Dr. Michael S. Heiser was an Old Testament scholar who lived from February 14th, 1963 to February 20th, 2023. His book “The Unseen Realm: Recovering The Supernatural Worldview Of The Bible” radically rocked my world several years ago. He, along with Dr. John Walton of Wheaton College did more than just change my views on a few things, they did something far more valuable for me; they made the Old Testament interesting. Admittedly, for much of my Christian life, I saw The Old Testament as one long prologue you had to read before you got to the good stuff about Jesus and the Apostles. Sure, there were great stories in the OT and much wisdom and theological knowledge to be obtained from books like Psalms and Proverbs, but much was either difficult to understand or was just boring.
Heiser’s influence on my own theology can even be seen in the title of my book. The first edition of my very first book was titled “Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods”, but I read The Unseen Realm in between editions, and this resulted in the second edition having an entirely different title: “The Case For The One True God: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Case For The God Of Christianity” Available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle if you want to read it. Click here –> https://www.amazon.com/Case-One-True-God-Philosophical/dp/1729875327 Well, why the name change? Because the reality is that while Yahweh, the God of Israel, is the only omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, morally perfect, uncreated God (or a Maximally Great Being), the gods of the nations are real! They have created beings, they don’t have the “Omni Attributes”, but entities like Baal, Marduk, Asherah, Dagon, and so on are not mere figments of the pagan imagination. They were allotted to the nations at the Tower of Babel incident when God disinherited the nations (see Genesis 10-11, Deuteronomy 32:8-9, Deuteronomy 4:19), but these spiritual beings did not rule over the nations justly. Instead, they desired worship for themselves, so they enticed the nations outside of Israel into worshipping them instead of their Creator, sometimes in grotesque ways such as Molech’s child sacrifice. Because of this, we read about their judgment in Psalm 82.
Recently, I came across an article from a Marcia Montenegro in which she criticizes this whole theological system. The article is called “The Unseen Realm and Another Way To View God and The Bible?” and in this article, I will be giving my response.
Awakenings Are Bad?
Montenegro brings up the “Aha!” moment that Heiser talks about in the introduction of “The Unseen Realm”. Heiser had read Psalm 82 and realized that the term Elohim was being used in two ways; first in the singular (to refer to Yahweh), and second to refer to an assembly of beings. There was God and “the gods”. Psalm 82:1 says “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:” (ESV) Heiser talks about how the Hebrew mandates that the second instance of “elohim” be plural because “you can’t be in the midst of just one” Dr. Heiser writes “In Psalm 82:1, the first elohim must be singular, since the Hebrew grammar has the word as the subject of a singular verbal form (‘stands’). The second elohim must be plural, since the preposition in front of it (‘in the midst of’) requires more than one. You can’t be ‘in the midst of’ one. The preposition calls for a group—as does the earlier noun, assembly. The meaning of the verse is inescapable: The singular elohim of Israel presides over an assembly of elohim.” Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (pp. 26-27). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
Heiser talks about how this rocked his world. How had he never seen that before? Does this mean that God is just one deity among many equals? Just one member in a pantheon? Does The Bible teach Monotheism? Needless to say I felt the exact same thing reading his book. I tried to refute him! But his exegetical arguments were just too sound. I had no recourse but to adjust my theology to this new information. Heiser realized how uncomfortable this would make his readers, as he experienced this discomfort himself. Later on, he describes how the supremacy of Yahweh is not threatened.
Michael Heiser points out that the Hebrew word for God/god is elohim. And Heiser shows a variety of different usages of elohim which show that it did not always refer to Yahweh, the God of Israel. It was used to refer to
•Yahweh, the God of Israel (thousands of times— e.g., Gen 2: 4– 5; Deut 4:35)
•The members of Yahweh’s council (Psa 82: 1, 6)
•Gods and goddesses of other nations (Judg 11: 24; 1 Kgs 11: 33)
•Demons (Hebrew: shedim— Deut 32: 17) 3
•The deceased Samuel (1 Sam 28: 13)
•Angels or the Angel of Yahweh (Gen 35:7) List taken from Michael Heiser’s book The Unseen Realm: Recovering The Supernatural Worldview Of The Bible, page 35
After wrestling with this concept in my mind for a week after reading Heiser’s book, I came to this conclusion. I think Heiser’s proposal is a powerful one, and it explains much. It doesn’t threaten monotheism as I first thought. It might entail Henotheism at worst. However, it appears to me that The Hebrew term “elohim” is synonymous with our English word “Spirit”. A Spirit is just an immaterial unembodied (or disembodied) mind. God is a spirit, but there are also evil spirits (demons), good spirits (angels), and many of us would say that deceased humans in the intermediate state are “spirits”. However, although there are many “spirits” there is only one omnipotent, omnscient, omnipresent, uncreated, morally perfect spirit (i.e God). The Hebrew word elohim seems to have been used in exactly the same way. Yahweh is an elohim and there are many other elohim, but there is only one omnipotent, omnscient, omnipresent, uncreated, morally perfect elohim (i.e Yahweh). Certainly, Yahweh, angels, demons, and even deceased humans would fall under the modern western definition of “Spirit”. They fall under the Ancient Hebrew definition “elohim”. There is only one Ultimate Supreme Elohim. There is only one Maximally Great Spirit. That is Yahweh (The Father, Son, and The Holy Spirit). All others are lesser elohim/gods/spirits.
Montenegro writes of Heiser’s realization that \\“Such language is disturbing because it implies that for 2,000 years, Christians have not been able to correctly interpret this passage until Dr. Heiser’s ‘awakening.’ There is no ‘awakening’ for a Christian. Certainly, there is an increasing understanding of God’s word as one studies it. But this differs from an ‘awakening’ that causes one to view the Bible differently and to interpret passages in a brand new way. There are no new truths for the Church. This statement about awakening was a red flag, but there are others: Imposing a view on the text, the use of the word ‘tradition,’ and appeal to ‘ancient readers.'”\\ –
This is honestly a little silly. If she doesn’t like the word “Awakening”, then fine. But I’m not sure how someone realizing that they’ve been reading a passage totally wrong for years is “a red flag”. If you’re an intellectually responsible Christian at all who does his due diligence in studying The Bible, you’re going to have “Aha!” moments. I’ve had plenty of them. I think there’s a fear factor among many conservative Christians about encountering “new” ideas. By new, I don’t mean they’re actually objectively new, I mean they’re new to the person encountering the view for the first time. Views that maybe they’ve not heard much about in their church or their theological circles. It’s something I encounter time and time again defending views like The Functional Origins/Temple Inauguration interpretation of Genesis 1 See my lengthy essay “Genesis 1: Functional Origins, Temple Inauguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics” for an explanation and exegetical defense of this view. or Annihilationism I defend this interpretation of Hell across three chapters of my book “Yahweh’s Inferno: Why Scripture’s Teaching On Hell Doesn’t Impugn The Goodness Of God”. It can be … Continue reading. I think there’s a tendency to think “If it’s new to me, it must be new to the church as a whole!” and as the saying goes “If it’s new, it aint true”. But there are two things I want my readers to consider; (1) Views need to be examined by the exegetical case brought in their favor. Look at the arguments given in favor of the view and see if it really makes sense in light of the Grammatical-Historical Method. (2) More often than not, these views aren’t new. Neither were they ever condemned as heresies. Views like annihilationism, for example, were held by church fathers as early as the second century. They were minority positions, but they are far from new. See Michael Heiser’s blog post “The Divine Council and Early Christian Writers”.
