Few in Israel may have heard of Michael Heiser, but his books are becoming increasing popular in hypercharismaniac circles. Someone asked me about him a year or so back, so I began to read his material and soon began to feel ill at ease. Though some of his claims may be considered as possibilities, much of it has a highly speculative odour about it and he goes well outside of what can be derived from the context of the biblical passages in question. I am forced to conclude that, generally speaking, some of Heiser’s material is at best unhelpful to sound doctrine and at worst deleterious to biblical faith and the authority of Scripture. However, that was not all.
also discovered, amongst other things, that Heisler’s materials are being heavily promoted in NAR circles, and it is not difficult to see why; his focus on matters in the spirit world and demonic hierarchies feeds directly into the NAR obsession with territorial spirits and the movement's Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare doctrines. My concerns were elevated yet more when I discovered he is actually on staff at Celebration Church (which is yet another of those o-so-tedious, prosperity-driven, biblically-barren, true-gospel-evacuated C3, Hillsong, MTV-like motivational-speaker platforms masquerading as churches) of "pastor" Stovall Weams who has a developing connection with the Tikkun NARpostolic network through senior Tikkun leader Paul Wilbur. Weams, by the way, is also part of the oversight board of heretic Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church (which really rather says it all apart from any other considerations).
Recently a friend of mine overseas collected a lot more information about Heiser's teachings, which more than abundantly confirms all and any of my concerns with his permission and a few small amendments, I have reproduced it in its entirely below. Read and be warned!
Red Flags Regarding Michael Heiser
In this post we’ll look at some of the teachings of Michael Heiser in his own words, which should be “red flags” for those who love and hold to God’s Word. Heiser would also claim to uphold biblical truth, but in the following quotes it should become clear that what he is upholding is quite different from anything most evangelicals would subscribe to, because it includes advocating the adding of material to God’s Word, theorizing that Genesis 1-11 was written in 6th century BC Babylon, that universalism (all will be saved) and annihilationism (no eternal hell) are possibly legitimate, that it’s not a problem if Adam and Eve are not historical, that there’s no “original sin” based on Adam’s transgression, that maybe God created humans via monkeys (evolution), that maybe the flood of Noah’s day was just local, and that Moses wrote very little of the Pentateuch-- among other topics.
1. Catholic Ecumenism And An “Open-Boundaried” Canon
Michael Heiser claims that, “Too often the tests proposed by apologetics textbooks and other works commonly circulated in evangelicalism are simplistic and self-serving, designed to point readers (only) to the Protestant canon.” Source.
Michael Heiser quotes John Hobbins: “Sooner or later the pluriformity of the tradition that eventually came to be included in a variety of canons must be evaluated on the theological plane…. God speaks to Jews through the scriptures vouchsafed to them, to the Ethiopian Orthodox through those inherited by them, to Roman Catholics through those held in honor by them, and so on.”
Michael Heiser’s comment on Hobbins’ quote is: “John is arguing for a pluriform canon, and that this pluriformity is not only fine with God, but also a witness to his promise to all believers through his original chosen people and ongoing kingdom program. Thoughts? Is this a coherent way to handle the feeling of an “open-boundaried” canon? I think this approach is really worth thinking about.”
Michael Heiser in another post, again affirms a wider “real” canon, and doesn’t clearly state his position, but through questioning implies strong unbelief in the canon as we have it: “It appears John is suggesting that the ‘real’ canon may be wider than we think (especially Protestants, but also Catholics). Here are my questions for our consideration (and they are questions, not answers): (1) Should we assume that the Reformation decision to give us (Protestants) the canon we now assume to be the canon was the correct decision? (2) On what basis is that assumption validated – and does our answer require that we say ‘by Providence, God ensured that only the post-Reformation Protestant church got the canon correct’ – ?” Source.
