Pt.4c The monotheism of Israel vs. the paganism of the nations
What is Michael Heiser REALLY TEACHING
Heiser agreeing with one writer “The monotheism of Deuteronomy emerged from the struggle against idolatry. Moreover, the decline of Israel is attributed to the following of other gods. The existence of other gods is not denied, however, only their power and significance for Israel. 28 “If one sees a link between the composition of Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History, the case for understanding these kinds of phrases in terms of incomparability rather than denial of existence becomes even stronger . (P.11-12 Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? Toward an Assessment of Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible Michael Heiser Bulletin for Biblical Research 18.1 also quoted in THE DIVINE COUNCIL IN LATE CANONICAL AND NON-CANONICAL SECOND TEMPLE JEWISH LITERATURE)
This is neither accurate, nor true, God revealed himself as the true God to Israel, as the creator and there is no other God. There was no emerging Monotheism of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that were established in Genesis. Monotheism was not created it was given by revelation from God to them and to Moses. This becomes a definition that is to be employed to define who God actually is. This is why Heiser can call ‘created’ sons of god, gods. He lacks a biblical definition applied to that which is most crucial. He also believes there monotheism was evolutionary which disregards supernatural revelation told by God. without this element Judaism/ Christianity becomes just another man made religion.
He will say the God of Israel is the uncreated and you may agree with is his description of uniqueness given to him, but there is much more to be accounted for in his writings.
Rom. 4:17 For God “ calls those things which do not exist as though they did” The God we believe in is one that always existed before creation, knows all things before He created them.
This same God says in Isa. 46:9-10 “ For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,” (Which Heiser agrees only in comparison to other elohim) God further states in.v.10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand.”
His counsel is His Word. God says there are no other gods, they are not real gods. Heiser introduces a blatant challenge to Scripture by comparing the literature in the Bible with other Mid-East pagan cultures, this is not what we are supposed to do. The Bible is a closed revelation from God first, not just literature. These nations had made up gods that have nothing to do with the only true God, or the truth.
His competing narrative that is reached by his own conclusions, he then organized the Bible to his own predilection that he assumes was revelation from his friend showing him Ps.82. Once he strips you of the doctrinal system you have built from Scripture you are left with pieces that he will then lead you to put together from his perspective. This is the Hegelian dialectic process applied to hermeneutics.
If the Scripture is not your primary source of knowledge from God, you are open to look to other places. By using these other unbiblical outside sources as authority combined with a few certain scriptures we can, according to Heiser, understand the entire Biblical record as never before (i.e. the divine council being the missing piece of the puzzle).
He is ignoring the obvious, changing the meaning of the clear qualitative Scriptures that oversee others.
Isa. 45:22 “For I am God, and there is no other.”
Joel 2:27 “I am the LORD your God And there is no other.”
How can this be true if Heiser says there are other gods that God himself made?
Mark 12:29-33 in a discussion with a scribe Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one (referring to Deut.6:4). Explaining the application of this with the second commandment “ There is no other commandment greater than these." So the scribe said to Him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.”
Here was the perfect time for Jesus to say something to correct him but he didn’t. He affirmed there is but ONE GOD!
Heiser continues throughout his books referring to 2nd temple Jewish writings (mostly from other libereal authors he loves to quote as scholars) on this divine council in heaven that are Elohim.
“many scholars consider Psalm 82 to be either a vestige of polytheism overlooked by monotheistic redactors, or perhaps a deliberate rhetorical use of Israel’s polytheistic past to declare the new outlook of monotheism. 2 After the exile, so it is put forth, the gods of the nations are relegated to the status of angels .” (Heiser, Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? p. 3)
Scholars? What scholars, are these biblical educated scholars who actually believe in divine revelation of the Scripture? This is how Heiser introduces the reader to his view, by using Ps 82 as the paradigm for his revelation of a divine council (written over 500 years after Moses).
Ps 82:1 “ God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.” It says absolutely nothing about a divine council, that is his interpretation which does not make biblical sense since Scripture says YHWH rules over the nations, not other gods!
