Thursday, October 05, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser #7

HeiserI am continuing to read through The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. While the elements of this book are not entirely new, I don’t think anyone has put it together into a biblical theology quite like this book does. It has certainly helped me put together some passages that have caused me some difficulty in the past.  I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below. I am using the Kindle version of the book.…

Chapter 16, Abraham’s Word, picks up the story in Genesis 12 as God restarts His kingdom program through Abraham and his descendants. Heiser's main point in this chapter is that the "word of God" came to Abraham (and other Old Testament people) in a personal, visual and embodied form. That is God comes to Abraham in a way that "helps Abraham process him as a person." (127) The normal way that YHWH's word came to the patriarchs and prophets was in a visual, human, embodied form. In John 8 Jesus claims that appearance to Abraham  was Him. The implication here would be that, even in the Old Testament, there were "whispers" of a Godhead, that would lead to the Christian Trinitarian view of God.

Since the Word is clearly equated with and identified as Yahweh in Genesis 12 and 15, when the New Testament has Jesus saying “that was me,” he is claiming to be the Word of the Old Testament, who was the visible Yahweh. John 8.56-58, 130 
 
How is it that, if this Word was Yahweh, and the Word was visible and embodied, Jews of Jesus’ day could tolerate the notion that Jesus was Yahweh incarnate on earth— while Yahweh was still in heaven? After all, Jesus prayed to the Father and spoke of the Father, Yahweh of Israel, in the third person. How could a Jew accommodate this “binitarian” idea— that, essentially, there were two Yahwehs, one invisible and in heaven, the other on earth in visible form? Heiser, 132-133

Chapter 17, Yahweh Visible and Invisible, makes the point that the Old Testament teaches that there are two YHWH's; one invisible and one visible. The patriarchal stories do this by progressively fusing YHWH with the angel of YHWH. The angel of YHWH speaks to Abraham of God in the 3rd person and as God in the 1st person (Gen. 22). Jacob sees God at Bethel (28.13-19) and then the angel of the LORD explicitly identifies himself as the God of Bethel (31.11-13) and Jacob "wrestles" with a bodily elohim in the next chapter. Later Jacob (Gen. 48.15-16) and Hosea (Hos. 12.3-4) identify this angel as YHWH Himself. Heiser's conclusion: "The God of Israel is God, but in more than one person." (140)

Long before Jesus and the New Testament, careful readers of the Old Testament would not have been troubled by the notion of, essentially, two Yahwehs— one invisible and in heaven, the other manifest on earth in a variety of visible forms, including that of a man. In some instances the two Yahweh figures are found together in the same scene. 134

The patriarchal stories create an astonishing picture for us. If there is only one God— one Yahweh— then why does the writer fuse Yahweh and the angel in some passages, but have the angel refer to God in the third person in others? Why blur the distinction between Yahweh and this angel and yet keep them distinct? 140

In Chapter 18, What’s in a Name?, Heiser gives more examples of the visible and invisible YHWH from the Old Testament. The text continues to blur the distinctions between YHWH and the angel of YHWH but describes them as two personalities in the stories of the burning bush, the pillar of fire and cloud in the exodus, the concept of the "Name" of YHWH, and when the "commander of God's Army" meets with Joshua. The conversation of YHWH with Gideon is especially remarkable because both the invisible and visible YHWHs are in the scene at the same time and then the Angel of the LORD leaves and YHWH continues to talk with Gideon. The point is that, even in the OT, there is more than a hint of the Godhead with One essence but plural personalities. 

When God told Moses that his name was in this angel, he was saying that he was in this angel— his very presence or essence. The I AM of the burning bush would accompany Moses and the Israelites to the promised land and fight for them. Only he could defeat the gods of the nations and the descendants of the Nephilim whom Moses and Joshua would find there. Exodus 23.20-22, 143

There are two Yahweh figures in Old Testament thinking— one invisible, the other visible and human in form. Judaism before the first century, the time of Jesus, knew this teaching. That’s why ancient Jewish theology once embraced two Yahweh figures (the “two powers”). But once this teaching came to involve the risen Jesus of Nazareth, Judaism could no longer tolerate it. Judges 6.11-24, 148

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