Title: This Means War


This chapter dealt with New Testament terminology for the powers of darkness.


Bibliography included in the book


Bennie H. Reynolds, “Understanding the Demonologies of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Accomplishments and Directions for the Future,” Religion Compass 7:4 (2013): 103-114


Maxwell Davidson, Angels at Qumran: A Comparative Study of 1 Enoch 1-36; 72-108 and Sectarian Writings from Qumran (JSPSup 11; Continuum, 1992)


Aleksander R. Michalak, Angels as Warriors in Late Second Temple Jewish Literature (WUNT 330; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012)


Eric Sorensen, Possession and Exorcism in the New Testament and Early Christianity (WUNT 157 Reihe 2; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002)


Kevin P. Sullivan, Wrestling with Angels: A Study of the Relationship Between Angels and Humans in Ancient Jewish Literature and the New Testament (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2004)


Graham H. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist: A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Jesus (WUNT 54 Reihe 2; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1993)


Guy Williams, The Spirit World in the Letters of Paul the Apostle: A Critical Examination of the Role of Spiritual Beings in the Authentic Pauline Epistles (FRLANT 231; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009)


R. B. Salters, “Psalm 82:1 and the Septuagint.” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 103, no. 2 (1991): 225-239


Michael S. Heiser, “Monotheism and the Language of Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Tyndale Bulletin 65:1 (2014): 85-100


Dale Basil Martin, “When Did Angels Become Demons?” Journal of Biblical Literature 129:4 (2010): 657-677


J. E. Rexine, “Daimon in Classical Greek Literature,” GOTR 30/3 (1985) 335–61


Archie T. Wright, The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6: 1-4 in Early Jewish Literature. (WUNT 198, Reihe 2; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013)


S. Ribichini, “Gad,” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999)


N. Wyatt, “Qeteb,” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999)


G. H. Twelftree, “Demon, Devil, Satan,” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (ed. Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992)


Donald E. Hartley, “2 Corinthians 4:4: A Case for Yahweh as the ‘God of this Age’,” Paper read at the 57th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Valley Forge, PA, 2005


Donald E. Hartley, “The Congenitally Hard-Hearted: Key to Understanding the Assertion and Use of Isaiah 6:9-10 in the Synoptic Gospels” (Ph.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 2005)


Michael S. Heiser, “Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Cosmology,” Faithlife Study Bible (ed. John D. Barry, Michael S. Heiser, Miles Custis, et al., Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012)


G. F. Hasel, “The Polemic Nature of the Genesis Cosmology,” Evangelical Quarterly 46 (1974) 81–102


John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 165-178


Luis I. J. Stadelmann, Luis, The Hebrew Conception of the World: A Philological and Literary Study (Analecta Biblica 39; Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, 1970)


Frank Thielman, Ephesians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010)


D. G. Reid, “Elements / Elemental Spirits of the World,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993)


E. Schweizer, “Slaves of the Elements and Worshipers of Angels: Gal. 4:3, 9 and Col. 2:8, 18, 20,”Journal of Biblical Literature 107 (1988): 455-68


Clinton E. Arnold, “Returning to the Domain of the Powers: ‘Stoicheia’ as Evil Spirits in Galatians 4:3, 9,” Novum Testamentum 38:1 (Jan. 1996): 55-76


Ronn Johnson, “The Old Testament Background for Paul’s Principalities and Powers,” (PhD Dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 2004)


D. G. Reid, “Principalities and Powers,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993)


David E. Stevens, “Daniel 10 and the Notion of Territorial Spirits,” BibSac 157 (2000): 410-431


Aleksander R. Michalak, Angels as warriors in late Second Temple Jewish literature (WUNT 330, Reihe 2; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012)


Additional Bibliography


Ida Fröhlich, “Theology and Demonology in Qumran Texts,” Henoch 32, no. 1 (2010): 101-129


M. Mach, “Demons,” in The Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, vol. 1 (ed. Lawrence Schiffman and James Vanderkam; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 189–192


Hermann Lichtenberger, “Demonology in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament,” In Text, Thought, and Practice in Qumran and Early Christianity: Proceedings of the Ninth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, Jointly Sponsored by the Hebrew University Center for the Study of Christianity (Studies of the Texts of The Desert of Judah 84; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2009), 267-280


Content Discussion

This chapter focused on the various terms for divine beings in the New Testament. As I noted in the chapter, the New Testament provides no hierarchy for ordering and understanding the various terms. Several scholars have discussed the issue without coming to a clear resolution. Discussion unfortunately relies on speculations made in a handful of Pseudepigrapha and later Christian texts.


