Heiser was a consultant on this little video. It sums of his other-realm-ology rather succinctly with us without mentioning any specific pagan texts.
I don’t interpret in Genesis the sun and moon ruling day and night to mean they were spiritual entities. Nations around Israel worshipped them, but I do not see where they are presented as evil or rebellious creations elsewhere in scripture. Is interpreting Genesis to mean the sun and moon are intelligent beings, sons of God, maybe even, members of the divine council interpreting the Bible through a pagan lens?
There seems to be a gap in assuming that the ‘sons of God’ in various passages are members of the divine council, too. It might be a feasible hypothesis, but is there a reason to really believe to that unless you think Biblical other-world-ology has to conform to pagan ideas. Otherwise, what objections do you have to the overall theory here?
FIRST OFF Heiser is not the author of neither of all these notions combined in his 2004 dissertation (“The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Canonical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” [Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004]
While he was writing it Alan Segal produced in 2002 the TWO POWERS IN HEAVEN: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism
And James McGrath and Jerry Truex ‘TWO POWERS’ AND EARLY JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN MONOTHEISM (JBS 2004 – a killer 30pg work)
Heiser’s views came much later obviously in attempt to interact with the prior publications The careful reader should first note the extra Biblical references to early rabbinicalism, gnosticism and in the extra step Heiser took into
Non-Canonical Second Temple Jewish Literature (which is a major deviation in restoring the lost writ of the first temple tradition)
Segal argued that the two powers idea was not deemed heretical in Jewish theology until the second century C.E but the truth of the fact is that it is considered heretical in Jewish Orthodoxy and it always has. Heiser built on that notion toying with Persian dualism still unable to discern any coherent religious framework within Orthodoxy
Heiser proceeded on the said notion to bridge the gap between Segal and the Hebrew Bible. The said Gap could not be bridged via the Bible alone so he used a secular and very dualistic Canaanite religious context to suggest
1. An “original model” for the two powers – basic dualism opposing Biblical monotheism
2. role of the vice-regent of the divine council
3. a high sovereign God (El) who rules heaven and earth through the agency of a second, appointed god (Baal) – which will be later taken by Gnostics, Paulikians, Bogomils and other early Christian heresies
4. the elohim of the OT then was not God the Father but any false deity that was worshipped including Baal and false-god demons
5. Finally a second Yahweh introduced by Heiser as the OT Jesus was both sovereign and vice regent in the head of the divine council (claimed in his later work on Rev. 12 if I remember correctly).
Having laid a foundation that monotheism is compatible with divine plurality, which is not Biblical
Heiser turned to argue for plurality within Yahweh Himself in the The Jewish Trinity via Logos Mobile Ed course while the common thread tying these texts together is their attempts to identify the “second Yahweh”.
The ESSENCE and the FACT of the matter comes to the FACT that
The dividing of divine titles of GOD in Exodus by an unknown group was considered a heresy by Jews in the first and second centuries C.E. A sense of unity may also be read in the text of LXX Exod 19:21-24. When θεὸς was speaking in vv. 21-22, he spoke about the titles θεὸς, κύριος ὁ θεὸς, and κύριος in third person. Rabbi Idi of the third century argued against a contemporary belief that saw two divine figures in Exod 24:1Without naming the heresy, he describes a passage conducive to the ‘two powers’ heresy (Ex. 24:1). In that scripture, God orders Moses and the elders to ascend to the Lord. Since the text says, ‘Come up to YHWH’ and not ‘Come up to me,’ the heretic states that two deities are present.
The tetragrammaton [YHWH] would then be the name of a second deity, a conclusion further supported by the lack of an explicit subject for the verb ‘said’ in the Massoretic Text”
(Segal, Two Powers in Heaven, 68 – While Segal produced the theory as a notion widely rejected by Jeiwsh Orthodoxy as heretical, Heiser took it and run with it looking for any proof possible. Such was not in the BIBLE at all so he reached widely in what he called Non-Canonical Second Temple Jewish Literature – his bibliography shows but parts of it)
The Psalm 82 paper was also prompted by criticisms posted in 2009 by Alpha and Omega Ministries (AOM). That I really don’t consider these criticisms serious is indicated by the fact that they have existed on the web since 2009 with no online response on my part (though many have emailed me the link and asked me to respond). Rather than engage people on the internet on these matters, my choice was to submit my views to public peer review at an academic evangelical conference (and I’ve actually done that several times now at ETS in a piecemeal sort of way via other papers). Eventually, I will be merging the two papers to submit to a peer-reviewed journal, hopefully sometime in 2011.
