Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Divine Council Myth (Part 4 - Conclusion)



If you've not read the parts that precede this article, please see the links above and go back.

Recently, The Bible Project started a series on spiritual beings. The third video in the series spoke of The Divine Council, a hypothesis that has been propagated, most notably, by Dr. Michael Heiser. In fact, Heiser was credited as a Script Consultant at the end of the video. It is my position that this theological perspective is not only incorrect, but also an affront to the splendor and glory of God. 

Due to the popularity of The Bible Project, and the fact that this video has accumulated over 250,000 views in just a couple of weeks, it seems necessary to offer a biblical response. In this four part series, I will present the key texts involved, the four main interpretive views, the challenges to each view, and my conclusion.


Conclusion

The interpretations of Psalm 82 presented in Parts 2 and 3 get less sensible, ranging from the MacArthur/White view to the LDS view. 

In John 10, it is most probable that Jesus was making reference to earthly judges who were called “gods.” He was making an argument from the lesser to the greater, which was a common rabbinic debate strategy. He was not, as some would assert, appealing to divine plurality in the Old Covenant as a means of defending His own divinity.

Jesus is Yahweh, and Dr. Michael Heiser and Latter-day Saints rightly acknowledge that. So, if He was making an appeal to the mere existence of gods of lesser authority than Himself, it would have been unsatisfactory in proving His genuine rule and reign over all creation. However, if He was making an appeal to the divine name given to earthly rulers, it would have exposed the Pharisees' hypocrisy as they were angered over His use of the term.  

As Andreas Kostenberger has put it, “If there is a sense in which even mere human beings can be called ‘gods’ in Scripture, how much more is it appropriate to apply this designation to the one whom God set apart and sent!”[1] Jesus was asserting His deity in John 10, yet in verse 34 He was exposing the flawed logic of the Pharisees by appealing to their own Scriptures (and their own understanding of those Scriptures), rendering their logic flawed.

Regarding the two main issues with the MacArthur/White view of Psalm 82, (1) that Elohim is possibly never used in speaking of humans anywhere else in Scripture and (2) that the punishment given to “die like men” ensures reference to other-humanly beings, there are two simple and satisfactory explanations. 

First, it seems quite reasonable to understand Exodus 21:6 and 22:8-9 in the human ruler context. Deuteronomy32:8 is a more difficult translation to formulate. Nevertheless, due to Moses’s implementation of Elohim in reference to earthly judges, to men who judge for God (see chart in Part 2), the possibility of other inspired authors using the term in that way increases. Asaph, the author of Psalm 82, would have, of course, been very familiar with the Torah and these verses in cross-reference. It seems sensible that he would mimic Moses in his writing.

Second, the sentence for the judges to “die like men,” has a straight-forward meaning. The judges, who held an esteemed position among the people, were to pass on as any commoner. Their punishment was that they would receive no glorious funeral and no celebration of reputation. Psalm 82 states that these Elohim were to die as mere men of no great reputation. 

Hear Keil and Delitzsch: “But if their practice is not an Amen to this name (Elohim), then they shall be divested of the majesty which they have forfeited; they shall be divested of the prerogative of Israel, whose vocation and destiny they have belied. They shall die off like common men not rising in any degree above the mass; they shall fall away like any one of the princes who in the course of history have been cast down by the judgment of God (Hosea 7:7).”[2]

Psalm 82 was a condemnation of Israel’s human judges. Although they ruled the people for God and were given the title of “gods” and “children of God” by Yahweh Himself, they were nonetheless sinful. The sinfulness of these men led to an outright rejection of God’s righteousness that they were to imitate in their reign; therefore, God exposed their sin and sentenced them to a commoner’s death. It is to the designation of these men as Elohim that Jesus appeals when the Pharisees take issue with Him identifying Himself with God. If the judges are considered one with God, how much more is Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, one with Him?

Understanding this Psalm is very important when we are faced with the teachings of Dr. Michael Heiser and The Bible Project. Their worldview of divine plurality is dangerous. Heiser has made his ministry completely about this concept and it's unfortunate to see an influential group like The Bible Project follow suit. Christians do well to study to show themselves approved, as workers who need not be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).



[1] Encountering John, 126
[2] Commentary on the Old Testament, 404

2 comments:

  1. Hi Jeremy,

    I saw you in one of Kwaku El's videos and heard about this blog series. I understand your aversion to Michael Heiser's concept of the divine council, but I do not understand how it differs from John Piper's view in its actual substance. If you take the view that there truly is a divine council (also described in the book of Job) and it is made up of heavenly beings, can you not call those heavenly beings angels (or messengers) and recognize them as being divine or god-like? That does not diminish God's holiness any more than recognizing that he created humans in His image. Psalm 8 recognizes that we are created a little lower than the Elohim and yet we glorify God as his image. Should not created, heavenly beings just as much glorify God? God gave humanity authority to rule on Earth. Could he not similarly create beings and give them authority to rule in the spiritual realm without his Glory being diminished?

    Thank you for all of your thoughtful work on this series. Very informative!

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  2. I enjoyed your essay its very informative I am currently reading Dr. Heiser's book Unseen Realm and a lot of it makes sense when you look at the old testament from that perspective. At the end of the day I think God in his divine wisdom revealed what we need in the bible His Word and the focus of it is Jesus Col 1:23-20

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