Monday, August 13, 2012


ReKnew has been launched! I'm excited to share with you my new website and updated blog posts HERE. You'll find a wealth of material on the new site that wasn't on the old site.



Friday, July 18, 2008

Pastor Boyd rocks the house!

Below is Greg's drum solo from a few weeks ago at the NDY fundraiser on behalf of Providence Ministries. Tonight, NDY will be performing in Jackson, MN at Rhythm of the River, a two-day music festival.

Thanks Greg for using your talents to better the lives of kids in Haiti!!

posted by yours truly~marcia

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Little Whining and a Book Review (Overcoming Evil God's Way)

Yo folks,

Hope you’re all enjoying a grand summer (or, for those in the Southern Hemisphere, a nice winter). I’m having a great time, but I’m also feeling a bit scattered. It's requiring more effort than usual to stay centered and aware of God's presence. Not sure how it happened, but I’ve just had way too many “pots on the burner.” Mind if I whine for a moment?

Here's a snippet of my life (beyond the ordinary chores, relationships, etc.). I have my weekly sermons and other church duties, of course. And, as part of my daily routine, I have about 50 e-mails (on average) that ask for a response (taking roughly an hour a day). Beyond this, I just finished and sent off a manuscript for publication entitled (tentatively) This Sacred Moment: Reflections on Practicing the Presence of God. I’m now editing the page proofs of Revolting Beauty and refining for publication The Cosmic Dance (our funky illustrated book on science and theology). I'm speaking eight times at a week-long conference in Hungary in a couple weeks that I need to prepare for. I have two academic dictionary entries, an academic journal article and three revised chapters for the new edition of Across the Spectrum due by September. Plus I'm supposed to complete two chapters in a forthcoming anthology by this spring.

But these aren't what's occupying most of my time. The project that presently occupies most of my time, thought and passion these days is The Myth of the Blueprint (my eight-year project showing the influence of pagan philosophy on the early church's view of God, free will, providence and evil). I just finished a section on the first two heirs of Plato in the "Old Academy," Seusippus and Xenocrates. This stuff seriously lights my fire!

See, I've got lots of pots on the fire. I don't want or expect anyone to feel sorry for me, because I love every bit of this! (Well, e-mails not so much, but everything else for sure). But that's my problem. I'm interested in and passionate about way too many things! (My ADHD tendencies are getting the better of me, I suppose).

But I’m not quite done whining yet. I also have to read -- a lot. I have to read! It’s a sort of addiction. Last week I finished J. R. Boys-Stones’ Post-Hellenistic Philosophy: A Study of its Development from the Stoics to Origen. (This is a great work detailing the shift from independent reasoning to authority that occurred in Stoicism and Middle Platonism and that strongly influenced early Christianity). Then two days ago I finished John Dillon's The Heirs of Plato: A Study of the Old Academy (347-274). (Dillon is the best authority on ancient Platonism, in my opinion). I’m now reading a book that a publisher sent to me, written by Stephen Russell, entitled Overcoming Evil God’s Way (Faith Builders Resource Group, 2008).

And with this I (finally!) transition from my whining to the point of this post. (Oh yes, I forgot to mention in my whining that I try to post two or three times a week. Nuts, isn't it?).

Overcoming Evil is intended to be a comprehensive overview of the biblical and historical case for “nonresistance” (returning force with force). I’m only a hundred pages into this book (it's about 300 pages long), but so far it’s very good. Already I'd recommend it. Russell's material on the Old Testament is a nice, clear and comprehensive introduction to the issue of peace and violence in the Old Testament, though it doesn't add much to what we’ve already covered the last couple of months. My review will thus be brief.