In the case of the Divine Council Worldview (here on abbreviated as DCW), this view is not only not new, but it’s widely held among Old Testament scholars. Dr. Heiser’s main goal in life was to breach the chasm between biblical scholars and pew sitters, because there are many things just like DCW that are taken for granted among biblical scholars, but which the average Christian is totally unaware. Dome Cosmology is another example of this. Indeed, Zach Miller seems to have taken up the torch for Heiser in his own podcast aptly titled “What Your Pastor Didn’t Tell You”.
Heiser never once claimed that “Christians have been interpreting The Bible wrong for 2,000 years” and that now that he has realized what’s going on in the text, we can read it correctly. Rather, he is saying that most modern-day Christians read their Bibles incorrectly because we so often are unaware of its Ancient Near Eastern context and Second Temple Judaic context for the Old and New Testaments respectively. Things about DCW can not only be found in The Bible but even in the second temple literature (which was before, and during the time of Jesus). Space does not permit citation of all these sources. I just recommend you check out Heiser’s written and podcast material for yourself. Other DCW writers I recommend are Brian Godawa, Douglas Van Doorn, and Tyler Gilreath.
Imposing A View On The Text?
While agreeing that “Elohim” is correctly translated “gods” in Psalm 82, Montenegro argues that gods doesn’t always need to refer to spiritual beings because, she argues, Jesus quoted Psalm 82 to refer to human beings. And she also says that elohim is used for human judges in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8-9.
First, let’s look at Jesus’ use of the term. This is in John 10. In John 10:30, Jesus said “I and the Father are one”. In verse 31, we read that the Jews were so outraged at this statement that they picked up stones to stone him, which prompts Jesus to ask “I did many good works, for which of these do you stone me?” (verse 32) and the Jewish leaders respond “We are not stoning you for any good works, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man claim to be God!” (verse 33). In John 10:34-36 we read “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are ‘gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?”
Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 82:6 always bothered me a bit. Because at face value, it seems like Jesus is trying to walk back one of his most explicit claims to deity. “No no, guys! You got it all wrong! I’m not God’s Son in the sense that I’m equal to him. I’m only claiming to be a celestial being like other sons of God you read about in The Old Testament? Like Psalm 82:6? See? There’s nothing blasphemous about my claim. And besides, God called humans God.” If we reject the supernatural interpretation of Psalm 82, this interpretive paraphrase is what we’re forced into. Montenegro (and others who fear divine plurality language) unwittingly rids us of one of the most powerful proof texts for Jesus’ divinity.
On the other hand, what if the Supernatural interpretation of Psalm 82 is correct? I would argue that Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 82 is not him walking back on his claim to be God, but is instead doubling down on it. Go to the passage Jesus is citing. Who is God talking to? The gods. Who says “I said you are gods…nevertheless you shall die.”? It’s Yahweh! Yahweh is in the assembly of other divine beings, beings to who He is superior, and Yahweh announces their doom. The Pharisees ruled over the religious congregations of Israel to an extent, and the Sanhedrin held even more power. Like the gods of the Old Testament who ruled the 70 nations unjustly and led non-Israelites astray from their Creator, so the Pharisees likewise rule over their flock unjustly (See Matthew 23 for a long list of complaints Jesus had about them). The religious leaders are in the place of “the gods”. This is something Montengro herself would agree with. But then, in what position is Jesus in? Yahweh’s seat.
I submit to you that Jesus is expanding on his claim to be God, not trying to water it down. Jesus is comparing the corrupt legalistic pharisees to the gods of the nations who ruled the nations unjustly. And since he’s comparing Psalm 82’s “gods” to the pharisees, and in Psalm 82, God is doing the judging. Then, in making this comparison, Jesus is putting Himself in God’s place.
So, no. Jesus using Psalm 82:6 on a group of human beings doesn’t entail that the gods of Psalm 82:6 were themselves human beings. Jesus is comparing these human rulers to divine rulers of Yahweh’s divine council. Imagine if I approached a Prosperity Preacher and rebuked him saying “The scripture was right about you when it says you ‘roam the earth like a lion searching for souls to devour!'” I’m clearly quoting 1 Peter 5:8. This verse refers to the devil. Now, does the mere fact that I am applying this verse to a human being mean that I think the referent in the verse’s original context is also about a human being? No, not at all. That doesn’t logically follow. In this hypothetical rebuke, I am comparing a human false teacher to a supernatural being. Jesus is doing the same thing when quoting Psalm 82:6.
Immediately after this, Montenegro tells her readers “A difficult or unclear scripture needs to be interpreted in light of the clear.” I’m so glad she thinks so, because other passages suggest that God does indeed have a divine council, some of whom are rebels.
Psalm 89:5–7 (Hebrew: vv. 6–8) explicitly contradicts the notion of a divine council in which the elohim are humans.
“And so the heavens will praise your wonderful deed, O Yahweh, even your faithfulness, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the sky is equal to Yahweh? Who is like Yahweh among the sons of God, a God feared greatly in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all surrounding him?” (ESV, emphasis mine in bold)
Of this verse, Dr. Michael Heiser writes “God’s divine council is an assembly in the heavens, not on earth. The language is unmistakable. This is precisely what we’d expect if we understand the elohim to be divine beings. It is utter nonsense if we think of them as humans. There is no reference in Scripture to a council of human beings serving Yahweh in the skies (Jews or otherwise).” Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 29). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
Deuteronomy 4:19 says “And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.”
This verse says that the sun, moon, and stars are not to be worshipped and that The Lord “appointed” (NIV) or allotted (ESV) to the peoples outside Israel. In the Ancient Near East, the stars were believed to be gods See William Derham, “Astro-theology: or, A demonstration of the being and attributes of God, from a survey of the heavens,” printed by W. and J. Innys, 1721, Jan Irvin, Jordan Maxwell, Andrew … Continue reading. We even see this in verses like Job 38:5-7 where God rhetorically asks Job “Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? While the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (NIV) The Hebraic parallelism is evident here. The “morning stars sang together” is saying the same thing as “while all the angels/sons of God (Depending on whether you’re reading NIV or ESV) shouted for joy.” Deuteronomy 4:19 says God allotted them over the nations. You read later in Deuteronomy 32:8-9 that “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.” (ESV, emphasis mine in bold) Deuteronomy 32 says that when God divided up mankind, he gave the nations their inheritance according to the number of the Sons of God. This is a good cross-reference with Deuteronomy 4:19 which says that God alloted the nations the sun, moon, and stars. Now, an interesting question is raised? When did God divide up the nations? Obviously in Genesis 10-11; the narrative of the Tower Of Babel. That’s when a people of one nation were scattered into the 70 nations.