2. Genesis 1-11 Written in Sixth Century Babylon?
Michael Heiser writes that, “Genesis 1-11 was written during the exile, as it has a Babylonian flavouring in terms of what it seeks to accomplish and respond to theologically (creation epics, flood recounting, Sumerian king list [antediluvian history], Babel. This section gives Israel’s rival understanding of the hand of Yahweh in pre-patriarchal history with specific counter-points to Babylon’s claims and the claims of other ANE religions (that is, in the process of composing Gen 1-11, the opportunity was taken to take aim at other belief systems/theologies besides that of Babylon).”
Michael Heiser writes that, “Think of it this way. It is a bit odd that Gen 1-11 has “Babylonianisms” if it was composed in Israel/Canaan — i.e., strong similarities to the Babylonian flood epic, strong affinities with the Sumerian king list; perhaps even a mathematical cypher approach to antediluvian life span numbers, close syntactical and thematic parallels to Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation story. All that screams “Babylon” as far as a context or what’s in the theological cross-hairs of the writer. In contrast, if this came from Moses, why isn’t more of the material Egyptian (one of the Gen 1 elements also has a possible Egyptian theology as target, but the overwhelming flavor of the content is Babylonian)? It just makes the most sense.” Source.
Bill Cooper (who also authored the fascinating book “After the Flood”) in his book “The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis,” makes several excellent counter-points to Heiser’s Genesis 1-11 Exile theory: “The Samaritan Pentateuch’s script alone, never mind its corruptions and innovations, belies the notion that it was ever copied from a post-Exilic forgery. Rather, copied as it was before the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews, a fact that is demonstrated by the earlier form of Hebrew that it uses (the K’tav Ivri), the Samaritan Pentateuch can only have been copied from, or based upon, a Torah scroll which was manifestly older than itself, and indeed older than the Captivity when the K’tav Ivri had fallen into disuse. That alone places the Hebrew Pentateuch, which the Samaritan Pentateuch is based upon, and the Book of Genesis which opens the Pentateuch, firmly into pre-Exilic, that is into pre-6th-century BC Israel, a time in which the Pentateuch did not even exist according to the ‘Higher Critics’” (24-25). This places the Pentateuch at least in the 7th century BC. But, there is more.
A H Sayce, Professor of Assyriology at Oxford, wrote of Enuma Elisha (referenced by Heiser above), “It was an attempt to throw together in poetic form the cosmological doctrines of the chief Assyrian or Babylonian schools and combine them into a connected story. But the attempt breathes so thoroughly the air of a later philosophy which has reduced the deities of earlier belief to mere abstractions and forces of nature, that I much doubt whether it can be assigned to an earlier date than the seventh century BC” (Cooper, 35).
Cooper continues, “We must recall here the taking captive of the Ten Tribes of Israel by Assyria in the year 722 BC, perhaps a hundred years or more before the Enuma Elish was composed…. It would seem from this that, rather than the Babylonian mythology affecting the Book of Genesis, as the critics have claimed for so long, it is the other way about. It is the Book of Genesis, or the somewhat dimmed memories of it amongst the displaced Israelites, which affected the Babylonian myth. That is why the Enuma Elish borrowed something of the structure of Genesis with regard to the order of creation, certainly enough for us to recognise one or two details, however vague” (36).
