In the last post about Michael Heiser’s theological conundrum, I expressed how he redefines the word “god” to mold his theology into what he finds from pagan literature. While the Bible and ancient Hebrew literature used the word elohim in a generic way, he has forced a technical meaning that has no precedence in the Bible. What he has classed as “gods” is consistently considered angels during the Second Temple period, but he diligently attempts to blur this before his readers eyes. He rightly accepts that elohim can mean “angels” in Psalm 8:5 (cf. LXX; Hebrew 2:7),1) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 62 however, he rejects the use of “angels” in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 due to “the word choice (‘angels’) comes from the Septuagint. Despite its imprecision, the divine orientation is clear.”2) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 98. fn 11 So he is rejecting the very word choice that God used because God’s words don’t agree with what Heiser’s theological presupposition holds. Heiser needs the “sons of God” from Genesis 6 to be understood as his classified second tier of gods, that is “the divine orientation” spoken of in the quote above, but it is clearly interpreted as angels in the New Testament and Second Temple literature.

Hieser endeavors to wedge a distinction between his “gods” with what all other researchers have understood as angels (but he considers me an “inept reader”).3) Michael Heiser, “Of Truth Watchers and Inept Readers,” Nov. 28, 2020; https://drmsh.com/truth-watchers-inept-readers/. Referring to Daniel 10:6, he states, “that shininess or brilliant luminescence is a stock description for a divine being.”4) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 119 Heiser interprets this shininess to prove it was a god, not an angel, being described (most commentators understand this as the pre-incarnate Christ). What about the New Testament descriptions of angels being shiny (Matthew 28:2-3; Luke 24:4; 2 Corinthians 11:14)? Are all these gods too? Or is this imprecise language similar to 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6, since it goes against his imposed theology? He claims, “Biblical scholars are in unanimous agreement that the ‘princes’ referred to in Daniel 10 are divine beings, not humans.”5) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 119 This comment is a logical fallacy as a sweeping generalization. Anyone who is an avid reader of authors writing about biblical literature knows there is no such things as “unanimous agreement.” Furthermore, most scholars do not impose a polytheistic worldview on the Bible and therefore there is no consensus on Daniel 10 speaking of “divine beings.” Oliver B. Greene says, “Certainly, this prince of Persia was none other than the devil himself—or one of his top emissaries.”6)Oliver B. Greene, Daniel Verse by Verse, The Gospel Hour Inc. (Greenville, SC: 1964, 1973), p. 402 Wiersbe considered the prince “an evil angel[.]”7)Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Resolute: Am Old Testament Study—Daniel, Cook Communication Ministries (Colorado Springs, CO: 2000), p. 125 The Bible Knowledge Commentary also referred the prince as “a satanic adversary.”8)J Dwight Pentecost, Daniel; The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, (ed. John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck), Victor Books , p. 1366 Jamieson, Fausset, Brown denoted the prince as “the angel of darkness[.]”9)Robert Jamieson, A. Fausset and David Brown, A Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Old and New Testament, Zondervan (Grand Rapid, MI), p. 643 Jesus Christ mentioned “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), Satan has angels in the book of Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 12:7 and 1 Enoch 54:6.10) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 38 Heiser is thus calling the devil (or an evil angel) a divine being—a god. It is the rank liberal scholars that Heiser immerses himself in that hold the polytheistic view which he finds unanimous agreement from, and he agrees with these liberals too.

He claims in the New Testament, “Good divine beings are predominantly referred to with angelos (‘angels’), whereas the term of choice for evil ones are daimon and daimanion.”11) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 164 So, instead of admitting that angels are sometimes called elohim, he says gods can be called angels. Another example of his reversing of biblical language to force his opinion with twisting semantics is seen in Genesis 18-19. Heiser says, “Yahweh himself and two other divine beings” and in the same paragraph he calls them “two angels.”12) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 187 Are these gods or angels? His ambiguity is confusing. His Psalm 82 worldview presents 70 evil “gods” ruling over the Gentile nations, but now he has good “gods” without number.

