As we have seen in the previous articles of this series about Michael Heiser, he habitually redefines terms to force terminology to fit his presupposed theology. As he attempts to duck the charge of polytheism by saying Jehovah is ontologically distinct from these other gods he believes in. The Hebrew word we are focusing on is אֱלֹהִים elohim, being grammatically a masculine plural noun, though it is often applied to Jehovah as a “plural of majesty,” or in some cases perhaps hinting at the Trinitarian nature of the LORD. Gesenius explaining the plural of majesty, states, “The plural is by no means used in Hebrew solely to express a number of individuals or separate objects, but may denote them collectively…. A variety of the plurals described under (b), in which the secondary idea of intensity or of an internal multiplication of the idea of the stem may be clearly seen, is (c) the pluralis excellentiae or pluralis maiestatis.” 1)E. Kautzsch, ed., Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, Trans. A. E. Cowley (2nd English Ed.) Clarendon Press (Oxford: 1910), p. 396, (§124 a  The definition Heiser concocts for his theological scheme is presented in an article of his, in which he claims, “In briefest terms, an אֱלֹהִים is a being whose proper ‘habitation’ was considered the ‘spirit world,’ and whose primary existence was a disembodied one.”2)Michael Hieser, Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? Toward an Assessment of Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible,” Bulletin for Biblical Research, 18.1 (2008), p. 30, fn. 63 Because Psalm 82 is the central passage of his entire theological system, he emphasizes the word elohim cannot mean humans or physical corporeal entities in general. Heiser stresses the actual existence of multiple gods in Psalm 82 against the historically held interpretation that the word אֱלֹהִים in Psalm 82 was used to describe divinely ordained human kings or judges. In The Unseen Realm he reiterates his definition. “Humans are also not by nature disembodied. The word elohim is a ‘place of residence’ term. Our home is the world of embodiment; elohim by nature inhabit the spiritual world.”3) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 29

Let us start by questioning whether his definition is accurate? The most commonly used Hebrew lexicon is BDB, which states, “a rulers, judges, either as divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and power: האלהים Ex 21:6…b. divine ones, superhuman beings including God and angels ψ [Psalm] 8:6… c. angels ψ [Psalm] 97:7 ( Ö ã Cal v; but gods , Hup De Pe Ch e); cf. בני (ה)אלהים = ( the ) sons of God , or sons of gods = angels Jb 1:6 ; 2:1 ; 38:7 Gn 6: 2, 4 ( J ; so Ö [LXX of Lucian] Bks. of Enoch & Jubilees Philo Jude v 6; 2 Pet 2:4 Jos Ant. i, 3, 1, most ancient fathers and modern critics[.]”4)Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Claredon Press: Oxford, 1980, p. 43 Notably, BDB offers human judges or rulers as the first definition, along with angels referencing a multitude of sources such as the books of Enoch, Jubilee, Philo, and Josephus, which Heiser hinges much of his argument being based upon Second Temple Jewish literature supposedly retaining his idea of multiple deities. Heiser needs to segregate both the human the angelic classification far from his tier of lesser gods to argue for his opinion. This is why he redefines the word elohim.

