The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael Heiser is out now! Discover how The Unseen Realm illuminates Scripture today!
A few weeks ago, while Dr. Darrell Bock was in town filming for Logos Mobile Education, we had Michael Heiser sit down with him to discuss the origin of The Unseen Realm and the most important points found in the book. Watch the full, 26-minute interview below.
“If it’s weird, it’s important”
In The Unseen Realm, Dr. Heiser digs into some of the strangest passages in the Bible to illuminate how each of them plays a part in the greater biblical narrative. Because these passages are so odd, we often assume they’re too peripheral to matter. Here’s how Dr. Heiser addresses this obstacle to understanding the unseen realm.
Note: the following is adapted from Chapter 2 of The Unseen Realm.
Sometime after we moved to Wisconsin for my doctoral work, my wife and I found a church that felt as if it might become our new church home. The pastor had a degree from a well-known seminary. His first two sermons from 1 Peter were filled with solid exposition. I was excited about the prospects. By our third visit, he had reached 1 Peter 3:14–22 in his sermon series, a very odd passage that’s also one of my favorites. What happened next is etched on my memory. The pastor took the pulpit and announced with complete sincerity, “We’re going to skip this section of 1 Peter since it’s just too strange.” We didn’t visit again.
I’ve seen this sort of evasion more than once. Usually it’s not as dramatic. Pastors don’t typically tell their people to skip part of the Bible. The more common strategy for “handling” strange passages is more subtle: Strip the bizarre passage of anything that makes it bizarre. The goal is to provide the most ordinary, comfortable interpretation possible.
This strategy is ironic to say the least. Why is it that Christians who would strenuously defend a belief in God or the virgin birth against charges that they are unscientific or irrational don’t hesitate to call out academic SWAT teams to explain away “weird” biblical passages? The core doctrines of the faith are themselves neither ordinary nor a comfortable fit with empirical rationalism.
The odds are very high that you’ve never heard that Psalm 82 plays a pivotal role in biblical theology (including New Testament theology). I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years and I’ve never heard a sermon on it. There are many other passages whose content is curious or “doesn’t make sense” and so are abandoned or glossed over.
In this book, I’ll be offering my take on many “strange passages.” Other scholars have done the same. But if mine are different, it’s because they grow out of the perspective of the mosaic. They don’t exist in isolation from other passages. They have explanatory power in more than one place.
My point is not to suggest that we can have absolute certainty in interpretation everywhere in the Bible. No one, including the present writer, is always right about what every passage means. I have a firm grasp of my own lack of omniscience. (So does my wife, for the record.) Rather, my contention in this book is that if it’s weird, it’s important. Every passage plays a coherent role in the mosaic whole.