He explains, “Fundamentally, the terms [angelos/mal’ak, i.e. angel] describes a task performed by a divine being, not what a divine being is.”13) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 324 Here, he is indicating his view that the “divine beings” in his theology is ontologically unique and greater than angels. So, the very nature of his “gods” separates them from angels, but the “gods” can be called angels if they are performing the task of giving a message. He calls Carol Newsom’s expression “angelic elim” being translated as “angelic gods,” an “oxymoronic term”14) Michael Heiser, Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? Toward an Assessment of Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible,” Bulletin for Biblical Research, 18.1 (2008), p. 3; citing Carol A. Newsom, Songs of the Sabbath: A Critical Edition (HSM 27; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985), p. 23-24 clearly rejecting the angelic view with a strong derogatory attack against the many scholars that accept it. But, once again we find his own words contradicting. Heiser’s “gods” can perform the task of a messenger and even be called an angel, but other scholars are accused of utilizing oxymoronic terms when referring to angelic gods. Where exactly is he differing from what they are saying?

Using his Ugaritic text to interpret the Bible, he writes, “The divine assembly at Ugarit also included ‘messenger gods’ (ml’km), but contrary to the conclusions of scholars who have studied the divine council to this point, I do not consider the ml’km to be members of the divine council. The ml’km were present in council because they rendered service to the high god and the other gods who ranked above them, but the ruling council was composed entirely of El and his spouse and offspring.”15)Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Cannical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004, p. 45; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis Now he is trying to create a tidy distinction which he has argued against others for doing. As he says, the texts refer to “messenger gods” which by all means would literally translate to “angelic gods” which he says is an oxymoron. The text says what it says, but apparently not what he wants it to say. Furthermore, if ml’km is to mean a task that is performed, why cannot the Ugaritic gods be classified with both as he admits the Bible can use the words interchangeably when he wants it to. He is guilty of a false dichotomy when we have seen elsewhere he contradicts his own established dichotomy. His dichotomy is seen more blatant when he says, “At no time in Ugaritic literature or the Hebrew Bible are the מלאכים [angels] said to govern territory, nor are they ever referred to in royal terms.”16) Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Cannical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004, p. 58; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis But he can admit that we do see both men and angels being called gods, and his whole theological system is riding on Psalm 82 which says the “gods” are judged for their injustice over the nations. As we have seen, men being called “gods” do rule over nations, and many scholars understand “prince or Persia” from Daniel 10 to refer to an “evil angel” which is against his claim nowhere in the Bible are angels given to rule over nations or given royal terms. The phrase “anointed cherub” (Ezekiel 28:14) is likely a royal term for an angelic being. Cherubim are always placed close to God whether on the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:18) or during the merkabah vision in Ezekiel 10 (cf. Revelation 4). The fact that the cherub in Ezekiel 28 is anointed is likely speaking of his royal position since he is a fallen sinful being (Ezekiel 28:15-16), making him unfit to be a priest or prophet.

Heiser offers his artificial classification of these spiritual beings.

Third, I propose that the category of archangel is synonymous with the categories “Watcher,” “blessed ones” (Greek, μακαρες), “archon,” “principality,” and “dominion.” All the beings designated in these ways exercise earthly geographical sovereignty, a function that coincides with the sons of God in Deut 32:8-9 and the gods / sons of the Most High in Psalm 82.17)Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Cannical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004, p. 216; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis

I perceive this proposal is a weak one according to his own system of thought. First, if his system is emphatic on structuring a tier system of spiritual beings, and this tiered structure is based on the various terms used, why does he not differentiate these all as various categories of spiritual beings? Secondly, if he is willing to say all these terms are essentially synonymous for a single tier, why can he not be willing to view the “gods” as synonymous with a lower tier, or as traditional Christian exegetes have viewed them as either men or angels. Third, we would question where exactly would he place the cherubim, seraphim (or Second Temple literature references to ophanim etc.). The anointed cherub in Ezekiel 28:11 is called the king of Tyrus. Why does he not include the cherubim as having geographical sovereignty when there would be clear biblical warrant to do so? The very classifications that he groups together seems to be divided in Ephesians 6:12. In one Gnostic text believed to be Valentinian, a twist of Isaiah 64:4 and 1 Corinthians 2:9 is stated in a prayer. “Grant what eyes of angels have not seen, what ears of ruler [archon] have not heard[.]”18)The Prayer of the Apostle Paul (trans. Marvin Meyer); in The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition (ed. Marvin Meyer), Harper One (New York, NY: 2007), p. 18 In this Gnostic text angels seem to parallel archons, and Heiser classifies them as gods making him more gnostic than the Valentinian heretics. If this Gnostic text is separating these as two classes of spiritual beings, we see a commonality of Heiser’s view with Gnosticism.

