In episode 70 of the Rethinking Scripture Podcast. I take the whole episode to memorialize the passing of the theologian and scholar, Dr. Michael S. Heiser. In 2020, Heiser was diagnosed with an aggressive case of Pancreatic cancer. On Feb 15, 2023 he turned 60, and five days later he transitioned to experience the unseen realm he wrote so much about.
Dr. Heiser was a Christian author and biblical Old Testament scholar whose area of expertise was the nature of the spiritual realm, specifically the ANE worldview of the Divine Council and the spiritual order’s hierarchy. He was a scholar-in-residence at Faithlife Corporation (the makers of Logos Bible Software) until 2019. He had his own podcast, The Naked Bible, and a non-profit ministry called Miqlat that is dedicated to the creation and distribution of his content. Heiser very graciously continued his craft until the end. Jan 7 was his last podcast episode.
My only brush with Dr. Heiser was in November of 2011 when I was in Bellingham, Washington for a Logos Bible Software training (interestingly led by Morris Proctor who lost his battle with cancer on January 23… just four weeks before Heiser’s passing. That’s a lot of loss within the Logos Bible Software community in a very short time.
While in Bellingham I was able to take a tour of the Logos Headquarters and it was on that tour that I met Dr. Heiser. I recognized him because he had recorded a set of videos I had purchased to help in my study of Biblical Hebrew. We said hello to each other… and that was it. Very uneventful. That was a full four years before he really became well known for his biblical scholarship.
He began the podcast in January of 2015. His last episode was Jan 7, 2023. That’s eight years and 458 episodes. That’s an average of just over 57 episodes every year. But Heiser wasn’t just a podcaster. During those same eight years, he came out with several books. Here are some titles that helped put him on people’s radar.
- The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (2015)
- Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World – And Why It Matters (2015)
- Reversing Hermon: Enoch, The Watchers & The Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ (2017)
- Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (2017)
- Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness (2000)
Dr. Heiser’s Divine Council worldview is a theological perspective that he developed through his study of the Old Testament and the ancient Near Eastern culture and literature that influenced it. Heiser argues that the God of the Bible is not alone, but rather is the head of a council of divine beings who serve as his heavenly court. These divine beings are referred to in the Hebrew Bible as “sons of God” (bene ha’elohim) or “gods” (elohim).
According to Heiser, the Divine Council was a common concept in the ancient Near Eastern world, and the biblical authors assumed their readers would be familiar with it. He suggests that references to the Divine Council can be found throughout the Old Testament, including in the creation account, the Psalms, and the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel.
Heiser argues that the Divine Council serves as a framework for understanding the spiritual realm, the relationship between God and humanity, and the role of Jesus Christ in the salvation of humankind. He suggests that the Divine Council worldview can help Christians understand the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and the nature of Christ as both fully God and fully human.
Overall, Heiser’s Divine Council worldview offers a unique perspective on the spiritual realm and the biblical narrative, and has gained a following among scholars and laypeople alike.
Not everyone accepts Heiser’s Divine Council worldview as the correct way to understand reality. The Divine Council worldview is a relatively recent theological concept, and it has not been universally accepted by scholars or the wider Christian community.
My Top 5 Favorite Episodes of the Naked Bible Podcast
#5 – Episode 434 – The Epistle of Jude Part 3 – 1 hour 3 min
This episode is an example of how the stories from the book of 1st Enoch are closely related to some parts of the biblical text. The watchers (the sons of God from Genesis 6), and the angels that sinned.
#4 – Episode 103 – Moses and the Bronze Serpent – 1 hour 13 min
This is just a solid example of how Heiser approached and relentlessly pursued the biblical text. You may have heard how Moses lifted up a bronze serpent in the wilderness from your reading of John 3:14-15. But, you may be unaware where that story is in the old testament. You might also assume that this probably has something to do with the serpent imagery from the Garden of Eden. If that describes you… then you need to spend 1 hour and 13 minutes of your life getting all these things straightened out.