His main point is that, when you read the Old Testament in the light of Jesus Christ (as we must) it becomes evident that, while all Scripture is inspired, not all Scripture reveals God’s character with equal clarity. It's true God reluctantly participates in the bloody barbarism of the cultures he’s trying to slowly win over, but God's true character is revealed when (for example) he mercifully protects Cain, the murderer, from being murdered and when he puts strong constraints around ancient, unbridled, retaliation practices. So too, in contrast to the barbaric Conquest narratives, we see God’s true heart in Old Testament characters who display Christ-like characteristics. For example, we find Elisha doing warfare God’s way when Elisha leads a supernaturally blinded Syrian army with whom Israel was at war (and that had been dispatched specifically to kill Elisha! See 2 Kg 6:12-14) into the court of the Samaritan King. When all expected Elisha to give the order to slaughter the captives, he instead told the king to throw them a banquet (2 Kg 6:22-23). That’s doing battle God’s way. And in contrast to the use of violence which always -- always! -- leads to more violence, this act of mercy brought an end to the fighting between Syria and Israel (2 Kg 6:23). God's ideal will is for his people to fight like Elisha, not Joshua.

Three other points of emphasis in Russell's material on Old Testament violence are worth mentioning. First, Russell rightly points out that, while Yahweh knew his people would have to be defended against hostile nations (recall Ellul's point that nationalism and violence are two sides of the same coin), God didn’t originally intend to have his people fight. He repeatedly promised his people that if they would trust him, he would do all their fighting for them. Moreover, as we've seen, many passages suggest that God originally intended to fight Israel's enemies with non-lethal means, e.g. driving them out with hornets. So, when God later commands his people to kill (unless Creach is right and this is to be interpreted allegorically), this too must be understood to be a matter of God sadly accommodating his will to meet his untrusting, violence prone people where they're at.

Second, Russell has an excellent section on God as the Lord of history. He notes how God was willing to use the violent tendencies and arrogance of one nation (e.g. Assyria) to punish the sinfulness of another nation (e.g. Israel), only to turn around and allow yet a different arrogant and violence-prone nation (e.g. Babylon) to punish that nation (Assyria). In doing this God was exposing the sinfulness of all nations as well as exposing the futility of using violence as a source of security. (This is similar to what Craigie argued in The Problem of War in the Old Testament). The only true security is trust in God. Yet, in the midst of all these judgments, Russel points out, there was always uttered a word of mercy and hope. Even Assyria and Egypt, Israel's arch-enemies, would eventually become part of God’s people (e.g. Isa. 19:25).

Third, in the course of fleshing out all this, Russell offers some wise and pointed words to America. He notes that empires rise and fall with remarkable speed, even those such as Assyria and Babylon who, at the height of their power, seemed utterly invincible. Babylon’s mighty reign lasted less than a century, as did the empire of modern day communist Russia. We Americans are now the reigning empire, and, as with all previous empires, we trust in our power and wealth to keep us secure. (In fact, as with all previous empires, we interpret our power and wealth as a blessing from God/the gods). We must remember that this has been the arrogant mindset of all empires just prior to their falls from power.

In this light, Russell concludes, “Who imagined the fall of the Soviet Union would come a short seven decades after its founding and rapid rise in power? And who among us knows what God has in store for our nation or any other? But His purpose is good, and if we choose to become part of His plan, even our deaths will be victorious” (72-73).

Wise words. I encourage you to put no trust in the power and wealth of America (or whatever country you happen to live in). The only real security is in Yaweh and living his way, as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Even if it means you die.

Stay centered in his love and peace.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Creach and the Command to "Utterly Destroy"

Hello Bloggers,

Sorry for the delay in posting, but I was waiting until my new site was ready to launch before writing another post. Unfortunately, it seems something new pops up every day to delay the launch, so I finally decided to post regardless of when the new site will be ready. (Do you have any idea how much work it takes to get a new website ready? For cry'n out loud!)

We’ve been discussing (among other things) the problem of Old Testament violence on this blog the last couple months. Without question the most offensive aspect of Old Testament violence concerns God’s command to “destroy them [the Canaanites] totally” and “show them no mercy” (Deut. 7:2). This is the concept of herem (“ban”) which most scholars interpret to mean something like “devote to destruction.” It's close to the concept of offering something up as a sacrifice to Yahweh. But could anything be more contrary to the teachings of Jesus than the idea of sacrificing men, women and children (to say nothing of the animals) to God as a sacred offering?