We must let scripture interpret scripture. Even if a usage of elohim were used of human judges once or twice, that would do nothing to undermine DCW or even the DCW interpretation of Psalm 82! Oh, and if that weren’t enough consider Jeremiah 46:25 which says “The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and her kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh.’” How can God punish gods if these gods don’t exist? And where did gods like Amon come from if they weren’t previously good celestial beings who were among God’s heavenly host?
All of this makes the DCW interpretation of Psalm 82 more plausible than the human judges interpretation. The gods ruled the nations unjustly after God allotted them to the nations at the Babel event. They lead the peoples astray into idolatry and other detestable practices. This is why God announces a death sentence on them in Psalm 82:6. Yes, “Jesus’ interpretation should be the authoritative one”, but when you misinterpret Jesus himself, appealing to Jesus doesn’t do any good.
Michael Heiser Is A Polytheist?
Marcia Montenegro writes \\“To make it clear, polytheism is belief in and/or worship of more than one god. In other words, belief in more than one god, even if one only worships one God, is polytheism. Heiser fans try to back away from the label of polytheism for Heiser but it fits. Whether the gods are created or not, whether they are worshiped or not, whether one god is eternal and the others are not, does not matter. Belief in many gods is polytheism.”\\
Here, it is obvious that the fear of divine plurality is what’s driving Miss Montenegro’s hermeneutics. First, even if DCW is polytheistic, that is not an argument that the view is not true. This is what scripture teaches as Heiser shows in his book, and as I have shown in both this and past articles See, for example “Genesis 10-11: The Tower Of Babel, The Fall Of The gods, and The Divine Council Worldview”. Saying “Ew, Polytheism!” is not an argument. If this is what The Bible is teaching, then accept it!
But I don’t think this view is polytheistic. Look, if you believe in the existence of angels and demons, you’re already halfway there to accepting DCW. Again, as I explained earlier, the term “Elohim” is basically like our English word “Spirit”. It simply refers to an inhabitant of the incorporeal realm. Yahweh is spirit (John 4:24), but so is Satan, and so is my deceased mother (Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 5:8). Moreover, Polytheists believe in a pantheon of gods who are all equals, and whom you can choose to worship or not depending on what it is you need. Yahweh is unrivaled. As scripture says “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.” (Psalm 86:8, ESV).
If the word “gods” makes Montenegro uncomfortable, then just refer to them as “demons”. Honestly, the g word is the only reason why you would even think DCW is polytheistic. As I said, we Christians are already committed to the existence of angels and demons. It’s only when the g word comes into play that we get a “red flag” and cry “Polytheism!” If she doesn’t like calling divine council members and their fallen host “gods”, then don’t call them “gods”. Call the good ones angels and the bad ones demons. Why not? The apostle Paul does this. In 1 Corinthians 10:20, he writes “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.” (ESV). Psalm 106:37 says “They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons;” (ESV) (cf. Deuteronomy 32:17).
Just A Polemic?
Montenegro goes on to somewhat imply that Christians should not go to the Ugaritic material to understand Israelite theology. She does do subtly, though her foregoing quotation of John Currid seems to contradict what she is implying at this point of the article. Maybe I misunderstood her. But if not, I recommend checking out Episode 118 of The Cerebral Faith Podcast in which Ben Stanhope and I address this issue when responding to an article by Terry Morrison of Answers In Genesis.
Anyway, she claims that mention of pagan gods is polemical. She quotes John Currid as saying “Polemical theology is the use by biblical writers of the thought forms and stories that were common in ancient Near Eastern culture, while filling them with radical new meanings. The biblical authors take well-known expressions and motifs from the ancient Near Eastern milieu and apply them to the person and work of Yahweh, and not to the other gods of the ancient world. . . . Polemical theology is monotheistic to the very core. The primary purpose of polemical theology is to demonstrate emphatically and graphically the distinction between the worldview of the Hebrews and the beliefs and practices of the rest of the ancient Near East.” Quote of John Currid in review of his book, “Against the Gods”
I don’t disagree with the claim that The Old Testament very often engages against polemics against pagan gods and the beliefs about them. Indeed, this is plank 3 of my interpretation of Genesis 1 See my essay “Genesis 1: Functional Origins, Temple Inaguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics”. However, I would argue that if the gods are not real, many of these polemics would be empty. Not all of them. You could still, for example, take “cloud riding” language of the Ugaritic Baal literature and use it of Yahweh. But others just wouldn’t make any sense if the passages were describing non-existent entities. I already made mention of God saying he would punish the god Amon in Jeremiah. But let’s look at an earlier passage. This one comes in the context of the Israelite Exodus right before the angel of the Lord took the lives of the firstborn. In Exodus 12:12, we read “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.” So again, is God punishing imaginary entities?
At this point, an astute reader may point out “But Mr. Minton, what about Leviathan and Behemoth? You don’t think these entities exist, yet you think scripture speaking about them makes sense.” That is true, but the difference here is that we have overwhelming evidence that there is no multi-headed sea dragon known as the Leviathan. Leviathan is a huge physical entity according to the myth. If it actually existed, we should expect to find its kind in the fossil record. That we do not suggest that God used a common folklore monster commonly associated with the sea and chaos to communicate the theological truth that He is the God of order and is very powerful. This is a concept known as “divine accommodation” and is part of my theory of inspiration. To keep this article from being any longer than it needs to be, I will not go into what divine accommodation is, I will simply defer my readers to my prior work in the following footnote. See The Cerebral Faith Podcast, “Episode 169: What Evan Minton Thinks About The Bible – Part 2” — … Continue reading. I am very reluctant to resort to divine accommodation when it comes to passages dealing with theological subjects like angelology, demonology, the afterlife, or really pretty much anything that doesn’t involve God having to modify the way he communicates if the Israelites could easily have understood it. A round Earth and evolution might have distracted the Israelites at best and made them distrustful of God at worst, but if there is no divine council, what accommodation is really taking place in God talking about them as if they were real? The Israelites might have been confused by a round Earth, but what would be so complicated about saying “These gods you want to worship, they’re not real!”
Montenegro writes \\“Heiser’s theme is that “you will never be able to look at your Bible the same way again” (13). To say this in the face of 2,000 years of Christians reading, studying, researching, writing commentaries on, and exegeting the Bible is alarming. To say after all this time and study there is a new way to read the Bible is a red flag and does not inspire confidence in the person making this claim.”\\ —
Again, Montenegro grossly misrepresents what Heiser is saying. Heiser was not saying “You [i.e the entire church all around the world, throughout all ages] will never look at your Bible the same way again.” He was saying this to individual readers who, formerly including myself, had no idea that this entire supernatural worldview was in the pages of my Bible. I, as a studious layman, back in 2017 did indeed have my entire view of scripture rocked. Suddenly, things made sense that didn’t before (e.g the thing with the Nephilim, the head coverings of 1 Corinthians 11 “for the sake of the angels”, the origins of gods other than Yahweh, why Eve didn’t think a talking snake was abnormal, just to name a few things).
