An Overview of Michael Heiser's teachings
This is a summary of the teaching errors of Michael Heiser who has introduced what he claims are accurate and legitimate interpretation corrections to the Bible. These points that are mentioned in the articles are condensed for the purpose of listing the numerous Scriptural errors of interpretation. (this will be added to as we come across newer teachings)
First and foremost, he says “The God of the Old Testament was part of an assembly – a pantheon – of other gods ” (p. 11 Heiser, The Unseen Realm.)
This outrageous claim is NOT extrapolated from Scripture but forcibly inserted into various ambiguous texts using nonbiblical sources, including sources that are hostile to Judaism/Christianity. “a pantheon—of other gods” is what is defined as Polytheism.
Heiser defends his position saying it is not polytheism, because he holds to the ontological uniqueness of Yahweh. But this only means he is teaching Henotheism, which is defined as a main God over other gods. Which by the way is much like the Jehovah Witnesses believe. They define the Father as the Almighty and Jesus the Son as a mighty god (singular) Heiser has numerous divine gods (plural) called the sons of God..
One of the more preposterous explanations of his view is that “ The chief deity of Ugarit was El—one of the names that appear in the Old Testament for the God of Israel. El had a divine council whose members were “the sons of El,” and he had a co ruler, Baal.
This is an atrocious interpretation, as ‘El’ is a generic word which means God (singular in Hebrew); it can be used for both true and false gods; it is not a name. He uses this example to in order to claim similarities.
Why would Micah write in chapter 4:5: “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” Meaning YHWH is our (Israel’s) Elohim.
Heiser even states, “Israel derived their understanding of the Godhead from their version of the divine council, or pantheon” (Michael S. Heiser, “Old Testament Godhead Language”).
Heiser claims this is not from the Bible but from other religious text[s], and that multitudes of lesser gods remained a part of the religious view of Israel throughout the Second Temple period. His claim is that Israel believed in a pantheon of plural gods is exactly what God taught them not to do, as the nations around them did.
Only apostate Jews would believe what other nations believed about god[s] and councils of gods, Jews who were led astray from their covenant with YHWH, the God of Israel.
However, this is exactly what God taught the Israelites not to believe, what the other nations around them did. It was for this reason, that God had Moses write the following words, first in Gen 1:1-2 “ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This act of creation was from the ONE GOD that Genesis 2 identifies as YHWH Elohim. The true God says, “there are no other gods” (authentic – there are only false Elohim) gods.
Heiser states elohim are divine gods as a council beside the creator God. The True God says, “there are no other gods” (authentic - only false elohim)
By teaching this he rejects that the monotheism of the Bible. His interpretation of ‘Monotheism’ as it is currently understood means that no other gods exist. The Bible explains this in no uncertain terms there is only one TRUE God; others that are called gods are false by the first commandment example. Ex 20:2-3 " I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
In Genesis the other elohim
The same God who created the expanse of heaven and earth in Gn.1;1 speaks 12 times, in the last announcement we find he is speaking to others (Elohim) to create man, which most see as the triune God in light of New Testament revelation defines who created. Heiser instead insists God is speaking to a council of divine beings he created in heaven having a council as a meeting and then saying there is a council of gods as he teaches are two totally different doctrines.
He lists Elohim as applied “referring to beings who inhabit the spiritual world (p. 29). These include Yahweh, the divine council, the gods of other nations, demons, angels, and the souls of deceased human beings, i.e. Samuel (p. 30 Unseen Realm). But He fails to mention, even eliminates two other important usages; 1. for men in particular roles, and 2. idols which is the majority of its usage in the Old Testament.
He says they are a divine council, the sons of God that are above the angels, these are those whom God (YHWH) spoke to when He said he would make man in his image in Gn.1:26. Heiser rejects the implication of Trinitarian illustrations (Gn.1:26) substituting the explanation “ Yahweh said to his council… (Gen 11:7).” (p.35) God is speaking to the divine council and not the Trinity.
Heiser interprets the 'host of the heavens' to be the divine council members whom YHWH gave to the nations as their gods, that is except for Israel whom he chose to be his nation.
A Council of gods is found in Gnosticism and many other anti Christian sects. This is also found in Mormonism (a polytheistic cult of Christianity) and the Urantia book, an occult spiritual belief of the cosmos and earth.
This is Intellectualized paganism with a dash of Gnosticism, and Marcionism. Marcion believed that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God of the New Testament and published a gnostic canon, with only the gospel of Luke and ten of Paul’s Epistles, approx. 140 AD.
