Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Reading I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael Heiser #3

Heiser i dare youThis is my last post on the read through of the Old Testament section of  I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. The great strength of this book is that Heiser tries to interpret the Old Testament in its ancient context and does not shy away from difficult to understand passages. Again I would recommend his YouTube videos which explain his take on most of these, and many other, biblical issues. I am 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 theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.

In this section Heiser deals with some textual and author issues in the OT. For example, the LXX and MT versions of Jeremiah are quite different. This did not seem to bother the NT authors at all as they quote from both versions of the OT without concern for this. One example of an author issue is in Proverbs, where Solomon is listed as the author, but many proverbs in the book are credited to other authors. The solution (and I think it is true for most OT books) is these books had an original author of the core of the book, but additions and edits were made over the years before the books were collected into the final form of the OT. He also discusses the meaning of the word for "virgin" in Isaiah 7 and concludes that Matthew correctly translates it in the NT. Finally, he shows that the main qualification for a prophet was that they "stood in the council" of God, that is in God's throne room and were privy to at some of God's decision making process. He concludes with the point that this privilege is given to all Christians in the NT who have access to God's throne room through Jesus and hear His council through the Spirit.

The first book of Proverbs announces, “These are the proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (compare Prov 10:1; 25:1). By its own testimony, though, the book of Proverbs had many authors: “These are the sayings of the wise [literally, wise ones]” (Prov 24:23). This same idea—that the proverbs in the book were written by a number of sages—is reiterated in Proverbs 1:6 and 22:17...So who wrote these proverbs? Solomon—but he had good (or wise) company. 83, 85

When a prophet “stood in the council,” they had a direct encounter with God in His throne room. This motif of “standing in the council” is a repeated pattern in the Bible...Amazingly, the New Testament applies this commissioning to every believer. Every Christian is united to Christ and is commissioned to not only spread the gospel, but also to be Jesus to the world. Every believer is Christ’s ambassador, having met Christ through the gospel. As the prophets before us, we are now God’s mouthpieces. 92–94

The New Testament writers, working through divine inspiration, weren’t concerned about the issue (of multiple versions of the OT text). There isn’t a single instance that indicates concern over which manuscript was being used or quoted. This lack of concern is reflected in the ministry of Paul, who preached in synagogues all over the Mediterranean. Each synagogue had its own biblical text—its own scrolls, sometimes Septuagint and sometimes MT—and Paul used whatever was at his disposal. The same is true in his own letters. He trusted God’s provision that he was reading and preaching the very word of God. So should we. 97

Heiser concludes the Old Testament portion of the book with discussions about the ark of the covenant, authorship of prophetic books, Ezekiel's vision and the Dead Sea scrolls. He believes the ark of the covenant was probably destroyed by the Babylonian army and it will not be rebuilt. There is no need for it in the coming kingdom because God Himself will be there. The books of prophecy were group efforts in which a lead prophets words were written down by his followers and edited over time by later inspired prophets. Ezekiel's vision of God's "chariot-throne" used ancient Near Eastern imagery to remind the Jewish exiles that God was still in charge despite their defeat and exile. His plan was still in action. 

The passage plainly shows that the ark would be absent because of the exile. Jeremiah 3:16 also insists that “it shall not be made again”—wording that strongly suggests the ark would be destroyed in the impending disaster; if the ark weren’t destined for destruction, talk of rebuilding it would make no sense at all. Jeremiah 3:17 reinforces this point—the ark was God’s throne. He sat “between the cherubim” of the lid known as the “mercy seat.” But the passage speaks of a day when Jerusalem itself will be called God’s throne. We read about this in Revelation 21:2–3: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’ ” A recovered ark of the covenant doesn’t fit this picture—it would be a disappointment.
Jeremiah 3.16-17, 100–101

The “sons of the prophets” served God under the leadership of a main prophet, who did most of the public speaking. We have several specific examples of this: Baruch (Jer 36), Gehazi (2 Kgs 5:20), and Elisha (2 Kgs 2:5). Any of the unnamed prophets within the community could have been tasked with gathering the written words of their teacher, the main prophet, and putting them into a scroll or book. Writing down, organizing, and editing the prophet’s words could have taken place entirely after the death of a leading prophet, under the guidance of the Spirit. This process is similar to the way the Gospels were produced. We don’t know for sure how it worked, but we do know that more than one hand was responsible for what we have today. That these people served God in this way, without recognition, is a lesson to us all. 105

Ezekiel’s imagery sends a message to the Jews in exile—and to their Babylonian captors: Both assumptions are flawed. Yahweh has not been defeated, nor has He turned away from His people, Israel. He remains seated in His chariot throne at the center of His domain—the entire cosmos. When we read Ezekiel 1 through ancient eyes, we can feel the same hope today: Even in the midst of difficult circumstances, we can know that an all-powerful God is active and present in our lives. Ezekiel 1, 109

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