Jesus and the Morning Star

Posted By on October 12, 2013

One of the questions I get with some frequency concerns the phrase “(bright) morning star.” The gist of the question usually concerns some presumed relationship between Jesus and Lucifer (the question, as we will see, is something of a misnomer all on its own). That’s really not what’s going on in biblical theology here. I’ll have to unpack all that a bit before I get to the “morning star” question.

In Isa 14:12 we read about one ḥêlel ben shaḥar (“shining one, son of the dawn”). The phrase “son of the dawn” refers to the (astronomical) “morning star” – the small light first visible above the horizon when the new day dawns. This was, in ancient terms, a way to refer to Venus, as it was that first light in terms of real naked eye astronomy. The ancients knew Venus was a planet, but often referred to it as the largest star (see Pliny, Hist. nat. 2.37). Venus appears just before the sun, heralding a new day — thus it was termed “morning star.”

At issue first is the terminology and character in Isaiah 14. In LXX the phrase  ḥêlel ben shaḥar, ḥêlel (“shining one”) is rendered as ἐωσφόρος (“morning star”), derivative of Φωσφόρος (the wrod used for Venus). In Latin, this word is translated “Lucifer.” The ḥêlel figure in Isaiah is some sort of tyrant, described in terms of some tale about a divine being who wanted to be like the Most High, snubbing his authority. Combine that backdrop tale, a story about a divine being who over-stepped the highest divine authority, with the Latin Vulgate’s “Lucifer,” and you get the presumed picture of Satan’s rebellion.

This identification is not so simple as it sounds for a number of reasons; namely, the term “satan” is never used of the serpent (naḥash) of Genesis 3. The identification of that figure with God’s arch rival, the Devil, came along in the second temple period. It isn’t until the last book of the Bible (in Rev 12:9) that you actually see the words serpent, devil, and Satan actually connected. Granted, the ideas are all interconnected much earlier, but as far as the use of the terms, it’s pretty late. Readers of my Myth book know that I believe (a minority view) that there are good textual connections besides these terms between Isaiah 14 and Genesis 3, along with Ezekiel 28. I think they all draw on the belief / theology of the rebellion of a non-human divine figure against the Most High, who is Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible.1

So, the question about the use of “morning star” terminology in Jesus usually brings this backdrop with it. Some people like to rant about Jesus being Satan here, or about the nasty Jewish writers who satanize Jesus, or how Satan and Jesus are brothers (Mormons, though their argument usually comes from a different flawed trajectory). All of these notions are nonsense. They are good illustrations of ignoring context and producing non sequiturs.

The point of the terminology isn’t hard to figure out. It has to do with (drum roll, please): brightness. Stars were bright. Brightness is a common description of divine beings throughout the ancient world. They are often described as luminous or fiery (biblical examples include Ezek 1:13; Psa 104:4). Divine beings were therefore associated with, or identified with, objects in the sky — stars or planets. This idea is all over the ancient Near East. In terms of the Old Testament, Job 38:6-7 is the best example (and note that it pluralizes “morning star”):

On what were its [the earth's] bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Why the plural? Because there were more than one (I know, I’m on a profundity roll now). Why the metaphor? Because it’s the dawn of a new day — the first day, as it were; the day of earth’s creation. Now back to Isaiah 14 …

While the focus in Isaia 14 is a human king, the king of Babylon, the description of that king’s arrogance is drawn from a story of a divine being’s rebellion. Like all divine beings, that being was shining / luminous / bright — like the morning star.

To my mind, that’s pretty simple. Now here’s where we need to think a little — with respect to the use of the “mroning star” terminology of the New Testament, linked as it is with Jesus. On the surface, it would be easy to just say “well, the resurrected Christ is certainly divine, so the description fits.” (Note: all the morning star occurrences with respect to Jesus are about the risen Christ or his re-appearing). We even get discussion about the manifestation of Jesus’ glory before the resurrection, connected of course with the very presence of God (John 1:14 2:11; Acts 7:55; Titus 2:13). That’s true, but there’s more to it — and it concerns not the shining appearance of the morning star, what it visually looked like to the eye — but what it denoted: the dawn of a new day, the new kingdom come to earth.

