Though I am opposed to off-topic comments and sometimes delete them, there’s one example recently posted on this site that was at least interesting enough to inspire me to respond. It’s a question that has already been answered to some degree on my LDSFAQ Website, which I hope some of you use (see the page “Relationships Between Man, Christ, and God: Mormon Answers (LDS FAQ).” The question I answered there was “Wasn’t Joseph Smith clearly wrong when he said Lucifer in Isaiah 14 refers to Satan?”
Here’s the question that a drive-by-critic apparently regurgitated from an anti-Mormon website:
There is a greater proof of Joseph Smith’s plagiarism than you have expressed in 2 Nephi 24:12. It is a typical mistake of most plagiarists. Joseph Smith was no linguist. Therefore, he had no understanding of what he copied from the King James Bible. From Isaiah 14:12, the King James scholars decided to keep the proper name of the morning star, renamed by St. Jerome when he translated the Septuagint (Greek Scriptures) into Latin. St. Jerome used two Latin words, a verb and a noun, which means, “to bring light.” St. Jerome joined these two Latin words and capitalized the word, making it a proper noun. Now, understand that most ancient civilizations had a name for the morning star, the brightest star of the morning. Most had a different name for the brightest star of the evening, even though it was the same celestial body, the planet Venus. The Hebrews had a name for this bright star, “Heylel.” Regardless of the reasons St. Jerome had for renaming the morning star, and why the King James scholars chose to keep that name, Joseph Smith made a grave error when he copied that name. The name I’m referring to is, of course, “Lucifer.” The inclusion of that name is puzzling enough. How is it that these ancient gold plates, written in an ancient Egyptian text, contained a name of the morning star that had been renamed by St. Jerome long after the alleged writing on these gold plates? Joseph Smith claimed that, while he had no understanding of the Egyptian text, he did have use of the Urim and Tummim (misspelled and completely misunderstood), as well as the Angel Gabriel, to help translate this text. Perhaps the Archangel decided to go with the Latin version, rather than the original Hebrew name, and conveyed that name to Joseph Smith. Okay, not a great argument; but not completely beyond the realm of possibility. Ah, but Joseph Smith didn’t stop there. In the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith wrote extensively on Lucifer. In fact, he claimed that, in primordial times, Lucifer was the name of an angel in Heaven, who later fell to Earth as the Devil. How is it that a fourth century Illyrian Catholic priest and apologist was able to stumble onto the primordial name of the Devil? For me, the use of Lucifer in 2 Nephi 24:12 is sufficient evidence to conclude that Joseph Smith plagiarized the King James Bible. As a teacher, it is not the correct answers common between two students, which proves that one copied from the other; it is the identical incorrect answers. After all, a correct answer is a correct answer. Identical anomalies will should prove sufficient.
Some have argued that the name “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12 doesn’t refer to Satan at all, but simply to a Babylonian king. The Hebrew word translated as “Lucifer” refers to the morning star, Venus, or otherwise indicates a bearer of light. Critics say that the Book of Mormon is simply wrong when it quotes Isaiah 14:12 in 2 Nephi 24:12 and keeps the name “Lucifer.” They say the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 76:26 is also wrong, for it also follows the allegedly incorrect interpretation of Isaiah 14 in calling Satan “Lucifer, a son of the morning.” A good answer to this question comes from Ben McGuire on a page at FAIRLDS.org.
As McGuire points out, early Christians such as Origen and Tertullian associated the name Lucifer with Satan. Further, several New Testament passages associate Satan with an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), with lightning falling from heaven (Luke 10:18), or as the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4)–all consistent with the fallen “lightbearer” concept in the Hebrew of Isaiah 14. Christians for centuries have equated Lucifer with Satan, so there is no question what is meant in Doctrine and Covenants 76:26. In that context, there is nothing wrong with calling Satan “Lucifer, the morning star.” However, in the book of Revelation, chapter 22, verse 16, we read that the title of “Morning Star” belongs to Christ, which again makes Satan an impostor, trying to take away the glory of God.
Q. How come the LDS church erroneously believes that “Lucifer” is indeed Satan? This is an erroneous teaching and belief that wasn’t introduced to Christianity until hundreds of years after Christ. See the following Web site to understand what I am claiming: [anti-LDS URL is given]. This seems to show that Joseph Smith wasn’t “inspired” in a number of revelations (especially D&C 76) where he mistakenly equates “Satan” with the entity in Isaiah 14 that was always understood to be a fallen King of Babylon.
A. (by Ben McGuire) I am going to start off by saying that most of what appears on the Web link which you forwarded is nonsense. They give largely erroneous responses. While the Hebrew text is accurately noted, the quality of information goes downhill from there. Let me point out the major error, and then we can discuss the real meaning of the passage in Isaiah.
Jerome translates it as Lucifer in his Latin text–this, your article claims is the starting point for the connection between Lucifer and Satan.
Actually, Lucifer is first mentioned (under that name) in the writings of Origen (end of the second century) some two hundred years before Jerome puts it into his Latin text. Tertullian and others of the early fathers of the church also discuss Lucifer, so the connection between Lucifer and Satan was established some time prior to the end of the second century. Before the Latin text becomes widespread, however, the name Lucifer had a much more specific meaning. It was the name of Satan prior to his fall from glory. Origen explains that this is because prior to his fall, he was a being of light and thus it was an appropriate description of him. After his fall, Origen continues, he was no longer a being of light and became known as Satan.