While Heiser has broadened the term “god” to expand many other terms, he generalizes “angel” to allow it to cover the terms for his “gods”. “The first proposal is that the term ‘angel’ in Second Temple texts (regardless of the language) became a generic designation for any member of the heavenly host during that period and was not restricted to members of the bottom tier of the pre-exilic council.” 19)Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Cannical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004, p. 215; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis This is easily disproved in the fact that the Old Testament (which is pre-exilic) frequently applies the term “angel of the LORD” to theophanies (Exodus 23:20, 23, 34). If such a term could be used to identify Jehovah Himself in the Old Testament, the word “angel” obviously did not develop in the Second Temple period to be designated to bottom tier spiritual beings.

Contrary to Heiser’s bizarre classification of spiritual beings, the Second Temple literature does not agree with Heiser’s position. The Heavenly Prince Melchizedek scroll (11Q13) found at Qumran indicates Psalm 82 is referring to men. “For this is the moment of the Year of Grace for Melchizedek. [And h]e will, by his strength, judge the holy ones of God, executing judgement as it is written concerning him in the Songs of David, who said, ELOHIM has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgement (Psalm 82:1). And it was concerning him that he said, (Let the assembly of the peoples) return to the height above them; EL (god) will judge the peoples (Psalm 7:7-8).”20)The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 533 By connecting the judgement of the “gods” of Psalm 82 with God judging “the peoples” of Palm 7, it is evident that they understood the “gods” of Psalm 82 to be referring to human people. Referencing the Dead Sea Scrolls, Heiser quotes, 4Q405, which is here being cited in whole, though he only cites lines 6-7.

The figures of the ‘gods’ shall praise Him, [the most] h[oly] spirits…of glory; the floor of the marvelous innermost chambers, the spirits of the eternal gods, all…fi[gures of the innermost] chamber of the King, the spiritual works of the marvelous firmament are purified with salt, [spi]rits of knowledge, truth [and] righteousness in the holy of [hol]ies, [f]orms of the living ‘gods’, forms of the illuminating spirits. All their [works (of art)] are marvelously linked, many-colored [spirits], artistic figures of the ‘gods’, engraved all around their glorious bricks, glorious figures on b[ri]cks of splendor and majes[ty]. All their works (of art) are living ‘gods’, and their artistic figures are holy angles. From beneath the marvelous inner[most chambers] comes a sound of quiet silence: the ‘gods’ bless…the King…21)The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 337

This is believed to be referring to the art in the Temple depicting cherubim. Heiser comments of this passage, “This may mean that in the Shabbat Shirot cherubim are considered אלהים, which would in turn mean that both the terms אלהים and מלאכים would be used in a way foreign to the Hebrew Bible, where cherubim are not referred to by either term.”22)Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Cannical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004, p. 188; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis Odd, his whole classification is based on Second Temple literature, even his Deuteronomy 32 worldview is based on textual criticism when the Masoretic text has “sons of Israel,” but the Second Temple period production of the Septuagint and a few manuscripts of Deuteronomy from the Dead Sea Scrolls have “sons of God.” This is his selective hermeneutic method, nit-picking through what conforms to his opinion that is adapted from pagan Ugaritic text.