But what if the concept of herem was not meant to be taken literally? This was the view of the second century theologian Origen (found in his Homilies on Joshua). He argued that anything in the Old Testament that wasn’t consistent with the moral and theological truth revealed in Christ must be interpreted in a non-literal way. He thus interpreted herem as an allegory for spiritual warfare. The Canaanites thus represent everything inside of us or in the world that keeps us from being fully devoted to God. These things, he argued, must be completely destroyed.

Now, the practice of allegorizing Scripture (on the part of Jews and Christians) or other ancient literature (like Homer on the part of pagans) in order to make it more consistent with the beliefs and practices of the exegete was a widespread practice in the ancient world, especially in Alexandria where Origen was located. But, as a general approach to Scripture, it is uniformly rejected by scholars today. Not surprising, until recently I knew of no scholar who took Origen’s attempt to allegorize herem seriously. Then I happened to stumble onto the work of Dr. Jerome Creach, Professor of Old Testament at Pittsburg Theological Seminary. Dr. Creach was kind enough to send me the rough draft of a chapter he’s working on in which he fleshes out his view that herem was not meant to be taken literally. (It will be part of a larger book he’s writing that addresses the issue of faith and violence).

I can summarize the heart of Creach’s argument by making seven points. Taken together, they suggest that herem in Deut. 7:2 was meant as a metaphor for complete devotion to Yahweh, not as a command to literally annihilate people.

1) There are a number of passages in Deuteronomy that reflect a much more humane treatment of foreigners than a literally reading of herem would suggest. For example, Deuteronomy 15 instructs the Israelites to be generous and merciful to foreigners, and 21:10-14 gives instruction to Israelite men requiring them to treat with decency Canaanite women they want to marry. Verses 24:17-18 instruct the Israelites to be kind to foreigners in need, and so on. How are these instructions consistent with the command to completely slaughter all Canaanites?

2) Joshua 11:19 presents the Israelites as trying to make peace with various Canaanite cities, though only the Gibeonites accept their offer. Only when cities rejected peace did war ensue. Other passages treat Israelite warfare as a defensive response to Canaanite aggression as well. Creach argues that this theme is interwoven throughout the Conquest narrative (reflecting concerns by those who redacted the final version of this book). This motif hardly seems consistent with the understanding that the Israelites were to slaughter them carte blanch.

3) The fact that Rahab (Joshua 2) and the Gibeonites are spared -- and even held up as models of faith -- is hard to reconcile with a literal interpretation of herem.

4) Engaging in redaction arguments that are too complex to go into here, Creach argues that Joshua 1-12 presents an idealized account of the Conquest. There is some evidence for this in the text itself. For example, Joshua 11:23 says Joshua “took the entire land” and that there was a rest from war. But 13:1 depicts "large areas of land" that had not yet been taken over when Joshua was an old man. Moreover, the beginning of Judges describes how various tribes worked to secure their territories (Judg. 1:1-3, 6). On top of this, Creach argues that archeology supports the gradual conquest model much more than the idealized model of chapters 1-12 of Joshua. This also suggest that the “conquest” was not as militant and annihilationist as a literal reading of herem (and a straight forward reading of Josh. 1-12) would suggest.

5) Creach argues that Numbers 21:1-3 suggests that herem was originally something Israelites offered to God; it wasn’t something God himself ordered. To acknowledge that their military victories were acts of God the Israelites vowed to not benefit from it, but to offer up everything as a sacrifice to God. Creach then notes how Deut. 7:1-5 differs from this, for here God himself orders herem and it has a moral dimension to it. The concern in Deuteronomy (but not Numbers) is that Israel will be seduced by Canaanite practices.

