In the King James Bible at Isaiah 14.12 we read, “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!” Modern translations have something like ‘day star’ or ‘morning star’ instead of ‘Lucifer’ here. But in 2 Peter 1.19 these same modern translations also have ‘morning star’ and the like: “Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (NET). The problem is that in 2 Peter 1.19 the reference is to Christ. Consequently, it seems that to use ‘morning star’ in Isaiah 14.12 and ‘morning star’ in 2 Peter 1.19 is to confuse Jesus with Satan and thus destroy the divinity and essential goodness of our Lord. Or so the argument goes.
In reality, in both passages the word in the original is referring literally to Venus, the ‘morning star’ among the stars. The Hebrew word in Isa 14.12 is הילל, a word that occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible. Such a rare word may have given the KJV translators fits because what they ended up doing was not to translate it at all! Instead, they transliterated the Latin Vulgate here:
quomodo cecidisti de caelo lucifer qui mane oriebaris corruisti in terram qui vulnerabas gentes.
Lucifer is not a proper name but is simply the word for ‘morning star’ or ‘day star’ in Latin. Both in Isa 14.12 and Job 38.32, the KJV translators simply transliterated the text in front of them rather than translate. In the latter passage, they transliterated the Hebrew מזרות as Mazzaroth. There, Jerome had translated the word as lucifer. The underlying Hebrew word most likely means ‘constellations’ in Job 38.32; both the Vulgate and modern translations come close to this in their rendering, while the KJV simply transliterates it.
Lucifer is found two other times in the Latin Vulgate: in Job 11.17 and 2 Peter 1.19. For our purposes it is sufficient to note its use in the latter text:
et habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem cui bene facitis adtendentes quasi lucernae lucenti in caliginoso loco donec dies inlucescat et lucifer
oriatur in cordibus vestris
Here again, Jerome has translated a word that means ‘day star’ or Venus. And the KJV translators did exactly the same thing:
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and
the day star arise in your hearts
So, what are we saying? First, lucifer is not a proper name but is the Latin word for ‘morning star’ or ‘day star.’ In itself it has zero negative connotations. It all depends on what the secondary reference is to. If it is to a pagan king, as in Isa 14.12, then the implications in relation to him are evil. But in 2 Peter 1.19, the reference is to Jesus and the implications in relation to him are good.
Second, unless we want to claim that some pernicious conspiracy of confusing Jesus with the devil began with Jerome, we must admit that the KJV conspiracy patrol is making much ado about nothing. They have misread a transliteration as though it were a proper name, then assumed that the underlying Hebrew text meant Lucifer, embracing the false conclusion that calling the king ‘the morning star’ in Isa 14.12 and Christ the ‘morning star’ in 2 Peter 1.19 was to deny the divinity and goodness of Christ. This argument is thus linguistically wrong-headed and has no real basis.
In short, Lucifer is not such a bad guy after all because Lucifer is not Satan.