Other Dead Sea Scroll text express synonymous usage of the term “gods” with what the biblical authors viewed as angels. For example,4q402, fr. 4, 9-10 mentions, “‘gods’ run to his visitation of a crowd…of ‘gods’ in the war of heaven.”23) The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 331 Other Second Temple Jewish texts speak of this war in heaven involving beings described with star language (Sibylline Oracles 2.200-203;24) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 350 5.514).25) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 405 Heiser forces the star language into his class of divine beings but we see this allusion to the biblical scene of the war in heaven expressed in Revelation 12:7-8 which speaks of angels involved with this war likely paralleling star language in Revelations 12:4. The term “angel” in Revelation must be an ontological classification since they are fighting in a war, not carrying a message. The Apocalypse of Zephaniah even goes as far as claiming Zephaniah was lifted up into the fifth heaven and “saw angels who are called ‘lords,’ and the diadem was set upon them in the Holy Spirit, and the throne of each of them was sevenfold more (brilliant) than the light of the rising sun.”26) Apocalypse of Zephaniah A, O. S. Wintermute, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 508 Here we find “angels” with royal designations being described as more luminescent than the sun. There is no messenger office being expressed for these angels so it must be an ontological classification which contradicts Heiser explanation of “gods.”

Heiser suggests, “Jub. 15:30b-32 provides the fullest description of the worldview of Deut 4:19-20; 32:8-9, and Daniel 10[.]” 27)Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Cannical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004, p. 231; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis He is surely accurate in this proposition as it does present his worldview with the only exception that Jubilees does not allow the spiritual entities that rule over the Gentile nation to be called “gods” as Heiser insists on calling them. Jubilees calls them simply “angels” or “spirits.” The very text Heiser mentions says as much.

But he chose Israel that they might be a people for himself. And he sanctified them and gathered them from all of the sons of man because (there are) many nations and many people, and they all belong to him, but over all of them he caused spirits to rule so that they might lead them astray from following him. But over Israel he did not cause any angel or spirit to rule because he alone is their ruler and he will protect them and he will seek for them at the hand of his angels and at the hand of his spirits and at the hand of all of his authorities so that he might guard them and bless them and they might be his and he might be theirs henceforth and forever.28) Jubilees, 15:30-32; O. S. Wintermute, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 87; also cited by Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Cannical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004, p. 231; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis

By blurring what these texts actually state Hieser is attempting to make his reading of the Bible and Second Tempe Jewish literature conform to his Ugaritic paganism. This is exactly what the Gnostic did to the Bible by forcing it to read like their pagan mystery religions, either through allegorical interpretations or textual critical methods. Heiser exalts his “gods” stating, “The biblical answer is that the heavenly host was with God before the creation.”29) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 23 He cites Job 38:4-7 as “clear on that point[,]” but the foundation of the earth is clearly dry ground contrasted with the sea Job 38:8, and the dry ground was created on the third day (Genesis 1:9, 13), not before creation. He is attempting to exalt the “sons of God” to divine status, not mere angels. He says, “Right from the start, then, God has company – other divine beings, the sons of God.”30) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 24 He places these gods with God “before the creation” and “right from the start,” which would imply they are eternal since creation occur “in the beginning” of the time dimension (Genesis 1:1). Do his gods precede the creation of the time dimension itself? If so that makes them eternal. He rescues himself by saying “God created a host of nonhuman divine beings whose domain is (to human eyes) an unseen realm.”31) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 28 So they are not eternal since they were created, even if that creation was before time itself. But how does he conclude that they were created? The creation of divine beings is nowhere adduced from Scriptures, so if his divine counsel was biblical we would have to infer that these divine beings are eternal with God. Biblically speaking we would infer angels were created sometime between the first and third day, not before “the beginning” which is when the time dimension was created.

