Is Lucifer such a bad guy after all?

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.

First-Century Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Found!?

At my debate with Bart Ehrman (1 Feb 2012, held at UNC Chapel Hill) over whether we can recover the wording of the New Testament autographs, I made the announcement that a probable first-century fragment of Mark’s Gospel had been recently discovered. I noted that a world-class paleographer had dated this manuscript and that he was pretty darn sure that it belonged to the first century. All the details will be coming out in a multi-author book published by E. J. Brill sometime in 2013. Several newspapers and magazines have covered the story already. John Farrell, writing for Forbes, wrote a brief article on it, followed up by an update (now incorporated with the first article). He is working on a third article that will discuss new technology that may help us to be more precise in our dating of the manuscript. In particular, there is a newly developed carbon-14 dating method that does not destroy the object it is dating. That’s always a good thing when it comes to ancient manuscripts! The inventor is Professor Marvin Rowe of Texas A & M. His assistant, Dr. Karen Steelman, wrote her dissertation on this new procedure. I met with both of them recently and discussed the possibilities of using this technology for dating ancient manuscripts.

You can see the Forbes article here: Stay tuned for follow-ups! In the meantime, the best attitude for all to have is “wait and see.” Über-exuberance or dismissive skepticism are both unwarranted responses based on the information supplied so far. But when the fragment is published along with six other early New Testament papyri (all from around the second century), the scholarly vetting will do its due diligence. It should be fun!

Putting Feet to Your Faith

Editor’s Note: Justin Bass earned his ThM and PhD from Dallas Seminary. His emphasis was New Testament studies. He is the lead pastor of a year-old congregation, called 1042 Church, which meets at the Embassy Suites in Frisco, Texas, every Saturday evening. Now, with credentials like his you would think that each week his congregation gets to feast on the Word of God. Indeed, it does! But the service focuses on far more than proclamation of the Word, as vital as that is. One of the major emphases of the church is its focus on missions and outreach. Half of all donations to the church are used for missions. But they don’t just give to missions; they live missions. Members of the congregation have purchased Bibles to give to their non-Christian friends twice in the past year. They have a special relationship with Haiti and the ongoing relief work there. And yesterday, the church had its services at an apartment complex where the need for the gospel—not just the kerygma, but also the praxis—was great. In addition to what is mentioned below, the church found out the shoe sizes for all the children there and will be getting the kids new shoes very soon. Below is what Justin wrote to the congregation summarizing the day’s events.

dbw, 18–3-12

Putting Feet to Your Faith

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). It was so wonderful to have the body of Christ come together to serve the community of Woodside Village Apartments on St. Patrick’s Day. This event would not have happened at all if the weather had been (as forecasted) raining all day Saturday because we were outside the entire time. We prayed for weeks that it would be overcast with no rain and that is exactly what it was the entire five hours we were there! Praise the Lord for His kindness to us (Acts 14:17).

1042 Church started planning this event over a month before. We wanted to find a low-income apartment to serve not too far from our church in Frisco; through our friend David Glover we found out about Woodside Village in McKinney. There are 100 apartments at this community and around 200 kids who live there. We ended up having over 100 kids of all ages at the service; close to 200 people came throughout the day (including the adults and people from our church). Clint Fortner received an incredible deal on bounce houses from Jump For Joy and they were a big hit as he was drowning in kids from 2pm on. Anthony and Monica Rodriguez brought 30 X-large pizzas from Papa Johns for everyone, and my wife Allison and Tim & Rebecca Maas brought 150 drinks (water and sodas). The bounce houses and the pizza brought the people out in droves.

After everyone ate, Tru Prophets Ministries provided some gospel-centered rap music that engaged the community in a powerful way; everyone was blessed by their teaching and music. There was an Easter egg hunt that Clint Fortner put together but one of the kids stole all the Easter eggs he put out so the kids ended up chasing egg phantoms. At the end I shared the gospel, challenging everyone to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary, the sister of Martha: every time she is mentioned in the New Testament she’s is at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:32; 12:1-3). I didn’t hear about anyone specifically trusting in Christ that day, but it was clear that many grew in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Pet 3:18). In addition, Mardel’s gave us 20% off some nice, leather Bibles and we handed out 72 Bibles to the people who came. Many from our church also put together 75 Care packages for the residents of Woodside that included cleaning products, bug spray, toiletries, and toys.

