Unfiltered Fridays: All Your Genesis Commentaries Are 8-Track Tapes

We’ve all heard the old saying that certain things get better with age—wine, cheese, common sense. Anyone who’s watched Antiques Roadshow also knows that the longer you have something that there’s a demand for—real estate, investments, fine art, a popular car—the more value it will accrue. Unfortunately, the reverse is true for many of the most popular tools for biblical study. They’re often more like memory and tech gear—they get worse with age and perhaps become totally obsolete.

Commentaries are one of the tools that don’t get better with the passage of time. The reasons are pretty simple. Biblical scholars are like experts in any field. They keep thinking and researching. The data of biblical studies increase and improve. Archaeology produces more discoveries of relevance. Computer technology makes ancient language analysis more thorough (and faster). Information becomes more accessible and searchable. It’s no exaggeration to say that what scholars had access to 100 years ago is literally a fraction of what’s available to you today using only a smart phone. In terms of what previous generations were capable of analyzing in a lifetime we can surpass with a few hours of effort.

I work for the world’s leading Bible software company, so I’m used to the staggering realities of the modern world for biblical studies. But the truth I’m talking about today was brought home to me in a direct way only in the last year. My book, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, devotes a lot of space to a lot of weird passages. One of the strangest is Genesis 6:1–4, the episode in the days of Noah where the “sons of God” (called “Watchers” in Jewish literature between the testaments) transgress the boundary between heaven and earth in an illicit relationship with the “daughters of humankind.” The act produced the Nephilim, who are the forebears of the giant clans encountered by Moses and Joshua (Num. 13:32–33).

There have been many attempts to strip this passage of its supernatural elements to make it palatable to modern Bible students. Since this sort of material has been my academic focus for the past 15 years, I can tell you that all such attempts have significant flaws of exegesis and logical coherence. But the greatest flaw is that any view that humanizes the sons of God and denies the unusual nature of the Nephilim invariably violates the passage’s original context and polemic meaning.

Prior to 2010, that assertion may have been contestable. That is no longer the case. Recent scholarly work on the Mesopotamian epic literature associated with events before and after the great flood have produced clear, unambiguous, point-for-point parallels to what we read in Genesis 6:1–4. Those parallels demonstrate with no uncertainty that this biblical passage was specifically written to denigrate Mesopotamian ideas of the superiority of their gods and culture.

In the Mesopotamian material, the divine beings who lived at the time of the flood were called apkallu. They cohabited with human women, producing a new generation of apkallu who were not only divine-human hybrids, but also giants. Mesopotamian religion saw these generations of apkallu as great sages. Their survival via human women before the annihilation of the flood preserved preflood divine knowledge that had been taught to men. This knowledge was preserved in Babylon, which explained (to the Mesopotamian cultures) why their culture was superior to all others. Rather than deny the supernatural context of the Mesopotamian material, Genesis hits it head-on. The apkallu were not saviors. They were undeserving rivals to Yahweh of Israel that deserved to die. After the flood the post-flood giant apkallu became enemies of God’s people, the Israelites. Whether we realize it or not, Genesis 6:1–4 is the first salvo in the long war against Yahweh and his people. This strange passage that modern readers keep at arm’s length has hooks into other biblical passages, including the New Testament.

The new research I speak of is the result of thorough reexamination of the Sumerian and Akkadian flood epics. That result was skillfully culled by cuneiform scholar Amar Annus in a 2010 article: “On the Origin of Watchers: A Comparative Study of the Antediluvian Wisdom in Mesopotamian and Jewish Traditions,” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha vol. 19:4 (2010): 277–320. Annus’ article is the most current study on the Mesopotamian apkallu available anywhere in any form. It supersedes all preceding work on this subject.1)Such as J. C. Greenfield, “Apkallu,” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Edited by Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst; Leiden: Brill; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999) and Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, “The Mesopotamian Counterparts of the Biblical Nepilim in E.W. Conrad and E.G. Newing (eds.), Perspectives on Language and Text: Essays and Poems in Honor of Francis I. Andersen’s Sixtieth Birthday July 28, 1985 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns): 39-44. It deals a death blow to any nonsupernatural interpretation of Genesis 6:1–4.