Gesenius provides his definition for elohim as: “(A) in a plural sense – (1) of gods or deities in general, whether true or not…. (2) once applied to kings, i. q. בְנֵי אֱלֹהִים Ps. 82:1, especially verse 6.”5) Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament Scriptures, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. (Grand Rapids, MI: 1957), p. 49  Gesenius also includes Heiser’s paradigmatic passage as evidence against his position. Psalm 8:5 speaks of man being made a little lower than the angels, with the Hebrew word elohim being translated as “angels.” This translation seems obscure as we would expect it to be translated as “lower than God/gods.” However, Scripture clearly presents angels as more powerful than mankind so it could not possibly be implying that man is directly beneath God/gods in any ranking system. Nor is there a parallel to the idea of mankind being immediately under the gods in the Ugaritic literature. Angels or demigods are always considered as intermediates between God/gods and men in the ancient Near East. Thus, the Septuagint and the New Testament accurate translated this verse as ἀγγέλους (“angels”). Gesenius reminds us, “Not a few interpreters, both ancient and modern, have regarded אֱלֹהִים as also denoting angels (see Psa. 8:6, the LXX. And Ch.; Psa 82:1; 97:7; 138:1), and judges (Ex. 21:6; 22:7, 8)[.]”6) Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament Scriptures, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. (Grand Rapids, MI: 1957), p. 49 Gesenius again cited Psalm 82 as having in his days been viewed as angels, but he rejected angels as a valid translation (although his translator and editor, Samuel Tregelles, adds a very reasonable note, “But Hebrews, chap. 1:6 and 2:7, 9 shew plainly that this word sometimes means angels, and the authority of the N.T. decides the matter.”)7) Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament Scriptures, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. (Grand Rapids, MI: 1957), p. 49 Gesenius was aware of and agreed with the idea that Judaism evolved out of polytheism, yet apparently found no evidence for the opinion in Psalm 82 since he defined elohim in that passage as “kings.” Furthermore, Hebrew texts from the Qumran community confirm this appraisal. 4Q401 at length expresses the angels are being called “gods” which are ranked above humans. It states:

wonderfully to extol Thy glory among the divine beings of knowledge, and the praises of Thy kingship among the most ho[ly]. More wonderfully than ‘gods’ and men they are glorified amid all the camps of the ‘gods’ and feared by companies of men. They recount his royal majesty according to their knowledge and exalt [his glory in all] his royal heavens. In all the highest heights [they shall sing] marvelous psalms according to all [their understanding, and the glorious splendor] of the King of the ‘gods’ they shall recount on their stations…for what shall we be counted among them? For what shall our priesthood be counted in their dwelling? [How shall our] ho[lines compare with their supreme] holiness? How does the offering of our tongue of dust compare with the knowledge of the divine [beings]…our jubilation. Let us extol the God of knowledge… Holy of Holies and His understanding is above all those who possess knowledge…8) The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 331

This passage of the Dead Sea Scrolls repeatedly uses divine language to refer to what is obviously being applied to angles. Josephus speaks of when one joins the Essenes he was to swear that he would keep their doctrines secret, especially the names of angels.9)Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.142; in The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 737-738 Many of the scrolls discovered at Qumran confirm this veneration of angels, such as the Aramaic Testament of Levi 18:5;10)in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 794 Jubilee 1:27, 29;11)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 54 2:1;12)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 55 1 Enoch 84:4;13)in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 62 100:10;14)in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 81-82 104:1, 4;15)in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 85 etc., and multitudes of Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the angelic perspective opposing Heiser’s classification (see 4Q180 for example).16)The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 553 Hieser would like to use this passage quoted above for evidence of his divine plurality, but he ignores parallels in the Dead Sea Corpus, furthermore, his gods are in rebellion against Jehovah, not praising with marvelous psalms and being considered to have supreme holiness.

So we can see the lexicographers such as BDB and Gesenius disagree on “angels” as being permitted in the definition of אֱלֹהִים (though both produced their works prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls), but it is abundantly clear that it is appropriate as even Heiser’s definition place angels within the residency of the spiritual or disembodied form.

TWOT is more modern and conservative than the two previous lexicons above, which offers the definition for elohim as “God, gods, judges, angels”17) Jack B. Scott, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke) Moody Press (Chicago, IL 1980), Vol. 1, p. 44 Jack Scott’s entry for TWOT concludes by discussing the difficult passage in Exodus 22:8-9 [verses 7-8 in Hebrew], as how to properly render elohim in this ambiguous and debated passage. Scott criticized Cyrus Gordon, who proposed it should be translated as “gods” because “he sees this text as a heathen survival in the Mosaic legislation, one that was obliterated in the later Deuteronomic and priestly recensions.”18) Jack B. Scott, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke) Moody Press (Chicago, IL 1980), Vol. 1, p. 45 Scott presents his rebuttal, saying:

This is unacceptable from the point of view of the Scripture’s attestation to being God’s Word and its clear doctrine of the existence of only one God. The question of whether “God” or “judges” is to be used here is difficult. If “God” is correct, we understand by the passage that every man is ultimately answerable to God and stand or falls before God no matter what judgment men may make.19) Jack B. Scott, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke) Moody Press (Chicago, IL 1980), Vol. 1, p. 45

