A Rarity

Yesterday Daniel McClellan pointed out a couple of posts on Michael Heiser’s blog (here & here) about his recent ETS papers and in one of the posts he references a post that James White wrote last year in response to his interpretation of Psalm 82.  I read White’s blog regularly but I didn’t remember the post in question.  Nevertheless, I believed Heiser when he said:

Frankly, I wouldn’t care at all about what AOM posted about me were it not for the tone. The AOM post has the distinct feel of calling my evangelical commitments into question (again, see the posted link, especially the last half of the post).

Those who are not undying White devotees often recognize that at times he writes with an unpleasant tone, and perhaps it’s just because we’re reading what he says and can’t see his face or hear his voice as he says it (although there’s plenty of Youtube videos that seem to have the same effect) that makes us think this, but we think it nonetheless.  So when Heiser said that I took it for granted that White’s post was all that Heiser said it was up until that point.  But then he said:

The AOM response is a shame, since I have directed a good number of emailers to their site in the past since there is some good material there. I’d like to continue doing that, but my recommendations will end as of this Naked Bible post unless I receive an apology for the way the AOM post impugns me. And as an integrity check, I’d also like that apology to be appended at the end of the original AOM post itself (or just remove it). I will of course post an apology here so readers see it (and amend this post). I have no interest in keeping readers from AOM material, but it just isn’t congruent for me to recommend people who need answers to questions to a site that impugns me.

Two references to being “impugned” had me interested enough to read the post in question.  As I understand Hesier’s usage of “impugn” here, he didn’t intend to say that White simply challenged his views, but rather that he attacked his character, hence the call for an apology (I mean, no one in their right mind would call for an apology for someone simply disagreeing with their views, right?).  So I headed over to White’s blog and read the post in question and I was quite surprised to find that there was no discernible tone to get upset about.  There was, of course, a tone of confidence since White obviously feels his interpretation of Psalm 82 in light of John 10 is correct (and this should come as no surprise since he’s written quite a bit on these passages both in his published books and on his blog), but there was nothing in the post itself to get upset over.  And White certainly did not “impugn” Heiser in the sense of attacking his character, although he did challenge his views as false.

So I write all this to say that it’s a rarity when I agree with White, who has responded here and is equally as perplexed as I am about the charges of impugnment, but I will say, in the interested of full disclosure, that I actually disagree with both men on Psalm 82 and John 10.  I disagree with Heiser and agree with White about Psalm 82 in that I see the אלהים as referring to human beings (i.e., Israel’s unjust rulers) and not divine beings.  But I disagree with White about what Jesus is doing with the passage (i.e., calling his accusers false judges).  I understand Jesus to be pointing out his accusers’ hypocrisy in showing that they take no issue with the psalmist referring to unjust rulers as אלהים but they want to stone him, who does nothing but the will of the Father, for referring to himself as υιος του θεου.  But that’s something better reserved for another post.


10 thoughts on “A Rarity

  1. Weird. “Sons of God” has a long tradition of being read synonymously for “angels” (LXX, commonly and some DSS) and Ps 82 as depicting either people or angels (Church Fathers show both usages). I (and others) have typically taken it to describe God indicting the angels ruling over the various nations, failing in their duties to instruct those nations rightly. Thus their judgment to die as men do. But there are other ways to read it, obviously, and such readings are still considered orthodox. As one of those guys notes, Jn 10.34-35 (and much of the Patristic inheritance) reads Ps 82.6 as addressed to humans. Flexibility in one’s reading is always better when presented with something that is interpreted in various ways by various authorities. Locking oneself into one sole interpretation (“I’m right; they’re wrong”) may seem natural, but multivalence is a trademark of Apostolic and Patristic and even scholarly reading of Scripture. It seems an unnecessary kerfuffle.

  2. So I headed over to White’s blog and read the post in question and I was quite surprised to find that there was no discernible tone to get upset about

    I don’t agree. I can see why Heiser was offended by lines such as these:

    The issue here is a simple one: does Psalm 82 give us sufficient contextual information to determine the audience addressed relating to the judgment of God? I believe it does, and that its answer to the question of who the “gods” are is different than that offered by my LDS opponents, as well as Dr. Heiser. As he well knows, scholars have divided over the issue, and I am surely not alone in my viewpoint. I do believe, however, that there is an important point to be made about lining “scholars” up on one side or the other. This text is cited in John 10:34. Only a (today) relatively small percentage of modern “scholarship” will care about how this text is used in John. That is, outside of believers, how this text was understood centuries after its original writing is irrelevant, since they believe the Bible to be merely a collection of books without any coherent, let alone consistent, message. And amongst liberal Christians who do not hold to a canonical view of inspiration and consistency, it is common to ignore the relationship of one’s interpretation of one text in relationship to another (for an example of how the Psalm can be handled in such a fashion, see Marvin E. Tate’s comments in the Word Biblical Commentary series, volume 20). But for the believing Christian, Jesus’ use of the text must be taken into consideration, and I truly believe that the exegesis offered above fits perfectly with Jesus’ own citation of the text and conclusions drawn therefrom. I do not believe Heiser’s allows for Jesus’ application in John 10.

    The post is clearly suggesting that Heiser is among those “believe the Bible to be merely a collection of books without any coherent, let alone consistent, message,” or as Heiser wrote:

    The AOM post has the distinct feel of calling my evangelical commitments into question.

  3. I can see why Heiser felt like James White was questioning his evangelical commitments. Whether Heiser (and myself) are reading too much into White’s comments is another question (one, I guess, only White can answer).

    Nick, your understanding of Jesus’ usage of the passage is the one I have always found to be the most natural reading of John 10. Though, whether the Psalm was originally referring to a divine pantheon or men is a question that I am unsure of. I can see a valid case for both.

  4. Heiser,

    Is kind’ve cocky, I just read his blog “The Naked Bible;” I agree, White’s contention and points about Heiser are spot on . . . too bad.

  5. Kevin: I’m largely in agreement.

    Theophrastus: I can’t see that as worth getting upset over and I certainly don’t think it even approaches anything meriting an apology. I suppose I have a thick skin about such things though and I can’t tell Heiser how to feel.

    Diglot: I don’t doubt that White was questioning Heiser’s evangelicalism, but so what? White’s coming from a position where historical-critical Biblical scholarship is for the secular scholar, not the believing scholar. Heiser is obviously coming from a different position but that’s precisely why White would question is evangelical credentials.

    Bobby: I suppose there might be a bit of cockiness in there (mostly in the comments about White’s arguments not meriting a response) but I understand his desire for peer review and also for people to engage his arguments according to certain criteria.

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