See, “peer review” is the standard of orthodoxy in the rarified air of the academy. Never mind every journal pouring forth heresy and soul-destroying skepticism is “peer-reviewed,” and never mind “peer reviewed” normally means “completely disconnected from the body of faith,” this is the only standard by which truth is now known. Of course, just about every discredited, nutty theory of the past hundred years first appeared in a “peer-reviewed” journal, too. Too bad having a “church reviewed” journal doesn’t seem to be a really big idea these days. But this clear statement of his priorities (and his disrespect of anyone who actually takes these matters to the believers as a whole rather than keeping them strictly in the academy) was not enough, he had to repeat himself for emphasis:
The AOM response is curious. On the one hand, AOM has found my material useful with respect to countering Mormonism’s use of Psalm 82 (see the above link; better, see my article critiquing Mormonism’s use of Psalm 82 — published in a Mormon journal no less — kudos to them for fair play). But on the other hand, my views are criticized in the same AOM post and answered with rather feckless arguments. That it doesn’t even get my job title right (not hard to check — Logos has one Academic Editor, not several) doesn’t speak well of the quality of the research that went into the response. Nevertheless, the criticisms are understandable in that they are motivated by a desire to defend monotheism. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the AOM writer has much of a grasp of how my position reinforces orthodox Christology (see the last paragraph of the link, but it may be the case that the new Psalm 82 paper probably does a better job of articulating Jesus’ use of Psalm 82 in John 10).
Then Heiser climbs even higher up into the stratosphere, explaining that he has been “impugned” by…someone disagreeing with him, and not doing it, evidently, in the proper place (which is the conference or the journal, never the wider audience of the church, where people are actually doing ministry—the very same issue that arose when I reviewed the long-standing statements of Mark Seifrid back in 2004 and got the very same kind of response of “How dare you talk about this in public! These things are only to be discussed within the walls of the academy!”). He demands an apology! I am not sure for what, but my guess would be for simply daring to disagree with someone so much “higher” in the academic pecking order:
Frankly, I wouldn’t care at all about what AOM posted about me were it not for the tone. The AOM post has the distinct feel of calling my evangelical commitments into question (again, see the posted link, especially the last half of the post). The AOM response is a shame, since I have directed a good number of emailers to their site in the past since there is some good material there. I’d like to continue doing that, but my recommendations will end as of this Naked Bible post unless I receive an apology for the way the AOM post impugns me. And as an integrity check, I’d also like that apology to be appended at the end of the original AOM post itself (or just remove it). I will of course post an apology here so readers see it (and amend this post). I have no interest in keeping readers from AOM material, but it just isn’t congruent for me to recommend people who need answers to questions to a site that impugns me.
Excuse me, but I really do not think we are overly dependent upon “Naked Bible” references for our readership, and, I don’t believe Michael Heiser has the power to “keep readers from AOM material” unless he will soon be appointed Internet Czar for Academic Orthodoxy or something like that. So I am left wondering just what it is he wishes me, or TurretinFan, to apologize for. I do not apologize for calling for an interpretation of sacred scripture that actually takes the entirety of its revelation into consideration. That Heiser is basically attempting to “pull rank” based upon some kind of academic authority comes out plainly here:
Finally, if anyone wants to respond to my views on Psalm 82 in the future, the new Psalm 82 paper makes it apparent as to what needs to be done: (1) engage the Hebrew text rather than proof-texting the English Bible; and (2) provide coherent responses to the list of items in the conclusion to the Psalm 82 paper. I want to see something with explanatory power and answers to specific issues I bring up in my article, not dismissive online glibness. I want you to tell me —and of course the online or academic communities — how your position faithfully takes all the germane material into account in a way more coherent than my position. Let’s have it. I’ll be happy to post it and interact with it. In the absence of a substantive response, I don’t plan on posting on this again. I have better things to do.
Note the “you can’t even begin to interact with my theological conclusions unless you read Hebrew.” Well, I’ve taught Hebrew, and found Heiser’s assertions wanting. So what? Here’s my contention: there are great riches to be mined from the original languages; however, if you cannot teach the meaning of a text without teaching your audience the original language itself, you aren’t much of a communicator/instructor. I love teaching the languages, but there is truth in the criticism of some that sometimes academics turn the languages into a key of gnosis, all because they do not seek to edify the saints first and foremost.
Personally, I honestly do not care if Michael Heiser finds my position “feckless” or “glib.” If my goal was to be “in” with his crowd, I would not write the vast majority of what I write, address the vast majority of what I address. We have different audiences, to be sure. But I refuse to give up the middle, balanced ground we have staked out over the decades. On the one side you have the likes of Dave Hunt, who mocks all study of the original languages (except when it suits his purposes). He represents the reprehensible attack upon serious study of the biblical text that is so common in certain elements of evangelicalism. On the other hand you have the attitude expressed by Heiser here, which elevates the academy above the church, makes “peer review” the standard rather than the expression of the mind of the church in the wisdom of those men called as elders whose duty it is to actually teach and preach the Word of God, so that the edification of the body and training in godliness and truth becomes a mere “by-product” of the all-important intellectual activity of the academy. Hebrew and Greek are vital, but if you become so focused upon the languages so as to lose the balance and harmony of all of Scripture, well…you are not helping yourself or anyone else.
About James White
James White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the author of more than twenty four books, a professor, an accomplished debater.