All Montenegro is doing here is engaging in typical fundamentalist fearmongering, misusing the “If it’s new, it aint true” mindset to cast doubt on DCW. Miss Montenegro, just because it’s new to you (and was. to me), doesn’t mean it was new to the biblical authors, the second temple Jews, or the early church fathers.
Montenegro writes \\“In fact, Heiser harps on Christian “tradition” in a negative manner throughout the parts of the book I read.”\\ — He has every right to. So do I whenever I get the chance. There are so many biblical truths that I have been blinded to because my pastor (or many preachers), my parents, Christian community, and so on said “X is what Christians believe”. With that in mind, I would go to the biblical text and find exactly what I was told to find. This was not always a conscious effort on my part (proof-texting), but when you hear ideas repeated over and over and over growing up in church, it creates a cognitive bias against passages that would teach the contrary. It’s only when I read scholars arguing to the contrary that some of the blinders I was given are removed and I see the text in a whole new light, or even alter one of my theological views.
Examples of this would be my view on Genesis 1, Partial Preterism, Annihilationism, and yes, The Divine Council Worldview. I was told that Genesis 1 is an account of material origins, everyone I knew held to and endorsed “Left Behind” eschatology, and the idea that Hell is eternal torment was so ingrained in my thinking that “Hell” became a synonym for eternal conscious torment. That had to be what Hell is, after all, that’s what all the pastors say. And even secular cartoons depict Hell as some form of conscious torment. How could it be anything other? But then I read “The Lost World Of Genesis One” by John Walton, “The Apocalypse Code” by Hank Hanegraaff, “The Fire That Consumes” by Edward Fudge, and “The Unseen Realm” by Michael Heiser, and I changed my views in light of the new information these authors presented me.
On the other hand, other things I was told “Christians believe” have been solidified through more of my studies (i.e those things covered in The Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed).
And no, by “tradition”, Heiser is NOT “referring to 2,000 years of historical scholarship and study of the Bible”. He’s referring to bad ideas that originate in one very influential church father (e.g Augustine, who lived in the 400s) which just gets parroted by pastors all over the world (e.g Original Sin – that we are guilty of Adam’s sin). Heiser does not think tradition or traditional views are bad. Neither do I. However, all our beliefs must be subject to the biblical text. If you’re not willing to do this, then you’re not a very good protestant. This is the very essence of Sola Scriptura! So no, tradition is not always bad. But not all traditional interpretations are correct, and tradition can blind you to the actual meaning of a given passage.
Appeal To Holy Spirit Hermeneutics
Montenegro then unfortunately appeals to what biblical scholar Ben Stanhope has dubbed “The Holy Spirit Hermenuetic”. While saying “There is value in understanding the culture and time of the writers of the Bible to get historical and cultural references and context.”, she nevertheless finds it problematic that a Christian would need to consult Ancient Near Eastern writings for a full understanding of the OT. She says “However, we do not have to possess the ancient worldview to read the Bible because the Bible was written under the supervision of the Holy Spirit.” She goes on to say “If it were true that we need to read the Bible through ancient worldviews, then every Christian would either need to rely on ANE experts, or every Christian would need to learn about ancient pagan views and 2nd Temple Judaism (another source Heiser cites) it in order to read God’s word. However, the Bible is for all. Heiser also neglects the fact that a Christian has the Holy Spirit to teach him as he reads.”
So, because we have The Holy Spirit, we have no need of biblical scholars. No need to look at the Ancient Near Eastern texts to get into the cultural cognitive environment of the Israelites. No need for second-temple literature. All you need to do is read The Bible, pray about it, and God will zap you with understanding. This is an idea I’ve run into countless times, and it’s fallacious. The text she cites in support of this is 2 Corinthians 2:12-15, which says “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.”
There are three errors here I want to suggest. First is that nowhere does The Bible teach that The Holy Spirit is going to spoon-feed us the correct readings of biblical passages. If that were the case, why is Montenegro taking so much time to explain to us what Psalm 82 really means (according to her anyway)? Why take the time to argue that, despite all appearances, Psalm 82 isn’t REALLY about Yahweh talking to a council of gods, but it’s actually God calling human judges “gods”? According to her reasoning, since I have The Holy Spirit, I should just be able to read The Bible and He’ll give me that answer, right? Why do I need Marcia Montenegro to tell me what the text means when The Holy Spirit can tell me Himself? It’s a bit inconsistent for Christians to say in one breath “You don’t need scholars. You just need The Holy Spirit” and then proceed to commentate on some passage. If they really believed what they said they’d believed, they wouldn’t feel the need to exegete at all.
Secondly is the misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 2:12-15. In his book “(Mis)Interpreting Genesis: How The Creation Museum Misunderstands The Ancient Near Eastern Context Of The Bible”, biblical scholar Ben Stanhope writes the following;
“To begin with, there are several Greek words Paul could have used in 1 Cor 2:14 when he says the natural man doesn’t ‘accept’ the things of God. Instead of the common term lambano—which broadly and generically means ‘to take’ in any number of senses, Paul used the word dechomai. As a leading Greek dictionary clarifies, dechomai is a precise term that implies the acceptance of a requested offering. In other words, the natural man doesn’t just fail to receive the things of the Spirit of God because he can’t intellectually comprehend the offer of them. The connotation of the Greek term is that he intellectually does receive the offer, but chooses to reject it.
Second, as Robert Stein, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary, points out, the term translated ‘foolishness’ in the above verse is also used again by Paul in the very next chapter. Does this term refer to something being incomprehensible in that context? In 1 Cor 3:19 we read, ‘For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.’ Obviously, God intellectually comprehends the presumed wisdom of the world, but the reason that God rejects it as foolishness is that he doesn’t accept it as true. For these reasons, 1 Cor 2:14 is implying that a non-believer is able intellectually to comprehend what the Bible is talking about, but that he is incapable of willingly accepting its teachings into his life without the Holy Spirit.” Stanhope, Ben. (Mis)interpreting Genesis: How the Creation Museum Misunderstands the Ancient Near Eastern Context of the Bible (p. 163). Scarab Press. Kindle Edition.