6) Creach argues that Deuteronomy 7:1-5 is patterned after Ex. 23:20-33. In this latter passage the Lord told the Israelites he himself would “wipe out” the Canaanites (vs. 23). But he clearly doesn’t mean by this that he would completely destroy them, for he says he’ll make them “turn their backs and run” (vs. 27). He also says he’ll use hornets to drive them out little by little (vs. 28) because if he did this all at once the land would become destitute and overrun with wild animals (vs. 29). For the Israelites’ part, they weren’t to make any covenants with the residents of the land or with their gods (vs. 32) and were not to let them live in their land because of the possibility that the Israelites would be seduced by their foreign gods (vs. 33). This clearly is not consistent with the idea that God’s intent from the start was to have the Israelites slaughter the Canaanites completely.

7) Finally, utilizing the work of R. W. L. Moberly (“Toward an Interpretation of the Shema”), Creach notes that Deut. 7:1-5 is part of an explanation and extension of the Shema (“Here O Israel…” Deut. 6:4-9). It stipulates what it looks like for the people of God to be faithful to Yahweh, and it involves not following “the gods of the peoples around you” (Deut 6:14) and remembering that Yahweh delivered Israel out of Egypt and drove out their enemies before them (vs. 19). Chapter 7 then adds the command to "utterly destroy" their enemies (vs. 2) with the stipulations that they are not to intermarry with them (vs. 3) and are to break down all their sacred places and idols (vs. 3). Yet, it's hard to reconcile the stipulation to not follow the gods of the people around you, to remember that the Lord “drove out” the enemies before you and to not intermarry with the indigenous residents with the understanding that the Israelites were to completely annihilate the Canaanites.

Put all this together, and you arrive at Creach’s conclusion that the command to “utterly destroy” the Canaanites had become a metaphor for complete devotion to Yahweh by the time Deuteronomy was written. The practice of herem perhaps began in Israel as a practice that was close to “ethnic cleansing,” which is perhaps what we find reflected in Number 21:1-3. But it evolved over time to become a metaphor for something that was not violent. To this extent, Creach argues, Origen was right. Herem is a metaphor for being completely devoted to Yahweh and that “points aways from violence and bloodshed.”

Think about it.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Word to My Mennonite Friends: "Cherish Your Treasure!"

Hello friends,

I plan on getting back to the problem of violence in the Old Testament soon, but today I want to share a marvelous experience I had last week.

About eight months ago I spoke at a conference at Hesston college (a Mennonite college) on faith and politics (I posted on it here). While at this conference I sensed very strongly God telling me there was some sort of relationship I (and possibly the church I pastor) was to have with the Mennonites. More specifically, at the end of the conference I received a very clear and burning message I knew I was to share with the Mennonites. Whatever else this "relationship" entailed, I knew it included sharing this message. Yet, I had no idea when or how this message was to be shared.

Then about two months ago I received an invitation to speak at a historic gathering of Mennonite leaders in Columbus, Ohio. When the Executive Director of the Mennonite denomination (Jim Schrag) explained to me what he hoped my talk would accomplish I got goose bumps because it was exactly what God had put on my heart at Hesston seven months earlier. I have rarely been part of something that was so obviously providential. I was humbled and delighted to be given this important assignment. My message was -- and is -- basically this.

There is a beautiful and powerful grassroots Kingdom movement arising all over the globe that Mennonites in particular need to notice. Millions of people are abandoning the Christendom paradigm of the traditional Christian faith in order to become more authentic followers of Jesus. From the Emergent Church movement to the Urban Monastic Movement to a thousand other independent groups and movements, people are waking up to the truth that the Kingdom of God looks like Jesus and that the heart of Christianity is simply imitating him. Millions are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus are called to love the unlovable, serve the oppressed, live in solidarity with the poor, proclaim Good News to the lost and be willing to lay down our life for our enemies. Multitudes are waking up to the truth that the distinctive mark of the Kingdom is the complete rejection of all hatred and violence and the complete reliance on love and service of others, including our worst enemies. Masses of people are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus aren't called to try to win the world by acquiring power over others but by exercising power under others -- the power of self-sacrificial love.

What many who are being caught up in this movement lack is a sense of tribal identity and historical rooting, and many are looking for his. A central feature of post-modernity is the longing to "live in a story" that's bigger than oneself. Many, therefore, are looking for a tradition they can align with.

