Seeing and Believing

The Naked Bible Conference

Last weekend, I attended the first Naked Bible Conference in Dallas, Texas, organized by Trey Stricklin and Dr. Michael S. Heiser of the Naked Bible Podcast. The principles behind the Naked Bible is to expose people to the content of the Bible as conceived by the original writers, not filtered through centuries of denominational traditions or modern culture.

The interest of the Naked Bible Podcast is the biblical text within the culture that produced it, a culture basically alien to ours. I’ve found Dr. Heiser’s instruction illuminating when parsing what scripture not just says, but meant to the original audience. (The biblical writers were writing to a specific audience in their own time and culture).

Scholars have done amazing work to contextualize scriptures, but until recently much of this work was difficult to access for most regular people, unless you went to seminary.

Today, with a healthy budget and lots of free time, you can study a plethora of scholastic work through software like Logos. (I love Logos, but the resources are expensive).

Nonetheless, academic material that uncovers the meaning of scripture is becoming more accessible to us regular people who don’t have ministry budgets supporting us.

The Naked Bible Podcast is one such free resource.

At the Naked Bible Conference, six bible scholars presented scholastic papers on aspects of Second Temple literature and biblical interpretation.

(The New Testament is a Second Temple text and the Bible’s writers assumed their readers shared that cultural awareness). For us moderns, to better understand what the Bible means, it’s useful to understand the culture and texts of the Second Temple Period.

I really enjoyed the conference not least because I was able to meet and spend quality time with Brian Godawa, Mike Heiser and Trey Stricklin, who are also co-hosts on Peeranormal, and many others. I was blessed to pray for some people, and made some connections that startled me and can only be called “divine appointments.”

By the way, I’ve reviewed and recommended Mike and Brian’s work here, here, and here.

In Brian’s fiction, a main character is a seer. He terms this character as “a sensitive.” The funny thing is, as we talked, Brian confessed that he wished he’d have used the word “seer” in his work, whereas I confessed that I began using the word “sensitive” more and more since reading his work! I love how illustrative that conversation is of how we all continue to learn and grow and adapt in our understanding of spiritual things.

Does the Bible describe Reality?

One of the presenters wrote a book called “The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6:1-4 in Early Jewish Literature.” He uncovered what the Second Temple and biblical writers understood about the origin of demons. If you’re unfamiliar with what the ancient writers thought about the origin of demons, especially how it relates to the events of Genesis 6, please review this page.

After all the presenters spoke, there was a panel discussion for questions and answers. Someone asked just how historical the events of Genesis 6 were (when they actually happened), or if the information on the origin of demons was presented by the ancient writers as a cultural motif only.

The scholar hemmed and hawed a bit, and said the answer was contingent on if you really believed demons existed.

I rose my eyebrows at that statement, and leaned over to Brian and said, “I’m not sure he has a supernatural worldview.”

Brian agreed, equally baffled.

I get the scholar’s vague response. On the one hand, a scholar who believes in the supernatural might be unwilling to confess this belief publicly in front of other academics, lest his scientific materialist funders find out and fire him.

On the other hand, maybe he really didn’t believe in the spirit realm.

Some people believe in God and that Jesus came to earth, died, and rose again, but the rest of the biblical text… well, you can’t take it too seriously… can you?

Modern Ideas

That view is an easy trap for us moderns to step into. We can read the Bible and understand it’s a myth (stories about the supernatural that reveal truth) but not to be taken as face value in describing what is real.

The biblical writers, for instance, assumed a lot about the physical world and science that isn’t true, and they assumed their readers believed as they did, and the biblical text reflects these assumptions. For instance, they believed in a flat earth with a dome over it; they believed hair was a sex organ that attracted semen; they believed the seat of emotions were the kidneys (not the brain); they believed entire persons resided in male testicles to be planted in the garden inside a woman during sex; they believed stars were living divine beings who lived on the dome, and so on.

All of these misconceptions about science are assumed to be true in the Bible, and God didn’t see it necessary to fix their ideas about science to reveal God’s plan to bring God’s kingdom to earth.

Some scholars assume if God didn’t correct their science, maybe he didn’t correct their view of the spirit realm either. But the important point for these believing academics is that Jesus was a real human who incarnated God, who lived to reveal God’s Kingdom, who died for sins, and who rose again to become King of the World, and through faith we rise with him, and the Kingdom will advance to the ends of the earth.  The rest of the stuff, well, you can take it or leave it, but it’s fun and useful to study the Bible contextually.

Many a lay person has gone off to seminary a believer, only to have all the denominational assumptions and childlike faith blown away by scholastic work, changing the person into a non believer. Others remain faithful, but they approach scriptures differently than lay people.

When this particular scholar indicated he didn’t accept the reality of spirit beings, I couldn’t help but think that if he was a seer, he’d believe.

Seeing is Believing

I work with many people who see entities in the spirit realm, and the only description that makes complete sense of what these people are seeing in the scope of human history and their personal experiences is the description in the Bible.

When I, who cannot see in the spirit realm, study scholastic work, I sometimes wonder if the biblical writers were over-spiritualizing some of their concepts which we moderns could conceive of differently. That’s my modern scientific culture imposing itself on my thinking – something I discussed in Peace in Your House.

But then I remember that seers see, and I marvel at this text, the Bible, which God has preserved for us all these millennia, and I’m grateful for scholars who can take us into the pre-modern mindset to read and understand the worldview of the biblical writers, because that worldview is accurate and the best way to think about the spirit realm, and then apply it to our modern experiences and life.

I’ve taken these ancient ideas, sometimes called the divine council worldview, and layered them into the Kingdom of God Mindset to help seers and others think correctly – biblicaly – about what the heck it is seers see.

Thanks for reading.

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Comments

  1. Nice article. I was puzzled too, but as you say, in public it might cost a job. I believe that’s what happened to Dr. Heiser. Archie actually asked if this was being live steamed and then answered in somewhat vague terms as I remember. (It went so fast to me, I’ll be starting the live stream tonight). As you say, if you are a seer or know one, there is no doubt there are sprites hanging out. Great article Doug. See you next year, God willing.

    • It did go fast, and I remember now him asking that about if it was livestreamed… great point! I really appreciated all of them. Did you hear him say something like the writers of Genesis 5 and 6 assumed their readers had the events in the Book of the Watchers in mind? Brian and I thought we heard him say that and almost asked him to clarify during the Q&A… that was an eye-opener for sure. I’ll listen to the presentation again and maybe get his book or email him.

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