Heiser discussing this passage in an article suggested “God” as the accurate rendering against “judges,” which would be obvious from his presupposition denying humans can be called elohim since the word supposedly only pertains to “disembodied” beings. He ignores the obvious interpretation identifying that יַרְשִׁיעֻן֙ is a plural predicate expecting אֱלֹהִים to be plural, meaning “whom the judges [not God] shall condemn” (Exodus 22:9). His excuse here is “under a later redaction this phrase was omitted in the wake of Israel’s struggle with idolatry. Only a plural referring to multiple divine beings can coherently explain the deletion. As a result, this passage is also no support for the plural human אֱלֹהִים view.”20) Michael S. Heiser, “Jesus’ Quotation of Psalm 92:6 in John 10:34: A Different View of John’s Theological Strategy,” SBL regional (2012), p. 7 So he follows the liberal view that the text was corrupted to avoid appearing polytheistic. Of course, there is no evidence for this redaction beyond the imagination justifying one’s presupposition, so we find his theology not based on what the text actually says. When it says something opposing his view he calls textual criticism to his rescue. The phrase אֲשֶׁר יַרְשִׁיעֻן אֱלֹהִים “whom the judges shall condemn” (Exodus 22:9; verse 8 in Hebrew), should be properly understood as an independent relative clause21)E. Kautzsch, ed., Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, Trans. A. E. Cowley (2nd English Ed.) Clarendon Press (Oxford: 1910), p. 396, (§ 138 e confirming the plurality of the word elohim as evident being connecting to the plural verb “condemn.”  He argues against Exodus 22:6-8 by referencing 18:13-24, stating “This account of the appointment of judges, then, does not support the אֱלֹהִים (elohim) in Psa 82 being human.”22)Michael Hieser, “The Divine Council and Biblical Theology,” p. 13; http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/DivineCouncilLBD.pdf This is because he presumes the necessity of Psalm 82 if interpreted as humans must be understood as Jewish judges, but the context of Psalm 82 would demand it to refer to Gentile kings. Jeremiah 52:9 indicates Gentile kings as judges fitting Psalm 82 as Gentile kings performing injustice and being judged by God “fall like one of the princes” (Psalm 82:7). Deuteronomy 1:16-17 declares the judgement of man is of God. “And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.” Though men are preforming judgement, it is God’s judgment going forth as these men are divinely ordained judges.

In the 1,000 plus pages of Heiser material I have read, never once have I seen him comment on Exodus 22:28, “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” The verse clearly shows the parallelism that the “gods” are equated with the “ruler of thy people.” Heiser’s selective hermeneutic methods has caused him to avoid this verse for many years as he cannot explain it away. Furthermore, if he were to claim that this verse cannot mean human being, how could it possibly be saying not to revile the “gods” when in the very next chapter the Jews are commanded to overthrow and smash the images in the land of Canaan (Exodus 23:24). This sounds as if they are commanded to revile the gods in the land. The word for “revile” is often used by Moses for cursing men (Genesis 8:21; 12:3; 16:4, 5; Exodus 18:22; 21:17; Leviticus 19:14; 20:9; Deuteronomy 23:4), with the only exception being blaspheme against God in one chapter (Leviticus 24:11, 14-15, 23). Furthermore, Exodus 22:8-9 has its parallel passage in Deuteronomy 25:1-2 which alters אֱלֹהִים to הַשֹּׁפֵט֙ (the judge) who is clearly judging the case and executing the sentencing. Deuteronomy 16:18-20 commands establishing impartial judges to judge court cases and Deuteronomy 18:17-18 also acknowledges that it is the judges that are making the judgment in the court case. The fact that Exodus 22:8-9 and 22:28 has verse 22 sandwiched between with its parallel fitting Psalm 82:3, further confirms Exodus 22 and Psalm 82 is referring to the same concept, men judging as divinely ordained rulers.