Douglas Petrovich, who earned a PhD from the University of Toronto (with a Syro-Palestinian Archaeology major, and with minors in Ancient Egyptian Language and Ancient Near Eastern Religions), has written the book, “The World's Oldest Alphabet: Hebrew as the Language of the Proto-Consonantal Script” (2016). Professor Petrovich holds to the early Exodus date. He sets forth with good reasons that the Hebrew alphabet was established during Joseph’s lifetime (around 1850 BC), and that much evidence is available for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. For example, Petrovich writes, “Professor Douglas A. Knight (Vanderbilt University) suggested that the Hebrew Bible (HB) was composed in the Persian Period (5th–4th century BC). This view is fairly popular among critical scholars today, but it ignores several pieces of vital evidence. First, the priestly prayer from Numbers 6 is contained in the Silver Scroll from Ketef Hinnom, which dates to late in the 7th century BC and predates the Persian Period by about 200 years. The early existence of the Silver Scroll strongly implies that the Pentateuch was composed by this time. Second, there are clear, historiographic differences in the historical books of the HB from the time that Moses wrote (1446–1406 BC) until the latter prophets wrote (down to ca. 430 BC). For example, I discussed in my “Amenhotep and the Historicity of the Exodus Pharaoh” article, how the early historical books of the Bible do not include names of Egyptian kings, which is a convention that Moses followed from Egyptian scribal practice of the New Kingdom (NK), while later books record them. His precise following of historiographical conventions of times long before the Persian Period cannot be explained satisfactorily by any theory of the composition of the HB in post-exilic times.”
Petrovich continues, “Third, Hebrew inscriptions from Egypt (Lahun, Wadi el-Ḥôl) and Sinai (Serâbîṭ el-Khâdim and Wadi Naṣb) dating from 1840–1446 BC, which contain references to 3 biblical characters, now render any theory of an extremely late composition of the Bible completely impossible. Otherwise, one would have to suggest that for about 1000 years the names of two obscure biblical figures and one prominent biblical figure were guessed at correctly by these alleged redactors of the HB who supposedly composed it in the Persian Period.” Source.
3. Universalism Is Possible if ANE Confirmed?
Heiser states: “I can say I have no specific predilection against the universalist position *as the author has defined it*. I think his description really could be held and defended *sincerely* from the Bible — though I need certain items to be more coherent to find it persuasive. So what is it that I need to be convinced of? I view these issues through a semitist’s eyes, not from the perspective of someone who cares to side with this or that theologian. My view of theologians and philosophical theology is akin to my view of creeds. I’m not opposed to them since they can be useful; I’m more or less apathetic to them…. The grid through which I sift the author’s questions, assertions, and conclusions has been constructed by means of my understanding of the Bible (particularly the OT) contextualized in its ancient near eastern context.” Source.
4. Leanings Towards Annihilationism
On The Naked Bible Podcast (July 26, 2015), Michael Heiser states that, “I think annihilation and the eternal punishment idea are both viable views. The way he asked the question you can see they overlap as well. Is hell eternal everlasting punishment or does hell speak of annihilation? And of course if you’re annihilated, you’re always gone, you’re always dead. That’s eternal too. So, I realize Christians talk about these things differently. I think both ways of talking about those things has some scriptural support. For me, I think annihilation actually makes more sense because of the verse he brought up, the death of death. If death is destroyed, I don’t know how it’s still everlasting. It doesn’t mean it’s the only possible way to understand the statement.” (nakedbiblepodcast.com › 2015/08 › Transcript-59-QA4)
5. Emergent Endorsement
Heiser endorses people like Frank Viola (whose blog is called “Beyond Evangelical”), an Emergent and a promoter of occultic Catholic mysticism, who co-authors books with New Ager Leonard Sweet:
6. Flat Earth: The Bible Got It Wrong?
“Michael Heiser is a compromising theologian who does not [himself] believe in a flat earth, but argues that the Old Testament cosmology describes a flat earth—he just thinks they got it wrong. He argues that because “the Bible was not produced to give us science” we can reject its cosmology while maintaining belief in “things that the Bible does in fact ask us to believe.”14 Sadly, many of those arguments are identical to those of Bible haters like the atheist and anti-creationist Robert Schadewald (1943–2000), and thus he doesn’t really believe in biblical inerrancy (but compare Does the Bible really teach a three-storey cosmology?). And in arguing that the biblical authors taught a flat earth, he has given support to people who use his arguments about Hebrew cosmology, but have a more consistent view of the Bible’s perspicuity.” Source.
