I’m going to take a bit of a break from picking on other people’s translation choices that I don’t like to talk about some of the scholars I do like.
Those who followed my morning teachings over at Cyber-Synagogue (mine were updated weekly for the morning service until we decided to combine services) know that I like to cite favorite authors a lot. They also know that over the years I’ve probably mentioned Dr. Chuck Missler’s name more than anyone else’s. Candidly, this is because he had a profound impact on my life, giving me a love for the Scriptures that extends from the strategic overview of the Bible to the yods and tittles. While I have come to disagree with Dr. Missler on some aspects of theology–principally pre-trib Dispensationalism and Law vs. Grace–I still love him and his work.
But where Dr. Missler did an enormous amount to shape my thinking and love of the Word, I have to admit that lately I’ve been spending far more time following the work of another gentleman, Dr. Michael S. Heiser, who can be found, naturally enough, at michaelsheiser.com. From his own bio:
Mike Heiser is a scholar in the fields of biblical studies and the ancient Near East. He is the Academic Editor of Logos Bible Software. Mike earned the M.A. and Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004. He has also earned an M.A. in Ancient History from the University of Pennsylvania (major fields: Ancient Israel and Egyptology).
The thing I most like and respect Dr. Heiser for is that he has made it a point to come out of the ivory tower to interact with people that most accredited scholars wouldn’t touch with a ten-cubit pole, those on the fringe of UFO lore, ancient astronauts, and Planet X theory, both professing Christians and not. He engages alternative beliefs with humility and humor (including a healthy dose of self-deprecation: “I’m still astounded that I got married. It’s nerdy to like to parse verbs!”), never mocking or condescending to those he disagrees with–but that doesn’t stop him from very analytically dissecting views that he disagrees with.
I first encountered Dr. Heiser’s work through some interviews on A View From the Bunker with Derek Gilbert, specifically, talking about what Dr. Heiser calls the Divine Council paradigm. I have to be honest, I already believed most of what Dr. Heiser described–that there are powerful spiritual entities called the “sons of God” in Deu. 32:8 (DSS and LXX) and Job 1-2 that Hashem set over the nations–just from reading Daniel 10, and didn’t realize that it was a controversial view. But the way he explained the view and tied it in to modern day encounters with the supernatural really got my attention, and I started working my way through his writings.
There is a lot to recommend in his work, but for now I’ll limit myself to recommending two items in particular: First, his novel The Facade, which ties in the Divine Council, UFOs, mind-control, and government conspiracies in a unique and very thoughtful manner while also telling an engaging story. It isn’t often that I read a novel–I repeat, a novel–that comes with an annotated bibliography, or that I feel the need to reread it with a notebook in hand. By all means, go pick it up and read it. Then start working your way through the bibliography.
Secondly, is what Dr. Heiser likes to call The Naked Bible and its associated podcast. In particular, I recommend the series on the Bible’s literary genres and the latest series on studying the original languages. I consider these two series to be essential listening for anyone doing their own Bible study–and particularly for those presuming to teach. Not only does Dr. Heiser provide some excellent advice, he also gives links to the books he recommends for building one’s own library, both modern works and those which are free online (for those of us with a minimal research budget).
Now does all of the above fanboying mean that I agree with everything Dr. Heiser says? Of course not. He has a number of typically Protestant views that I would have a different perspective on. We would also disagree on eschatology–mostly in that he sees it as far more frustrating and obtuse than I would, though I do agree wholeheartedly that we need to challenge our own assumptions and be careful of thinking we’ve got it all figured out. And there are some other quibbles I might have with his approach to certain passages.
Nevertheless, I’ve learned a lot from his work in just the last year, and his Divine Council paradigm has, I believe, given me the key to really understanding Galatians 4 and Deuteronomy 28. (More on this later.) Therefore, I would like to recommend Dr. Heiser’s work–especially The Facade, which I hope he eventually manages to sell a million copies of.