The only tradition that embodies what this rising breed of Kingdom radicals is looking for is the Anabaptist tradition (which the Mennonites are heir to). This is the only tradition that consistently refused political power and violence. This is the only tradition that made humble, self-sacrificial love the centerpiece of what it means to follow Jesus. It's the only tradition that isn't soaked in blood and the only tradition that looks remotely like Jesus. Many (in fact, most) of the early leaders of this movement in the 16th century paid for their non-compliance with the Christendom paradigm by being martyred. This tradition is a treasure to be cherished. And it's a tradition whose time may have come, for this is precisely the vision of the Kingdom that millions today are waking up to.

The irony is that, just as millions like myself are running toward this treasure, many Mennonites are running away from it. In the name of becoming culturally relevant, the distinctive, radical aspects of the Anabaptist tradition are being downplayed by some as they become "mainstream" American Christians. For example, some Mennonite churches now allow national flags on their premises -- even in their sanctuaries! This was always taboo among Mennonites, for they have always (wisely) been keenly aware of the danger of mixing the Kingdom with nationalism. So too, some churches are now letting their Kingdom message get co-opted by politics -- some on "the right" and others on "the left," which in turn is beginning to create tensions in the church. And some churches have even begun to back off the centrality of their stance against violence.

So, my message to the Mennonites, in a nutshell, was (and is) this: Cherish Your Treasure! Not in a prideful way, of course, but simply as a precious gift God has given you and that God wants to give the world through you. Be daringly flexible on all matters that aren't central to the Kingdom (e.g. worship styles, dress, etc.), but be utterly uncompromising on all matters that are central to the Kingdom (viz. everything that pertains to living a Jesus-looking life). My Mennonite sisters and brothers, you have what multitudes in the rising Kingdom movement are longing for. You can provide a home to so many who right now are looking for one. If you hold fast to the faith you've been entrusted with (Jude 3), you may just find your fellowship exploding in the years to come. For, I believe, the Anabaptist vision of the Kingdom is a vision whose time has come.

I am deeply humbled and honored to have been invited to share this word with the leaders of the Mennonite Church last week. My prayer is that God uses it to prepare them to fulfill the vital role God has for them in the Kingdom movement he's inspiring in our day.



p.s. People who are in the know tell me that the new CVM site will be ready to launch in a few days. Wooooohooooo!! It's got about 10 times the content as the present one and is a whole lot easier to navigate.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Shack: A Review

Over the last few months I've had at least a dozen people tell me I needed to read the novel The Shack by William P. Young. "It's your theology in narrative form," one person told me. Now, I rarely read novels, especially Christian novels. And in my experience, Christian novels that try to get theological are the worst. But, giving the pattern of enthusiastic recommendations and given that someone had given me a free copy begging me to read it, I decided to give it a two or three chapter trial on a plane ride the other day.

Warning: Do not read this novel on a plane or any other public place where you're trapped around people -- unless you're totally okay with becoming emotionally undone in front of perfect strangers. There are points where this book rips your heart out. At least it did me. The body building dude sitting next to me on the plane must have thought I was a first rate wimp, weeping over a novel.

Anyway, to my surprise, I loved this book! Without giving much more away than is on the back of the book, The Shack is about a guy (Mack) whose little daughter is abducted and murdered by a serial pedophile killer (Young goes for the jugular on the problem of evil, which I deeply appreciate). Several despairing years later, Mack encounters God in the very shack where his daughter's life was taken. The bulk of the novel covers three days of conversations between Mack, on the one hand, and God "the Father" (who appears as an African American woman), the "Son" (appearing as a 30-something carpenter) and the "Holy Spirit" (an etherial, hilarious, Asian lady).

