Friday, December 29, 2017

The Hart Idiosyncratic Version

David Bentley Hart Jumping the Shark

David Bentley Hart is usually referred to as an "Orthodox theologian." While he is undoubtedly a highly intelligent and well educated man, he is not an "Orthodox theologian" in any traditional sense. He qualifies as a theologian in a purely academic sense; however, his theology is hardly Orthodox. He feels free to pick and choose which Ecumenical Councils he personally accepts, to hold views that the Church formally condemns, and I have not heard or read anything that he has said that would demonstrate that his conversion to Orthodoxy has had any discernible impact on his theology. He still speaks and writes like a somewhat eccentric Anglican who has his own opinions about the Faith, and feels free to take or leave any particular teachings or traditions of the Church. In fact, were he a more conservative Anglican, he would more often come down on the Orthodox side of many of the controversial issues that he has taken a vocal position on [For specific examples of what I mean, see: The Strange Theology of David Bentley Hart].

DBH's recently published translation of the New Testament (entitled "The New Testament: A Translation," but which I will refer to hereafter as the "Hart Idiosyncratic Version," or "HIV" for short) would have been vastly improved, in fact, if he had taken a few cues from his Anglican forebears. Here are some of the more important instructions King James issued to the translators that produced the King James Version:
"The names of the prophets and the holy writers, with the other names in the text, to be retained, as near as may be, accordingly as they are vulgarly used."
Which means that you should stick with the form of the names in English that are most commonly used, and thus you would not end up with a New Testament book entitled in his version "The Letter of Judas". You would stick with Jude, though you might note in a footnote or introduction that the names "Jude," "Judas," and "Judah," are all variant forms of the same name.
"The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, as the word church, not to be translated congregation."
You should keep the terms that the Church has been using, and so ekklesia should be translated as "Church," and not as "congregation" or "assembly," and so you would not end up with such monstrosities as:
"And to you I also say, You are Peter [Rock], and upon this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades shall have no power against it" (Matthew 16:18 HIV).
Now DBH argues that his readers should read the text as the early Church would read it, and so read the word "ekklesia" as a common word with no preconceived significance. But for some reason, he sticks with words like "baptism," and"baptize," which he could just as easily have translated as "immersion," and "immerse," and so he could have ended the Gospel of Matthew with a command to go and immerse all nations (Matthew 28:19). Why the difference? These are the whims you are in for when you read a translation from a single translator, who has his own axes to grind.

His axe grinding is particularly in evidence whenever the text touches on the question of eternal damnation, which he denies, in favor of the universalist heresy long condemned by the Church. And so he has the parable of the sheep and the goats ending with:
"And these shall go to the chastening of that Age, but the just to the life of that Age" (Matthew 25:46 HIV).
There is not a single commentary by a Father of the Church that would support translating this passage in this manner, nor is there a single major English translation that has translated it this way. For more on that, I would recommend Fr. Lawrence Farley's reviews of the HIV, here:
 And here is a particularly important rule King James laid out:
" When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most eminent fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place and the analogies of faith."
So in other words, when a word, or a phrase could be translated in more than one way, just in terms of the rules of Greek grammar and the meaning of the words in question, we should translate them in a way that is consistent with how they were understood by the most important Church Fathers. A good example of this in action is in the case of John 5:39. DBH (and in this instance, most modern translations) translate this as saying something along the lines of "You search the Scriptures..." Which would have Christ simply acknowledging that the Pharisees were already doing this. The King James Version, however, translates this verse as a command: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." Both are possible translations of the Greek. So why did the KJV translate it this way? Because that is how the most important Fathers of the Church understood it. There are a great many other errors that DBH could have avoided had he taken this approach, but we will talk about more examples shortly.

Another important aspect of the rules laid out by King James for his translators was that he established that they should do their translations in 6 teams, composed of a total of 47 scholars, with 3 general editors. And when there was an issue of disagreement, there was a system for resolving it, which often resulted in margin notes that presented the minority opinion, when consensus was not finally achieved. This resulted in not only the most beautiful English translation that has ever been done, but translations driven by individual pet peeves were weeded out, while in the HIV, pet peeves shape the entire text. This is also why every major translation has followed a similar model ever since.