His discussion of “gods,” “sons of God,” and “divine beings,” also causes us to question how exactly he understands the Trinity. In his dissertation he write, “In general terms, Second Temple Jewish literature reveals several interesting phenomena related to the discussion at hand…. Third, and perhaps most interesting, as the number of explicit references to the  בְנֵי-הָאֱלֹהִים / אלים decrease (relative to the sectarian Qumran texts, at least), the fascination with divine vice-regency increases.”32)Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Cannical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004, p. 214; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis These references to a divine vice regency is how he understands the Lord Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Godhead, as the Son of God. Is the Son of God just one of these other divine beings which Heiser calls gods/sons of God? Classic Trinitarian passages of the Old Testament are corrupted by Heiser’s deviant exegesis. He says, “Seeing the Trinity in Gen 1:26 is reading the New Testament back into the Old Testament, something that isn’t a sound interpretive method for discerning what an Old Testament writer was thinking. Unlike the New Testament, the Old Testament has no Trinitarian phrases (e.g., ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’; cf. Matt 28:19-20).”33)Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 39, fn. 1 There are a few hermeneutic problems with not reading the New Testament back into the Old Testament. First, by believing the Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, Who is omniscient, God’s foreknowledge knew what He would reveal in the New Testament when He inspired Old Testament authors. Thus, reading the New Testament back into the Old Testament as God’s divine interpretation of the Old Testament should be accepted. Secondly, the principle of progressive revelation is necessary for properly understanding the Scripture. Not everything is laid out in chapter one so reading things back into it to make sense of it is needed. Thirdly, this argument contradicts his own discussion about Jesus Christ present in the Old Testament so reading the Trinity in the Old Testament is not reading the New Testament into it. He admits this himself tucked away in a footnote. “We will see in later chapters that Yahweh too has a coregent or vizier, just as the council at Ugarit. But that figure is not another created Elohim – it is Yahweh himself is a second personage. This is the backdrop to the idea of a Godhead that Christians often only associate with the New Testament.”34) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 46, fn. 2 However he also rejects Trinitarian passages when he claims “Yahweh said to his council… (Gen 11:7).”35) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 350 as well as Isaiah 6:2 is God speaking to the divine council and not the Trinity.

Note how he reads Trinitarianism by pagan texts. “The Israelite binitarian godhead is also indicated by the ‘rider on the clouds’ motif in the Hebrew Bible. This epithet was a well-known title for Baal. For orthodox Yawists, Baal’s attributes were taken over by Yahweh, their rightful bearer. The Hebrew Bible consistently refers to Yahweh as the one who rides the clouds (Psa 68:4; 68:5, in Hebrew; 69:33, Ps 68:34 in Hebrew; 104:3 Deut 33:26; Isa 19:1) with one exception; the ‘son of man’ in Dan 7:13. This character in Dan 7 is distinct from the enthroned deity, the ancient of days, who was expected to bear this Yaweh-title of the Hebrew Bible. This passage, along with the ‘man of war’ (the angel) formed the basis for Judaism’s doctrine of two powers in heaven, a point of orthodoxy until the second century AD.”36) Michael Heiser, “The Divine Council and Biblical Theology,” p. 4; http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/DivineCouncilLBD.pdf Baal does frequently have this epithet attributed to him, but he is also called the son of El. Ras Shamra-Ugarit refers to Baal as “Prince Baal… Rider of the Clouds.”37)Poems of Baal and Anath (2) III AB A; in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ed. James B. Pritchard) 3rd Edition, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969), p. 130 El is described as “Bull El his father… the King his begetter[.]”38)Poems of Baal and Anath (e.) II AB iv-v; in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ed. James B. Pritchard) 3rd Edition, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969), p. 133 But we also find “Lady Asherah of [the Sea]… the Progenitress of the Gods,”39)Poems of Baal and Anath (d) Fragment B; in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ed. James B. Pritchard) 3rd Edition, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969), p. 131 who is said have “seventy children.”40) Poems of Baal and Anath (e) II AB vi; in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ed. James B. Pritchard) 3rd Edition, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969), p. 134 This is the structure of the Divine Assembly which Hieser reads into the Bible, with El as King, Asherah as Queen, and Baal the eldest of their 70 sons being the vice regent. But El and Baal are two separate individual gods, nothing like biblical Trinitarianism. Heiser generally discusses the binitarianism of the “Two-Powers in heaven” from Second Temple Judaism, but how does he squeeze the Holy Spirit into his El/Baal backdrop for interpreting the Trinity? Would he suggest Asherah synonymous with the Holy Spirit? Gnostics presented the Holy Spirit often in a feminine goddess form. Personally, I have not read much on his view of the Trinity or what he has said about the Holy Spirit, but these questions must be asked because the trends of synchronizing pagan thought found throughout his writings. One cannot simply synchronize paganism into the Bible without struggling to explain how and where the distinctions exist.