The Jewish Encyclopedia disagrees with Heiser’s formation of history on Judaism though they are very aware of ancient texts that compete with Judaism.
“A further article of faith teaches the acknowledgment of God as the only God, and the belief in no gods besides Him. "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me," says God to Israel on Mt. Sinai (Ex. xx. 2-3). Even prior to the revelation on Sinai monotheism (the belief in one God) was an inheritance of the Jewish nation. … Many later religions have derived the monotheistic belief from Judaism, without, however, preserving it in the same degree of strict purity. The Jewish religion not only teaches its adherents to believe in no other god besides the One, but it also forbids the ascription to God of any attributes which, directly or indirectly, conflict with the strict belief in His unity. To ascribe to God any positive attributes is forbidden because it might lead to a personification of the divine qualities, which would interfere with the purity of the monotheistic faith.”
The names and functions of these gods are extrapolated by Mr. Heiser from cultural Myths. Contrary to what they teach we have an apostle saying this. 2 Peter 1:16 “ For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ .”
Clever formulated myths, which is exactly what Mr. Heiser is introducing by using the Ugarit (pagan myths, Canaanites) to interpret the Scripture, which he cannot deny, since it is all through his writings. Which seems to imply the Ugarit writings are truth, or have a semblance of it, just like the Bible is truth.
It’s hard to tell what Heiser is saying as he plays a critic at times and other times he is refuting the liberal scholars that he profusely quotes in his writings.
We can know how the biblical writers did understand the spiritual realm from the Scripture, by what God revealed to them in the Old Testament (Deut.29:29. What texts does Heiser use? He consults pagan writings, is that clarity? Using the Ugarit as his basis, as if Israel believed the same because of some similar language used of the ‘name’ God - el. When one uses the word god today does it mean the same for all who use the word God? Of course not. Neither did it then.
The interpretive method he employs is accompanied through the looking glass of these pagan writings. From these writings many assumptions are used and applied that overrule the biblical text. Heiser explains, " But in reality, even though I believe I was providentially prepared for the academic task I faced, there were times in the process when the best description I can give is that I was led to answers." Who exactly was doing the leading? Does the Holy Spirit lead anyone using a flawed hermeneutic, using pagan writings as the basis to understand the biblical texts? That is what one must ask as they read his works and see his understanding formulated from these writings for his interpretation.
The Holy Spirit is the author of the Word, which is called truth. In contradistinction, the stories of the nations are myths, fables; not truth. The Holy Spirit leads us in understanding the Word by the Word, that is the Scripture itself, not from pagan writing of myths. As Christians, believers in the God whom the Scripture presents we should know this. In fact it should be an immediate response, a spiritual reflex toward what he is introducing for you to believe!
Not every scholar agrees with Heiser and those he uses in his citations (some who do not believe in divine revelation) as the validation for his theory. In a lecture by Peter Craigie he makes it clear, “That there are striking parallels between the Bible and Ugarit is beyond question, but that many of the proposed parallels have real existence only in the heads of their inventors is also evident. Yet how does one distinguish between the real and the illusory? Only by the use of as controlled a method of comparison as possible, and in the last resort, this paper is dedicated to contributing something to the issue of control in comparative studies” (THE TYNDALE BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY LECTURE, 1982 UGARIT, CANAAN, AND ISRAEL By Peter c. Craigie Conjecture vs substance nature)
Heiser is attempting to make the Ugarit some type of equivalent to the Scripture Israel received from God to Moses and their prophets.
Let me give this example. Does the name Jesus identify the same person for everyone whose name is Jesus in the world? (Yeshua in Hebrew) Of course not. If I went to lunch with my friend named Jesus and insist he is the Jesus from the Bible, is that acceptable? But this is what Heiser has done by use of the Ugarit writings, to claim Israel’s God is the same by a generic term of identification in the pagan Ugarit.
If he is as educated as he claims, he has to know the words ‘el’ and ‘Elohim’ are general terms for God, not proper ‘names’. This can only mean he does not care when he repeats these terms calling them names to convince you of his hybrid interpretation he has formed on the Scripture.