DBH claims that committee translations are flawed because in such committees of scholars
"...novel approaches to the text are generally the first to perish, and only the tried and trusted survive" (HIV, p. xiv). 
And he says that like novelty is a good thing, and the tried and trusted are bad. In fact, the Fathers of the Church used the term "novelty" as a synonym for heresy. As the saying goes, "All that's old might not be gold, but if it's new, it can't be true." That's not true of technology, but when it comes to the revealed truths of the Christian Faith in general, and to the Scriptures in particular, it is certainly true.

DBH is so sure that only he has properly understood the New Testament that he asserted in an interview:
"The first thing I would say to anyone who doesn't read Greek is don't buy or read any modern translation... in English. None of them is any good" (Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast, episode 103, July 13, 2017, beginning at about the 3:00 mark).
And this advice narrows the options quite a bit, because obviously those who don't know Greek can only read the New Testament in translation, and apparently this leaves them only with the HIV as a viable option.

An Acid Test

In DBH's opinion, here is the primary problem with committee translations:
"And this can result in the exclusion not only of extravagantly conjectural readings, but often of the most straightforwardly literal as well. (A sort of "acid test" for me is Judas [or Jude] 1:19, a verse whose meaning is startlingly clear in the Greek but which no collaborative translation I know of translates in any but the vaguest and most periphrastic manner.)" (HIV, p. xiv).
DBH elaborated on what he thinks Jude 1:19 really means in an interview he did with the Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast:
"Now, every good scholar knows what... what... I mean, this is a reference to a distinction... we don't understand the distinction fully, because it's... you know... all of the early schools of Christian thought shared it in one form or another, both Orthodox or heterodox, or what we would call "Gnostics" now, but there was a distinction between the "psychical" and the "pneumatical"... between "psychics" and "pneumatics." Now, in Paul it seems... and he uses these terms too, but they get hidden from view in those translations, but you assume that the "pneumatics" are those who have been formed by, instructed by, filled by the Holy Spirit in a special way, and so therefore their spirits are now alive in God. But it's also a distinction in... you know... ranks, in a sense, or in degrees of spiritual attainment, and what the letter of Jude, or Judas, as I translate it in my translation, is that they're... you know... "psychical" men, who really... and... In every translation I can think of... that I consulted, in modern translations... Spirit then becomes the Holy Spirit -- which it clearly isn't in the original, or at least not in any straight forward way. And "psychical" is translated as... you know... as things like "men of sensual proclivity"... or "men who live according to the flesh" -- all the things it's not actually saying... it's a distinction... they know what it means. These sorts of small divergences become catastrophic at various places in the text... they alter the meaning" (Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast, episode 103, July 13, 2017, beginning at about the 4:38 mark).
So since he has declared this verse to be his acid test, I propose we apply this acid test to his own translation. And note that he begins by suggesting that all scholars -- at least all good scholars -- agree with him on this. And what he is asserting is that all early Christian groups had two levels of membership, psychics and pneumatics, but then says that this is a distinction we don't really understand, and so apparently the real meaning is lost to the Church. But as we will see, it is in fact only the Gnostic and Proto-Gnostic groups that made the kind of distinction (of a two tiered membership) that he is suggesting here.

Here is how DBH translates the text:
"These are those who cause divisions, psychical men, not possessing spirit" (Judas 19 HIV).
And he provides the following footnote to his odd, and not particularly illuminating choice of words here:
"Despite its long history of often vague and misleading translations, this verse clearly invokes the distinction between psyche and pneuma (soul and spirit) as principles of life, and between "psychics" and "pneumatics" as categories of persons. There is most definitely no reference here to the Holy Spirit: given the construction of the sentence, the absence of the definite article alone makes this certain; and the reasoning of the sentence makes it all the more so" (HIV, p. 495).
First off, just looking at the text itself here. Does it seem likely that if St. Jude saw "psychical men" as a legitimate class of members in the Church, that he would make such a sweeping statement about people of that class causing divisions in the Church? Furthermore if you look at the context of this verse in the entire epistle, it is clear that these "psychical men" are apostates to be shunned, not simply lower men on the totem pole.