#3 – Episode 138 – What Day was Jesus Born? – 1 hour 40 min –
This episode corresponds to Reversing Hermon – Chapter 4
Michael Heiser Blog Post: September 11, Happy Birthday to Jesus
This quote if from the above mentioned blog post:
“Many readers will know that I believe the actual birthdate of Jesus was Sept 11, 3 BC. This isn’t based on any original research of my own. Rather, it is based on the work of E. L. Martin’s The Star that Astonished the World (which can be read for free). Most academics are unaware of Martin’s research because he wasn’t a member of the biblical studies guild. Others reject it out of hand because of Martin’s involvement with the old Worldwide Church of God. The quality of one’s research, however, doesn’t depend on having a PhD in biblical studies or whether one is doctrinally correct in all areas. I don’t buy Martin’s views on other things, but I find his work on the birth of the messiah persuasive (and it has a long history of endorsement in planetariums).”
#2 – Episode 159 – Noah’s Nakedness, The Sin of Ham, and the Curse of Canaan – 48 minutes
In this episode Heiser interacts with Bergsma and Walker’s 2005 Journal article:
John Sietze Bergsma, H., Scott Walker. (2005). Noah’s Nakedness and the Curse on Canaan (Genesis 9:20–27). Journal of Biblical Literature, 124-26.
This from the introduction of the above mentioned article:
“The compressed, elusive narrative of Gen 9:20–27 has been an exegetical puzzle since antiquity. The terseness of the account, with its inexplicable features and subtle hints of sexual transgression, has left generations of readers and scholars feeling that there is more to the story than the narrator has made explicit. As many have pointed out, interpretive debates generally revolve around two interrelated questions: (1) the nature of Ham’s offense (why would Ham’s “seeing” Noah’s nakedness merit a curse?), and (2) the rationale for Canaan’s punishment (if Ham was the perpetrator, why was Canaan cursed?).”
“Exegetes since antiquity have identified Ham’s deed as either voyeurism, castration, or paternal incest. This last explanation seems to be enjoying a revival of popularity in some recent scholarship. This article will argue for a fourth possible explanation of Ham’s deed: maternal incest, which simultaneously explains the gravity of Ham’s offense and the rationale for the cursing of Canaan, who is the fruit of the illicit union. The full case for this view has never been adequately presented, and it is particularly apropos to do so now, given the increasing interest in the theory of paternal incest.”
In this episode Heiser interacts with Martin’s article:
Martin, T. W. (2004). Paul’s Argument from Nature for the Veil in 1 Corinthians 11:13–15: A Testicle instead of a Head Covering. Journal of Biblical Literature, 123, 75.
This Heiser’s description from the show notes:
“The topic for this episode is the controversial head covering reference in 1 Cor. 11:13-15. The discussion summarizes the material discussed in a scholarly journal article published in 2004 by Dr. Troy Martin entitled, “Paul’s Argument from Nature for the Veil in 1 Cor. 11:13-15: A Testicle instead of a Head Covering” (Journal of Biblical Literature 123:1 : 75-84). Martin summarizes his approach as follows: “This article interprets Paul’s argument from nature in 1 Cor. 11:13-15 against the background of ancient physiology. The Greek and Roman medical texts provide useful information for interpreting not only Paul’s letters but also other NT texts.” The article (and the author’s subsequent responses to criticism, also published in academic literature) presents a compelling case and is, to Dr. Heiser’s knowledge, the only approach that provides a coherent explanation as to why the head covering warnings are important, in the words of Paul “because of the angels” (1 Cor. 11:10). This warning ultimately takes readers back to the incident with the Watchers (sons of God) in Gen. 6:1-4. One of Martin’s concluding application thoughts is also important: “Since the physiological conceptions of the body have changed, however, no physiological reason remains for continuing the practice of covering women’s heads in public worship, and many Christian communities reasonably abandon this practice.” In other words, Paul’s rationale for what he says here is no longer coherent today — but his teaching points are (modesty, sexual fidelity). As such, wearing veils (in church or elsewhere) is a conscience issue, not a point of doctrine. The nature of this material is overtly sexual, so this episode is for adult listeners.”
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Heiser’s work, these five podcast episodes will give you a great introduction. It will be more than worth your time to give them a listen.
This is how Dr. Heiser finished his January 22nd Facebook post:
“I know this news is depressing, but you should all know, I will die happy to have served the Lord and you all in the ways I have. God has been very good to us, gifting me in discernible ways and, I think just as importantly, given me a heart for the lay community—all of you. I desired nothing more than to empower all of you to study Scripture more deeply, to unlock the Bible for you in ways inaccessible to all but scholars. This brought me a special joy.”
My prayers go out to those close to Dr. Heiser. He will be greatly missed by many.