Later on in the same chapter, Stanhope wrote “Using the Holy Spirit as an excuse for academic laziness in Bible study isn’t going to help someone understand what the Hebrew words ‘subdue’ and ‘rule’ mean, why the wheels in Ezekiel’s vision were covered in eyeballs, or what on earth Peter is getting at when he says in 1 Peter 3 that Jesus ‘preached to the spirits in prison’ after his crucifixion. It won’t help a person uncover why Paul says women should wear head coverings ‘because of the angels’ in 1 Cor. 11:10, or what the ‘baptism of the dead’ is in 1 Cor. 15:29. That method won’t reveal to you why Moses’ wife in Exodus 4 saved Moses’ life from the wrath of God by touching Moses’ feet with his son’s freshly severed foreskin and pronouncing him a ‘bridegroom of blood.’ People can pray for God supernaturally to reveal to them the meaning of these passages all they want. However, biblically and practically speaking, the granting of this request would seem to constitute a miraculous exception in Paul’s mind to the Holy Spirit’s usual role.” ibid, page 165.
He’s absolutely right. It is, as Stanhope said, “baptizing laziness”. I do not disavow the idea that The Holy Spirit may, at times, zap you with insight while you’re going through scripture. I remember very clearly one day reading Genesis 22, and the typological imagery just hit me like a truck! I hadn’t read theologians say that Abraham sacrificing his “only son” was a typology of God sacrificing his “only son”, it just dawned on me while reading the passage. However, in most cases, I think God wants us to use the brains that he gave us. To do a little research. Pull out a commentary, look at the original Greek and Hebrew in a lexicon, read the writings of respectable bible scholars and theologians. As C.S Lewis once said, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than any other slackers.” I would not understand even half of what I know about The Bible if not for the excellent work of top-notch scholars.
The Perspicuity Of Scripture
Having said all that I said above, I want to take a moment to talk about the “perspicuity of scripture”. The perspicuity of scripture is real. There is a lot you can understand from just picking up The Bible and reading it from cover to cover. It’s not as though every word is going to be gibberish unless you have a handful of commentaries and a lexicon. Most of these tend to be the essentials of Christianity (i.e those things covered in The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicene Creed, and The Athanatian Creed). Indeed, I have found that the essential doctrines of Christianity have the most scriptural support. Moral commandments of God is another area that are fairly straightforward. Although as I point out in my book “The Sermon That God Preached”, even here, sometimes people go astray. Jesus wasn’t condemning sexual attraction in Matthew 5:28, for example. But for the most part, how God wants to conduct us morally is pretty clear.
However, if you want to know what the heck is up with that Nephilim thing in Genesis 6:1-4, or why Paul considers it unnatural for a man to have long hair, you might have to do a little bit of homework.
Straw Man Arguments and False Choice Fallacies?
Montenegro writes \\“Heiser talks about how Christians base their interpretation of the Bible on creeds, confessions, and denominational preferences. This is a false generalization. While it may be true in some cases, it is wrong to claim that Christians everywhere for all time do this. Creeds were formulated to refute heresies and commentaries are well understood as a study tool but not as inspired text. Denominational preferences may be chosen based on belief and other factors; they do not prove that people are not reading and understanding Scripture.”\\ –
It’s clear to me that it is Montenegro who attacks a straw man. What Heiser has said is what I said earlier in this blog post; we are usually told “Scripture says X” and then we go to scripture and find exactly what we were told we would find. This is especially true if the theological view in question is taken as axiomatic. Heiser was not condemning anyone for choosing a denomination or citing creeds. But someone who was raised Roman Catholic, for example, might read about The Last Supper and Jesus’ brothers and just unquestioningly accept the so-called “real presence” view and that James was Jesus’ cousin without even thinking that there may be biblical and/or logical issues with these. I am NOT saying that Roman Catholics adhere to their theology unthinkingly. Rather, this is just an example. I could have just as easily have used Baptists unthinkingly accepting the view that 1 … Continue reading.
Montenegro writes \\“Logically speaking since Heiser states we need to read the Bible through the worldview of the ancients, that in itself is advocating a filter. He just wants to exchange what he sees as a filter for another — his own, which is the view of the ancients.”\\ — This is just ridiculous. Reading a text according to the way the author intended it is NOT reading with a filter. That’s the exact OPPOSITE of reading with a filter!
Montenegro writes \\“Another straw man is Heiser’s view that Christians seem not to accept the supernatural. He even mistakenly says that non-charismatics tend to reject the supernatural. This is a real head-scratcher as I do not know any non-charismatic who rejects the supernatural. There may be some in mainline or progressive churches but evangelical Christianity does not reject the supernatural.”\\ — This is another straw man on Miss Montenegro’s part. Heiser is not claiming that Christians literally reject the supernatural. Not in the sense that Christians are philosophical naturalists. Rather, in practice, Christians tend to act as if the natural is all there is. I will admit to being guilty of this. I have had a tendency to neglect the fact that we have supernatural enemies who want to see our downfall. I tend to focus on the world and the flesh. Cessationists are the worst at this. If you dare to say that God has “put something on your heart”, they will be quick to dismiss you at best. I have a friend who thinks God does not place specific callings on peoples’ lives, and that to say, for example, that God has called you to ministry is to equate yourself with Moses or Paul. Many Christians will deny that God can speak in a “still small voice” and that the pages of scripture is the only place God’s voice can be found at all. I like to refer to this as “the gagging of God”, and I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the “God told me” crowd.
Montenegro suggests that perhaps what Heiser is referring to are “liberal scholars” who he has read or talked to. While I can’t speak to Heiser’s experience or what people he is referring to, I resonated with Heiser’s experience because I have seen it in my own experience with other Christians, as I have said above. Montengro writes that “Heiser gives examples, including a Christian talking about his guardian angel or hearing a disembodied voice, to make the point that non-charismatic Christians would not react well to this. This seems even too silly to respond to. One could easily point out that such a reaction hardly means the person rejects a supernatural view. Belief in guardian angels is one thing, belief in angels is another. Does anyone know a born-again Christian who does not believe in angels?” I think she really missed the point. The point is that we are reluctant to ascribe any kind of activity to the supernatural.
Deuteronomy 32:8 and “The Sons Of God”
Unfortunately, there isn’t much in this section that’s even worth responding to. I could get into the textual critical issue regarding the variant readings of “Sons Of God” VS. “Sons Of Israel”, but that would make an already lengthy article even lengthier. I will respond to a couple of points in this section. For example, she says “Dr. Heiser writes that the term ‘sons of God’ in the Old Testament does not refer to the same beings as ‘angels’”’ (24; the Hebrew for “angels” means “messenger”). This is needed for his claim that the ‘sons of God” are actual gods in the Divine Council.”\\ —
Yes, because “angel” means messenger and is a job description, not the name of a celestial species. And again, given the way that the hebrew word “elohim” is used, there is no reason to think that the gods of Psalm 82 are not also the “sons Of God”. I mean, for one thing, in Psalm 82, God says “I said ‘you are gods. Sons of the Most High.'” in Psalm 82:6. So even in Psalm 82, regarding the fallen gods who lead the nations into idolatry, God calls them his sons. But we also see divine council members called God’s sons in other divine council texts such as Job 1 and 2.