By way of some examples, see the following sourced excerpts:


J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (8th ed.; Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament; London; New York: Macmillan and Co., 1886), 150–152 …


A comparison with the parallel passage Ephes. 1:21, ὑπεράνω πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας καὶ δυνάμεως καὶ κυριότητος καὶ παντὸς κ.τ.λ., brings out the following points:


(1) No stress can be laid on the sequence of the names, as though St Paul were enunciating with authority some precise doctrine respecting the grades of the celestial hierarchy. The names themselves are not the same in the two passages. While ἀρχή, ἐξουσία, κυριότης, are common to both, θρόνος is peculiar to the one and δύναμις to the other. Nor again is there any correspondence in the sequence. Neither does δύναμις take the place of θρόνος, nor do the three words common to both appear in the same order, the sequence being ἀρχ. ἐξ. [δύν.] κυρ. in Eph. 1:21, and [θρόν.] κυρ. ἀρχ. ἐξ. here.


(2) An expression in Eph. 1:21 shows the Apostle’s motive in introducing these lists of names: for he there adds καὶ παντὸς ὀνόματος ὀνομαζομένου οὐ μόνον ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι, i.e. ‘of every dignity or title (whether real or imaginary) which is reverenced,’ etc.; for this is the force of παντὸς ὀνόματος ὀνομαζομένου (see the notes on Phil. 2:9, and Eph. l.c.). Hence it appears that in this catalogue St Paul does not profess to describe objective realities, but contents himself with repeating subjective opinions. He brushes away all these speculations without enquiring how much or how little truth there may be in them, because they are altogether beside the question. His language here shows the same spirit of impatience with this elaborate angelology, as in 2:18.


(3) Some commentators have referred the terms used here solely to earthly potentates and dignities. There can be little doubt however that their chief and primary reference is to the orders of the celestial hierarchy, as conceived by these Gnostic Judaizers. This appears from the context; for the words τὰ ἀόρατα immediately precede this list of terms, while in the mention of πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα and in ether expressions the Apostle clearly contemplates the rivalry of spiritual powers with Christ. It is also demanded by the whole design and purport of the letter, which is written to combat the worship paid to angels. The names too, more especially θρόνοι, are especially connected with the speculations of Jewish angelology. But when this is granted, two questions still remain. First; are evil as well as good spirits included, demons as well as angels? And next; though the primary reference is to spiritual powers, is it not possible that the expression was intended to be comprehensive and to include earthly dignities as well? The clause added in the parallel passage, οὐ μόνον ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ κ.τ.λ., encourages us thus to extend the Apostle’s meaning; and we are led in the same direction by the comprehensive words which have preceded here, [τὰ] ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς κ.τ.λ. Nor is there anything in the terms themselves which bars such an extension; for, as will be seen, the combination ἀρχαὶ καὶ ἐξουσίαι is applied not only to good angels but to bad, not only to spiritual powers but to earthly. Compare Ignat. Smyrn. 6 τὰ ἐπουράνια καὶ ἡ δόξα τῶν ἀγγέλων καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες ὁρατοί τε καὶ ἀόρατοι.


Thus guided, we may paraphrase the Apostle’s meaning as follows: ‘You dispute much about the successive grades of angels; you distinguish each grade by its special title; you can tell how each order was generated from the preceding; you assign to each its proper degree of worship. Meanwhile you have ignored or you have degraded Christ. I tell you, it is not so. He is first and foremost, Lord of heaven and earth, far above all thrones or dominations, all princedoms or powers, far above every dignity and every potentate—whether earthly or heavenly—whether angel or demon or man—that evokes your reverence or excites your fear.’ See above, pp. 101 sq.