The mission statement of our church is to Exalt the Son in the City; I believe Christ was exalted to the Glory of the Father by the Power of the Spirit in everything that happened at this event. The most special moment for me was near the end when the great manager of these apartments, Eric Williams, gave me two hugs that communicated something that words could not. We came wanting to embrace this community in the name of Christ and the hugs I shared with Eric were a great symbol of this.

Just a note on spiritual warfare: After most everyone had left, two Mormon missionaries showed up to go door to door. Three of us engaged them and challenged them to trust in the True Christ as opposed to “another Jesus” (2 Cor 11:4). We may get together with them later this week. I saw it as a vivid picture how Satan consistently tries to turn good into evil.

We now have 22 families’ contact information to find out about other needs they may have and we have the possibility of leading a weekly Bible study with the residents in their community room. Pray for these future opportunities to exalt Christ at Woodside Village Apartments.

Justin W. Bass, Ph.D.

1042 Lead Pastor


The Problem with Protestant Ecclesiology

I am unashamedly a Protestant. I believe in sola scriptura, sola fidei, solus Christus, and the rest. I am convinced that Luther was on to something when he articulated his view of justification succinctly: simul iustus et peccator (“simultaneously justified and a sinner”).

But with the birth of Protestantism there necessarily came a rift within the western church. By ‘necessarily’ I mean that Protestants made it necessary by splitting from Rome. Jaroslav Pelikan had it right when he said that the Reformation was a tragic necessity. Protestants felt truth was to be prized over unity, but the follow-through was devastating. This same mindset began to infect all Protestant churches so that they continued to splinter off from each other. Today there are hundreds and hundreds of Protestant denominations. One doesn’t see this level of fracturing in either Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. Not even close.

“But unity in falsehood is no unity at all,” some will protest. To a degree that is true. If the unity of the church meant that we would all deny the bodily resurrection of the theanthropic person, then that would be unity against an essential of the Christian faith. But there is no thinking Christian who agrees lock, stock, and barrel with what his pastor teaches. Yet, he is a part of that church. In this respect, he has prized unity over truth. We all have to do this. If we didn’t, each Christian would be his or her own church. The fellowship would be awfully predictable and quite boring!

Several evangelical scholars have noted that the problem with Protestant ecclesiology is that there is no Protestant ecclesiology. In many denominations—and especially in non-denominational churches—there is no hierarchy of churches responsible to a central head, no accountability beyond the local congregation, no fellowship beyond the local assembly, no missional emphasis that gains support from hundreds of congregations, and no superiors to whom a local pastor must submit for doctrinal or ethical fidelity.

Three events have especially caused me to reflect on my own ecclesiological situation and long for something different.

First, I have spent a lot of time with Greek Orthodox folks. It doesn’t matter what Orthodox church or monastery I visit, I get the same message, the same liturgy, the same sense of the ‘holy other’ in our fellowship with the Triune God. The liturgy is precisely what bothers so many Protestants since their churches often try very hard to mute the voices from the past. “It’s just me and my Bible” is the motto of millions of evangelicals. They often intentionally forget the past two millennia and the possibility that the Spirit of God was working in the church during that time. Church history for all too many evangelicals does not start until Luther pounded that impressive parchment on the Schlosskirche door.

In Protestantism, one really doesn’t know what he or she will experience from church to church. Even churches of the same denomination are widely divergent. Some have a rock-solid proclamation of the Word, while others play games and woo sinners to join their ranks without even the slightest suggestion that they should repent of anything. Too many Protestant churches look like social clubs where the offense of the gospel has been diluted to feel-good psycho-theology. And the problem is only getting worse with mega-churches with their mini-theology. This ought not to be.