And while he asserts that all good scholars agree with his understanding of the meaning of these two terms (psychikoi and pneumatikoi), and so would understand how they are functioning in this text, apparently every Greek scholar who worked on every major translation of the Bible is not a good scholar, because they clearly did not understand the absence of the definite article in this instance to mean that it cannot possibly be referring to the Holy Spirit. Obviously, how definite articles may work in one language will not always correspond with how they work in another, and I think that the many centuries of Greek scholars who have worked on translations of this passage knew Greek at least as well as DBH does.

In DBH's postscript he elaborates further on this verse:
"Precisely how Jude or his readers would have understood this distinction ["psychics" and "pneumatics"] is uncertain, but it is there in the text all the same. Today we tend to think that such divisions among persons, or even among Christians within the church, were among the more exotic eccentricities of the para-Christian or "gnostic" movements of the second century and after. But, even if the word "gnostic is useful as a general designation for groups outside of the ecclesial maintstream, their language on this matter was in continuity with language used by early Christians of just about every stripe. Jude may not have conceived of such a distinction as some sort of ontological division between different kinds of human beings, but he certainly did see it as a division between different states of sanctification or "spiritual" progress, and he may well have believed that "spirit" is a special property acquired by progressive sanctification. (And, frankly, we cannot be certain that all the so-called gnostics saw the matter much differently.) (HIV, p. 562f). 
I could go on with quoting his comments, but suffice it to say that he continues to make the case that early Christian thought and gnostic thought were far closer than the Church has acknowledged, and that St. Jude is not distinguishing between immoral heretics and Christians, but between different levels of sanctification among Christians within the Church.

Let's look at what a very prominent New Testament scholar, Richard Bauckham (also an Anglican), has to say in his commentary on the Epistle of St. Jude, verse 19:
"ψυχικοί, Πνεῦμα μὴ ἔχοντες, "who follow mere natural instincts, and do not possess the Spirit." ψυχικός (pertaining to ψυχή, "soul" or "life" is used in 1 Cor 2:14; 15:44, in a contrast with πνευματικός (pertaining to πνεῦμα, the Spirit"): it refers to merely physical life, the life of this world, without the eschatological gift of the Holy Spirit. In Jas 3:15 (the only other NT occurrence) ψυχικός has a similar but even more sharply negative sense: the God-given wisdom "from above" is contrasted with the wisdom that is "earthly unspiritual, devilish" (ἐπίγειος, ψυχική, δαιμονιώδης).
Although Paul's use of πνευματικός and ψυχικός in 1 Cor 2:14-15 is widely, though not universally, regarded as echoing the terminology of his opponents at Corinth, no fully convincing source for this terminology has yet been demonstrated. The second-century gnostic use of πνευματικός and ψυχικός (B. A. Pearson, The Pneumatikos-Psychikos Terminology in 1 Corinthians [SBLDS 12; Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1973] chap. 6) derives from their exegesis of Paul (Pagels, Paul, 59, 163-64).
Hellenistic-Jewish Wisdom theology is a more promising source (Pearson, Pneumatikos-Psychikos), but not only is the terminology πνευματικός and ψυχικός itself unattested; there is not even a regular anthropological distinction between πνεῦμα ("spirit") as the higher element and ψυχή ("soul") as the lower element in man (R. A. Horsley, "Pneumatikos vs. Psychikos," HTR 69 [1976] 270-73, criticizing Pearson). Although some Hellenistic anthropology did distinguish the ψυχή ("soul") as a lower element from the νοῦς ("mind") as the higher element, the devaluation of ψυχή  ("soul") by comparison with πνεῦμα ("spirit") must result from the early Christian belief in the Spirit not as a constituent of human nature, but as the gift of God to the believer.
Since the background to Paul's use of πνευματικός and ψυχικός is so uncertain, we cannot draw firm conclusions as to Jude's relationship to it: whether that Jude borrowed the term ψυχικός from Paul, or that Jude's opponents borrowed it from Paul, or that Jude's opponents shared it with Paul's opponents. It is safer to interpret Jude's words in their own context.
Clearly Πνεῦμα μὴ ἔχοντες (not possessing the Spirit") explains ψυχικοί: the false teachers do not posses the Spirit of God, but live purely at the level of the natural, earthly life. As most commentators recognize, it is likely that Jude here contradicts his opponents' claim to possess the Spirit. Probably they connected this claim with their visionary experiences and the revelations they received in their visions (v 8). The Spirit of prophetic inspiration inspired them, and as men of the Spirit they claimed to be free from moral restraint and superior to moral judgments. Jude's denial of this claim rests on their immoral behavior, which shows that they cannot be led by the Spirit of God, but merely "follow their own desires for ungodliness" (v 18). Such people are merely ψυχικοί, devoid of the Spirit. Whether ψυχικοί was the false teachers' own term for other Christians, who did not share their charismatic experience and moral freedom, is less certain. It is possible that Jude turns the tables on them in this way, but equally possible that ψυχικοί is simply his own judgment on them" (Word Biblical Commentary: Jude - 2 Peter, vol. 50 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), p. 106f).
St. Bede, an Orthodox Englishman who predated Baukham by twelve centuries, had this to say about this verse:
"The condemned separate themselves this way from the lot of the righteous, they are physical, that is they follow the cravings of their own soul, because they have not deserved to have the Spirit of unity by which the Church is gathered together, by which it is made spiritual. Therefore they spread apart, because they do not have the glue of charity" (Bede the Venerable: Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, trans. Dom David Hurst O.S.B., Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publication, 1985), p. 250f).
You have less detail here, but an entirely compatible interpretation with Richard Baukham.