Jewish and Judæo-Christian speculations respecting the grades of the celestial hierarchy took Various forms. In the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Levi 3), which as coming near to the Apostolic age supplies a valuable illustration (see Galatians p. 307 sq.), these orders are arranged as follows: (1) θρόνοι, ἐξουσίαι, these two in the highest or seventh heaven; (2) οἱ ἄγγελοι οἱ φέροντες τὰς ἀποκρίσεις τοῖς ἀγγέλοις τοῦ προσώπου in the sixth heaven; (3) οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ προσώπου in the fifth heaven; (4) οἱ ἅγιοι in the fourth heaven; (5) αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν παρεμβολῶν in the third heaven; (6) τὰ πνεύματα τῶν ἐπαγωγῶν (i.e. of visitations, retributions) in the second heaven: or perhaps the denizens of the sixth and fifth heavens, (2) and (3), should be transposed. The lowest heaven is not peopled by any spirits. In Origen de Princ. 1.5.3, ib. 1.6.2, 1. pp. 66, 70 (comp. 1.8.1, lb. p. 74), we have five classes, which are given in an ascending scale in this order; (1) angels (sancti angeli, ταξις ἐγγελική; (2) princedoms (principatus, δύναμις ἀρχική, ἀρχαί); (3) powers (potestates, ἐξουσίαι); (4) thrones (throni vel sedes, θρόνοι); (5) dominations (dominations, κυριότητες); though elsewhere, in Ioann. 1. § 34, 4. p. 34, he seems to have a somewhat different classification in view. In Ephrem Syrus Op. Syr. 1. p. 270 (where the translation of Benedetti is altogether faulty and misleading) the ranks are these: (1) θεοί, θρόνοι, κυριότητες; (2) ἀρχάγγελοι, ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι; (3) ἄγγελοι, δυνάμεις, χερουβίμ, σεραφίμ; these three great divisions being represented by the χιλίαρχοι, the ἑκατόνταρχοι and the πεντηκόνταρχοι respectively in Deut. 1:15, on which passage he is commenting. The general agreement between these will be seen at once. This grouping also seems to underlie the conception of Basil of Seleucia Orat. 39 (p. 207), who mentions them in this order; θρόνοι, κυριότητες, ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι, δυνάμεις, χερουβίμ, σεραφίμ. On the other hand the arrangement of the pseudo-Dionysius, who so largely influenced subsequent speculations, is quite different and probably later (Dion. Areop. Op. 1. p. 75, ed. Cord.); (1) θρόνοι, χερουβίμ, σεραφίμ; (2) ἐξουσίαι, κυριότητες, δυνάμεις; (3) ἄγγελοι, ἀρχάγγελοι, ἀρχαί. But the earlier lists for the most part seem to suggest as their common foundation a classification in which θρόνοι, κυριότητες, belonged to the highest order, and ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι to the next below. Thus it would appear that the Apostle takes as an illustration the titles assigned to the two highest grades in a system of the celestial hierarchy which he found current, and which probably was adopted by these Gnostic Judaizers. See also the note on 2:18.


θρόνοι] In all systems alike these ‘thrones’ belong to the highest grade of angelic beings, whose place is in the immediate presence of God. The meaning of the name however is doubtful: (1) It may signify the occupants of thrones which surround the throne of God; as in the imagery of Rev. 4:4 κύκλοθεν τοῦ θρόνου θρόνοι εἴκοσι τέσσαρες (comp. 11:16, 20:4). The imagery is there taken from the court of an earthly king: see Jer. 52:32. This is the interpretation given by Origen de Princ. 1.5.3 (p. 66), 1.6.2 (p. 70) ‘judicandi vel regendi … habentes officium.’ Or (2) They were so called, as supporting or forming the throne of God; just as the chariot-seat of the Almighty is represented as resting on the cherubim in Ezek. 1:26, 9:3, 10:1 sq., 11:22, Ps. 18:10, 1 Chron. 28:18. So apparently Clem. Alex. Proph. Ecl. 57 (p. 1003) θρόνοι ἂν εἶεν … διὰ τὸ ἀναπαύεσθαι ἐν αὐτοῖς τὸν Θεόν. From this same imagery of the prophet the later mysticism of the Kabbala derived its name ‘wheels,’ which it gave to one of its ten orders of Sephiroth. Adopting this interpretation, several fathers identify the ‘thrones’ with the cherubim: e.g. Greg. Nyss. c. Eunom. 1 (2. p. 349 sq.), Chrysost. de Incompr. Nat. 3.5 (1. p. 467), Theodoret (ad loc.), August. in Psalm. 98. § 3 (4. p. 1061). This explanation was adopted also by the pseudo-Dionysius de Cœl. Hier. 7 (1. p. 80), without however identifying them with the cherubim; and through his writings it came to be generally adopted. The former interpretation however is more probable; for (1) The highly symbolical character of the latter accords better with a later stage of mystic speculation, like the Kabbala; and (2) It seems best to treat θρόνοι, as belonging to the same category with κυριότητες, ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι, which are concrete words borrowed from different grades of human rank and power. As implying regal dignity, θρόνοι naturally stands at the head of the list.


