In a Facebook group, a friend on FB tagged me on a discussion about the following article: Is “Lucifer” the Devil in Is 14:12. I’ve reproduced a couple of quotes below. But before I begin, let me say this: Lucifer did not originally refer to the Devil except as Matthew Poole states, in a mystical way. So let’s exam some of the quotations from Dr. Wallace’s article.
In Job 38:32, the KJV renders the Hebrew word מזרות as Mazzaroth. This is another word that occurs only once in the Hebrew Bible. The KJV translators did not know what it meant, so they simply transliterated the Hebrew into English characters. Even though Jerome, the translator of the Vulgate, knew Hebrew better than the KJV translators did, he was not exactly sure what to make of it either. But he at least tried, rather than simply leave the word untranslated as the KJV translators did. He translated the word as lucifer—or ‘morning star,’ which is very close to the meaning of the Hebrew מזרות:
numquid producis luciferum in tempore suo et vesperum super filios terrae consurgere facis
The word means ‘constellations’ or ‘crowns’ (modern translators are not sure, though ‘constellations’ is usually preferred). The fact that Jerome recognized that at least the מזרות probably referred to stars is far better than the KJV translators did by leaving the word completely untranslated. There is of course no conspiracy on Jerome’s part here; he is simply being faithful to the Hebrew Bible and is translating as accurately as he can.
They didn’t know what it meant and Jerome had a better understanding of Hebrew. A couple of problems with Dr. Wallace’s assessment.
First, the scholarship of the translators is well known. I could quote the entirety of Alexander McClure’s 19th century work, The Translators Revived to refute this claim. Instead I’ll quote a much shorter excerpt from an article by Dr. Henry Morris:
Furthermore, the King James translators were also great scholars, every bit as proficient in the Biblical languages as any of those who have come after them. They were very familiar with the great body of manuscript evidence, as well as all the previous translations. They worked diligently on the project (assigned to them by King James) for over seven years, completing it in the year 1611.
The professional qualifications of the translators were all extremely high. There were 54 scholars originally assigned to the project by King James, though some died early in the project. There were evidently 47 who were active throughout the project, all of whom were exceptionally well qualified both academically and spiritually.
- For example, John Bois, who kept the most complete account of the proceedings of the translators, was extremely skilled in both Hebrew and Greek. In fact, it is reported by his biographer that he was reading through the Hebrew Old Testament when he was only five years old. He was expert in all forms of Greek, including the Koine Greek of the New Testament, and compiled one of the largest Greek libraries ever. Dr. Bois became Dean of Canterbury in 1619.
- Lancelot Andrews, a leader of the Old Testament translators, had been chaplain to Queen Elizabeth. He was fluent in fifteen modern languages, as well as Hebrew, Greek, and the cognate Biblical languages. He served as Dean of Westminster and later as Bishop of Winchester.
- Dr. William Bedwell was expert in Latin, Arabic, and Persian, preparing lexicons in these languages, as well as in the Biblical languages.
- Edward Lively, who died after only a year, had been Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge and had an unequaled knowledge of the Oriental languages.
- Dr. John Harding was Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford.
- Miles Smith was a noted Orientalist who became Bishop of Gloucester in 1612. He was the last man to review the translation and was selected to write the Translators’ Preface.
- Dr. Andrew Downes spent forty years as Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford University and was on the final checking committee of the translation.
- George Abbott became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1611.
- Sir Henry Saville was Provost of Eton and was a scientist as well as Bible scholar. His works included an eight-volume edition of the works of Chrysostom.
Secondly, it’s rendered that way in earlier English translations of the Bible. So blaming the AV translators is a bit silly at this point. Especially in light of the rules given by James I to the translation committee concerning names in the older English translations.
Third, and I must admit, I could have simply posted this third point to refute the above by Dr. Wallace. My point not only demonstrates his ignorance of the translation, but of the learning of the translators of the AV. The margin of the translators at this verse: maazroth: or, the twelve signs. Even the below quotation from the article is refuted by looking at the Geneva and then the margin note of the AV which reads: O Lucifer:, or, O day star.
In other words, lucifer is not a proper name, but is the Latin word for ‘morning star’ or ‘day star.’ The KJV simply reproduced the Latin in Isa 14:12 because they were not sure what הילל meant.
Now while I agree that KJVOers and many others, myself included at one time, misunderstand the use of Lucifer in this passage. It is not the fault of the AV, the Geneva or the translators of either translation. It is the fault of the reader. It is evident they understood these and the other passages Dr. Wallace mentions in his article. The problem is with Dan Wallace and not the translations of the Reformation era. The benefit of Dr. Wallace’s article is that it demonstrates he has an unargued bias against the AV. And that he is a very poor historical scholar.