The second point is that the scholarly community almost universally rejects the being identified as helel ben shahar in Isaiah 14 as being the king of Babylon directly. There is a figure in contemporary Canaanite religion which resembles Helel in Isaiah 14. That figure is ‘Athtar. At one point in Canaanite myth, ‘Athtar attempts to sit in the throne of Ba’al, the king of the gods. He fails in his attempt, and instead descends to the earth to rule there. ‘Athtar is known in southern Arabian inscriptions as Venus, or the Day Star. More than this though, is the account in Isaiah. The “stars of God” is a reference to the divine assembly–all of the divinities of heaven. The mount of the congregation in the sides of the north (in the original Hebrew) is equivalent to Canaanite phrases describing the dwelling place of Ba’al. So, in effect, we have in Isaiah a description of a divinity who wants to seize the throne of Ba’al and rule the heavens. Of course there are differences as well as similarities, but I find this argument to be fairly convincing myself.
While the Web-site article you reference tends to look at the literal meaning of the words, instead of examining them as names, it completely loses the rest of the context of the narrative. There is no basis in Isaiah’s charges as they would apply to the Babylonian king. It is primarily on the similarities between the Isaiah text, and text covering the Ba’al/’Athtar myth that this connection is drawn. (For bibliographic references and a description of the related scholarly arguments I recommend this article (the most recent on the subject that I am aware of): “The Mythological Provenance of Isa. XIV 12-15: A Reconsideration of the Ugaritic Material” by Michael S. Heiser, in Vetus Testamentum, 51/3 , p. 354-369).
At the same time, this concept is, interestingly enough, seen in the New Testament. Jesus claims that he saw Satan “fall like lightning from heaven” and in John and Paul we find Satan described as the “God of this world.” It was these references (among others) that led the early fathers of the Christian church to conclude that Helel in Isaiah 14 was Lucifer and also Satan. The similarities between their beliefs, and what they saw in the Old Testament texts came together to form a lasting opinion. And when the Latin text named the being in Isaiah 14 as Lucifer, that tradition has been followed ever since.
Continuing Ben’s thought, note that the 1828 dictionary of Noah Webster defines the word “Lucifer” and gives it two possible meanings:
1. The planet Venus, so called from its brightness.
Recognizing that Joseph was preparing an English translation in producing the Book of Mormon, we should not be surprised to find names translated or otherwise converted into modern recognizable forms. Jesus Christ is a translation, for example, with “Christ” being derived from the Greek for “anointed one,” related to the word Messiah in Hebrew. Lucifer, at least as of 1828, was an accepted English term to describe Satan. You could (incorrectly) argue that it wasn’t plausible or accepted when Jerome made that connection, but it certainly was widely accepted and understandable when Joseph Smith used the term in his translation and other writings. There is no confusion, only deliberate confusion caused by people trying to make a mountainous argument out of a non-existent molehill. Remember, the Book of Mormon is a translation into the modern English language. Most of the words in it were not used in ancient days because they did not exist–English did not exist. But today, Lucifer means Satan, and when railing against the latter, either term can be used by English speakers with fairness, whether you agree with Jerome or not.
Further insight is found in a discussion by René A. Krywult’s. The second half of that page provides some excellent insights into ancient Near Eastern views that support the LDS position.
The confusion over the Lucifer/Satan issue may be one of the best arguments against the Book of Mormon, one that our drive-by poster thought was (at last) a slam dunk, but it’s really a non-starter (not to be confused with the initial appetizer of bread at an Indian restaurant, which, of course, is a naan-starter).
I will at least give the critics behind this argument credit for recognizing that there can be errors in the Biblical record due to human limitations in translating. I hope they do not, then, rely on the alleged completeness and infallibility of the Bible as a reason to reject modern revelation and further scripture given by the Lord. For those in that camp, may I simply remind you that the Lord said that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), and NEVER gave any indication that those words would stop.
The cessation of revelation and scripture as an allegedly Christian principle a post-biblical innovation created of necessity when it was clear that the word of revelation from apostles and prophets was no longer to be found, even though those offices and gifts were to be in the Church until we came to a not-yet-achieved unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:11-14). The problem, though, was not that we no longer needed them or that God had revealed everything we would ever need, but that man had rejected ongoing revelation and killed the messengers–part of the great falling away and famine for the word of God predicted in the Bible, requiring the future time of “refreshing of all things” also prophesied (Acts 3:19). That refreshing has begun and the Book of Mormon is part of the refreshing ancient scripture that has proceeded forth from the mouth of God. It’s something we should live by, not ignore and condemn for reasons as silly as quoting a passage of Isaiah with “Lucifer” as a term for Satan.
The critics behind this attack take the tack of Joseph as the unschooled pretender stumbling over the basics. I hope, in their response to the growing body of fascinating evidence for the Book of Mormon such as chiasmus and the evidence from the Arabian Peninsula, that they do not rely on Joseph vast intellectual prowess in scouring the best libraries of the globe for vast tidbit of knowledge that could be woven into the text, which is one of the other vectors for anti-Mormon attacks on the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith, boy wonder and literary genius tapping elite information across the globe, and Joseph Smith, uneducated farmboy pretender without a clue making the most basic mistakes imaginable. Make sure you at least stick with a consistent paradigm when you fail miserably to account for the modern miracle of the ancient Book of Mormon.