Note, exposing the above is not committing the genetic fallacy. We are not attacking the man (ad hominem) in order to discredit the theory. Rather, we are making an appeal to Christians that we have no reason to trust people who deny the very authority of Scripture to which they are supposedly appealing; they are not our friends and allies. Christians should certainly not allow anti-Christians to dictate to us about what the Bible says, and we should be wary of those calling themselves Christians who attack the very foundations of our shared faith. We should also not allow the flat-earth myth, derived as it was from atheistic attacks on the Bible, to influence our understanding of Church history.
7. No Adam? No problem! No Original Sin? No Problem Either!
Heiser writes: “But let’s assume he’s completely right for the rest of this post. Let’s assume we cannot speak of a historical Adam that produce all other humans, and that humans share a common ancestor with chimps…. Assuming evolutionary theory is valid, and that theists would either feel enthused about or compelled to embrace the idea that God used the evolutionary process to produce all life as we know it (including homo sapiens), what is to be done with Adam? I feel less trepidation here than many believers and believing scholars for two reasons. First, since I’m already on record as insisting that we not make the biblical writers what they weren’t (scientists) and let Scripture be what it is (a document produced over long periods of time by many human hands under the providential oversight of God, who decided to use humans in the first place to produce this thing we call the Bible), I don’t have a problem affirming the pre-scientific nature of the Bible, and think critics sound stupid when they criticize Scripture for not being what it wasn’t intended to be.4 Second, I’m also on record that I don’t see Romans 5:12 as teaching the idea of the original *guilt* of all humans.” Source.
8. Indifference To Creation
Michael Heiser writes, “Let me say first that, despite an interest in genetics, I find it hard to care about evolution, theologically. I’m not offended by the thought at all. I really don’t care what mechanism God used to do what He did.” Source.
9. Heiser’s Non-JEDP, But Largely Non-Moses Hypothesis
Note: For those of our readers who do not understand what JEDP refers to; it refers to an utterly discredited 19th century theory about biblical authorship called the Documentary Hypothesis. For concise explanation of this speculative nonsense and a rebuttal click here.
Heiser writes, “I’m no fan of JEDP (I think it has serious circular-reasoning problems), but I don’t think Moses wrote all the Pentateuch either, as parts of it are demonstrably late.” Source.
Heiser states, “You’ll notice that several of my notes refer to the issue of the date of Deuteronomy (and, more peripherally, to the date of that book and its chronological relationship to the book of Joshua). This introduces what for me is a key issue: Was any part (or all) of Deuteronomy post-Mosaic in its origin?.... For me, there are several law changes that suggest lateness…. and why is Moses seemingly always referenced in the third person to boot.” Source.
James M. Rochford gives a rebuttal to the question “If Moses is the author of these passages, then why does he write about himself in the third person, rather than the first?
This objection is wrapped up in the authorship of the Pentateuch. However, here we might point out that other ancient biographies also commonly spoke in the third person. For instance, Julius Caesar wrote the Gallic Wars and the Civil Wars in the third person. Xenophon wrote Anabasis in the third person. Jesus himself even spoke in the third person (Jn. 17:3; c.f. Daniel 7 and the book of Ezra). Moses probably wrote these accounts in the third person to let future Israelites know who was the central leader of Israel. An impersonal ‘I’ wouldn’t explain this.” Source.
Heiser claims, “In view of the data, it seems reasonable to think that a lot of the Pentateuch was not composed by Moses. For me though (as you will see in the second PDF), there is evidence that suggests an original body of Mosaic first person narrative that was later woven into the larger book of Deuteronomy.” Source.
Heiser states, “…I have tried to demonstrate via the data of the text of the Hebrew Bible why it is reasonable to argue (from the text) that Moses did not write all or perhaps even most of the Pentateuch (Torah).” Source.