Let’s take a look now at how that theme — the coming again of Jesus to earth to consummate the new kingdom of God, the new Eden — is always part of the context of the “morning star” references when used of Jesus.

There are three morning star references in the New Testament. Here they are with a little verse-context:

2 Peter 1:17-19

17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts …

Rev 2:26-28

26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Rev 22:16

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

Let’s start with the last one first. It’s clear that the reference to the morning star has something to do with kingship — why else link it to “I am the root and descendant of David”? (Recall that David was from Bethlehem of Judah). Coming where it does — the unveiling of the new Jerusalem and new Eden — the context couldn’t be clearer. This is why basically all NT scholars since the description here as hearkening back to Num 24:17: “a star shall rise out of Jacob” (“Jacob,” of course is another term used for Israel throughotu the Bible, the last portion of which left after the exile and return was Judah). Numbers 24:17 was interpreted messianically in Judaism apart from the New Testament writers (T. Levi 18:3; T. Jud. 24:1; 1QM 11:6–7; 4QTestim 9–13; CD 7:18–20). In other words, everyone would have known this morning star reference was not about brightness; it was about the dawning of the returned kingdom of God.

That’s also the point of Rev 2:26-28, working backward through our references. But this passage is even cooler. You divine council worldview junkies should like this one. Notice how in this case Jesus isn’t the morning star — he gives the morning star. Look at it again:

26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Who are the ones that overcome in Revelation? Believers. What do they get? Authority. Over whom? The nations — you know, the nations that are at present under the authority of the corrupted sons of God (Deut 32:8-9, with LXX and DSS; cp. Deut 4:19-20; Psalm 82). That’s right. Believers share in the kingdom (see Daniel 7:27-28, another divine council passage). They will “ruler over angels” (1 Cor 6:3) because they displace them in God’s hierarchy in the last day. Verse 27 has Jesus ruling (“he”) with a rod of iron (Psa 2), but it is Jesus who gives to mere believers — the overcomers — the morning star. What is the morning star? The divine authority to rule in the new kingdom.

The last reference is not difficult to parse in light of all this. Again:

2 Peter 1:17-19

17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts …

You believers — the ones who need to overcome (and 2 Peter has something to say about persecution and false teachers) — you need to follow the truth, that shines like a lamp in a dark place — until the morning star rises in your hearts. Sound odd? Try this paraphrase: “until the new day dawns in you hearts.” What new day? the one that happens after Jesus returns and you’re all resurrected to rule and reign with him, because you are in him and he is you, and you receive the new body promised through the earnest money of the Spirit (borrowing some Pauline terms there). The “in the hearts” idea is communicating something like “until this hope rises in you” — until you see the blessed hope dawning.

So, no . . . the morning star references don’t identify Jesus with or as Satan, and the two aren’t brothers. Lucifer isn’t sharing any of this.

 

  1. I have a published article on Isaiah 14 and its connection to a similar story in Ugaritic religion if anyone is interested.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

About The Author

Comments

47 Responses to “Jesus and the Morning Star”

  1. Stu Klemm says:

    I am, interested, … Thank you MIchael!!

  2. This is exceedingly relevant as there is now a false teaching spreading more widely. That I know of, four (4) of my friends now openly say that they worship Lucifer because they have come to realize that Lucifer and Jesus are the same. Dr. Heiser is helping to save people from the pull of the many branches of the new age beliefs. I thank God for using Dr. Heiser to provide such clarity. EG

  3. J. Whidden says:

    Would it be accurate to summarize this as a case where the same symbol (morning star) is being used in two different figures of speech (brightness versus hope)? I think this is also true of Satan as the deceiving serpent (2 Cor 11:3) and Jesus as the lifted up serpent (John 3:14). Additionally, the disciples were to be shrewd as serpents (Matt 10:16).

  4. Richard Brown says:

    Love it! Very Illuminating.

