficult to understand. But it’s more accurate than Lucifer.
Also, I am told repeatedly that we should not be scared of reading the KJV because it’s hard and that the NIV constantly dumbs down the KJV. Well it can’t be had both ways. Either keeping the original and more difficult renderings is the right thing to do or it isn’t.
How did Jesus also get called the Day Star?
The real difficulty with this passage is that in Revelation 22:16 Jesus refers to himself as the Day Star… kind of.
I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. (Revelation 22:16)
Now, one has to ask: who is the Day Star or the Morning Star? Is it Jesus or Satan? I would suggest neither, but metaphorically speaking it’s Jesus. I’ll explain below.
Jesus did not refer to him as the Morning Star or the Day Star. He did make a clear reference to the Day Star though. In the Greek he said “ὁ ἀστὴρ ὁ λαμπρός, ὁ πρωϊνός” which means “the bright star of the morning.” Jesus is making a statement. HE is the bringer of light. HE is the promised messiah. HE is the root of Jessie. HE is the God of gods. The alpha and omega (Rev 22:13).
This is not a foreign concept. In Revelation and all the writings of John, Jesus uses many allusions to refer to himself. He is the door, the bread of life, the good shepherd, the resurrection, the vine, the way the truth and the life, and the light of the world. Jesus is the first and brightest start in the sky and he purposely contrasted himself with the previous gods who were described as the bearers of light or the bringers of the light.
Jesus doesn’t just bring the light, HE IS the light!