What this means is that every commentary on Genesis you’ve come to trust can no longer be trusted on this passage, because it was written before this new, ground-breaking research. They’re like 8-track cassettes—obsolete. The good news is that my book The Unseen Realm, interacts with this new research at length. And there are a lot of issues like this one that it brings up-to-date. If you care about interpreting the Bible in its original context—including the supernatural worldview of the biblical writers—you need to read The Unseen Realm.

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The Unseen Realm
The Unseen Realm, brought to you by Lexham Press, is coming to shelves this summer. For more resources exploring the mysteries of the Old Testament, check out Dr. Heiser’s Mobile Ed course, OT 291 The Jewish Trinity: How the Old Testament Reveals the Christian Godhead.

Be sure to check back every Friday for more unfiltered insight from Dr. Michael Heiser.

References   [ + ]

Dr. Mike Licona—How to Overcome Doubt and Strengthen Your Faith

Dr. Mike Licona is an associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University. In this episode of Mobile Ed Conversations he talks about doubt and shares how he has overcome doubt in his own faith. He also gives insight into how he saved money by earning his PhD in South Africa.

To find new and upcoming courses by professors like Dr. Mike Licona visit Logos.com/Mobile-Ed.

HiDef Mondays: The Other Disciple

Names are typically the best way of quickly achieving identification, especially if the person is already know to everyone. But sometimes context demands that you do something other than the ordinary. TV programs are a great modern example of this. I remember one show where a girl ran off to look for distant relatives in eastern Europe. Instead of using some real country that everyone had heard of, the writers made one up: Baltslavia or something like that. There was a problem, though. Since no one knew where it was (or even that it was a country) EVERY TIME they mentioned it (which was a lot) they had to reintroduce it: “She went to Baltslavia, that small European country.” Their choice to make up a new country made the name fairly meaningless because they could not rely on our knowledge of the world for the quick identification associated with names.

The same kind of thing happens with John’s reference to the “other disciple” as in John 18:15–16, and elsewhere during his description of Jesus’s death. We can’t know exactly why the author made the switch, but the consensus view is that John is the intended referent of the expression.

So why switch names? Generally speaking, named people tend to play a bigger role than unnamed ones, like those referred to with an epithet like “the other disciple.” This principle is clearly not a rule, as we see Mahlon, Chilion and Elimelech in Ruth 1 all named, but as Adele Berlin describes them, they are names without faces. In the NT we see the same with some of the apostles who are named, but never participate in dialogue or activity as individuals.

There are also characters who play big roles but who also lack a name, like the woman at the well (John 5) or the man born blind (John 9). Both of these people play significant roles, so the omission of names here is likely attributable to no one knowing them.

So where would obscuring John as “the other disciple” or “the one whom Jesus loved” fit in? It makes most sense to attribute it to keeping the spotlight on Peter by pushing “the other guy” into the background by removing his name. However, the length and complexity of these expressions almost has the opposite effect. More often we see expressions like this purposely used for thematic reasons to recharacterize the person, like shifting from “Judas” to “the one who was betraying him” in Mark 14:44.

Choice implies meaning. John made the choice not to use a proper name to refer to himself during Jesus’s last night, and we associate meaning with his choices. But the nature of the expression draws elements from two different devices: backgrounding by avoiding a name, and thematic highlighting by changing the referring expression to a thematically loaded one. I think the former was the intended function, but the latter the unintended side effect of the decision.

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Do you have your own examples of referring expression that raised questions or made you wonder if something was going on? Be sure to post them at https://faithlife.com/highdef/ this week!


If you have had some Greek and are longing to dig deeper into issues like these, then it’s time to dive into discourse grammar. And there is no easier or more effective way to get started than the New Testament Greek Discourse Bundle.

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Unfiltered Fridays: Inspiration Was a Process, Not an Event

Because the Bible says quite clearly that it is “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16), Christians tend to think of inspiration as some sort of otherworldly event. In the course of many years of teaching biblical studies (and chit-chat that happens at church) I’ve heard some pretty strange explanations of inspiration—about how God took control of the hand and mind of the writer, or how the authors slipped into a heaven-sent trance state, or how the Spirit whispered the precise words into their minds (or maybe just “impressed” them into their consciousness). Frankly, all of that sounds more like an episode of The X-Files than biblical theology. And it absolutely doesn’t reflect what you actually find in Scripture upon close examination.