  5. Bran says:

    Could Revelation 22:16 be calling DAVID the morning Star?

    If not, and it is referring to Christ as being the Morning Star, could “Son of the Morning Star” in Isaiah be another way to say “Son of God?”

    ??

    • MSH says:

      Isaiah 14 is not thinking of the messiah / son of God; it’s very negative in context (a judgment by God against the shining one).

      The use of the first person personal pronoun in Rev 22:16 in the mouth of Jesus precludes a third person reference to David.

      I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.

  6. Bruce says:

    Michael I think you did a great job with this lay out on the morning star. It’s really helped me understand things so much clearer on this subject. Thank you very much Michael.

  7. Andrew T. says:

    As a lurker – I very much (continue) to like your exegesis, and the simple way you present it. This post is an example.

    Furthermore, I agree with much of what you write (though not all (for example I think there’s more to ‘the nations’ than you seem aware of)) and so appreciate it when you explain your ideas plainly.

    I believe it makes many things much clearer. Thanks.

  8. Doug says:

    Thanks for this post. I adapted it for a lesson in my youth group this week, to get at what it means to live a Kingdom life now. Some of the newer students really took to the symbolism of the “new day coming.”

  9. Doug says:

    Mike,

    Out of curiosity, how would you deal with an idea. Satan was in some way related to the divine council, whether a deliberating member or a special adversarial prosecuting attorney. But he was a “son of God.” Jesus, prior to coming to earth, was also a member of the divine council, and hence a son of God (as your paper in the FARMs Review argues. Thus, since they are both sons of God, they are “brothers,” but only in a sense. It is the sense that the Word of God became a brother to the heavenly sons as he would later become a brother to the earthly sons, through a kind of adoption into the Royal Family and as their Creator. I’ve wondered about this question for a while. I’m not sure you would call Satan one of the sons of God. Nevertheless, there are other sons of God. So, as a fellow (but species unique) heavenly son of God, couldn’t we speak of them as brothers even as the NT speaks of Christians as brothers with Christ?

    • MSH says:

      divine beings live in a neighborhood (the spiritual world). What makes you think they’d all be related?

      The only commonality is being created by God. I’m created by the same creator. At the risk of something offering an affirmative answer, am I Satan’s brother?

      I hope you get the drift.

  10. Emil says:

    Hello MSH,

    I have been researching this particular subject for quite sometime now, and my conclusions suggest that this “morning star” or this “King of Babylon” are corrupted human sons of God. They are the “Judases”. They play the role of Essua, the brother of Jacob:

    Obadiah 1:3,4 -The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.

    Compared too:

    Isaiah 14:13 -You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.

    Read this entire chapter of Obadiah, it is speaking of judgement against Edom the descendants of Essua the brother of Jacob:

    Obadiah 1:10 -Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed for ever.

    • MSH says:

      I don’t see the phrase “morning star” in those Obadiah verses, and I tend not to insert words into passages. The Isa 14 passage is a DC passage, but the fact that pride is mentioned in both doesn’t argue anything. Just because the Edomites were proud doesn’t mean they weren’t human – ??

  11. Emil says:

    Sorry I was not clearer MHS,

    I am not saying they are NOT human, I am in fact saying that they ARE human, in both instances, of Isaiah and Obadiah.

    I don’t think just because the word “morning star” is not used in the passage in Obadiah means there is no connection. Since in Isaiah and Obadiah both nest among the “stars” and both are thrown to the earth. This seems to imply that in Obadiah like in Isaiah, this is a “morning star”. They both, in Isaiah and Obadiah sit themselves in the “heights”, they also in both verses sit themselves among the “stars” of heaven. Not only that they are both thrown down from heaven onto the earth. (Obadiah 1:4; Isaiah 14:15). This seems to imply that both are fallen stars (Revelation 8:10; Revelation 9:1).

    This seems to follow the same pattern as the “man of lawlessness”, the one who exalts himself above every god or object of worship, and sets himself in God’s temple, proclaiming to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4)

    In my opinion I think all of these passages are referring to men. Corrupted HUMAN sons of God. Not “spirits” or “fallen angels”.

