The NIV Does Not Call Jesus Satan – Isaiah 14:12 & Revelation 22:16

I have heard this accusation for the third time this week and I want the truth to be put out there clearly and concisely so that if people google this subject hopefully they don’t find all the misinformation out there but get the truth. Here is how this argument against the NIV usually goes. The claim is laid that the NIV is corrupt and deliberately misleads people into believing that the Savior is actually Satan. They attempt to work that out with two verses (Isaiah 14:12 and Revelation 22:16). Here are the verses:

“How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!”
– Isaiah 14:12

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” – Revelation 22:16

No appearance of a problem until you look at Isaiah 14:12 in the King James Version – “12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”

That is the basis of the charge…that the NIV deliberately replaced Lucifer with “morning star” the same word used for Jesus in Revelation 22. That appears to be problematic on the surface but let’s dig a little deeper.

The word translated Lucifer by the KJV and “Morning Star” by the NIV is the word הֵילֵל (heilel). That word literally means “shining one” as the verb form means “to shine.” It is not a word that means Satan or the devil in Hebrew as a proper name. So two questions arise:

  1. Why does the KJV use “Lucifer” and not “shining one”?
  2. Why does the NIV use “morning star” and not “shining one”?

1 – Why does the KJV use “Lucifer” and not “shining one”? Lucifer is how the Latin Vulgate translated this word, which the KJV adopted. Lucifer in Latin is a combination of two words Lux = light and ferous = “to bear” or “to carry” which would make Lucifer = bearer of light in Latin. That was a valid translation in the Vulgate. The problem is the KJV didn’t translate it into English. They kept the Latin Lucifer instead. The problem is 99.9% of people don’t know that any more and only think of it as a proper name referring to the Devil or Satan.

So the first point to make is that the verse is not about Lucifer but is about a “light bearer.” Who is that light bearer? Let’s have a look at Isaiah 14 in context…that is always a good idea right? When we do this, we see exactly who Isaiah 14:12 is referring to and it is not Jesus or the Devil. Look back at Isa 13:1 – “An oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw.” (NIV). Isaiah 13 speaks of the destruction of Babylon (see especially 13:19). Chapter 14 continues this message. 14:1-3 is about the return from exile back to Israel. Then notice 14:4 (just 8 verses before the verse in question) – “You will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:” The taunt seems to go from 14:4b-8. Then 14:9 talks about the grave meeting them at their coming. Meeting who? The same people the taunt was against – Babylon. It is a curse referring back to the object of their taunt…not Jesus or Satan but the King of Babylon. Then 14:11-23 is more about Babylon – “your pomp has been brought down, maggots are spread out beneath you, worms cover you….how you have fallen from heaven shining one, son of the dawn.” Also, notice verse 16-17 – ”

Those who see you stare at you,
they ponder your fate:
“Is this the man who shook the earth
and made kingdoms tremble,

17 the man who made the world a desert,
who overthrew its cities
and would not let his captives go home?”

In context you see this is about a man and not Satan. It is about what the rest of the chapter is about – the king of Babylon.

2 – Why does the NIV use “morning star” instead of “shining one”?
This is best understood by the rest of the verse Isaiah calls him “son of the dawn.” It is a parallel to a star that rises high and bright in the sky at morning but then disappears quickly (like the planet Venus). There was an ancient myth in the Babylonian literature that Heylel the morning star Venus scaled to great heights to make himself like a king in the heavens but was quickly driven back down. That is what the king of Babylon will be like…one who rises to great heights and then is toppled from his high position. In other words, the NIV makes the connection that would have been made by Isaiah’s hearers and people in Babylon…those who knew the myth about now its new found application by God toward the king of Babylon. The NIV translators recognized this parallel and made us of it as in the Babylonian mind the “shining one” was the “morning star Venus.” Was that the best move? Probably not if you are going for a literal translation. But if you are trying to read and hear the Bible as they heard it, it is actually a pretty good take on this verse. It is a little too much interpretation in the text for me.

Bottom line, I wish the KJV had actually translated this rather than borrowed from the Latin. I wish the NIV had left interpretation for the footnotes and not taken so much liberty with the text. But at the end of the day it can hardly be said that the NIV was propogating a view that Jesus and Satan are the same based on this text. Instead, when you look at the evidence it appears to be more the case that the NIV was taking history, cultural context, linguistics and much else into consideration to give their best shot at this verse to end up with “morning star” and not some grand conspiracy by wicked and careless translators.