St. Augustine has this to say:
"The enemy of unity has no share in God's love. Those who are outside the church do not have the Holy Spirit, and this verse is written of them (Letters 185:50, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, Gerald Bray, ed. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 200) p. 256).
And let's look at what several Greek speaking Fathers (who knew Greek far better than DBH) had to say about this passage:
"These are people who separate believers from one another, under the influence of their own unbelief. They cannot distinguish between holy things on the one hand and dogs on the other (St. Clement of Alexandria, Adumbrations, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, Gerald Bray, ed. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 200) p. 256).
"The Nestorians are sensual men, not having the Spirit, because they divide the one Christ and Son and Lord into two sons... For they pretend to confess one Christ and Son and say that his person is one, but by dividing him into two separate hypostases they completely sweep away the doctrine of the mystery (St, Cyril of Alexandria, Letters 50, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, Gerald Bray, ed. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 200) p. 257).
 "Here we see yet another crime which these awful heretics have committed. Not only are they perishing themselves; they have raided the church and taken people away from it, which means that they have taken them outside of the faith into their own assemblies, which are dens of thieves. Such people behave as as if they were animals according to the pattern of the world and the demands of their instincts" (Oecumenius, Commentary on Jude, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, Gerald Bray, ed. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 200) p. 257).
It is rather obvious that none of these fathers read Jude 19 as DBH does. None of them think St,. Jude is speaking merely of different levels of sanctification within the Church,but rather of people who are heretics, who live according to the flesh, and who are outside of the Church, not having the Holy Spirit.

Obscuring the Text for the Sake of Political Correctness

In 1 Corinthians 6:9, there are two types of people (among several others) that St. Paul tells us will not inherit the Kingdom of God: the malakoi and the arsenokoitai... and so knowing who these types of people actually are is a rather crucial point. DBH translates these two types of people as "feckless sensualists" and "men who couple with catamites". These translations sounds rather "vague and periphrastic" to me.

