Over the past 6 months or so I have been learning so much about the Bible and the cultural contexts of its original authors. Many of the more difficult passages that I have encountered in both the Old and the New testaments have been illuminated, and I can now see coherent explanations, or in some cases, a handful of options that could explain such passages. The Old Testament books of Leviticus and Ezekiel, which I was lucky to just read through in the past, let alone get anything of practical value from, have been brought to life for me in such a way that they have (especially Leviticus) transformed how I understand Israel and the Law, and has helped me to have much better understanding the worldview of the writers of the New Testament. As I go through the Bible, new ideas are “clicking” practically every time I read it, because I now have a better background understanding informing my reading.
I want to take a moment and discuss the work of Dr. Michael Heiser, which has been a huge catalyst for my growth, so that others might be able to experience some of these benefits and rejuvenate their fervor for reading and studying the Word of God. Heiser is an Old Testament scholar who currently works for Faithlife, the organization that produces the Logos Bible software tools and the Faithlife Study Bible (FSB). I first stumbled upon his writing in the FSB, when I was reading some of the notes on Leviticus and the Divine Council (or Host of God). The articles in the FSB feel a bit more academic and go a bit deeper than most study Bibles I have used (as a digital study Bible it is not constrained by physical space), and the combination of that depth with the quality and readability of Heiser’s work caused me to see what other material he had published.
I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that in addition to peer reviewed scholarship, he had a number of books written that help to digest and present not only his own scholarship but also the peer reviewed work of other scholars. Even better, I found that he had a blog and podcast. His podcast, The Naked Bible Podcast is, as he says, “Biblical theology, stripped bare of denominational confessions and theological systems.” He doesn’t deride confessions or theological systems, but he makes it a point to help his listeners and readers see beyond the filters that have built into us over time and to understand biblical theology–theology that originates from the text of the Bible rather than from logic that begins by assuming the validity of a particular theological system.
There are a number of excellent qualities about Heiser’s work, and I wanted to mention a few that stand out to me. One of the most important to me is that even though he presents and defends his own positions, he usually presents the arguments for the other positions held by scholars and theologians, and he lets you know if his view is the minority view and why. In general, he does a great job of making current scholarship, which often feels aloof and incomprehensible, understandable and relevant for not only other scholars but also lay people. Probably my favorite aspects of his work is that Heiser is not afraid to address some of the more difficult or controversial passages in the Bible, whether it is a passage that suffers from poor translation, or a concept that just doesn’t jive with our modern and naturalistic worldviews (whether or not we want to admit it as Christians, most of us probably hold a naturalistic worldview that causes us to explain away or ignore many of the spiritual truths of the Bible that don’t make sense to us anymore, such as a living and active spiritual world populated with more than just God and a small handful of angels).
So, are you someone who wants to increase your depth of understanding of the Bible? Are you ready to go beyond just reading and start doing Bible study? Do you want to understand what is actually going on in some of the strange passages of your Bible that most people are afraid to talk about or lack depth of knowledge to address? Do you want to have a better understanding about what was in the minds of the Israelites written to and about in the Old Testament or those who wrote the Old and New Testament? If any of those apply to you, I would highly encourage you to check out The Naked Bible Podcast or one of Dr. Heiser’s books, such as The Unseen Realm, Supernatural, or one of his 60-Second Scholar books. His work has helped me a lot, and I am excited to share it with others. Comment below if you have interacted with any of his work, or if you decide to look him up.