For more information on this as well as more details and a thoughtful analysis, see this link as well.


Gospel of Mark – God’s Vineyard (Mark 4:1-34)

In Mark 3 we found Jesus being accused of all sorts of things and the source of his authority had been challenged. In Mark 4 we find one of the only blocks of Jesus teachings in the entire Gospel, which is probably a response to those attacks. All of the teachings have some connection with planting and growing a crop. Jesus takes on the posture of a teacher by sitting in the boat. He begins to teach the crowd who is standing on the shore. Mark literally tells us that the crowd is standing on the ground by the lake, a word he will repeat 8 more times in the chapter (NIV dynamic equivalent translation = “shore” loses that connection).

The Land, the Ground, and the Heart (4:1-20)

How could teaching about the ground, crops, and land have anything to say in response to his critics? The first thing you have to remember is that when God made a covenant with Abraham he promised him a land (Gen 15:17-20). When the people were leaving Egypt they were reminded of that promise (hence the “promised land”). The people of Israel had a special connection with the land. They believed it was there right, their destiny, their inheritance from God.

The vineyard was a popular symbol in the Old Testament for God’s people,

“It is not God’s only because God loves it, but because he painstakingly prepared the land and planted it. He also carefully protected it. In this way the parable describes God’s election of Israel as a nation (Deut 7:7-11) and his providential care of it. As with any vineyard, the vinedresser does all this work with the expectation of a fruitful and bountiful harvest” (Dictionary of Bib Imagery, 915).

In the Old Testament God spoke through the prophet Isaiah comparing the people in the land to grapes in a vineyard (Isa 5:1-7). In that passage God says he cared for the vineyard, cleared it, picked a fertile hillside, planted it with choice vines, put a wall and a watchtower in it for protection (reminds me of Deut6:10-15). But when he looked for a good crop of good grapes he found only “bad fruit.” What follows was a passage of judgment – God would destroy its protective walls, make it a wasteland, and guess what would grow up in its place? Briars and thorns. The passage concludes like this,

“The vineyard of the LORD Almighty
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are the garden of his delight.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”

The Israelites had rejected God and his prophets in the past. They produced bloodshed in place of justice and distress instead of righteousness. Here they go again. In walks the Sower who sows God’s seed (God’s word/Gospel) onto the hearts of men. Some fell on the path, some fell in rocky places, and other seed fell among the thorns. None of those produced good fruit because they were not rooted in good soil. But the seed that fell on the good soil produced fruit so big that no human could claim responsibility for the produce. The seed exposes who we really are. The typical question we ask ourselves in studying this parable is, “What kind of soil are you?” But I think the better question is this, “What are you producing?” If you are good soil you will produce good fruit but if your soil is in poor condition you will not produce good fruit.

A Lamp on a Stand (4:21-25)

Just as the seed exposes our hearts so does Jesus (who is, by the way, the Word of God – John 1). Jesus continues his farming language by saying when you light a lamp you don’t cover it with a bushel (NIV – “bowl” – misses the connection with the surrounding stories). Instead you put it on a stand and it exposes us for who we really are. That means 4:24-25, the verses many people use to talk about judging others, cannot be about judging others. It just doesn’t fit the context of the kingdom Jesus is talking about here. “With the measure you use (more farming language), it will be measured to you…” Jesus is saying if you embrace the kingdom you will receive more than you could have ever understood. But if you reject it (“those who do not have”) you will lose everything.

The Parable of the Growing Seed (4:26-29)

You cannot make a stock go up by watching the stock ticker. It just doesn’t work that way. The same is true with the kingdom. The kingdom grows apart from the skill of the farmer. The farmer does not make seeds germenate. They do that on their own. The word Jesus uses for “all by itself” – αυτηματη (sounds like automatic). It happens on its own. The naysayers want to point fingers at Jesus and say the kingdom hasn’t come. Jesus is saying that is like standing in a field full of wheat and shouting, “This land is worthless for farming!” That would be insane. Look around you. Don’t you see all the signs! The sick are healed. Demons and evil spirits are being cast out. Teaching is being done with authority. All the signs are here. Don’t deny the obvious. And don’t take credit for what you aren’t able to do yourself. God is the one bringing in the kingdom whether you like it or not.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (4:30-34)