κυριότητες] ‘dominations,’ as Ephes. 1:21. These appear to have been regarded as belonging to the first grade, and standing next in dignity to the θρόνοι. This indeed would be suggested by their name.


ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι] as Ephes. 1:21. These two words occur very frequently together. In some places they refer to human dignities, as Luke 12:11, Tit. 3:1 (comp. Luke 20:20); in others to a spiritual hierarchy. And here again there are two different uses: sometimes they designate good angels, e.g. below 2:10, Ephes. 3:10; sometimes evil spirits, e.g. 2:15, Ephes. 6:12: while in one passage at least (1 Cor. 15:24) both may be included. In Rom. 8:38 we have ἀρχαὶ without ἐξουσίαι (except as a v. 1.), and in 1 Pet. 3:22 ἐξουσίαι without ἀρχαί, in connexion with the angelic orders.


Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon a Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 50–51 …


All things have been created in him, that is, through him. The fullness of what “all things” (τὰ πάντα) means is depicted more exactly by the addition: everything that is in the heavens and on earth. There are no exceptions here, all things visible and invisible are included. Even the cosmic powers and principalities were created in him. “Thrones” (θρόνοι) and “dominions” (κυριότητες) (cf. 1 Cor 8:5) were occasionally specified in Judaism among the heavenly hosts of angels; “principalities” (ἀρχαί) and “powers” (ἐξουσίαι) are often named as being supermundane beings and powers. In such enumerations it does not matter whether the list is complete or whether the angelic powers are arranged in the order of their particular classes. The emphasis is rather that all things that exist in the cosmos were created in Christ. Thus he is Lord of the powers and principalities (cf. 2:10, 15; Eph 1:21; 1 Pt 3:22).


Peter T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon (vol. 44; Word Biblical Commentary; Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 46–47 …


εἴτε θρόνοι εἴτε κυριότητες εἵτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι. Probably with special reference to the Colossian heresy Paul now emphasizes that even the cosmic powers and principalities, which apparently received some prominence in that heresy, were created in Christ. Good or bad, all are subject to him as Creator. No doubt it is the hostile rather than the friendly powers Paul has particularly in view (although H. Schlier, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament [Questiones Disputatae 3; Freiburg: Herder, 1961] 14, 15, is of the opinion they are all wicked, hostile to God and Christ), as he endeavors to show the Colossians their proper place in relation to Christ (Bruce, 198). And the argument he develops in chapter 2 is that they were vanquished through that same Lord. None needs to be placated. They derive their existence from him, and they owe their obedience to him through whom they have been conquered (2:10, 15).


Here four classes of angelic powers are listed: “thrones” (θρόνοι) and “dominions” (κυριότητες, cf. 1 Cor 8:5), which were occasionally mentioned in Judaism among heavenly hosts of angels (2 Enoch 20:1; Test Levi 3:8), as well as “principalities” (ἀρχαί) and “powers” (ἐξουσίαι)—often named as supermundane beings and powers (for details see Lohse, 51). They probably represent the highest orders of the angelic realm. Whether the list is complete (here δυνάμεις, found in Rom 8:38; cf. 1 Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21, is missing) or the powers are arranged in a particular order is beside the point (Schlier, Principalities, 13, 14). From the highest to the lowest, all alike are subject to Christ. They were created in him, through him and for him.


Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (vol. 32; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 219–220 …


There is a general consensus among scholars that the terms used here refer to spiritual beings. Some, such as Theodoret and several of the Fathers, seemed to understand them as good spirits. They have been given the task of supervision. The “thrones” are the cherubim; the “authorities” “rulers,” and “powers” are the guardian angels of the nations. Little evidence exists to determine whether these are good or bad. They are simply higher classes of angelic beings. In light of 2:8–3:4, however, they probably refer to fallen beings who oppress the Christian. In Ephesians, the terms definitely refer to enemies of the gospel (Eph 6:10ff.). They may have been the focus of the Colossian teachers since evidently they taught the necessity of intermediaries between God and man. These terms may refer to separate classes of beings rather than designating one type. F. F. Bruce points out that “the highest angel-princes, like the rest of creation are subject to Christ as the one in whom, through whom and for whom they were created.”88 Although little biblical evidence exists on which to base the conclusions about spirit hierarchies, Moule was certainly correct in stating, “The cumulative effect of this catalog of powers is to emphasize the immeasurable superiority of Christ over whatever rival might, by the false teachers, be suggested.”


