I have had the opportunity of entering into dialogue with Mormon missionaries in the various places I have lived. These conversations have led me to study the veracity of the claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. During the course of my studies, I have encountered a passage within the Book of Mormon, which – to be blunt – debunks the Mormon claim that Joseph Smith was led by God to unearth golden plates buried in a hill in present day New York and subsequently translated these plates (written in “reformed Egyptian”) into English… thus producing the Book of Mormon.
To preface my argument below, it is important to note that the Book of Mormon was supposedly written circa 600 BC. The original author supposedly copied a passage from the Book of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 24:12 (2 Nephi is a book within the Book of Mormon, particular only to the Book of Mormon).
Let’s take a look at 2 Nephi 24:12 -
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
Here is the King James Version of Isaiah 14:12 -
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!
This verse is aptly called the Lucifer verse (Isaiah 14:12 / 2 Nephi 24:12) because it uses this particular name: Lucifer.
So, what’s the big deal?
In the original Hebrew text, Isaiah 14 is a prophecy against a fallen Babylonian king, who during his lifetime had persecuted the Israelites (it contains no mention of Satan, either by name or reference). In the Hebrew text of Isaiah 14:12, the expression used to describe the Babylonian king before his death is heylel ben shachar. In English, this means “shining one , son of the dawn.”
heylel – shining one
ben – son of
shachar – the dawn
Isaiah is using the morning star – which precedes the rising of the sun in the morning – as an image of the Babylonian king. Just as that star vanishes when the sun rises, so this Babylonian king will vanish in the wake of Israel when she is vindicated by her God. Isaiah is using this metaphor for a bright light (though not the greatest light) to illustrate the apparent power of the Babylonian king which will eventually fade.
Let’s skip forward a couple of centuries…
As Christianity flourished throughout the Roman Empire, the Old Testament was translated into the language of the people, which was Latin. When St. Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in the late 4th Century to translate the entire Bible into Latin, he translated heylel ben shachar as Lucifer, son of the dawn (instead of “shining one, son of the dawn”). So, the question arises… Why did he do this?
In Roman astronomy, Lucifer was the name given to the morning star (the star we now know by another Roman name, Venus). The name derives from the Latin term lucem ferre, which means “light (lucem) bearer (ferrer).”
The scholars authorized by King James I to translate the Bible into English did not use the original Hebrew texts. They were not available at that time in that location. Instead, they used versions translated largely by St. Jerome in the fourth century. This is why the King James Version of the Bible renders Isaiah 14:12 as “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” not as “How art thou fallen from heaven, shining one, son of the dawn.”
The Early Christians saw that this Babylonian king could be used in an allegorical fashion to refer to Satan, and so in Early Christian writings, the name Lucifer came to be associated with the fallen angel otherwise known as Satan or the Devil. Before these Early Christian writings, nowhere do you see the name Lucifer being used to refer to Satan.
The problem that this presents for advocates of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is that an Israelite living around 600 B.C. would have no clue as to what Lucifer as a term meant, much less include this Roman name in their Scriptures.. and even less use that name to refer to Satan.
The Book of Mormon contains within it the smoking gun, which gives evidence to the fact that Joseph Smith used the K.J.V. (not golden tablets written in “Reformed Egyptian”) when he composed this and other questions from the Old Testament throughout the Book of Mormon.
This is an example of how a keen knowledge of history and Scripture can help us discern the authenticity, the credibility of religious claims.
As a Catholic Christian, I am a Catholic because I have faith – I believe. However, my faith is not blind. My faith is backed up and supported at every turn by what are called motiva credibilitatis (Latin for “motives of credibility”). If it were not for these motiva credibilitatis, I would not believe the things I do!
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums this up by saying:
[T]he miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”. (CCC #156)