When looking at the Greek Septuagint, elohim is generally translated as theos, with very few exceptions. The popular Greek lexicon BDAG notes that the word Θεος is used “of persons Θεοι (as אֱלֹהִים) J[ohn] 10:34f (Ps 81:6)[in LXX, Hebrew and English texts Psalm 82.]”23) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (ed. Walter Bauer and trans. Wm. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. Danker, University of Chicago Press  (Chicago, IL: 1979), p. 358

TDOT and its Greek counterpart TDNT are the only lexicons justifying Heiser’s position of Psalm 82 that I have viewed, but they are both based on the view of Judaism evolving from polytheism, which Hieser rejects.24)Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (ed. Gerhard Kittel; trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley) WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI: 1964-1976) Vol. 3, p. 96 However, they both throw curve-balls that make Heiser’s opinion unbelievable. Against Heiser’s argument that the Bible makes incomparability expressions about Jehovah which don’t reject the existence of other gods, discussing the incomparability language in Exodus 15:11 “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods?”, TDOT notes, “Such questions have a logical meaning in a polytheistic context like in the Babylonian-Assyrian religion, where even several gods are represented as incomparable.”25)Helmer Ringgren, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., (Grand Rapids, MI:1974, 1997), Vol. 1, p. 282 If other ancient religions could use incomparable language for multiple gods, it really means nothing as for ontological uniqueness as Heiser would argue. With his hermeneutic filter of ancient pagan literature, he cannot claim the Bible presents Jehovah as anything greater than the other gods he believes in. Heiser, who argues the divine plurality continued into Second Temple period, is refuted by the TDNT entry, which states:

Later Judaism a. occasionally used the term for God of men, and even of the θεοι of the Gentiles, but it was strongly opposed to heathen polytheism. B. It gave a primary place to its confession of one God in formulae, faith and practice. But c. it sees the one God at work through a wealth of intermediary or angelic beings. It sees Him d. in conflict with demonic forces. In this conflict e. the Son of Man or the Messiah plays a decisive role, though without claiming divine dignity. Thus apocalyptic by accepting dualistic motifs, develops the basic monotheistic conviction of the OT into a dynamic monotheism.26) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (ed. Gerhard Kittel; trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley) WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI: 1964-1976) Vol. 3, p. 96

It is only through the selective hermeneutic method of Heiser that he finds his divine plurality in Second Temple literature, while the rest of the scholars having studied it are convinced what Hieser claims to be “gods” are actually angels. This factor will be discussed at length in the latter article of this series.

I find no lexicon that offers a premise for Heiser’s definition of elohim supposedly meaning a “disembodied nature.” The opposite is true, that the word in question is indeed used of physical, corporeal, tangible objects, including human beings. Clear usages of elohim can be seen with expressions towards physical objects such as in Jonah 3:3, “Nineveh was an exceeding great city[.]” Here the word “exceedingly” is translated from לֵאלֹהִים, that is the word Elohim prefixed with a preposition which would literally translate as “to God,” indicating the city was large even “to God’s” perspective. Some have suggest “a divinely great city[.]”27) Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament Scriptures, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. (Grand Rapids, MI: 1957), p. 50 We find similar language used in the New Testament, “Moses was born, and was exceeding fair [ἀστεῖος τῷ Θεῷ]” (Acts 7:20). The fact that idols are physical objects and are referred to as elohim further causes us to reject Heiser’s proposed definition. For example, “Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods אֱלֹהִים that are among you… And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods אֱלֹהִים which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem” (Genesis 35:2,4). Did they put away disembodied אֱלֹהִים from their hands? Idols are called אֱלֹהִים yet are the works of man’s hands, which obviously cannot be disembodied and belonging to the spiritual realm. It is written in Hosea, “neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods אֱלֹהִים” (Hosea 14:3). Notice they call the idol “gods,” not a spirit represented by the image. Jeroboam had “cast out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods (2 Chronicles 13:9). Exodus 23:24 makes this matter more explicit: “Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.” What are called “gods” are “images” that are to be thrown down and broken.