We do find an expression of angelic rulers over all the Gentile nations (70) within ancient Judaism However, these heavenly powers are treated as angels and need to be noted in contrast to Heiser, who insists on calling them “gods.” The emphasis here is that if they are angels, they would be fallen according to Eph.6:11, 12.
Using the Old Testament
Finding similarity of words and concepts used of god[s] in paganism’s history and culture Heiser attaches it to the Judaism of Moses. Ignoring the Hebrew Scripture as a direct revelation from God. Heiser makes it sound like Israel held to a reformed polytheism, (adopted from the pagan nations around them; he tell us this is his area of expertise).
“Prior to the sixth century B.C.E., Israelite religion underwent an evolution from an initial polytheism to a firm monolatry, where the other gods of the divine council were tolerated but not worshipped .” (ABSTRACT THE DIVINE COUNCIL IN LATE CANONICAL AND NON-CANONICAL SECOND TEMPLE JEWISH LITERATURE Michael S. Heiser)
What was revealed by God to Israel of who he is, is the very opposite of what Heiser is teaching.
Because he claims these pagan beliefs existed prior to ‘the Biblical texts’ (the Bible is actually before Ugarit’s history He is using the modern discovery of Ugarit dated from about 1200 BCE to possibly earliar.)
Heiser sounds just like other liberal scholars who see the Hebrew Bible as being borrowed, influenced, conglomerating the ideas found in these other ancient writings for their own religion of Yahwehism.
Heiser promotes ANE- (ancient near eastern way of understanding). But Actually the Hebrew writings of the Old Testament are our basis to understand what is called Scripture. While history and culture can give some flavor, we do not allow it to reinterpret what is written. His claim to be expert on pagan cultures does not allow him to change actual biblical history by imposing the pagan worldview on the Biblical authors.
Satan a divine council member
From Genesis onward he has a different story for nearly everything. He inaccurately says, Satan was in the garden as one of the members of the council of gods that was ruling in the garden and rebelled. He says the being responsible for tempting Eve was one of the b'nai ha elohim, a prominent member of the Divine Council. which makes Satan, (the Devil) NOT the tempter of Eve, He also teaches, the term “satan” is never used of the serpent!
When Satan shows up in the Hebrew Bible, it doesn’t refer the devil.So he is different than the tempter of Eve, the devil.
“The instances of satan in the Old Testament that lack the definite article also don’t refer to the devil or the serpent figure. … satan is why later Jewish writings began to adopt it as a proper name for the serpent figure from Genesis 3 who brought ruin to Eden” (Unseen Realm)
However2 Cor. 11:3 says“as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness” And later in v.14 “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” Is the same description of the serpent in Eden (one that he himself uses).
Who is this serpent? The last book of the Bible written by the apostle John tells us the very thing Heiser insists is not there.
Rv. 12:9 “ That serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world”
Rv. 20:2 “ the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan” They are all descriptive of the same being.
Heiser also claims that ha satan is “ not a villain. He’s doing the job assigned to him by God.” Which insinuates he did not rebel (pp. 56-58).
He adds that Satan is no longer the accuser of the brethren, he is now expelled from heaven (p. 281) in our day. However, this takes place during future Tribulation period when war breaks out in heaven and Michael and his angels fight the dragon and his angels and they are cast out of heaven and down to earth, “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, Rv. 12:7-10)
Heiser’s view is that Eden was God’s activity center, the abode of God, “an earthly archetype of the heavenly reality,” (What Eden tells us about Satan, Heiser). It is the location God’s heavenly council; there were divine beings in the garden. And the temptation takes place in the divine council abode of Eden. “ Eden can only be properly understood in light of the worldview the biblical writers shared with other people of the ancient Near East.” (p.44)
‘The implication of seeing Eden through ancient Near Eastern eyes is that God was not the only divine being.” (Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness by Michael S. Heiser) This explains what divine means to Mr.Heiser.
His interpretation principle, is seeing everything through the lens of pagan religious writings this is his axiom used to interpret Scripture. His view is that Genesis 3 (i.e., the “fall” of man) is just as much about the fall of a completely different creature, a particular guardian cherub, w hich means Satan is not the same one who fell in heaven.
“Satan was the guardian cherub/serpent rebelled against YHWH deceiving Adam and Eve to sin in order to gain wisdom and knowledge. YHWH cursed the guardian cherub/serpent, cast him to the earth to eat dust, and then cast Adam and Eve out of Eden. And that signaled the “war” between the serpent’s offspring (i.e. the nations) and the woman’s offspring (i.e. Israel) throughout the Old Testament .”