I felt like the portrait of God in this novel was beautiful and reflective of what we find revealed in the New Testament. And the theological and psychological insights of this book were at times profound and consistently communicated in brilliantly simple ways. A good deal of the dialogue is about the problem of evil, but the novel touches on everything from the Trinity, Incarnation and the nature of free will to the nature of relationships, forgiveness and even the role of our imagination in staying anchored in "the Now." In fact, Young even addresses (at length) the nature of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This was the section that impressed me most. Young fleshes out how our tendency to judge God, others and ourselves lies at the root of our sin and misery. It was amazing. Those who have read my Repenting of Religion will have no trouble understanding why I was so excited about this material.

Now, you might think that a book with all this theology would be pretty boring, but it's not -- at all. It's actually a page turner. Young manages to pack all this heady stuff into a narrative that keeps you spell-bound (at least it did me). In one moment he has your head spinning with theological quandries and in the next he has you crying, sometimes out of sadness and other times because of the beauty and tenderness of what he's sharing.

I know many readers of this blog will be most interested in what I thought of Young's theodicy (his explanation for evil). I again don't want to give too much away because I want everyone to read this book. But I will say that those who told me Young expressed my understanding of God and evil in narrative form were largely right.

I was at one point worried, for Young has God say to Mack, "As difficult as it will be for you to understand, everything that has taken place [including his daughter's abduction] is occurring exactly according to this purpose [God sharing his love, joy and freedom with humans] without violating choice or will " (pp.124-25). Sounds like a meticulous view of sovereignty playing the 'mystery card" of free will and divine determinism all over again. But as the narrative unfolds, it became very clear that whatever God [Young] meant by the above sentence, he didn't intend to say that evil happens because God has a purpose for it. Over and over God stresses that he does not in any sense cause evil. But he does respond to it in ways that always end up furthering his purposes in the world. In fact, the novel contains some probing insights into the nature of love and freedom. Young even has a superb section that explores the irrevocability of free will and the mind-boggling interrelatedness of the "ripple effects" of our choices. Those who are familiar with my Is God to Blame? and/or Satan and the Problem of Evil will have no trouble seeing why I was delighted with this material.

The only substantial disagreement I have with the theology of this novel concerns Young's view of time and the nature of the future. While his book breaks from the classical tradition on many points, on these two issues Young is a traditionalist. At several points God brings up his foreknowledge of all that will (not might) take place and Young seems to (mistakenly) think that this helps God achieve his sovereign purposes without violating free will (as though God were not infinitely intelligent and thus able to anticipates "maybes" with the same effectiveness as "certainties"). But given that the open view of the future is a minority view in Christian circles, it's hardly surprising Young espouses this view. And given the over-all theological, psychological and spiritual insight of this masterful novel, this one piece of theological disagreement is hardly worth registering.

I encourage you all to read this powerful and poignant novel.

But not in a public place.



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Boyd and Heiser Dialogue On The Nephilim Question

In the previous post my friend Michael Heiser offered clarifications to points where he felt I misunderstood and misrepresented his position. In this post I'd like to share a dialogue between Michael and I that arose from the questions I raised in my review of his forthcoming book, The Myth That Is True.

1) My original question: If these giants were as widespread as Heiser’s "seed of ha nachash" hypothesis supposes, why don’t we have archeological evidence of giant skeletons, buildings, tools, weapons, etc.?

Michael's response: Michael replied that “[s]keletons don’t last that long to be recovered” and “[t]he giants of the bible (these giant clans) were not unusually tall BY OUR STANDARDS. I personally don’t believe that the biblical giants were over seven feet tall. According to the Septuagint and Dead Sea Scroll readings for the Goliath story, Goliath was actually 6 feet 6 inches.”

My reply: This is surprising to me. What about the King of Og whose bed was over 13 ft. long and 6 ft wide? And why rely on the Septuagint version of Goliath’s height instead of the Hebrew text which, I’ve read, makes him over 9 feet tall?

Michael's rejoinder: Regarding Og, his sarcophagus is what is measured, not him. Regarding Goliath, everyone who does textual criticism knows that the Masoretic text of Samuel is in bad shape. The Septuagint and the Dead Sea Material are, in the overwhelming number of cases, superior.

2) My Original Question: Many of Heiser’s arguments are circumstantial and sometimes quite speculative….If the seed of ha nachash was as central to the biblical story-line…wouldn’t it be a bit more obvious?