Again, in the account of the golden calf during the exodus we see the idol being called אֱלֹהִים. Scripture records, “the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us… And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord…. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel… And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him” (Exodus 32:1, 4-5, 7-8, 22-23). Here we see not only the physical molten image that was fashioned by Aaron’s hands being called אֱלֹהִים with the plural form being used for the individual calf they named “the LORD” (Jehovah), and with the worship being given to the idol itself, not a mere representation that was believed to be behind it. Nehemiah also called this molten calf a “god” (Nehemiah 9:18). So the Biblical and Jewish view of idols were that they were no gods, which was necessary to express because the surrounding cultures did see the idols as gods אֱלֹהִים.

Discarding the fact that the Bible uses elohim to refer to idols, Heiser states, “it cannot be presumed that ancient people considered a humanly fabricated statue or fetish object to be identical with the god in whose likeness it was fashioned.”28) 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. 8 If this were true we must ask why so much stress was placed on the issue that the idols were vain object and not truly gods? Why are idols constantly called “vain” or “vanities” (Leviticus 17:7 (LXX); 1 Kings 16:2 (LXX), 13, 26; 2 Kings 17:15; 2 Chronicles 11:15 (LXX); Isaiah 2:20 (LXX); 44:9; Jeremiah 2:5; 8:19 (LXX); Jeremiah 10:3, 15; 14:22; 28:18 (LXX=51:18 MT); Ezekiel 8:10 (LXX); Jonah 2:8)? Paul said, “an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4) He identifies idols are “called gods,” so that Paul acknowledges by designation of how the word is used in the pagan thought that “there be gods many, and lords many” (1 Corinthians 8:5). Paul also indicated these idols were called gods but “by nature are no gods” (Galatians 4:8); and this idea is grounded in the Old Testament confirming the Jewish view that the gods of the heathen are nothing but idols (Psalm 96:4-5). Even when the pagan gods are considered graven images appear with incomparable language which Heiser takes as proof for the belief in real existing gods (Psalm 97:7, 9). As idols are called gods, anything that are placed in preeminence can be called god, such as one’s belly (Philippians 3:19) which they choose to serve over the true God (Romans 16:18). Apocryphal text express the same thought as in Wisdom of Solomon: “Surely vain are all men by nature, who are ignorant of God, and could not out of the good things that are seen know him that is: neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the workmaster; but deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be the gods which govern the world.”29)Wisdom of Solomon 13:1; in The Apocrypha (ed. Manuel Komroff, Barnes & Noble Books (New York, NY: 1992), p. 145 In 3 Maccabees we read, “Let not those who think vain thoughts bless their vain gods for the destruction of your beloved people and say, ‘Not even their God could rescue them.’”30)3 Maccabees 6:11; in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 526 Obviously, the Jews did not see the idols as having some deity represented behind the carved image but called them vain or vanities to express the idols as empty and destitute of any divine presence or representation.

Considering the diversity and range of how the word “God/gods” can be used in the ancient world it is not surprising that some people may be confused as to what is meant at times. It should be remembered that ancient languages had broader uses of words in general, while our modern languages have developed more precise usages of words and we have a much larger vocabulary to express our precise meanings. However, the biblical worldview always and consistently presented only one true God (2 Kings 19:15, 19; Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 37:20; John 17:3; 1 Timothy 1:17). Philo taught, “But God is alone, and by himself, being one; and there is nothing like unto God.”31)Philo, Allegorical Interpretation 2.1; in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged New Updated Version (Trans. C. D. Yonge), (Peabody, MA: 1997), p. 38

Man called Elohim

Furthermore, while Hieser presents in his popular level writings that elohim means disembodied beings, in other works of his, he admits that the word can and is used to refer to humans who are obviously not disembodied. He frequently speaks out of both sides of his mouth contradicting himself. In his doctorates dissertation he refutes others attempting to make such orderly differences. He writes, “The point of the observation is that in this passage, the ‘sons of El’ are clearly human and not divine, thereby overturning the tidy distinction for which [Margaret] Barker argues. It is also marred by references to Israel as the son of God (Exod 4:22; Hos 11:1).”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. 32; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis He follows closely by stating that “the divine family of the divine council is made to include human beings[.]”33)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. 32; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis Surely he cannot deny that such terminology is used for humans.