There are some transparent examples of why the “paranormal event” view of inspiration makes no sense. There are four gospels in the New Testament. Three of them (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) overlap with respect to the events they include about the life of Jesus. But those events may be dissimilar in the level of detail[1] or arranged in a different sequence.[2] Dialogue within shared episodes also diverges in vocabulary, length of statements, and who speaks when. And even when the dialogue (in English translations) appears identical, it isn’t. In the Greek text writers can use different lemmas, verb tenses, noun cases, conjunctions, and participles over verbs. If the stories of Jesus were “whispered” to the writers or downloaded into their semiconscious minds, divergences like these are the last thing one would expect. Would the Holy Spirit really want to yank our theological chains like that? I doubt it.

There are a lot of other phenomena in the biblical text that tell the careful reader quite clearly that inspiration wasn’t an event. Most biblical books show signs of editing. One of the best examples is the first four verses of the book of Ezekiel:

1 In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), 3 the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the LORD was upon him there. 4 As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north. . . . (ESV)

The first verse uses the first person in two instances—indicated by bold underlining. The first person language creates the expectation that Ezekiel is writing about himself. But in verse three there is a switch to the third person (boldface without underlining). Now the writer is clearly not Ezekiel, but is an anonymous author referring to Ezekiel in the third person. Verse four switches back to first person. These switches are the tell-tale signs of an editor. The Holy Spirit is not suffering from schizophrenia. This material is clearly not dictated or downloaded or the product of automatic writing.

Instruments or puppets?

While God does speak to people in Scripture, the passages that describe how biblical authors produced what they did never cast it in anomalous terms. According to the Bible, Scripture is the result of divine influence and the very normal human activity of speaking and, by extension, writing (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet 1:16-21). Writers report events and record feelings. They build arguments. They express themselves in poetry. They use sources. They borrow thoughts. They (or other hands that followed) rewrite and refine what was written. Authors are sensitive to genre, structure, literary devices, word choice, poetic parallelism, and narrative art. There is word play, irony, and premeditated structuring of plot. The books we have in our Bible are the result of work and careful thought. Biblical books were not slapped together. No part of any biblical book just “happened” out of the blue.

God’s role is no less significant and intentional. God chose a wide range of people and providentially prepared them all their lives for the moment he would prompt them, either by his Spirit or by someone else’s influence, to write something down for the posterity of God’s people (or to collect and edit material from a prophetic figure). God put them in situations that would lead to the need for them to write the message God wanted preserved. He didn’t need to give put them into a trance and manipulate fingers like we do to little children when they’re learning their letters. They didn’t need hand-holding (or mind control). They were his instruments, not his puppets.

Embracing the Bible’s humanity

Why does any of this matter? Because minimizing (or denying) the humanity behind biblical authorship is a surefire way to undermine the doctrine of inspiration. Explaining the Bible as something dispensed from a super-intelligent deity from out of the ether is irreconcilable with what we see in it. On the other hand, defining inspiration as a long process guided unfailingly by Providence helps account for the phenomena of Scripture. Embracing the humanity of the Bible is enormously helpful for understanding what’s actually in the Bible—in terms of both its “untidiness” and its artistry.

[1] Compare Matthew and Mark’s account of the temptation of Jesus: Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13.
[2] Compare events that follow the calling of the Twelve between Matthew, Mark, and Luke (begin in Matt. 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-15).

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Mobile Ed: TH101 Introducing Bible Doctrine I: Theology, Divine Revelation, and the Bible
Be sure to check back every Friday for more unfiltered insight from Dr. Michael Heiser.

Explore the process of divine revelation with Dr. Heiser and others with the Mobile Ed course TH101: Introducing Bible Doctrine I: Theology, Divine Revelation, and the Bible.

 
 

The Two Philosophies of Bible Translation

“There are two basic approaches, or philosophies, to translation,” says Dr. Mark Strauss in his course BI181 Introducing Bible Translations. The first is called formal equivalence. It’s also known as a word-for-word or literal translation (although Dr. Strauss emphasizes that there is no translation that is completely literal). “With formal equivalence, the goal is to follow the form of the original text—the Greek or Hebrew text—as closely as possible.”

The second approach is called functional equivalence and was previously known as dynamic equivalence or idiomatic translation. This approach focuses on capturing the essential meaning of the text.