Problem is there is no guardian mentioned until after they sinned, so this is his imagination at work. He is using terms and events out of their context (like Rv.12:6).
He refers to Wallace, who notes that “ the main feature of the garden of God theme is the presence of the deity. The divine council meets there and decrees of cosmic importance are issued .” (excerpt from Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness by Michael S. Heiser)
The only one called Elohim that was in the garden was God himself. “ And they (Adam and Eve) heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” (Gen 3:8) There was no divine council, nor did Satan belong to a council of other Elohim.
He claims, demons are neither fallen angels nor the offending sons of God (Elohim) that became corrupted. Heiser teaches the Anakim who live in Canaan (along with the Rephaim), are the descendants, offspring of the Nephilim. Demons are the dead Nephillim spirits that survived the flood. This is his position in spite of Scripture stating only the 8 on board the ark (Noah’s family) survived the flood (Gn.7:22). All that had breath outside the ark died. So either they snuck onto the ark or had an invasion again AFTER the flood to reproduce.
Those who were involved in the rebellion were put in the abyss. Speaking in the context of the judgment on the ancient world, Peter 2:4-5 and Jude 6 likewise speaks of this event “ And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day .” So they are not floating around on earth today as demons.
He teaches believers (Christians) will become part of the council of gods in the resurrection when the world is turned into Eden again at Christ’s return. We will be gods, humans will be made divine and become part of the divine family.
The first statement of becoming a God is from the Devil as he offered Eve to become one.
we will never become gods, EVER! In the beginning we were made in his image and likeness, in the future we will be transformed to the Son of Gods likeness, sinless with immortal bodies.
Angel (Messenger) of the Lord
Again Heiser uses other pagan religious beliefs and superimposes them into Scripture . “The Angel that embodies Yahweh’s presence parallels the role of Baal not only as co-regent but also as the warrior who fights for El. He is a distinct personage Yahweh’s presence, but not Him in His fullness.”
This ignores Ex. 3:2 when “ the Angel of the LORD appears to Moses V:6 He said, " I am the God of your father--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. " vv.13-15 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." He reiterates this over again saying in Exod. 3:15 this is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'
You cannot disproportion God, He is fully God or he is not God. This messenger (angel- malak) of God who looked as man and had Gods name in him (authority and nature), was not a created being, nor was He an actual angel by nature.
Heiser believes the kingdom (which began in Eden) that it has already been established but not yet in its completed state, he says it is progressing by the Church, in the form of the Church.
Heiser’s view, “ When Jesus came the kingdom was established on earth, but it was not consummated. The church’s task is to push out the boundaries of the kingdom, claiming more ground for Christ. When Christ returns, we inherit rule of the nations with Jesus, all competing elohim will be defeated we will displace the corrupted divine sons of God presently ruling the nations and lose their claim over the kingdom.”
The Bible speaks of the kingdom as first spiritual, birthed in a person’s heart. There is a difference between this and the literal kingdom when Christ returns and rules on the earth over the nations. We will then rule under his leadership not with him.
The last days – the nations and Israel
Heiser teaches the “ last days,” in both Testaments, signaled the “last days” of apostate Israel, not the “last days” of the Christian Age . Is this so?
The Bible says different. Heb. 1:1-2 God,” who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,” The sons words are written to us as the New Testament, the new covenant.
Writing to the Church: 2 Peter 3:3 “ knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days.” To believers, 2 Tim 3:1 “ But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.”
Eschatology – the return, the tribulation and the Millennium
He continues his disagreement with the scriptures by saying, There is Not 144,000 literal Jews taken from the earth …. Collective membership of glorified believers who are selected to combat the armies of the beast, the watchers.”
Yes they are Jews, the Bible: Rv. 7:4 “ And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed: 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes.” And they are on the earth to evangelize and sealed, protected. V.1 ‘the four winds’ implies the 144,000 will be chosen from all over of the world, not just Israel
Hesier states, This coming of Matthew 24:14 is a reference to His “Second Coming,” which “coming” occurred in AD 70 (The founding of the Messianic kingdom).
Did every eye see His return? Was 70 ad Armageddon. Where are the Bible prophecies (of nations and events) fulfilled? What he is describing in this return is unbiblical, unfulfilled, as Christ is not ruling physically present from Jerusalem (see our articles on Preterism)
That “Babylon the harlot, which is none other than Jerusalem (Revelation 17-18).