In his popular book The Unseen Realm, he admits Moses is called “‘as God/a god [elohim] to Pharoaoh’ and to Moses’ brother Aaron (Exod 4:16-17).”34) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 280, fn. 8 He explains this by stating, “As a leader through whom flowed divine power, he would naturally come to be seen by the Israelites as a quasi-divine figure, though he was just a man.”35) Michael S. Hieser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 245-46 Yet, divinely ordained judge has this same “divine power” to enable them for the task God has ordained them to accomplish (Exodus 21:6; 22:8-9, 28; 1 Samuel 2:25; Proverbs 16:10; 31:4-5; Acts 23:5; Romans 13:1-2). Why would kings and judges not have the word applied to them according to Heiser’s own expression?

Philo discussed why Moses was called as a god offering his conclusion, “Why, that the wise man is called the God of the foolish man, but he is not God in reality, just as a base coin of the apparent value of four drachmas is not a four drachma piece. But when he is compared with the living God, then he will be found to be a man of God; but when he is compared with a foolish man, he is accounted a God to the imagination and in appearance, but he is not so in truth and essence.”36) Philo, The Worse Attacks the Better 162; in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged New Updated Version (Trans. C. D. Yonge), (Peabody, MA: 1997), p. 130 Philo also asserts, “he teaches that the man who is wholly possessed with the love of God and who serves the living God alone, is no longer man, but actually God, being indeed the God of men, but not of the parts of nature, in order to leave to the Father of the universe the attributes of being both and God.”37)Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 43; in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged New Updated Version (Trans. C. D. Yonge), (Peabody, MA: 1997), p. 686

Philo also identifies a true prophet can be called a god (which is most relevant to the discussion of Moses), saying, “one who is really inspired by God, which he who has attained to may reasonably be called God. But also, this same person is God, inasmuch as he is wise, and as on this account he rules over every foolish person[.]”38)Philo, On the Change of Names, 128; in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged New Updated Version (Trans. C. D. Yonge), (Peabody, MA: 1997), p. 352 Elsewhere he says, “By what then were these subordinate parts inspired? beyond all question by the mind; for of the qualities which the mind has received from God, it gives a share to the irrational portion of the soul, so that the mind is vivified by God, and the irrational part of the soul by the mind; for the mind is as it were a god to the irrational part of the soul, for which reason Moses did not hesitate to call it ‘the god of Pharaoh.’”39)Philo, Allegorical Interpretation, 1.40; in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged New Updated Version (Trans. C. D. Yonge), (Peabody, MA: 1997), p. 29 Reiterating this reasoning, Philo again articulates, “And how was it possible for Moses to encounter such men as these unless he had prepared speech, the interpreter of his mind, namely Aaron? who now indeed is called his mouth; but in a subsequent passage we shall find that he is called a prophet, when also the mind, being under the influence of divine inspiration, is called God. ‘For, says God, ‘I give thee as a God to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy Prophet.’”40)Philo, On the Migration of Abraham, 84; in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged New Updated Version (Trans. C. D. Yonge), (Peabody, MA: 1997), p. 261