In the following clip Dr. Strauss illustrates these differences by comparing translations of Luke 17:13.

To learn more about how the Bible is translated, how we got the Old and New Testaments, and why these texts are reliable, expand your library with the Text of The Bible Bundle, featuring Mobile Ed courses by Dr. Mark Strauss, Dr. Michael Heiser, and Dr. Craig Evans.

HIDef Mondays: Comparing the Lord of the Sabbath Statements

We’re going to take a look at another passage found in all three Synoptic gospels recounting Jesus’s response to the Pharisees complaint about His disciples plucking grain on the Sabbath in violation of law. All three gospels have the same basic outline: the disciples plucking, the Pharisees questioning its lawfulness, and Jesus responding by appealing to the Old Testament for support. But each gospel writer presents a different portrait of Jesus’s response. Let’s begin with Mark 2:23–28.  The OT appeal in Mark comes from the story of David entering the temple and taking the bread of the presence for his men to eat while they were fleeing from Saul. Verse 27 introduces the climactic Jesus’s statement to the Pharisees. Even though it is a single speech, Mark breaks it into two by reintroducing Jesus as the speaker with an extra “and he said to them.” Segmenting one speech into two generally draws attention to the final segment, which happens to be the climax of the confrontation.

Mark 2

 

The principle Jesus cites is that the Sabbath was made for man, not vice verse. Verse 28 introduces the resulting conclusion: the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath. This is the takeaway claim about Jesus from this encounter.

Matthew’s version actually draws twice upon the OT, the first about David taking the bread of the presence (Matt 12:3–4), and the second concerning how the priests were guiltless as they worked offering sacrifices in the temple on the Sabbath (Matt 12:5). In Matthew’s version, verse 6 begins the climactic statement, highlighted by the metacomment “I tell you.”

Matt 12

In this version, the comparison of Jesus as a greater temple is the takeaway. Notice that verse 8 begins with γάρ, signaling that it offers support for what precedes. So both Mark and Matthew include the same statement, but in different roles.

Luke’s account only has one appeal to the OT, the story of David taking the bread of the presence (Luke 6:3–4). Just as in Mark’s account, Jesus’s speech is segmented into two chunks using a redundant quotative frame, drawing attention to the final statement.

Luke 6

 

Jesus’s climatic statement about the Son of Man being lord of the Sabbath is the same as in Mark, but worded slightly differently. Mark’s version includes adverbial καί, creating a thematic link back to some related element. It presupposes that Jesus is lord of some things, adding that he is “even/also” lord of the Sabbath. By omitting καί in Luke’s version, Jesus is making a singular claim about who is lord of the Sabbath, without reference to other things He might be lord of.

Each of the gospels was written for a unique set of reasons. Each writer had a specific message to convey. Matthew’s version focuses on the claim about One greater than the temple having come, which figures into his gospel’s larger purpose for. Mark and Luke include no such detail, but instead focus on what for Matthew served as support for his claim: that Jesus is lord of the Sabbath. Three different perspectives of the same encounter written to accomplish different communicative goals.

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If you enjoyed today’s post, like and share it with your fellow grammarians.

If you have had some Greek and are longing to dig deeper into issues like these, then it’s time to dive into discourse grammar. And there is no easier or more effective way to get started than the New Testament Greek Discourse Bundle.

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Unfiltered Fridays: Let the Bible Be What It Is

As a biblical scholar, I’m often asked for advice on how to interpret the Bible. I could refer people to tools (like Logos Bible Software) and techniques for analyzing the original languages, even if you’re dependent on English (like Learn to Use Hebrew and Greek). But neither of those are my go-to answer. My own journey has convinced me there’s one fundamental insight that, if faithfully observed, will help more than anything. It’s the best piece of advice I can give you:

Let the Bible be what it is.

What do I mean? I’m suggesting that the path to real biblical understanding requires that we don’t make the Bible conform to our traditions, our prejudices, our personal crises, or our culture’s intellectual battles. For sure you’ll find material in Scripture that will help you resolve personal difficulties and questions. But you must remember that, while the Bible was written for us, it wasn’t written to us. What they wrote is still vital for our lives today, but we can only accurately discern the message if we let them speak as they spoke.