Michael's Response. Michael replied that he doesn’t “say anything that isn’t rooted in the text, and I tell you when I speculate.” He pointed out that his theory is “able to reconcile Gen 3, Isa 14, and Ezek 28” and is “grounded in the text and in comparative data.” Finally, Michael noted that since I misunderstood his nachash thesis (see the previous post), he felt my “question is a bit misguided.”

My reply: Michael’s right that my overly-literally reading of his ha nachash theory lessens the force of the objection I raise here. And it’s true that Michael believes his interpretation of ha nachash as “the shiny one” reconciles Gen. 3, Isa 14 and Ezek. 28. But his interpretation still strikes me as circumstantial, and I don’t see any conflict between these three passages that needs to be reconciled.

Michael's rejoinder: The vast majority of critical OT scholars and likely a majority of evangelical OT scholars do NOT feel Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are referencing the “serpent” of Eden. I disagree, but I am in the minority.

3) My Original Question: Genesis 3:15 suggests an on-going animosity between the seed of the serpent (or shiny one) and the seed of Eve until a descendant of Eve crushes the serpent's (or shiny one's) head. But if the seed of ha nachash is the Nephilim, then the battle seems to have ended pretty much with the invasion of the promised land (with a few lingering giants among the Philistines to be slain later on).

Michael's Reply: Michael replied that he didn’t see the battle as ending in the OT, and the only reason I thought he was suggesting this was because I took his idea that the Nephilim were the seed of ha nachash too literally.

My response: Fair enough.

4) My Original Question: Because there’s so little in Scripture about the rebellious gods begetting Nephilim, Heiser has to rely quite a bit on certain non-canonical writings to flesh out his thesis, especially 1 Enoch.

Michael's Response: Michael responded that “This is just wrong. Genesis 6 is crystal clear, and 1-2 and Jude back it up in very explicit terms.”

My Reply: I grant that Genesis 6 is pretty clear and that 2 Peter 2 and Jude are most likely tapping into the "Watcher" tradition. But I don’t think this gets us much mileage in terms of arguing that the Canaanite Nephilim were begotten by rebellious gods.

Michael's Rejoinder: The Canaanite nephilim weren’t directly begotten by the rebellious sons of God of Genesis 6, so I’d agree with you. The “Canaanite nephilim” (which is a bad term since “nephilim” isn’t used of any of the giant clans) are descended from the nephilim. The question is, “how?” This takes us back to the flood question (Gen 6:4b). I outlined three views there, and opted for the last one—that the Genesis 6 cohabitation happened afterward. In that respect, you’re right—there are no other passages that say this sort of thing happened again. It’s just based on a point of Hebrew syntax in Genesis 6:4.

5) My Original Question: If the Canaanites were as infected with the seed of ha nachash as Heiser suggests, why were some spared and even taken as wives?

Michael's Response: Michael responded that the “infection” was related to “the initial Genesis 6 event – the sons of God and the human women” but that “there is no hint at all that the original (after the fact) threat of Genesis 6 was in view” in the conquest narratives. “The problem [rather] was that the (spiritual) seed of the nachash (evil enemies of Israel) would try to squash Israel.” He also pointed out that in the pre-scientific ancient world, the male “DEPOSITED the child in the woman, who served to incubate it.” In other words, there was no awareness of women contributing genetically to the person being born, so there would be no concern with daughters of Nephilim passing on an infected gene.

My Reply: It’s true there is no “hint” in the conquest narratives that the problem of the Nephilim infection of the human race was “in view.” But that’s precisely my point. If the problem of the Nephilim before the flood was that they were infecting the human race, how could this not be a problem with the Nephilim after the flood – if indeed the Canaanite giants were supernaturally begotten just as the pre-flood giants? And perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t see how appealing to the pre-scientific views of conception and gestation answer the question I raise.