This chapter also discussed the stoicheia (“elemental spirits”). In a footnote commenting on Galatians 4 I made the comment that Paul’s denial that the stoicheia are gods (they are “not by nature gods”) must not be taken to mean Paul denied the existence of other gods. Here’s what I wrote:


Gal 4:8 transitions to pagans, since the Jews would have known about the true God. The reference to “times and seasons and years” (4:10) would therefore point to astrological beliefs, not the Jewish calendar. Paul is therefore denying the idea that the celestial objects (sun, moon, stars) are deities. His Gentile readers should not be enslaved by the idea that these objects controlled their destiny. As a related issue, Paul’s wording here cannot therefore be taken as a denial of the existence of other gods (the ones put over the nations – which are not called stoicheia). Paul does not deny their existence in 1 Cor 8:4–6, which must be interpreted against the context of 1 Cor 10:20–21, as it relates to the same subject matter. Paul is just denying that celestial bodies are gods that control one’s fate. This approach is also useful with respect to Col 2:8, 20, where the contexts seem to be pagan angel worship (i.e., worship of divine beings thought to have power over basic elements of the material world) and pagan asceticism.


In case the point was not clear, in Gal. 4:8-9, when Paul denies that the stoicheia are gods he is denying that celestial objects are gods. But the stoicheia are not the sons of God / gods put over the nations. Those lesser gods are affirmed to exist by Paul in 1 Cor. 10:20-21 (he calls them demons, following the language of Deut 32:17). Hence the denial of one idea doesn’t constitute the denial of another.


The Bible uses the language of celestial objects for divine beings — because the heavens were not a human domain. It is therefore not “doing science” in this regard (i.e., making a scientific assertion).


I recently received this question (it came before The Unseen Realm was available, but it’s pertinent to the content of this chapter).



I have been watching Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s mobile ed OT291 on how the Old Testament reveals the Christian Godhead.  I truly enjoy his teaching.  However in one segment he makes a statement that I would like to ask him for some clarification.

“Well, let’s take a look at that. We have some problems with it right away if we give it some thought. This same language is used of the heavenly beings of Yahweh or the angels, like Lord of Hosts. So we can’t assume, obviously, that the host of heaven in phrases like that are not real, because there is a populated spiritual world, and all branches of Judaism and Christianity are going to believe that point.” (Logos Mobile Ed OT291, Segment 18)


My question is related to Acts when Paul is before the council it states; “6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.” (Acts 23:6-8, ESV)


When I read Act 23:8 it says the Sadducees do not believe in the spirit world, so I would like to ask Dr Heiser for clarification on his statement that “all branches of Judaism and Christianity are going to believe that point”.  It would seem to me that the Sadducees do not believe in a spirit world.  Am I misreading Acts?


My answer:

There is actually controversy and ambiguity about the meaning of Acts 23:8. Sadduccees could of course read the OT, which has lots of angels. The issue is whether to have a Jewish sect (Sadduccees) denying parts of their OT, or whether the phrase means something different (note that angel is singular in the verse). I think the latter.


To illustrate the level of disagreement, and to point out what I think is the answer (in boldface), here’s what Bock says (with my inserted comment):


No extrabiblical text speaks of such a complete denial of angels and spirits by the Sadducees. In fact, the Pentateuch, which the Sadducees held as authoritative, affirms the existence of such beings. Parker (2003) notes and evaluates four views on this expression of doctrinal denial by the Sadducees, noting that almost everyone recognizes that Luke’s description of the Sadducees in verse 8 must be qualified or is not intended to be universal in scope (see also Meier 2001: 406–8). There are a total of six possible explanations for Luke’s claim:


1. The Sadducees rejected angels and spirits altogether (Str-B 2:767). This view sometimes includes appeals to b. Sanh. 38b, where Rabbi Idith contends that in Exod. 24:1 the prayer is to God, not an angel Metatron. This angel was sometimes seen in Judaism as the angel of the Lord. But this tractate passage only presents one Sadducee’s view about not praying to an angel, not a denial of their existence. So it does not offer unqualified support for Luke’s statement.