She also references 1 Corinthians 10:20 which I quoted earlier and basically says “Paul says they’re demons, but they’re not ACTUALLY gods!” Again, I think she’s just being driven away from DCW by her fear of divine plurality.
Fear Of The G Word
There are two entire sections in her articles where Montenegro concedes that the worship of idols is the worship of demons, and that there are indeed real spiritual entities behind idols. Nevertheless, she repeatedly pounds the drum of “they’re not gods.”, “They’re not gods.” “They’re not gods”. Never is the fear of the “g” word more on display in this passage. To say what she says in this part of the article is a HUGE concession to DCW, for now you are conceding that entities like Baal, Marduk, Asherah, etc. are not mere figments of the pagan imagination, but are real spiritual beings. You just fear the possibility of polytheism so much that you want to avoid the term “gods” like a plague. As I said before, if you find this term unhelpful or misleading, by all means abandon it. Call the members of God’s divine council “angels” if you please. Call the ones allotted to the nations “demons”. A rose by any other name smells just as sweet.
The Image Of The Divine Council?
\\”\\“Heiser states that unless one is ‘acquainted’ with God’s divine council, then the first chapter of Genesis is misunderstood. This seems to be a set-up so that if anyone has another view, it must be because that person does not know about or agree on Heiser’s view of the divine council. What is this based on? It is based on Heiser’s belief that the Divine Council exists, so it is begging the question.”\\ — First, Heiser did not say the entire chapter would be misunderstood. Rather, one will misinterpret Genesis 1:26-27 where God says “Let us make man in our image”. Heiser argues that this is God speaking to his divine council. He rejects the idea that this is God The Father speaking to other persons of The Trinity because God The Son and God The Holy Spirit are just as omniscient as God The Father. So they don’t need to be informed of God The Father’s desire to make humans. Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 39). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition. Given that other biblical passages have conversations taking place between the persons of The Trinity (Hebrews 1 immediately comes to mind as one example), I’m not as convinced of this argument as I once was. Nevertheless, I still think his conclusion is correct because of Ben Stanhope’s argument that “this same plural language parallels how an Assyrian tablet from c. 800 B.C. has humanity formed: ‘Let us slay (two) Lamga [craftsmen] gods. With their blood let us create mankind.’ Both this text and Gen 1:26 are grammatically analogous. In the Assyrian text, a class of gods called the Anunnaki are announcing their plan to the other members of a divine council. The Genesis author likewise adopts this same form of address (what grammar geeks call the cohortative) to depict Israel’s God expressing his intentions to his own heavenly entourage. This style of divine council ‘let us…’ language is very common in Mesopotamian literature.” Stanhope, Ben. (Mis)interpreting Genesis: How the Creation Museum Misunderstands the Ancient Near Eastern Context of the Bible (pp. 120-121). Scarab Press. Kindle Edition. In fact, over personal correspondence, Stanhope told me that the head god announcing “let us make humanity” or some variation is so common in Ancient Near Eastern creation myths, that it’s pretty much a staple of the genre!
Secondly, there is no reason to doubt that there is a divine council. That’s clearly what is going on in 1 Kings 22, and there’s no reason to think that the “gods” (there’s that scary word again) of Psalm 82 are mere humans. Especially contrasting Psalm 82 with Psalm 89 where such an argument would lend itself to the silly notion that a bunch of Jewish men were floating around serving God in the sky.
\\“Unless one has certain views promulgated by Heiser and others who agree, one cannot properly understand a number of passages in Scripture.”\\ — Yes, indeed. Well, at least you’ll miss out on some interesting nuances. I talk about this in my article “Three Surprising Places Divine Council Theology Shows Up In The Bible”.
Montenegro then goes on to say “Heiser states in a footnote that the Israelites believed that the stars were ‘animate divine beings’”’ (24), who are the beings of the divine council. This view is promoted in Bible Project videos Spiritual Beings and The Divine Council done with Dr. Heiser. In the video, Heiser states that the biblical authors see these stars as spiritual beings who are ‘“‘images of God.‘”‘ This links with Heiser’s teaching that man is made in the image of the Divine Council (52) because the gods of the Divine Council also are image-bearers of God.“\\ — Heiser never said that humans are made in the image of the divine council. Humans are made in the image of God. What is the image of God? It is to represent God. Humans represent God on Earth. Angels (I avoided the scary g word) represent God from Heaven.
\\”This renders humans less than a unique creation, whereas scripture strongly emphasizes the unique status of man. It would also affect man’s relationship with God because it would denote that man has or should have some kind of relationship with the spiritual beings in heaven as we do with God.”\\ — This is a non-sequitur. The fact that one additional race bears the image of God doesn’t mean humans aren’t special. For one thing, humans are the only image bearers whose sins can be atoned for by the blood of Christ (See Hebrews 2:17 which says that Jesus had to assume a human nature “be made like them in every way” to make atonement for us).
One thing that I think a lot of Christians don’t understand is that pretty much ANY view of the image of God is going to include angels by logical entailment. Heiser makes the case (and I have as well in previous blog posts) that the imageo dei is a status. We represent God. The image of God is not the possession of mental faculties such as rationality, a moral compass, or libertarian free will. However in order to represent God, the possessions of these faculties is a necessary prerequisite. But whether you want to say that these mental attributes ARE the image of God or are merely the pre-conditions to imaging God, either way the angels get thrown in. Why? Because obviously, angels are rational beings with a sense of right and wrong! And when angels come to this world to speak to people (like Gabriel speaking to Mary in Luke 1), he is speaking on God’s behalf, and ergo is representing him. Unless Marcia Montenegro wants to formulate a theory of the divine image that doesn’t include angels (and I do not know of one), then she must agree that, yes, angels are made in God’s image too.
Montenegro asks how we can know that the entire divine council did not participate in the act of creating since the “us” and the “our” in Genesis 1:26 are referring to the same group. I’m surprised she even raised this point because Heiser explicitly said why in the book! He wrote “Genesis 1:27 tells us clearly that only God himself does the creating. In the Hebrew, all the verbs of creation in the passage are singular in form: ‘So God created humankind in his image, in the likeness of God he created him.’ The other members of the council do not participate in the creation of humankind. They watch, just as they did when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:7).” Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 40). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
In this section, Marcia Montenegro just completely misses the point. She is still fixated on refuting the idea that there is more than one “god”. This is a pretty lenghty article as is, so I will just advise the reader to pick up a copy of Michael Heiser’s “The Unseen Realm” for himself.
1 Kings 22, Ahab, and Micah
This section has even more bad takes. Montenegro denies that 1 Kings 22 has God consulting with his divine council and argues that the one who enticed Ahab was Satan because one of God’s holy ones would never lie. She says that this is similar to how Satan presents himself in the book of Job as an agent who defies God and wants to cause Job misery to prove that Job only serves God out of what he can get from God. There are two problems here; the first is that lying is not always wrong. Here, I will just defer the reader to my blog post titled “Q&A: Several Questions About Godworld, Molinism, and Divine Deception”. The second problem is that Heiser argued explicitly in his book that the accuser in Job 1 and 2 was not Satan. I personally think he overstates his conclusion. He argues that “Ha satan” (The Satan) means that “Satan” is not necessarily the name of the adversary. After all, the definite article doesn’t precede names. in Hebrew any more than it does in English. I think the Hebrew grammar certainly opens up the possibility of it being someone else, but I don’t think we can say with certainty that this is definitely not Satan. .