    • MSH says:

      “Since in Isaiah and Obadiah both nest among the “stars” ” – I have no idea what you mean by that (where does Isaiah “nest” among the stars?).

      Not all stars are morning stars – ?

      Honestly, none of this is making sense to me.

      • Emil says:

        In other words both “individuals” in Isaiah and Obadiah “reside” among the stars. The stars being spoken about in these verses are HUMAN the sons of God. (Isaiah 14:13; Obadiah 1:4). They are corrupted HUMAN sons of God, this is why the dragon sweeps a third of these “STARS” away and throws them to the earth (Revelation 12:4). Think Judas Iscariot residing among Jesus and his apostles (John 17:12). Think the “man of lawlessness” sitting himself in the Temple of God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). think Satan stationing himself among the sons of God (Job 1:6).

        Theses corrupted stars are “residing” in a place THEY DO NOT BELONG, thus when the times comes they will be thrown out (Revelation12:9; Obadiah 1:4; Isaiah 14:15). Because they are the disgusting thing that is standing in a holy place (Mark 13:14). The Holy place is the assembly of the gods (Psalms 82:1).

        Again, think Judas Iscariot( who symbolized a corrupted son of God… John 17:12) Residing among Jesus and his apostles.(Who symbolized The assembly of the gods… 2 Thessalonians 2:4). This would make Judas Iscariot a disgusting thing standing in a holy place.

        • MSH says:

          humans don’t reside among the stars – ? And why would there be a single individual in view in the Obadiah passage (see “both” individuals in your sentence)?

          The accuser lost his adversarial office in Luke 10, and so backtracking to Job makes no sense to me. Luke 10:18 coincides with the beginning of the kingdom – Jesus’ earthly ministry (“the kingdom of God is among you”).

          What you’re arguing for just doesn’t make sense to me.

          • Emil says:

            I don’t think there is a single individual in Isaiah or Obadiah, as I don’t think the “MAN of lawlessness” is a single individual either… Do you? You seem to be looking at this very literally, when in my opinion much of this is symbolic. Morning Stars are symbolic for HUMAN sons of God, in my opinion. Read the account of Job and then read the first chapter of Isaiah. To be in the presence of God does not mean you have to be in the LITERAL heavens; see Genesis 4:14.

            Each and every last one of us have our own INDIVIDUAL battle to throw Satan from the heavens to the earth with the authority of Christ (Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 12:10).

            • MSH says:

              I’m just not following the logic; trying, but this sort of allegorizing of what looks very clear in Obadiah in terms of historical fulfillment just doesn’t cohere in my head.

              • Emil says:

                In my opinion you seem to be missing the spiritual aspect behind these scriptures, because you think these is nothing more there to look for. These events and stories in the scriptures have meaning behind them that the Father is trying to get us to see.

                Job 1:6 and Jeremiah 5:26, is actually saying the same exact thing. The “Satan” that is among the “sons of God” are wicked men and God’s people.

                This is why these disasters are happening to Job, God brings these calamities on Job because of the deeds of these wicked men, this “Satan”. There wicked acts causes God to bring fourth calamity:

                Genesis 6:13 -Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.

                • MSH says:

                  I don’t see humans in Job 1:6. It’s clearly a divine council (non-earthly) scene. I can’t see at all any textual basis for connecting Job (and Jeremiah 5:26 – I see no stars in that verse) to Genesis 6:13, as though those passages are presupposed by Genesis 6:13.

  12. Seth says:

    So, when the sons of god are called ‘the morning stars,’ in effect they are being called ‘the Venuses?’

    I’m not against the idea but for some reason it strikes me a little odd. I can get over it, though.

    • MSH says:

      no; you’re missing the point.

      • Seth says:

        Au contraire! I completely get the idea that it symbolizes something new and/or shining. But “morning star” is an ancient term for Venus and “morning stars” is another term for ‘sons of god.’