With regard to his translation of malakoi, he provides a footnote which says:
"A man who is malakos is either "soft" -- in any number of opprobrious senses: self-indulgent, dainty, cowardly, luxuriant, morally or physically week -- or "gentle" -- in various largely benign senses: delicate, mild, congenial. Some translators of the New Testament take it here to mean the passive partner in male homoerotic acts, but that is an unwarranted supposition" (HIV, p. 327).
DBH is simply wrong here. Let me cite Anthony C. Thiselton's highly respected commentary on 1 Corinthians:
"[Robin] Scroggs allows [in his book The New Testament and Homosexuality] that while μαλακός may mean unmanly in general terms, more characteristically it is used of "the youth who consciously imitated feminine styles and ways." This all too readily slips into "passive homosexual activity" whether for pleasure or for pay.  From the classical period to Philo extreme distaste is expressed in Greek and hellenistic literature for the effeminate male who uses cosmetics and the coiffuring of the hair, for which Philo sometimes uses the term ανδρόγυνος, male-female (e.g. De Specialibus Legibus 3.37). These Issues lie behind the astonishing array of English translations in our versions.
In general there is broad (but not unanimous) agreement that μαλακοὶ in 1 Cor 6:9-10 denotes "the passive... partner... in male homosexual relations" (Barrett), but whereas Scrogg argues that it refers to the call boy who prostitutes his services to an older male, usually for pay, many others tend to regard the evidence for restricting the term to pederasty linked with male prostitution as at best indecisive and at worst unconvincing. Scroggs depends for his view on the background of pederastic practices in Graeco-Roman society (whether voluntary, or for payment) and the impact of this culture for the pejorative reactions in hellenistic Judaism (especially Philo)"  (The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmanns Publishing Company, 2000) p. 448f).
Robert Gagnon's book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, (which was endorsed by both Brevard Childs and Bruce Metzger (certainly among the most influential scholars in their fields (Old Testament and New Testament, respectively)), after discussing the conclusions of other scholars on this word, says this:
"In my own reading, the meaning of malakoi in 1 Cor 6:9 probably lies somewhere in between "only prostituting passive homosexuals" and "effeminate heterosexual and homosexual males." Because the word has a broad range of meaning in Greek literature, what it specifically means for any given writer will vary. However, here, Paul places this vice alongside a list of offenses that lead to exclusion from the kingdom. This suggests he refers to an offense more serious than simply a "limp wrist" (contra Martin).... Immoral sexual intercourse, then, would appear to be an identifying mark of the malakoi. Furthermore, the epithet "soft" itself suggests males playing the female role in sexual intercourse with other males" (The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001), p. 307f, he discusses the term extensively, especially in pp. 306 -312).
And so there is more than a little bit of warrant for understanding this term to be in reference to feminizing males engaged in homosexual acts, the debate is more a matter of the exact context and circumstances in which this group of people engaged in such behavior, but the general idea is fairly clear.

With regard to his translation of arsenokotai, DBH provides a footnote which says:
"Precisely what an aresenokoites is has long been a matter of speculation and argument. Literally, it means a man who "beds" -- that is "couples with" -- "males." But there is no evidence of its use before Paul's text. There is one known instance in the sixth century AD of penance being prescribed for a man who commits arsenokoiteia upon his wife (sodomy, presumably), but that does not tell us with certainty how the word was used in the first century (if indeed it was used by anyone before Paul). It would not mean "homosexual" in the modern sense of a person of a specific erotic disposition, for the simple reason that the ancient world possessed no comparable concept of a specifically homoerotic sexual identity; it would refer to a particular sexual behavior, but we cannot say exactly which one. The Clementine Vulgate interprets the word arsenokoitai as referring to paedophiles; and a great many versions of the New Testament interpret it as meaning "sodomites." My guess at the proper connotation of the word is based simply upon the reality that in the first century the most common and readily available form of male homoerotic sexual activity was a master's or patron's exploitation of young male slaves" (HIV, p. 327f).
DBH translates this word with the phrase "men who couple with catamites" Now "catamite" is not a word you run across every day, but it means "a boy kept for homosexual sex." If that were the real meaning of the term, there is a perfectly good English word for men who have sex with boys, and that would be "pederast," but that would raise the question of why St. Paul did not use the Greek word that "pederast" comes from (παιδεραστής), because if that was what he meant, that would have been the logical word to use. As DBH points out, the term arsenokotai has no prior non-Christian or non-Jewish usage, and it is clear that word was coined from the Septuagint text of Leviticus 18:22 ("καὶ μετὰ ἄρσενος οὐ κοιμηθήσῃ κοίτην γυναικός· βδέλυγμα γάρ ἐστιν." "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination"). This term is paralleled in a phrase from rabbinic literature: "mishkav zakur" ("lying with a male"), which is "the term most often used to describe male homosexuality" (Scroggs, p. 107f, quoted in Thiselton, p. 450). Robert Gagnon also discusses this term extensively, in pages 312-336 of his book.

Neither of these words are mysterious. The Greek speaking Church has used them since the time of St. Paul, and there is no real doubt about them. If the words were mysterious, the Greek Fathers that comment on this passage would have felt a need to explain what they thought they meant, but I have not seen any that did not assume the meanings of these words to be obvious.