Josephus applies language of “divine man” frequently to express the gift of prophecy. Of Isaiah he writes, “a divine and wonderful man in speaking truth; and out of the assurance that he had never written what was false, he wrote down all his prophecies, and left them behind him in books[.]”41)Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 10.35; in The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 336 Josephus comments about Moses, “our lawgiver was a divine man[.]”42)Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 3.180; in The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 126 Josephus’ Jewish background would allow a broad use of calling men “god” as such phrases are present in the Old Testament (Genesis 33:10; Exodus 7:1), as well as the passages disputed by Heiser (Exodus 22:28; Psalm 82:6). Josephus’ expression is used parallel to the biblical phrase “man of God” meaning a prophet of God who spoke the words of God, (Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6; 1 Samuel 2:27; 1 Samuel 9:6-8, 10; 1 Kings 12:22; 1 Kings 13:1, 4-8, 11-12, 14, 21, 26, 29, 31; 1 Kings 17:18, 24; 1 Kings 20:28; 2 Kings 1:9-13; 2 Kings 4:7, 9, 16, 21-22, 25, 27, 40, 42; 2 Kings 5:8, 14-15, 20; 2 Kings 6:6, 9-10, 15; 2 Kings 7:2, 17-19; 2 Kings 8:2, 4, 7-8, 11; 2 Kings 13:19; 2 Kings23:16-17; 1 Chronicles 23:14, 2 Chronicles 8:14; 2 Chronicles 11:2; 2 Chronicles 25:7, 9; 2 Chronicles 30:16; Ezra 3:2; Nehemiah 12:24, 36; Psalm 90:1; Jeremiah 35:4; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 3:17; 2 Peter 1:21), sometimes applied to angels bring God’s message (Judges 13:6, 8); only Josephus adjusted the term to “divine man” as one who delivered a divine message. As Craig Keener discussing the term “divine man,” after surveying Jewish and pagan sources indicated, “The ancient use of the phrase is too broad to delineate a specific type; it can refer to a literal ‘divine man,’ an ‘inspired man,’ a man somehow related to deity, and an ‘extraordinary man.’”43) Craig S. Keener, Acts An Exegetical Commentary: Introduction and 1:1-2:47, Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI: 2013), Vol. 1, p. 331 Other expressions could be added to, this such as the patriarch Joseph being called the son of God on the basis of his beauty. Aseneth says in a prayer, “that he [Joseph] is your [God’s] son. For who among men will give birth to such beauty and such great wisdom and virtue and power, as (owned by) the all-beautiful Joseph?”44)Joseph and Aseneth 13:14, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 224 Aseneth also calls Jacob “a father to me and a god.”45)Joseph and Aseneth 22:3, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 238 This is explained because Jacob was exceddingly beautiful to look at, and his old age (was) like the  youth of a handsome (young) man[.]”46)Joseph and Aseneth 22:7, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 238 The Jewish sources are most commonly allocating the expression to inspired prophets, with a few exceptions.

Elaborating on the fact that men are called elohim, Heiser says, “As with Moses, the kingship, by virtue of this adoptive language, carried with it a quasi-divine aspect (Psa 45:6-7). Psalm 89:27 casts the throne of David as the ‘most high’ (elyon) among the nations.”47) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 246-247 His conclusion that men can be called Elohim is one point he accurately reads the Scripture through the lenses of the ancient Near East. “This was common throughout the ancient Near East—civilizations believed that kingship was instituted by the gods, and therefore the king was a descendant of the gods.”48) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 249 Philo allows the expression of god to be applied to Moses for being in close communion with God and being considered the king of the nation. “What more shall I say? Has he not also enjoyed an even greater communion with the Father and Creator of the universe, being thought unworthy of being called by the same appellation? For he also was called the god and king of the whole nation, and he is said to have entered into the darkness where God was; that is to say, into the invisible, and shapeless, and incorporeal world, the essence, which is the model of all existing things, where he beheld things invisible to mortal nature; for, having brought himself and his own life into the middle, as an excellently wrought picture, he established himself as a most beautiful and Godlike work, to be a model for all those who were inclined to imitate him”49)Philo, On the Life of Moses, 1.158; in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged New Updated Version (Trans. C. D. Yonge), (Peabody, MA: 1997), p. 474 The fact that pagans viewed kings as “gods” or “sons of gods” is common knowledge not needing to be elaborated on.

Heiser writes, “As concepts like divine sonship began to appear in the Bible with respect to Yahweh’s people Israel (Exod 4:23), the Israelites (Psa 2:7), and, ultimately, the messiah, the theological message became important.”50) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 69 I would disagree with considering Psalm 2:7 as referring to Israelites but is rather clearly referring to the Messiah. However, he does admit that men can be called elohim, though he never says it as such in his book, he does teach men being deified which would imply they can be called gods (he uses the word divine to avoid the obvious implication of contradicting himself). His deification heresy will be discussed in a yet later article.