        It just seems to me that the ‘sons of gods’ were also being called “the Venuses.”

        I’m not trying to detract from or comment on your overall point. I’m just making a casual, insignificant observation that isn’t meant to effect your point in any way, whatsoever.

        • MSH says:

          I don’t see “morning star” in Obadiah, just stars. Where that phrase does appear in the Bible, there is some divine flavoring to it, supplied by the context. I need something in the context to tell me we’re talking about divine beings. That’s obvious in Job 38 (it’s before the heavenly objects were created – something that in Genesis happens AFTER the “foundations” of the earth are laid (cp. Gen 1:9, 16 – i.e., after dry land appears).

          In other words, the word “stars” doesn’t automatically say divine beings. You need something in the context for that. In Edom’s case, not only don’t we get “morning” with the word, but the geography of Edom itself explains the language (heights – hence the reference to eagles’ nests).

          I still don’t know if I’m tracking.

          • Anonymous says:

            “In other words, the word “stars” doesn’t automatically say divine beings. You need something in the context for that”….

            Revelation 1:20 -… the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches…

  13. Emil says:

    Hopefully, to make my point a little more clearer…

    These corrupted sons of God are residing among faithful sons of God. They are the weeds among the wheat, the goats among the sheep. They are ones claiming to be Jews(sons of God) but they are not, they are liars (Revelation 3:9). And when Christ comes he will gather them up and remove them from his kingdom and from among the faithful sons of God.(Matthew 13:41,42).

  14. [...] Mike Heiser surveys “morning star” in the OT before turning to the use of the phrase in 2 Peter and Revelation. [...]

    • Emil says:

      Don’t forget the mention of “stars” in Jude as well:

      Jude 1:13 -wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; WANDERING STARS, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

      But, OK MSH,

      Who would you say these “STARS” are, in the OT…

      Daniel 8:10 -It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the STARS to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down.

      What do you think about these STARS in Daniel, are they divine beings, or are they men, or neither?

      • MSH says:

        In the Daniel 8:10 passage, I think it’s best to see divine beings.

        • Emil says:

          Than if the stars in Daniel are divine beings, what king could possibly throw these divine beings to the ground from out of heaven and trample them (Daniel 8:10; Daniel 8:23-25).

          • MSH says:

            The little horn “grew great, even to the host of heaven” (8:9-10) – and so the context is the celestial host, not humans, *for that statement*. The stars are members of that host, and star language, across the ancient near east served metaphorically for divine beings.

            The combat, just like in the War Scroll at Qumran, speaks of both divine and human warfare (simultaneous). There is combat in heaven and on earth at the same time. This is normative for a divine council worldview, as the nations are under the dominion of gods. What happens on earth reflects what happens in the unseen world, and vice versa. So the point isn’t a human fighting against non-humans.

            • Emil says:

              But this is exactly what the scripture says. That this horn that throws the stars from heaven to the earth and tramples them is a horn that comes up from the four horns (Daniel 8:9). This male goat which the four horns comes from and then also this big horn which comes from one of the four, is revealed to be the kingdom of “Greece” (Daniel 8:21-24). Yet you seem to be saying otherwise, that this is a non human agent. Yet again it says this horn will destroy powerful people and the people of the holy ones, and will even rise up against the prince of princes (Daniel 8:25,26).

              • MSH says:

                I’m only saying that the passage (and other apocalyptic literature) describes such conflict on two levels that are tied together conceptually. You don’t literally trample a spirit (how would you do that?).

                • Emil says:

                  You seem to be adding a concept into the text that’s not there. How do you interpret a conflict on two levels from this passage in Daniel? Even if this is the case in other literature, how do you see that here?

                  • MSH says:

                    “as in heaven, so on earth” – what happens in either realm impacts the other. It’s an idea strewn throughout the Bible.

                  • Emil says:

                    I never have seen this concept in the scriptures before. It seems we will just have to agree to disagree, thank you for entertaining my many queries and suggestions.

Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up. Patience is a virtue; there is no need to re-submit your comment.