Last night’s cell group meeting generated an impromptu study on who satan is and when his fall from grace occurred. This was partly sparked by discussion on the early chapters of Genesis which record, amongst other things, the first temptation of Adam and Eve.
I looked up a couple of web-sites that asserted that satan, also known as Lucifer, was originally an archangel and the leader of the heavenly praise. There were no scriptures to back this up, so it seems to be a tradition rather than Bible teaching.
Discussion turned to two traditional passages used in the discussion- Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. These passages often confuse me because some preachers confidently assert they talk about Lucifer in his pre-fall condition. I struggle with this because they are passages addressed as taunts against two particular human rulers. I can see how you might get an interpretation that the passages are talking about satan but they explicitly state in the text that they are addressed as taunts against the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14) and the King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28)- in fact the Ezekiel passage says this twice.
Then the revelation came. One of the group members read the Isaiah 14 passage and I heard the word I have never read before:
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
The New Living says this:
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!
I asked the group member, “Is that the New King James?” to which she said “Yes”
So the New King James follows the original King James in translating the “morning star” as Lucifer, and then helpfully adds the section heading “The Fall of Lucifer” right before it.
That’s where they get it from.
Here’s the problem. Lucifer is a Latin name meaning “light bearer” and was used to refer to the morning star, Venus. But the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, not Latin. So when the translators of the King James Version were doing their translation work in the early 1600’s they were still influenced by the so-called Latin Vulgate Bible which was the official Catholic translation.
The translators of the NKJV have no such excuse. They should have translated is as “morning star” and maybe referred to the Lucifer translation in a footnote.
You can still choose to interpret these passages as referring to satan if you like. To me it’s a bit of a stretch to do that, especially when the original writers were clear about whom they were directing their comments at.
The NLT Study Bible, in the footnotes to Isaiah 14:12 say this:
Some see the fall of the king of Babylon here as symbolising the fall of Satan. However there is little here to suggest that Isaiah understood it in this way. He was thinking of the historical king of Babylon… the Hebrew text makes no apparent reference here to the name of Satan.
All of this shows that we should not blindly accept what people teach us about the Bible. If something doesn’t seem to make sense in the way people interpret Scripture, you should always ask for more information about why they believe that.
In an ideal world, every christian would know Hebrew and Greek. Failing that, I think it’s always a good idea to check several versions of Scripture to try and gain a better understanding of a text. Software makes this so easy to do, or use Bible apps or internet search sites such as Bible Gateway.