Referring to Exodus 4:22 and Hosea 11:1, Heiser proclaims, “Adam was Yahweh’s son. Israel was Yahweh’s son.”51) Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible, Lexham Press (Bellingham, WA: 2015), p. 156 So he is willing to admit the phrase “sons of God” is used in context of humans as has been traditionally understood in Psalm 82:6 which he rejects as a possible interpretation.  Discussing Isaiah 45:11 as it mentions “sons,” Heiser notes in his dissertation, “The preceding context informs the reader that human beings as creations of God are in view here, not Yahweh’s divine sons.” 52)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. 110, fn. 438; page numbers from PDF available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=fac_dis In another article, he confesses, “However, there is one passage, Hos 1:10, that uses a similar phrase of humans (‘sons of the living God’), and Israelites on occasion were referred to as Yahweh’s ‘sons’ (Exod 4:22–23).”53) Michael Heiser, “The Divine Council and Biblical Theology,” p. 10; http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/DivineCouncilLBD.pdf With all these expression from his own writings, how is it that he can argue men cannot have the word elohim attributed to them since they are not disembodied beings? He claims, “The אֱלֹהִים (elohim) of Yahweh’s council in Psa 82 are divine beings, not human rulers. This is obvious from the parallel passage in Psa 89:5–8. In Psalm 82:6, the plural אֱלֹהִים (elohim) are called ‘sons of the Most High.’ These אֱלֹהִים (elohim) are not human since Psa 89:6 (Psa 89:7 in Hebrew) locates their assembly or council in the clouds or heavens ( בַשַּׁחַק, vashshachaq) not on earth.”54) Michael Heiser, “The Divine Council and Biblical Theology,” p. 7-8; http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/DivineCouncilLBD.pdf The issue with this comment is that Psalm 89 cannot accurately be considered a parallel passage to Psalm 82, especially since Psalm 89 has the “sons of the mighty” in heaven but Psalm 82 places the elohim (Psalm 82:1), also called “children of the most high” (Psalm 82:6), on “earth” among the “nations” (Psalm 82:8), where they were wicked and unjust judges (Psalm 82:2), afflicting the poor (Psalm 82:3).

One of Heiser’s major failures in defining the term “gods” with his emphasis on interpreting the Scripture through a lens filtered by the ancient Near East pagan thought, is neglecting the fact that much of the pagan views of deity contained mortality; placing them is a bracket closer to humanity than Heiser wants to suggest to his readers. Poems about Baal from Heiser’s beloved Ugaritic text declare, “Puissant Baal is dead, The Prince, Lord of Earth, is perished.”55)Baal Poems, g, I AB, vi. 9-10; in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 139 The goddess Anath also kills the god Mot. “She seizes the Godly Mot—With sword she doth cleave him. With fan she doth winnow him—With fire she doth burn him. With hand-mill she doth grinds him—In the field she doth sow him. Birds eat his remnants, Consuming his portions, Flitting from remnant to remnant.”56)Baal Poems, h, I AB, ii 31-39; in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 140 Craig Keener, who is much more scholarly in his handling of ancient literature, mentioned that “Mortals could also threaten deities with unbelief it they failed to act.”57) Craig S. Keener, Acts An Exegetical Commentary: Introduction and 3:1-14:28, Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI: 2013), Vol. 2, p. 2162

Gentiles on occasions thought Paul “was a god” (Acts 14:11-13; 28:6), as was also true for Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:22). Josephus reports this same event of Herod Agrippa’s death when,

[H]e put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good,) that he was a god; and they added, “Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.” Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery.58)Josephus, Anitiquities of the Jews, 19.344-345; in The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 638

The antichrist is said to “exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God (2 Thessalonians 2:4), and the future world will believe this lie (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11; Revelation 13:4, 12). All this proves the ancient world did not interpret the word “God/gods” as disembodied beings as Heiser suggests. The fact that the antichrist will be worship as a god (Revelation 13:12) and will exalted himself above all others called gods (2 Thessalonians 2:4) reveals that the near future when these things will be fulfilled will still not have Heiser’s definition of “disembodied” for the word “god.” However, Heiser’s theology is priming the evangelical world for the end time apostasy to be deceived by the great apostate they receive as a god above others gods.

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 Heiser’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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