This advice of course dovetails with my previous post, about getting serious and being honest about the oft-repeated mantra “the Bible needs to be interpreted in context.” That, as we discussed last time, is about recognizing that all contexts—including the history of Christianity—which post-date the biblical world are foreign to the Bible. The right contexts for interpreting the Bible are those in which the Bible was written. You can’t let the Bible be what it is if you’re filtering it through a set of experiences and ideas (“cognitive framework”) that would have been incomprehensible to the biblical writers.

A firm grasp of the obvious

I know that, on the surface, what I’m saying amounts to having a firm grasp of the obvious. But if it were easy to do—and if it was the norm—I’d be writing about something else. It isn’t and it hasn’t been. But it certainly needs to be, at least if we don’t want to be pretenders when it comes to respecting God’s decision to produce Scripture when he did and through whom he chose.

Many illustrations come to mind of the importance of letting the Bible be what it is. The supernaturalist worldview I talked about last time, and which is the thrust of my upcoming books, The Unseen Realm and Supernatural, is one example. I’ll return to that another day. I want to offer two others.

What about the pre-scientific cosmology of the Bible? I’ve written about the ancient Hebrew conception of the universe in the Faithlife Study Bible. For the biblical writers, the earth was flat and round, supported by pillars (2 Sam. 22:8) and surrounded by water (Gen. 1:10), which was held in place by the edges of the solid dome (“expanse”; “firmament”) that covered the earth (Gen. 1:6; Prov. 8:27-28). The people God chose to write about the fact that he created everything were not writing science because they couldn’t—and God of course knew that. Instead of pressing Genesis into a debate with Darwin or making it cryptically convey the truths of quantum physics, we should let it be what it is so it can accomplish the goals for which God inspired it—to assert the fact of a Creator and our accountability to him. Rather than fight the critic on grounds he or she chooses, we ought to insist that they explain why it makes any sense to criticize the Bible for not being what it wasn’t intended to be. By such absurd logic, perhaps we can expect them to criticize their dog for not being a cat, or their son for not being a daughter. Their attack is patently absurd. But we endorse it when make the Bible a modern science book instead of letting it be what it is—what God intended.

Truth that transcends culture

The same problem persists when we try to deny that the Old Testament is patriarchal, or that parts of the Mosaic Law are biased against women. Some are because that was the culture. God didn’t hand down a new culture for particular use in Scripture. He didn’t demand that the writers he chose change their worldview before he’d use them. The biblical material simply reflects the cultural attitudes of the people who wrote it.

Again, all this is obvious—but so many students of Scripture seem to approach such issues with the assumption that the Bible endorses a culture. God wasn’t trying to endorse a culture from the first millennium BC or the first century AD for all time and in all places among all peoples. The reason ought to be apparent: God knew that the truths he wanted to get across through the biblical writers would transcend all cultures. Endorsing the prejudices the writers grew up with wasn’t what God had in mind. Some parts of Scripture reveal culture simply as part of Israel’s history. Others focus on behavior. With respect to the latter, God let the writers be who they were (i.e., he knew what he was getting when he chose them for their task), knowing they were capable of communicating timeless principles of conduct by means of their culture.

The point is that letting the Bible be what it is not only helps us interpret Scripture accurately, but it has unexpected apologetic value. Taking Scripture on its own terms helps our focus and fends off distractions. When Scripture is rightly understood, its relevance will also be clear.

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Be sure to check back every Friday for another unfiltered insight from Dr. Michael Heiser.
Learn to Use Biblical Greek and Hebrew

Start studying the Bible on its own terms. Learn to interpret biblical Hebrew and Greek—even if you’re dependent on English—and get the most out of Logos’ language tools with the Mobile Ed courses LA 151 and 161: Learn to Use Biblical Greek and Hebrew.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Podcast Roundup: Acts, Sola Scriptura, and Celebrities in the Church

During Mobile Ed Conversations we chat with today’s top Christian scholars and church leaders while they’re in studio, filming courses for Logos Mobile Education. Our latest conversations feature insight from the minds of Dr. Joshua Jipp, Dr. Michael Allen, and Dr. Roger Olson.

You can also listen and subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Dr. Joshua Jipp—How the Book of Acts Applies to Us Today


Dr. Joshua Jipp is an assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he originally taught New Testament as a teaching fellow. In this episode he talks about application of the book of Acts in the modern day, as well as what’s new in the field of New Testament studies.