When I was a kid I always thought the mustard plant was a HUGE tree that towered above everything else. I was wrong. Apparently when you plant mustard seeds you better get ready for what happens next because there is no stopping it. It is like kudzu. When you cut kudzu you better cut and run because if you don’t it will catch you. When you plant this plant in your garden you cannot contain it. You cannot be assured of where it will spread to. You cannot put boundaries on it. All sorts of little critters may end up living in there (BWIII, 172). So it is with the kingdom. When the kingdom takes root you better get ready because it is going to grow all over the place. There is no stopping it. There is no putting boundaries on it. It was made to grow and grow it will.

I think many of our problems in our Christian walk stem from the fact that we have forgotten how powerful the kingdom of God actually is. We have forgotten that it will grow like wildfire. It will grow in places we didn’t realize it could be. It will turn our expectations upside down and renew in us a sense of hope because we realize that who and what we belong to cannot and will not be stopped. So hang on tight and get ready and don’t be afraid to invite people into it because it was made to grow.

Understanding God’s Will for Your Life

In Reggie McNeal’s book A Work of Heart he makes this statement about being called,

The call is a mystery. It begins and ends with God, but it loops through a very human individual. It is personal, yet bigger than the person. The call comes out of who we are as well as shaping who we are. It has both being and doing components. The call involves relationship at its core, not just function or task, though it carries clear task components. (p.95).

We run into major roadblocks if we are only concerned about either half of that equation. Those who are focused solely on being tend to end up in ivory towers and monastaries trying to sanitize themselves from society. Those who are solely focused on doing end up drained and empty as their cup pouring exercises do not come out of a solid foundation and relationship with God. How many times do we wonder when God will ever use us or how he will use us but are not very concerned about our “being” in the meantime? Our being is both utilized and refined by the call. When you look at several of God’s prophets you see this dynamic in action.

In Isaiah 6, we have that famous passage where Isaiah is confronted in the temple by God. I call this a confrontation because there is a real tension involved when Isaiah comes face to face with the Almighty. The first thing that jumps out is how holy God is. The angels say, “holy, holy, holy (Holy X 3) is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (6:3). The angels have three sets of wings and the third set reflects a respect for the holy presence of God. With that set of wings they cover their “feet.” This clearly has sexual connotations as the word for feet connotes anything between the waist and the feet. The message is clear that there is a proper and respectful to present yourself when in the presence of the Almighty God. The problem is, Isaiah doesn’t live up to those standards. Through this environment of perfect holiness Isaiah becomes keenly aware of his own sinfulness (a component of his being is out of line with respect to his relationship with God). Notice his response, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” He acknowledges the fact that he is a sinful man and he knows the result of being sinful in the presence of the Lord almighty has certain consequences – presumably death. The reason these verses are confrontational is because Isaiah’s being is not lined up with God’s being – sinfulness does not match or mesh with holiness. Something has to change. Either Isaiah has to be changed or he has to die. Before he is given something to do there has to be a change in being.

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (6:6-7).

Only God can initiate the change in being. He forgives Isaiah’s sin and realigns Isaiah in respect to his relationship with God, thus readying him for the call and the task of doing what God had planned for his life. Once that has occurred Isaiah is ready for what God has to say next,

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.

The call comes to Isaiah. God lays out the task that is at hand but first there had to be a change in being before the doing component could be made known.

How does this play out in our lives? How do we become aware of the divine initiatives that God has for our lives? We find the answer in Romans 12:1-2. You have probably heard these two verses at least 100 times but try to hear them again fresh through the lens of being and doing. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Again, there comes a change in being before there can be an awareness of what it is God would have us do.

The change in being – Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, do not conform (because that would alter our being), instead be transformed (into who God wants you to be)
The change in doing – Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is

In other words, once you have devoted your life to Christ as a living sacrifice a change will take place that can only come from the divine initiative. Just like Isaiah couldn’t cleanse his own lips, we too must rely on the divine initiative in order for the change in being to take place. Once God has started that process in your life his will for you, what he wants for you to do, your purpose, the plan, your call will be clearer than ever.

What in your life is keeping you from understand God’s will for your life?