The fact that God consults with other spiritual beings on how to best carry out a task does NOT imply that God knows the future. Montenegro also assumes that “God is outside of time”. Something I take to be logically incoherent. I refute divine timelessness in my article “Q&A: Is Divine Timelessness … Continue reading. God knows all things. As a Molinist, I affirm that God knows not only everything in the present and everything that will happen in the future, but everything that could, would, and will happen. And based on statements Heiser made elsewhere, I can assure Montenegro that Heiser’s view of divine foreknowledge and human (or angelic) free agency is much more in line with Molinism than with Open Theism. Heiser just doesn’t employ the fancy philosophical lingo we Molinists often use (e.g “possible worlds”, “Strong actualization”, “Weak actualization”, “Middle Knowledge”, et. al.).
God just likes letting his intelligent creatures get in on the action. God works with and through his creatures. God knew what plan would best be the one to take down King Ahab. He wasn’t asking because he was having difficulties coming up with ideas. He just wanted his council to participate. Given His omniscience, He would obviously reject any suggestion that would not work if it was freely carried out by a council member.
Daniel 4: Decree From The Watcher
In this section, Montenegro seems to argue, citing two commentaries, that the “watcher” that appears in Nebuchadnezzar’s decree wasn’t a Watcher, but an angel. And that the term “watcher” is just how Nebuchadnezzar decided to describe the being given his pagan beliefs. That Nebuchadnezzar interpreted this as the god Nergal descending and declaring that which he decreed. Montenegro argues that Daniel actually corrects “being assured that the whole is sent from heaven, that the decree is ordered by the one true God, and that the holy watcher is an angel of God.” Montenegro goes on to say “It is possible the king saw an angel delivering the decree and took that as the angel or Watcher declaring the decree. But Daniel does not confirm this; he instead states that it is by the decree of God. In fact, Daniel is correcting the king, pointing out it is a decree from God, not a ‘Watcher.’ Therefore, I do not see support for the idea that spiritual beings (gods) on the divine council hand out decrees, especially since the consensus is that ‘Watcher’ could refer to an angel.”
I think we as Christians would never want to affirm that what descended from Heaven and gave Nebuchadnezzar his vision was one of his gods. It seems fairly obvious to me that the being who delivered the message was indeed an angel. After all, delivering messages is what angels do. As already stated, “angel” is not the name of a celestial species, but is a job description. But what significance does this have to DCW? Montenegro seems to be saying that when Nebuchadnezzar recalled the dream, he was just lying about that last part when the angel said “The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’” (Daniel 4:17, ESV). Look at the whole passage. While calling the being a “watcher” earlier in the passage (Daniel 4:13) could have been Nebuchadnezzar interpreting the dream through his worldview, in the last part of the recollection this isn’t merely Nebuchadnezzar’s commentary on what he saw, these are words coming from the angel’s mouth. So either Nebuchadnezzar took some poetic license with his dream near the very end, or this angelic being took part in the decision-making as Heiser proposes. It is possible that Nebuchadnezzar could have put words in the angel’s mouth that the angel didn’t really say, but given that Nebuchadnezzar is troubled by his dream and wants an accurate interpretation, doesn’t it make more sense that he wouldn’t lie about any part of it? It seems more plausible to me that this is actually what the angel said in his dream.
Now, what follows from this? Montenegro seems to think that it means “other beings aside from God can decide and decree what happens on earth.” Yet, this is not what The Divine Council Worldview teaches. As we saw from the Divine Council scene in 1 Kings 22, God’s heavenly host can offer all kinds of suggestions in the decision making process, but Yahweh is the one who ultimately decides what will happen. Go back to 1 Kings 22. God rejected the ideas offered by all but the last one who said he would put a lying spirit in the mouth of all of Ahab’s prophets. The fact that God allows his created agents to make choices doesn’t undermine his sovereignty. Since The Watchers said “Hey, let’s have Nebuchadnezzer lose his sanity as a punishment” and Yahweh approved of that decision, the “decree” can correctly be said to come from BOTH The Watchers AND Yahweh.
As Dr. Michael Heiser explains “Here we see that the ultimate authority behind the decree is God, the Most High, and yet the watcher who delivered the decree in verse 17 said ‘the sentence is by decree of the watchers.’”’ Both God and his divine agents were involved in the decision.” Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 54). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
Heiser also writes “The takeaway is that God rules over the heavenly realm and the earthly realm with the genuine assistance of his imager-representatives. He decrees and they carry out his commands. These points are clear. What is perhaps less clear is that the way God’s will is carried out and accomplished is open—imagers can make free decisions to accomplish God’s will. God decrees the ends, but the means can (and apparently are at times) left up to the imagers.” ibid, page 54
And so, I just don’t see what the theological problem here is supposed to be.
The Issue Of Satan
What Marcia Montenegro writes in this section of her article doesn’t really do much to challenge The Divine Council Worldview, and so I don’t really feel that motivated enough to talk about it here. However, I will make one point regarding the development of Satan in demonology in a moment. This is the one and only section of her article that I actually agree with! I think Dr. Heiser overstates his case when he argues, from the Hebrew Grammar, that the accuser in the book of Job is most definitely not the same guy who tempts Jesus in Matthew 4. The Grammatical Argument at best shows that the door is open for the accuser to be someone else. In his book “How To Read Job”, Old Testament scholars John Walton and Tremper Longman III agree. They also point out that given that the definite article precedes the Hebrew satan, that this might not be the Satan we all know and hate, but that it still might be.
Now, as for Jewish belief in Satan, I do think Heiser is probably correct that Jews did not believe in a being named Satan until probably around the Second Temple Period. However, this is not to say that the idea of Satan was simply made up and that Satan doesn’t actually exist. Rather, scholars of the Tanakh reflected on the raw data of scripture and noticed that there seemed to be a supernatural being who repeatedly pops up and is in opposition to God. So they theorized that the serpent in Genesis 3, the accuser in Job 1 and 2, the accuser in Zechariah 3:2, and the Cherub addressed in Ezekiel 28 were the same villain. In other words, belief in Satan was a result of systematic theology! This is not unlike how The Trinity was formulated by Christians reflecting on the data of The New Testament that speaks of three different distinct persons, and yet Jesus and The Holy Spirit are said to be God, and there’s only 1 God. By taking the doctrines (1) There is only one God, (2) The Father is God, (3) Jesus is God, (4) The Holy Spirit is God, and (5) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct persons, and reflecting on these biblical propositions theologically and philosophically, the Doctrine Of The Trinity was born.