Michael's Rejoinder: The reason that the problem was “messing with the human race” in Genesis 6 is because that’s what Genesis 6 says. The OT never says thereafter with the other giant clans that there was any mingling of the populations (there were Mosaic laws forbidding it, though). I can’t say intermingling was the problem when the text doesn’t say that. The problem is clearly other: these were descendants of ancient enemies who were occupying the land. These particular enemies were viewed as demonic. As such, the story of the genocide of these particular populations are cast as holy war—it was Yahweh vs. the demon-gods and Yahweh’s people vs. the people of those demon-gods. I’m just saying what the text says without trying to insert any other reason.

6) My Original Question: If many (or all) of the Canaanites were not fully human, why do the narratives consistently refer to them simply as humans?

Michael Response: “Because they WERE human. They were just more than human. Remember Jesus? He was fully human but not only human.” He adds, “the nephilim and the giant clans were not deity like Jesus. But they did have unusual parentage.”

My Reply: I concede Michael’s point. But it still seems to me that if the Nephilim of Canaan had “unusual parentage” we might expect more than one verse (Num. 13:33) indicating it.

Michael's Rejoinder: There’s a lot more than one verse in play (and this is my dilemma in writing this book). That one explicit verse needs to be set against the backdrop of the wider Canaanite religions. It was not just an Israelite belief that certain populations in certain areas were “Sheol/Underworld ground zero.” Bashan = “place of the serpent” to the people of Ugarit as well – doesn’t take much imagination.

7) My Original Question: While some of Heiser's exegetical arguments were compelling and insightful (he certainly caused me to notice some things I'd never noticed in the text before!), others struck me as a bit stretched. Most importantly, his reading of Genesis 3 left me unconvinced.

Michael's Response: Michael responded by saying readers of my blog “need to read the chapter” [in his book]. He says, “If you understand the wordplay going on in Genesis 3 (the Hebrew word for “earth” is also used for “Sheol” or the Underworld in the Bible) it is easy to see how God is sentencing the Shining One, who wanted to be above the highest of God’s created order (the “stars of God—the heavenly host – see Isaiah 14:9ff.), to be below every created thing – literally sentenced to rule the Underworld (hell) instead.”

My Reply: I grant that readers need to read the chapter to ascertain its plausibility. But the main problem with his interpretation, I felt, was that Gen. 3:1 refers to the serpent as one of the “wild animals” God made, and 3:15 curses him “above all livestock and all wild animals.” In this light it's hard for me to think the author had anything other than a real snake/serpent in mind. But, as always, I could be wrong.

Mike Rejoinder: This is precisely why most OT scholars do NOT think Ezek 28 and Isa 14 reference the Eden story. Read the text CLOSELY. It never actually says that the nachash IS one of the beasts of the field. ESV has “the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field.” Here’s where English translations betray the reader. The Word “other” isn’t in the Hebrew text! What the text actually says is that the nachash “was more crafty than the beast of the field.” No kidding—he was a divine being! I don’t want contradictions between Genesis 3, Ezekiel 28, and Isaiah 14 where none exist—and translations like the ESV (and your assumptions about Genesis 3:1) create contradictions (unintentionally).

8) My Original Point: Against the church tradition, Heiser argues that Satan first fell when humans fell – in Genesis 3. He is correct in noting that the Bible doesn’t explicitly teach that Satan fell prior to the human fall. But I think we have other sound reasons for thinking he did.

Michael's Response: Michael responded that he didn’t “say anywhere that Satan fell in Genesis 3.”

My reply: My apologies. I inferred this because Michael says in his book that “the fall of what is likely a large group of angels (demons) is never described anywhere in the Bible prior to the Fall of Adam and Eve” and because he emphasizes that Genesis 3 is where the Lord cursed “the shiny one” and cast him down.

Michaels Rejoiner: And it isn’t. We have to speculate that there was, and I (with you) believe that as well.

Thanks to Michael for this interaction. I wish him the best with his book and encourage those interested in this topic to be looking for it.

Okay, that's it for the Nephilim issue, but not for the broader Jesus Versus Jehovah issue. (I'm thinking about writing a book with that title. Catchy, heh?)