Note also that DBH is using what Gagnon calls "the new knowledge argument," which is that the people of St. Paul's time did not understand homosexuality to be what we understand it to be now. This is a common argument made by homosexual apologists, but in the following video, Robert Gagnon takes that argument apart, in great detail:

For more on this issue, I would recommend Robert Gagnon's book, as the most thorough treatment of the subject available in print.

So in short, while DBH claims that his translation presents us with the unvarnished meaning of the text, here, for some reason, he goes to great lengths to obscure and explain away the clear meaning of the text.

Holy Ground

One could write several volumes on all the problems with this translation, but rather than to continue to cite examples of bad translations, I will simply close with the observation that DBH shows no signs of an appreciation of the holy ground that he is trespassing on here. If you listen to his entire interview on the Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast (Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast, episode 103, July 13, 2017), you will hear him speak of the bad writing of the New Testament authors -- a judgment made in comparison with classical Greek usage. This is an entirely anti-Orthodox way of approaching the text of Scripture.

We should consider for a moment what we believe about the inspiration of Scripture. We believe that God inspired the Scriptures, but we do not believe that he dictated them to the human authors, but rather that the Holy Spirit spoke through them, and used their own dialect and manner of speaking to convey divine Truth. And so if God had inspired a Louisiana Cajun to write Holy Scripture, we would not expect Thurston Howell III's voice or style to be the result, but rather that we would have a text written in the Cajun dialect of the author. Likewise, God spoke through Jewish apostles who spoke Greek in a Semitic dialect, and so we should not expect to read Homer... we should expect a text written in the dialect of these Jewish authors. and unless you are an elitist, you should not assume local dialects are somehow inferior to more common or more standard dialects in any case. In fact, we should expect that the God who "hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree" (Luke 1:52) might prefer Louisiana Cajuns and Jewish fisherman over many of the more sophisticated alternatives.

Now in terms of translation, the Church has translated these texts into elevated forms of the languages they have been translated into, but so long as these translations faithfully convey the meaning of the text, there is no violence to Truth in doing so. This is in fact a way of showing reverence for the text. I would suggest that using elevated translations is the best way possible to substitute for the experience of reading the very words of the Apostles as they actually wrote them, and hearing their voices in a more direct way -- a privilege reserved for those able to read it without translation.

You never hear any of the Fathers denigrating the texts of Scripture, or mocking their style. They may sometimes note the simplicity in the style of some authors, but not in a way that is disrespectful, because it is the rich truth of Scripture that is conveyed that is important,  not how close various authors may or may not have come to writing in classical Greek or the style of Homer.


So to sum things up, save your money, and do not buy this text, or encourage anyone else to do so. In fact, I would not have bought a copy myself, just based on what I had seen from previous reviews, however, someone sent me a free copy, and asked me to write a review. So having fulfilled my obligations to the donor, I will now place this text next to my Jehovah's Witness Bible, and probably not use it again, unless the sudden need for a door stop should come upon me.

Update: Someone drew my attention to this howler of a translation:
"And we have the still firmer prophetic word of which you do well to take heed, as to a lamp shining in a dreary place, till day should dawn and Phosphoros arise in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19 HIV).
As Bauckham points out, "as a substantive φωσφορος [phosphoros] normally refers to the morning star, Venus (TDNT  9,312); Spicq, Lexicographie 954), which accompanied the first glimmerings of dawn and could therefore be thought of as introducing daylight into the world" (Word Biblical Commentary: Jude - 2 Peter, vol. 50 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), p. 225). Bauckham goes on to point out that most commentators agree that there is an allusion to Numbers 24:17 ("there shall come a Star out of Jacob"), which was understood as a Messianic prophesy by Jews and Christians alike.

As DBH translates it, what is fairly clear in just about any other translation, is obscured, and conjures images of phosphorus grenades, rather than what the word is actually intended to convey.

For more information, see:

An Orthodox Look at English Translations of the Bible

The New Testament in the strange words of David Bentley Hart, a review by N.T. Wright (an Anglican Bishop who is also an actual Biblical Scholar of some note)