Turning back to his discussion of Genesis 1, Heiser said, “The text of Genesis 1:26 does not inform us that divine image bearing make us distinct from heavenly beings, those sons of God who were already in existence at the time of creation. The plurals in Genesis 1:26 means that, in some way, we share something with them when it comes to bearing God’s image.”41) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 41 This is erred in his reading the expression of God speaking to his other gods in contrast to the traditional Trinitarian reading. But nowhere in the Bible does it say “sons of God,” “gods” or even “angel” bear God’s image, so his point is an argument from silence to sustain his rejection of the Trinity creating man. He properly understands the “image of God” means “to oversee the earth[,]”42) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 43 so he has to assumed the elohim bear God’s image to permit his presupposition that elohim rule over the nations?

Heiser’s theological system is presented in a nutshell in his dissertation:

This evidence is presented in three areas: (1) The presence of multiple deity-class second tier beings, either in the form of a group or a deified figure above the other members of the heavenly host yet below God; (2) a religious worldview articulated along the lines of Deuteronomy 32 and Daniel 10, where the nations of the earth are ruled by divine heavenly princes; and (3) speculations in the literature about the identity of an exalted, deified vice-regent.43)Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Cannical Second Temple Jewish Literature,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004, p. 217; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis

Heiser presents the idea that these “gods” rule over the nations, while Jehovah retains the land of Israel for Himself and His Divine vice-regent. This vice-regent is continually being equivocated by terms with the second class deities, though he calls him Jehovah without elaborating what this means in his view. His thinking is in line with the pagans of the times but contradicts the Jewish religious view of the Bible. For example, the pagans of Syria thought that Jehovah had only regional authority, stating, “And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they” (1 Kings 20:23). Jehovah rebuked such pagan ideology by sending a prophet to proclaim to the king of Israel, “Thus saith the Lord, Because the Syrians have said, The Lord is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the Lord” (1 Kings 20:28). Jehovah’s authority is over all the earth, not merely regional limits as Heiser’s theology portrays.

Furthermore, there are multitudes of logical issues that throw his theology in disarray. When Rehoboam crafts the golden calf based on Egyptian idols (2 Kings 10:29), does that mean the regional “god” over Egypt overpowered Jehovah. Or how about when king Ahaz sent the pattern of the altar he saw in Damascus to his priest Urijah to build one in Jerusalem to make offerings (2 Kings 16:10-16). Should we think this is meant that the “god” represented in the Syrian altar has become the ruling spiritual entity over Judah, usurping Jehovah? Or perhaps this “god” has become omnipresent all of a sudden since there are two altars representing his presence? Is this “god” suddenly on an ontological pedestal equal to Jehovah Who only exist with omni-attributes prior to this altar being made. Or what about when the Assyrian king moved the Israelites out of their land and placed multitudes of pagan nations and peoples as new settlers in the land Israel. These peoples brought with them their own heathen “gods” (2 Kings 17:29-33), which, according to Heiser’s theology of the Bible portraying a “cosmic turf war” would mean these spiritual entities have conquered Jehovah and took over His portion.

Hezekiah’s prayer presents the Jewish view of God as the only God in all the earth. “And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth” (2 Kings 19:15). This allows no regional “gods” over other gentile nations in all the earth as Heiser would like to teach. Hezekiah further says in this prayer, “Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them” (2 Kings 19:17-18). Here we see the “gods” of other nations were nothing but idols made by men. Perhaps Heiser would intend to say only Assyria’s “god” was an actual spiritual entity, as his theology only demands 70 “gods.” But here lies a problem for his hermeneutic method, the word “god” is being used in the Bible in a way proving Heiser’s definition to be wrong. 1 Chronicles 16:25-26 says, “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the people are idols:
but the Lord made the heavens.” According to Heiser, the first verse would be implying incomparability of Jehovah to other “gods.” His position would render the passage completely meaningless if the first comment means there are other “gods” in existence and follows directly by saying they are nothing but idols.