Heiser claims, “Deuteronomy is therefore a hybrid: parts Mosaic; parts much later adapting Mosaic material and composing new material reflecting occupancy of the land, thereby necessitating adaptations in laws, for example. Same thing for Numbers and Leviticus; the material encompasses times, needs, and customs from the Mosaic period well into the monarchy…. And I consider many hands played a role, not just four ‘source hands.’” Source.
10. Late Dating The Exodus And The Ras Shamra Tablets
Heiser writes, “The best books on Egyptian-Israelite-exodus connections to archaeology and Egyptian textual sources are those by Egyptologist and Old Testament scholar, James K. Hoffmeier, both published by Oxford University Press.” (Hoffmeier holds to a 13th century, ca. 1270–1260 BC late date for the Exodus, which would affect when Moses wrote, as opposed to the early date of 1446 accepted by Bryant Wood, Douglas Petrovich and other scholars [not that Heiser concedes that Moses wrote much of the Pentateuch anyway]). Source.
The Ugaritic texts of Ras Shamra (frequently cited by Heiser, especially regarding the supposed “divine council”) are from the 14th-12th centuries BC (Yon, 18-21). Accepting a 13th century date for the Exodus, makes it look like Moses was late on the scene and learning from the locals about how to write the Bible. It’s an assumption to think that the influence began outside the Bible. Historically, most aberrant groups have started with ideas from the Bible and then added deviating material to that—such as the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Why not concede the possibility that Moses actually wrote in the 15th century BC, which can be supported by good scholarship, and that these teachings were then adapted and misused by the Ugaritic people?
In “The Popular Handbook of Archeology and the Bible,” this good point is made concerning the Ras Shamra tablets: “…this discovery [of the Ras Shamra tablets] has dealt a mortal blow to negative higher critics who had asserted that Aramaic words contained in the Old Testament did not develop until after the exile to Babylon (sixth century B.C.) Several Aramaisms were found in the Ugaritic and Ras Shamra texts…” (72).
11. The Great Deluge of Genesis: Just A Local Downpour?
Heiser claims, “I don’t understand the science as I’m not a geologist, but I do know biblical studies. It’s actually not difficult to argue for a local-regional flood from the biblical text. In what follows I’ll show you how. My purpose is to say that, if a global flood really is geologically denied or impossible, you really don’t need to care with respect to biblical accuracy. The biblical text can indeed sustain a local-regional flood.” Source.
One Reviewer's Summation of Michael Heiser's Book "The Unseen Realm".
“With Heiser’s system, Scripture can only be interpreted through ANE pagan mythologies and worldviews. These worldviews, filled with gods and demigods, were to be rejected by Israel in the Old Testament. It was by absorbing the pagan teachings and lifestyle that Israel became corrupt and failed as a holy nation. The inspired writers of the Old Testament never encouraged Israel to study ANE myths in order to understand the ways of God or to mirror them, but to repudiate them. Heiser’s understanding of what is taking place is far more informed by ANE paganism than by Scripture. He is using an ANE lens to interpret the Word. The first clue that Heiser’s unseen realm is on shaky ground is his claim that virtually no one else has made these discoveries (p.12). If, after thousands of years of study, you are the first to come up with novel interpretations, and these are based more on pagan worldviews than Scripture, you can be pretty certain that something is amiss. If, in order to take these views one has to jettison all the creeds, confessions, and systematic developed by serious conservative Bible students, great caution is obviously in order. In the final analysis Heiser’s theories leaves us with a lesser god than the God of Scripture.” Source.
Cooper, B. (2011). The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis: A Study in Three Parts. The Creation Science Movement.
Holden, J.M. & Geisler, N. (2013). The Popular Handbook of Archeology and the Bible. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers.
Petrovich, D. (2008). “The Dating of Hazor’s Destruction in Joshua 11 by Way of Biblical, Archaeological, and Epigraphical Evidence.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 3 (September): 489–512.
Yon, M. (2006). The City of Ugarit at Tell Ras Shamra. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.