In a lecture given to the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World, Pardee says, Ugaritic is a uniquely hybrid early writing system similar to the Hebrew alphabet in that it basically represents consonants.
Consider the substance in these pagan religions “the original text that tells the tale of how the god El holds a big feast at which he becomes drunk. The story is appended with medical instructions at the end, which Pardee interprets as a hangover cure.” (University of Chicago Chronicle Feb. 6, 2003, Vol. 22 No. 9 “Pardee’s careful scrutiny of ancient texts reveals colorful world of Ugaritians” By Seth Sanders)
Heiser ignores these type of statements of el and Elohim in the Ugarit. “ It was a common practice of Canaanites to make a sacrifice of an infant and bury it in the foundation of a structure in order to placate a god and assure divine blessing on a people or a project. (Unger’s Dictionary)
Can Heiser find a Hebrew parallel for this? No, they would have to directly disobey God to have a similarity.
The discovery of the Ras Shamra religious epic literature from Ugarit in N. Syria speaks of Canaanite cults and includes their degenerate moral character. Why is this ignored? Is Heiser being honest on his representations of the Ugarit (Canaanites) or is he gleaning certain words and concepts to form his own mythology. We have seen this before with another who used pagan gods claiming they are all the same god as Israel, only different names (Daniel Kikawa)
The monotheistic faith of the Hebrews were growing but continually threatened to be polluted
from immoral decadent gods and goddesses of the surrounding nations. El, the head of their pantheon, was a bloody tyrant who dethroned his father, murdered his favorite son, and decapitated his daughter. Does that sound like the el of Israel from the Bible? Similarity in name is not similarity in substance.
Albright one of the most talented of archeologists said, “Canaanites, Aramaeans, and Hittites—“deities were nearly always represented as standing on the back of an animal or as on a throne borne by animals, but never as themselves in animal form ” (W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity , p. 229).
El was “father of years” (abu shanima), “the father of man” ( abu adami, “father bull”), and the progenitor of the gods. Baal, the son of El and dominated the Canaanite pantheon. He was the god of thunder, whose voice reverberated through the heavens in the storm. He is pictured on a Ras Shamra stela brandishing a mace in his right hand and holding in his left hand a stylized thunderbolt. The three goddesses were Anath, Astarte, and Ashera, who were all three patronesses of sex and war. All were sacred courtesans and there were other Canaanite deities as well. Why is Heiser not bringing this into his research, why is this not a factor in what he is saying?
“Further, it is the consensus of scholars that the Ugaritic (and larger Canaanite) council was the conceptual precursor to the Israelite version of the divine council . 40 As such, Israel’s council is thought to reflect a pre-exilic polytheistic bureaucracy that included the notion that the gods (or “sons of El/God”) exercised territorial control over the nations of the earth (Deut 32:8-9). were separate deities in Israelite religion, the former being the son of the latter. 42 … Eventually, according to most scholars of the subject, El and Yahweh were fused (along with Baal), and the divine council disappeared as Israelite religion achieved the breakthrough to monotheism.” (Heiser, THE DIVINE COUNCIL IN LATE CANONICAL AND NON-CANONICAL SECOND TEMPLE JEWISH LITERATURE)
Consensus of what scholars? This fusing together appears all through his explanations.
Contrary to any of this Heiser says, “Yahweh is described in the Hebrew Bible by means of titles and abilities that both El and Baal have in Canaanite literature— these two were conceptually fused in Yahweh. This literary and theological device shows Yahweh superior to the two main divine authority figures in wider Canaanite religion.” (Michael S. Heiser, “Divine Council,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary)
This is such a wrong statement which misleads to a wrong conclusion. So Israel used Canaanite gods to form their Yahweh? Do you understand what he is doing? Without Heiser introducing the concept of these pagan beliefs as parallels for Israel that they adopted into their newfound religion. Without this premise there would be nothing to uphold his theory of a pantheon of gods from Scripture. So if He (YHWH) is fused from these pagan gods does Yahweh really exist? Or is Heiser playing scrabble with fake words and substitute meanings. Does Yin and yang becomes Yahweh? This is off the charts absurd teaching that does not uphold faith but stumbles people in the faith (just as Heiser was stumbled by a new way to look at Ps. 82).