Dr. Jipp’s Mobile Ed course on Colossians is available for pre-order as part of the Paul’s Letter’s Bundle.

Dr. Michael Allen—His New Book and His Process in the Classroom


Dr. Michael Allen is an associate professor of systematic and historical theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL. In this episode he talks about his new book, the Protestant commitment to sola scriptura, and his process in the classroom.

Dr. Roger Olson—History of Theology and the Rise of Christian Celebrities within the Church


Dr. Roger Olson is the Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at Baylor University. In this episode he talks about the history of theology and the rise of Christian celebrities within the church in North America.

Listen to more episodes and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Then visit Logos.com to find new and upcoming courses by professors like Dr. Jipp, Dr. Allen, Dr. Olson, and others.

HiDef Mondays: Discourse Grammar and Logos

Steve’s away at BibleTech this week, so we got one of our Logos pros to show us how we can use the principles of discourse grammar and Steve’s Hi-Definition resources in conjunction with Logos 6 to gain new insight for preaching and study.

In this video, Todd Bishop walks us through Philippians 1:6.

Get a full complement of Steve’s discourse tools with the Greek New Testament Discourse Bundle.

Unfiltered Fridays: Sincerity and the Supernatural

The last time we chatted, I made the comment that the right context for interpreting the Bible accurately isn’t the history of Christianity in any of its creedal distillations or denominational forms. But I went even further—I said that the biblical context isn’t any modern world context, period. The right context for understanding the Bible is the context that produced the Bible. That seems simple, but experience has taught me that commitment to this patently obvious truth isn’t easy.

One of the contexts of the Bible is its supernaturalism. The biblical writers believed in an active, animate spiritual world. That world was home to a lot more than the triune God, angels, Satan, and demons. It included other gods (i.e., the gods of the nations were not merely idols) and territorial spiritual beings that were not demons—and were, in fact, superior to demons. It included what we think of as ghosts, who could appear visibly, and even physically, and communicate to the embodied living world of which they had once been a part. For the biblical writers, divine beings could eat, drink, fight, and produce offspring with humans (e.g., Genesis 6:1–4; 18:1–8; 19:1–11; 32:22–32; Num. 13:32–33; 2 Pet 2:4–10; Jude 1:6–7).

Facing up to the Bible’s “weird” passages

In the biblical-theological worldview, the supernatural unseen realm had its own pecking order. Scripture never says that such intelligent beings always had the same agenda, either. The members of the heavenly host were also created in God’s image (the plurality language of Gen 1:26 isn’t about the Trinity), so they possess free will, the ability to make decisions. Their acts and attitudes are not programmed and predestinated. They believe they can defeat the plans of God, or at least forestall them indefinitely, at great pain to him and great cost to humanity (eternal and otherwise).

Let’s face it—we just don’t think like that. The above isn’t the supernatural world of most Christian traditions. That doesn’t matter if we’re sincere about reading Scripture through the cognitive framework of its writers and original intended audience. But in many cases, especially in evangelical academic biblical scholarship, the supernatural thinking of the biblical writers has been something to explain away or avoid. I’ve seen it hundreds of times over the course of twenty years of sustained focused study as a biblical scholar. There are many creative ways to explain away what the text plainly says in various “weird” passages. But understanding Scripture isn’t about making it palatable or comfortable to modern readers. It’s about discerning what the biblical writer believed and was seeking to communicate to readers who thought the same way.

Are we sincere about biblical authority?

To be blunt, most Christians think themselves believers in the supernatural because they believe in the Trinity, Satan, angels, and demons. They profess Christ and believe in God—and that’s the extent of what they truly think is real in terms of the supernatural. They affirm what they need to affirm to call themselves Christians. The rest is too scary or weird, or perhaps simply superstitious.

When it comes to the supernatural, the question every Christian who says they believe in biblical inspiration and authority is simple: How much of what biblical characters and writers believed about the supernatural world do I believe? Put negatively: How much of what biblical characters and writers believed about the supernatural world do I feel comfortable dismissing as a modern person? The answer to these questions will tell you how serious you are about biblical authority in such matters.

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I Dare You not to Bore Me with the Bible

Dig into the Bible’s most baffling passages with Dr. Heiser’s I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.

Be sure to check back every Friday for another unfiltered insight from Dr. Michael Heiser.