2. They rejected excessive speculation about angels and spirits (Manson 1938; Bruce 1990: 466).


3. They rejected that the righteous dead came back in the form of spirits between death and resurrection. This view argues that “angel” and “spirit” mean the same thing in verses 8 and 9 (Daube 1990; Gaventa 2003: 315). It is unlikely, however, that these two terms should be taken as synonymous. Parker (2003: 351) notes how Luke’s use of “neither … nor” (μήτε, mēte [2x]) in verse 8 rules this out.


4. They denied that resurrection included coming back in the form of an angel or spirit (so Lachs 1977; Viviano and Taylor 1992). Parker (2003: 353–59), however, argues that the Pharisees likewise would not have been open to a resurrection within history before the end, which is what Paul’s argument along the lines of view 4 would also require.


Heiser: This idea, contra Parker, does not have to be married to an “end” before the end. The statement by Bock must as well include a verse typo. I see nothing in verse 4 in what Paul says (“I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people’ ”) that would be problematic with this interpretation (or that has anything to do with angels). “Angelification” was a common Second Temple idea (held by some Jewish sects, esp. at Qumran). Depending on how one defines it, it’s also a NT idea. If one defines glorification as becoming part of God’s unseen family (sons of God = angels idea), then this works with NT theology (see Chapter =s 35036 of The Unseen Realm). I think this notion (#4 in Bock’s list) is what the Sadducees were denying.


5. They rejected the idea that an angel or spirit can speak through a human being as an agent of revelation (Bamberger 1963). This view, however, does not seem relevant to Acts 23, as the issue is not about an angel speaking through a human being but a “raised from the dead” human speaking.


6. Many think that what Luke describes here is a belief in a full hierarchy of angels and their role in eschatology (Polhill 1992: 470). A variation of this is the idea that the Sadducees’ rejection of Fate included a rejection of the belief that angels are “agents of Fate” (Le Cornu and Shulam 2003: 1250). The Greek has a reference to the Pharisees confessing “both” (τὰ ἀμφότερα, ta amphotera), although three things are discussed (resurrection, angels, and spirits). Either this is an expression that collapses angels and spirits into one theme (Fitzmyer 1998: 719), or Luke is using the term loosely to refer to three things (Polhill 1992: 470), which sometimes happens (Acts 19:16; Johnson 1992: 398).


Question: Does Mike Heiser believe the earth is flat?


I couldn’t really figure out where to put this one, as it concerns my writing on ancient Israelite cosmology. I mention cosmology in this chapter in a footnote (and nowhere else in the book, really), so I decided to put it here and in Chapter 2.


In a nutshell, Christianity actually has folks in it who believe the earth is truly round and flat. Honest — I’m not making this up. Some of their leaders use my work (see below) as proof of this view.  While I’m flattered to have such influence (!), I’m appalled that people who follow Christ are this dumb (or easily led astray). The stupidity of this idea is transparent in today’s world. Space flight (really, flight between hemispheres), satellite communications, etc. show the idea to be utter nonsense. Yet some people think they need to believe it to have a “true” Bible. It’s uber-literalism at its worst. So no, I reject the notion that the earth is round and flat. Anyone who uses my work to prop up this idea without providing a disclaimer that I reject the idea is deliberately dishonest. But that is indeed what the biblical writers describe, because they lived at a time before scientific discovery proved otherwise. It’s that simple.


The writers God used to produce the Bible were not inspired to write about things of the natural world that were beyond their own worldview and knowledge base. And to argue God gave them advanced scientific knowledge means that what they wrote could never have communicated to their original audience (or any audience prior to recent centuries. That’s absurd and undermines the communicative purpose of the Bible. What we read in Genesis (and elsewhere) reflects a common ancient Near Eastern perspective about cosmology with one crucial difference: the credit for creation is given exclusively to the God of Israel against all other gods. THAT is its truth claim with respect to creation. That God chose people of a certain time, a certain place, with a certain (limited) knowledge base was up to him. We dishonor His choices when we impose our questions and our context on the biblical writers. Precisely the same limitations would be in place if God chose a scientist today to write Genesis. 1000 years from now people would chuckle at how primitive he/she was (“Can you believe this is what they thought?”). This is why the Bible *transcends* science discourse — science always changes with new discovery and knowledge. Who the creator was never changes.


For a short essay I wrote on this for the lay person, see this link:


Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Cosmology


Or you can watch my lecture on this topic:

Other resources that discuss this material in Genesis includes:


John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Baker Academic, 2006


Luist Stadelmann, The Hebrew Conception of the World: A Philological and Literary Study (Analecta Biblica, No 39; Pontifical Institute Press, 1970)