He uses Matthew 10:22-23 and 16:28 out of their context and ignores all the signs and event that are to take place before the 2nd coming, during the Tribulation.
Heiser also says “the millennium is not limited to 1000 years.”
6 times in Revelation 1,000 years is given as the length of Christs reign on earth, the transition until the consummation (the judgment). The book is very specific on measurements and time.
Rev 20:4 “they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years”
Rev 20:6 they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
So far its 1950 years since he returned in 70 AD and still no Millennium as the Bible describes. Why? Because that is not what scripture means.
Heiser says, the new earth is, “heaven.”
Isa. 65:17 " For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth. (Isa.66:22), and 2 Peter 3:13 “new heavens and a new earth’
The New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven upon the new earth (Rv.21) this perfectly illustrates that it is a new earth and a new atmospheric heaven. The earth and heavens is never destroyed but transformed just as our new bodies are to be prepared for it.
He also says the earth when Christ comes back will return to be Eden; which means Eden was heaven?
He claims the Dominion Mandate is fulfilled, as Eden is spread over the earth.
But Eden is not restored in the Millennium, for there will be sinful men along with the transformed eternal humans living on earth. So is Heiser’s Eden before or after sin no longer exists?
I have struggled to actually understand what he is saying in his doctrinal viewpoint, and it can be difficult at times.
Does Heiser regard the Bible as inspired revelation from God through man to mankind or a human invention, or a mixture of the two? Some of the scholars that Heiser refers to, and quotes from are those in the liberal category. They do not regard the Scripture to be of divine origin, i.e. God’s revelation. They view the Hebrew Bible the same way they view other writings as products of mens progressive view of God.
Heiser’s whole view of the Bible is colored by this council of gods that he claims was found in the Ugarit cuneiform tablets, whom Israel allegedly adopted in Ps.82.This is the crux of his interpretation. Everything is made to conform to the pagan religious texts of the ANE, the Ugarit cuneiform writings. This is Heiser's exegete of history, it comes from outside the Bible. He implies you cannot learn the Bible from the Bible but rather from outside sources from Paganism become necessary.
He is very selective in what he recognizes and uses to add to the scriptures. Which actually takes away from the scriptures. He ignores the context that refutes his presupposed theological views, and thus, removes himself and the hearer from the plain reading of the text.
“The Hebrew Bible has many examples, but they are obvious only to a readers of Hebrew who is informed by the ancient worldview of the biblical writers .” Which he claims is the pagan cultures worldview!
What Heiser is saying, is that Scripture can only be interpreted, understood through ANE pagan mythologies and worldviews. Could it be the Satan who is the Devil and the deceiver that knows the Word, incorporated Bible concepts into the pagan religions prior making them acceptable counterfeit’s.
It never seems to occur to Heiser that these writings of the pagan religions can be by deceiving spirits in order to bring false teachings into not just Judaism but the church. Those who are open to extra biblical material can easily be confused.
By Heiser overlaying this teaching into Scripture he confuses the truth of God with the pagan religions that were rejected by God Himself.
It is obvious to those who understand the Word and rightly divide the Word of God, that these gods are principalities and powers – fallen angels under the rule of the fallen angel Satan, who is called the Devil, who is the prince and power of the air (our atmosphere).
Anyone who challenges his views is dismissed on the basis that his opinions are educated. However, it does not really matter how many letters of education he has behind his name. What matters is ones assent to the Word. By using outside literature that is not included in the canon to prove his particular doctrines, (even Enoch) he can support and cleverly explain any one of his positions that are contrary to Scripture; though a few doctrines he hold to are not wrong conclusions.
His education of ancient near east history has influence his reading of Scripture to challenge standard terms and history by merging the pagan religion[s] (pantheon, gods, divinity) should make those who understand biblical theology shudder.
Heiser mingles truth in with his error, his education of ancient near east history has influenced his reading of Scripture to challenge the already accepted standard terms and history the way he has challenged the overwhelming majority of biblical scholarship and history given to us over the last 2000 years is untrustworthy.
These new teachings, or reinterpretations (which are opinions) he has introduced through showing the of his alleged rendering of the Hebrew, along with over dissecting the words and phrases to perform his mix and match construct of biblical history, Scriptures, these doctrines are made believable to the average Christian who is unfamiliar and unprepared for this argumentation.
However, to merge the pagan religions, their pantheons of gods, gods of divinity into Judaism makes this all the more obvious and should make those who understand biblical theology cringe and motivate them (all the more), to defend the Christian faith against error.