The claims Heiser makes about the traditionally understood monotheistic passages being incomparability passages show his selectiveness of Scriptures and avoiding others that refute his worldview. For example, Jeremiah 10 is full of comments that sound just like the ones he cites as incomparability passages. Jeremiah 10:7 “there is none like unto thee.” Jeremiah 10:10 “But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.” Jeremiah 10:12 “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” Jeremiah 10:16 “The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The Lord of hosts is his name.” In Heiser’s theological system, these passages should be showing that Jehovah is the God over the portion of land he gave to Israel and is incomparable to other gods He set over the Gentile nations. However, the context is dealing with idols which are nothing. Jeremiah 10:5 “They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.” Jeremiah 10:8 “But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.” Jeremiah 10:11 “Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” Jeremiah 10:14-15 “Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.” According to his redefinition of the word “gods” (אֱלָהַיָּא in verse 11), it could not mean the physical idol but only a spiritual entity, at very least a spiritual entity behind the idol. The context demands that the gods are mere idols which are absolutely nothing but vain stocks of wood or stone, yet Jehovah is being compared to them as the True Living God which nothing can be likened too.

Jeremiah continues to declare that the Gentile nations inherited false gods which are not gods at all. Jeremiah 16:19-20 “O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?” Note here the word for “inherited” is נָחֲלוּ, the same word that Hesier’s worldview hinges on from Deuteronomy 32:8. Jehovah did not give the Gentile nations an inheritance of second tier “gods,” they inherited lies and vainity from the fathers who “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things….who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:23, 25).

Furthermore, the Bible reveals a world that does not fit the depiction of Heiser’s Divine Council world view of seventy gods ruling over the nations. Surely this was not the Jewish religion as those Jews that were involved with idolatry never believed in a mere seventy gods over nations. Jeremiah rebukes these apostates, “For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal” (Jeremiah 11:13). This is further depicted as the pagan worldview in the New Testament. Paul was stirred up in Athens because it was so immersed in idolatry in Acts 17:16. Paul preached to the Athenians “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:22-23). Craig Keener states, “God had the right to judge the nations as he decided, since (from a Jewish perspective) God ruled all the nations (Deut 32:8; Ps 145:9; Wis 11:22-24; 1 En. 84:2).”44) Craig S. Keener, Acts An Exegetical Commentary: Introduction and 3:1-14:28, Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI: 2013), Vol. 2, p. 2168 Surely the Jews did not think like Hieser that actual “gods” ruled the Gentile nations.

Follow the entire series of assessing Hieser’s theology.

Michael Heiser’s Gnostic Heresy (Part 1) is focused on Heiser’s hermeneutic method as the root of his errors but is not very expressive of his theology.

Michael Heiser’s Gnostic Heresy: Polytheism (Part 2) is dealing with why he should be considered a polytheist even if he denies the accusation. Simply put, his term “divine plurality” is what he uses as a synonym to refer to his belief in many gods.

Michael Heiser’s Gnostic Heresy: Redefining אלהים (Part 3) further elaborates his polytheistic views and refutes his arguments against being labeled a polytheist.

Michael Heiser’s Gnostic Heresy: gods or Angels (Part 4) discusses how other Bible scholars that have similar research in Second Temple Jewish literature understand this language to refer to angels, not gods.

Michael Heiser’s Gnostic Heresy: Deification (Part 5) may be the most significant assessment of Hieser’s theology and draws on the many parallels of his theological views and Gnosticism and exposes his heretical doctrine that men become gods.

Michael Heiser’s Gnostic Heresy: Paradigm passages (Part 6) [not yet available] will discuss Heiser’s paradigmatic passages to explain his errors and provide an accurate exegesis of Psalm 82; Deuteronomy 4:19-20; 32:8-9; and John 10:34.

I intend to provide the entire series as a free ebook when completed which will be available to download as a PDF.

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