We know from The New Testament that this conclusion of the Jews was right! Jesus Christ himself affirms that this systematic theological conclusion was true, and as I have said before, we can take Jesus as an authority because he claimed to be God, died on a cross, and rose from the dead. And God raising Jesus from the dead is a vindication of his claims. We have excellent historical evidence from this. See my 11 part blog series “The Case For The Reliability Of The Gospels”.
This is another section that really doesn’t challenge The Divine Council Worldview. Here, Montenegro takes Heiser to task for saying that the angels are corruptible because he cites the words of Eliphaz in Job 4:17-19 and in 15:14-15 where Eliphaz states that God “charges his angels with error” and that God “puts no trust in his holy ones.” She argues that we shouldn’t take Eliphaz’ statements as true because God rebukes Eliphaz in Job 42:7, “After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.'”
First, this really doesn’t undermine The Divine Council worldview even if we conceded every point in this section. Secondly, God doesn’t explicitly say what Eliphaz said that was wrong. Are we to take it that every single word they uttered throughout the entire book was false? It seems to me based on the context of the book as a whole was that Job’s friends erred in thinking Job sinned, and thinking that The Retribution Principle always held. Their theodicy was overly simplistic – If bad thing happen, you must be bad person. Any good theodcy will be multi-facited to allow for the complexities of the world, such as I present in my essay “Why The Problem Of Evil Is A Failed Argument For Atheism”
There are three further sections in Montenegro’s article criticizing “The Unseen Realm: Recovering The Supernatural Worldview Of The Bible” by Michael Heiser. She argues that the serpent in Genesis 3 was just a creature, and what she says about Ezekiel 28 and The Prince Of Tyre is mostly on point, but she errs in that she misrepresents Heiser as saying the being addressed in Ezekiel 28 was definitely not Satan. Heiser never says this. She then goes on to talk about Heiser’s arguments for the angelic-human hybrid view of the Nephilim found in Genesis 6. Honestly, I would just defer the reader to pick up a copy of Heiser’s book for themselves and read it. A common thing I found as I read Montenegro’s article section by section is that she doesn’t seem to have understood 99% of what she read.
You can also see Ben Stanhope’s video “Why The Villian Of Eden Was A Serpent” and my essay “Genesis 6: The Nephilim – Descendents Of Cain, Neanderthals, Ancient Kings, or Angel-Human Hybrids?”
Summary and Conclusion
This is probably one of the worst criticisms of Heiser I have ever read. While reading Montenegro’s article, I so often found myself thinking “Did she even read the book she’s criticizing?” Because, a lot of my responses involved reiterating what Heiser said in the book (or what I have said in previous non-response articles on The Divine Council). Montenegro attacked not just one, not two, but an entire cornfield’s worth of straw men! A major chunk of her criticisms can be dealt with just by being familiar by Heiser’s material! There was a lot of reinventing the wheel in this article. I don’t want to be mean, but I can’t help but think one of these factors must be at play; (1) Montenegro is deliberately misrepresenting Heiser, (2) Her reading comprehension is so bad as to be non-existent, (3) She didn’t read the book and is going off comments she’s heard from others about Heiser’s book, (4) Her fear of divine plurality is so overpowering that it hindered her ability to interpret the evidence.
I hope my response article has helped clear up many misconceptions and clear away that fog that Montenegro generated by her review. I hope you can see that Heiser is not a polytheist, that the existence of a divine council doesn’t threaten the supremacy of Yahweh, that Heiser is not “contradicting 2,000 years of church teaching”, and have seen through all the errors of Montenegro’s article. Dr. Heiser was taken out of context continually.
|↑1||Available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle if you want to read it. Click here –> https://www.amazon.com/Case-One-True-God-Philosophical/dp/1729875327|
|↑2||Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (pp. 26-27). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.|
|↑3||List taken from Michael Heiser’s book The Unseen Realm: Recovering The Supernatural Worldview Of The Bible, page 35|
|↑4||See my lengthy essay “Genesis 1: Functional Origins, Temple Inauguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics” for an explanation and exegetical defense of this view.|
|↑5||I defend this interpretation of Hell across three chapters of my book “Yahweh’s Inferno: Why Scripture’s Teaching On Hell Doesn’t Impugn The Goodness Of God”. It can be purchased in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com. — https://www.amazon.com/Yahwehs-Inferno-Scriptures-Teaching-Goodness-ebook/dp/B08GP8P56D?ref_=ast_author_dp|
|↑6||Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 29). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.|
|↑7||See William Derham, “Astro-theology: or, A demonstration of the being and attributes of God, from a survey of the heavens,” printed by W. and J. Innys, 1721, Jan Irvin, Jordan Maxwell, Andrew Rutajit, “Astrotheology and Shamanism”, Book Tree, 2006, ISBN 978-1-58509-107-2. H. Niehr, “Host of Heaven,” Toorn, K. van der, Bob Becking, and Pieter Willem van der Horst. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible DDD. 2nd extensively rev. ed. Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999., 428-29; I. Zatelli, “Astrology and the Worship of the Stars in the Bible,” ZAW 103 (1991): 86-99.|
|↑8||See, for example “Genesis 10-11: The Tower Of Babel, The Fall Of The gods, and The Divine Council Worldview”|
|↑9||Quote of John Currid in review of his book, “Against the Gods”|
|↑10||See my essay “Genesis 1: Functional Origins, Temple Inaguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics”.|
|↑11||See The Cerebral Faith Podcast, “Episode 169: What Evan Minton Thinks About The Bible – Part 2” — https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/evan-minton/episodes/Episode-118-Ben-Stanhope-Responds-To-Terry-Mortensons-article-Reading-Genesis-ANE-Hermeneutic-VS–Plain-Meaning-e15im8u, also see my blog post “My Fallback Position On Genesis 1”|
|↑12||Stanhope, Ben. (Mis)interpreting Genesis: How the Creation Museum Misunderstands the Ancient Near Eastern Context of the Bible (p. 163). Scarab Press. Kindle Edition.|
|↑13||ibid, page 165|
|↑14||I am NOT saying that Roman Catholics adhere to their theology unthinkingly. Rather, this is just an example. I could have just as easily have used Baptists unthinkingly accepting the view that 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from being pastors. Or Pentecostals just accepting Glossolalia in 1 Corinthians 14:2|
|↑15||Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 39). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.|
|↑16||Stanhope, Ben. (Mis)interpreting Genesis: How the Creation Museum Misunderstands the Ancient Near Eastern Context of the Bible (pp. 120-121). Scarab Press. Kindle Edition.|
|↑17||Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 40). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.|
|↑18||Montenegro also assumes that “God is outside of time”. Something I take to be logically incoherent. I refute divine timelessness in my article “Q&A: Is Divine Timelessness Compatible With Molinism?”|
|↑19||Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 54). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.|
|↑20||ibid, page 54|