Second, a man whom I mentored years ago became a pastor of a non-denominational church. Recently and tragically, he denied the full deity of Christ and proclaimed that the Church had gotten it wrong since Nicea. He got in with a group of heretics who were very persuasive. The elders of the church had no recourse to any governing authority over the local church; they were the governing authority and they were not equipped to handle his heterodox teaching. It smelled wrong to them and they consulted me and another evangelical teacher for help. It took some time before they could show the pastor the door, and they were bewildered and troubled during the process. The congregation wasn’t sure which way was up. Doubts about the cornerstone of orthodoxy—the deity of Christ—arose. This cancer could have been cut out more swiftly and cleanly if the church was subordinate to a hierarchy that maintained true doctrine in its churches. And the damage would have been less severe and less traumatic for the church.

Third, a book by David Dungan called Constantine’s Bible makes an astounding point about the shape of the canon in the ancient church. Dungan discusses the passage in Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History (6.12) when this church father famously spoke of four categories of literary candidates for the canon—homolegoumena, antilegomena, apocrypha, and pseudepigrapha. Dungan mentions that for Eusebius to speak of any books as homolegoumena—those twenty books that had universal consent in his day as canonical—he was speaking of an unbroken chain of bishops, from the first century to the fourth, who affirmed authorship and authenticity of such books. What is significant is that for the ancient church, canonicity was intrinsically linked to ecclesiology. It was the bishops rather than the congregations that gave their opinion of a book’s credentials. Not just any bishops, but bishops of the major sees of the ancient church. Dungan went on to say that Eusebius must have looked up the records in the church annals and could speak thus only on the basis of such records. If Dungan is right, then the issue of the authorship of certain books (most notably the seven disputed letters of Paul) is settled. And it’s settled by appeal to an ecclesiological structure that is other than what Protestants embrace. The irony is that today evangelicals especially argue for authenticity of the disputed letters of Paul, yet they are arguing with one hand tied behind their back. And it has been long noted that the weakest link in an evangelical bibliology is canonicity.

So, how do we deal with these matters? I once wrote a blogpost at Parchment & Pen called “The Ideal Church.” In it I said, “The ideal church can’t exist. And a large part of the reason it can’t is because we’ve made a terrible mess of things.”

I’m not sure of the solution, or even if there is one. But we can take steps toward a solution even if we will never get there in this world. First of all, we Protestants can be more sensitive about the deficiencies in our own ecclesiology rather than think that we’ve got a corner on truth. We need to humbly recognize that the two other branches of Christendom have done a better job in this area. Second, we can be more sensitive to the need for doctrinal and ethical accountability, fellowship beyond our local church, and ministry with others whose essentials but not necessarily particulars don’t line up with ours. Third, we can begin to listen again to the voice of the Spirit speaking through church fathers and embrace some of the liturgy that has been used for centuries. Obviously, it must all be subject to biblical authority, but we dare not neglect the last twenty centuries unless we think that the Spirit has been sleeping all that time.

Bibliography of New Testament Studies

Great Books for Studying the New Testament!

Over at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts website (, the CSNTM staff has been working very hard to select some of the very best books for studying the New Testament. The initial listing is now posted at our brand newNT Resources Store.” These books belong to fifteen categories, which cover the basics. These include Textual Criticism (of course!), Historical and Literary Backgrounds, Hermeneutics, NT Greek, Commentaries, and many more. We have not listed any junk here. All these books are worth owning, though some are advanced treatments and may not be suitable for you. If you have doubts about the appropriateness of certain books for your own library, just write to and one of us will get back to you.

We are making it very easy for you to purchase these books. When you visit the NT Resources Store, click on a category and find the book that interests you. This will take you to a description page and offer a button to make a purchase at the Amazon store. You get the same terrific prices as you normally would at Amazon (they will know who you are if you’re a returning customer), including the free shipping for Amazon Prime members. And your purchase helps CSNTM as well since Amazon gives the Center a portion of all sales through CSNTM’s website. The more books you buy, the more expeditions we can go on to photograph manuscripts. We’ve already been told that some folks plan to use the CSNTM gateway to Amazon from now on for everything they buy there.

CSNTM is grateful for your support.

Happy hunting!