Thursday, May 14, 2020

Heiser's methodology

I'm going to venture some observations about Michael Heiser's methodology in reference to the nephilim. I say "venture" because I'm not deeply read on his position. 

1. In fairness to Heiser, his interpretation of Gen 6 is certainly the mainstream view in OT scholarship. And it's a traditional Jewish interpretation. It might be the dominant Jewish interpretation, although that depends on how representative the Intertestamental literature which survived happens to be. 

2. As I've noted before, while this is the mainstream view in OT scholarship, that's somewhat misleading. Many OT scholars think Gen 6 reflects a mythological outlook. They don't think the Bible is divine revelation. They think it's merely ancient religious literature, on the same level as ancient Near Eastern mythology or Greco-Roman mythology. 

They don't think their interpretation of Gen 6 has to be realistic. But Christians do think our interpretations of Scripture need to be realistic, albeit in the sense of supernatural realism. 

3. I consider the Intertestamental literature on the nephilim to be exegetically worthless. Gen 6:1-4 is very intriguing. Part of what makes it so intriguing is that it's terse and enigmatic. So that fuels pious speculation. An urge to fill in the gaps.

The Enochian literature, and other suchlike, reflects the same mentality as the apocryphal infancy Gospels. And it has the same exegetical value as the apocryphal infancy Gospels. It's just a load of pious nonsense. No reputable scholar would use the apocryphal infancy Gospels to interpret the canonical Gospels. They wouldn't use that later, fanciful material to interpret the canonical Gospels. But the Enochian stuff operates at the same level. Fictional filler. Thriller filler. 

The only way to legitimately justify the angelic interpretation of Gen 6 is either by direct exegesis of Gen 6 or via the NT. If you can do it that way, then you've got a case. But the Enochian stuff isn't suitable background material, any more than the apocryphal infancy Gospels are suitable background material for the canonical Gospels. 

4. Heiser also appeals to linguistic usage in the Intertestamental literature and Dead Sea Scrolls. There he's on firmer ground, as a general principle. NT usage draws from a well of preexisting usage, where words and phrases have established associations and connotations that may carry over into NT usage. But that needs to be isolated from the wholesale usage grand Enochian narratives as a frame of reference. 

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