“When Israelites affirmed the Shema, a creed that says “Yahweh our God ...” it was not a denial that other elohim existed (something the Old Testament elsewhere presumes and affirms). Rather, the claim was specific loyalty to Yahweh and recognition of his unique covenant relationship to Israel.” (more Unseen Realm)
This is one of those reinforced statements he makes ignoring the many absolute and qualifying texts. The book of Deuteronomy is a renewing of the covenant.
The Sh'ma is Deut 6:4-5 " Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one !” YHWH elohienu YHWH echad
Eloheinu is a derivative of Elohim. 'echad means a unity, a united one.
This does NOT mean he is one God among many others. This statement rejects syncretism, God is not a national deity like Baal. This declared statement of the unity of God was AGAINST the polytheism of the nations; YHWH elohim was a revelation that asserts that the Lord God of Israel is absolutely God, and there are NO other gods. He alone is God as declared by the prophets and the Word.
The next verse reaffirms this in application, by their loyalty to the one and only God “ You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5). Without this devotion they could not survive, keeping their monotheistic belief from being corrupted by the influences of the other nation’s polytheism.
R. Bochin remarks: "It is possible to confess one God with the mouth, although the heart is far from Him.” (from Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament)
How did Israel understand who these other gods are? We don’t need to wait for any literature written in the second temple period to know.
As Moses was on top of the mountain missing for 40 days The Israelites said Ex 32:1"Come, make us gods that shall go before us;” Aaron knew better but went along with it to keep the peace among so many that were in rebellion. God then says to Moses, “They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt! ' (Ex 32:8)
It is God who has told us how to think about himself and who these other gods are.
Deut. 6:13-15 “ You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth .”
Why do this type of punishment to Israel? Because they were given revelation of the only true God and were accountable.
Throughout Deuteronomy God speaks of the images of these other gods the nations worshiped and serve. (11:16; 12:3) calling them other gods, he calls it harlotry (Deut. 31:16)..
Deut. 32:16-17 “ they provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, To gods they did not know, To new gods, new arrivals.”
The Lord warned Israel if they are disobedient they will be spread among the nations Deut. 4:28 “ And there you will serve gods, th e work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell .”
It did not matter if man built images or assign gods to the forces of nature; the stars or even the sun, none of them were actually gods.
The nation’s gods were idols
2 Kings 19:17-19 “ Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, 18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands--wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone." (Isaiah said this 37:18-20)
1 Chron. 14:11-12 “ Therefore they called the name of that place Baal Perazim. And when they left their gods there, David gave a commandment, and they were burned with fire.”
Baal meant Lord, but it is not a proper name, but a general term, and was attached to other descriptions as well; Baal-berith, Baal-peor, Baal-zebub, Baal-zephon.
Heiser writes, “Finally, an Ugaritic parallel is worth consideration. If we assume with the evolutionary view that Israel’s early polytheistic divine council theology comes from Ugaritic material (or at least is closely related), then why is it that we cannot also presume Yahweh was king of all the nations— when Baal is referred to as “lord of the earth”? 39 Was not Yahweh identified with Baal before the exile? It is hard not to suspect that the answer would be that the data do not fit the picture and are not admissible as evidence. ( P.16, Does Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible Demonstrate an Evolution From Polytheism to Monotheism in Israelite Religion?) underline mine
No you should not assume that Israel’s divine council came from their enemy and Gods enemy. Do people actually know what Mr. Heiser is teaching? Consider the statements underlined. Is Baal - Yahweh, or is he a false God? You need to make up your mind, either you believe Heiser or you believe the Scripture, there is no in between.
There are layers of falsehood to Heiser’s proposition that need to be peeled away to get to the kernel. All the gymnastic hoops of interpretation he puts you through are circumventing what the Bible actually says. Which in the end has you arrive at his novel interpretations.
pt.4d Who are these other Elohim? the conclusion of this matter of a council of gods