Friday, May 18, 2012

Mike Heiser and the Angel of the LORD

I received a private message on youtube from a friend who found Mike Heiser's(biblical scholar and author of "Two Powers in Heaven")arguments for Yeshua being the Angel of Yah in the OT(and hence somehow God himself because the Angel is sometimes called "Yahweh") compelling and worthy of consideration.I tried to reason with this friend about Heiser's arguments.Though I haven't read Heiser's book,I did watch a recommended youtube video so that I could gather his views.They were typical of everyone else's who believe Christ was the Angel of Yah and God at the same time in the Old Testament.This is how I first responded:

 An interesting question does arise when I watch(and read) people like Heiser.Does he not know about the Hebrew law of agency?How could he not since he seems to be an expert?Why doesn't he address it or acknowledge it?I suppose he just doesn't think it's possible for someone to bear God's name and be treated like God would be treated and that be ok.But that's exactly what the Hebrew agency principle is.If I were to entertain a binity or trinity from typical arguments for one such as those from Heiser ,I would have to completely ignore this well-established principle.Whereby agents in those times not only bore the name of their senders,but also were treated as if they WERE the sender himself.I don't really see a good reason to fail to acknowledge this Hebrew reality.

 If you're scratching your head wondering what in the world I am talking about,hopefully this will sum up the Hebrew reality at the time(by which we should assess the bible given that it was written with those ancient Hebrew thoughtforms,as opposed to our modern ones):

 As The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion notes: "The main point of the Jewish law of agency is expressed in the dictum,"a person's agent is regarded as the person himself."(Ned 72B;Kidd,41b)Therefore any act committed by a duly appointed agent is regarded as having been committed by the principle." ~R.J.Z. Werblowski and Geoffrey Wigoder

To quote author Greg Deuble(on pp.64-64 in his book "They Never Told me THIS in Church"):

 "A common feature of the Hebrew Bible is the concept (some even call it the "law") of Jewish agency. All Old Testament scholars and commentators recognize that in Jewish custom whenever a superior commissioned an agent to act on his behalf, the agent was regarded as the person himself."

 I won't get into other bible examples(and yes,they are sprinkled throughout) of this principle at work at this time(though I will provide links at the end for further studies).

My friend decided to email Heiser about this Hebrew principle and this was Heiser's response:

 "This "law of agency" is a slippery thing (of convenience in this instance). Prophets had the authority of Yahweh on them, but are not called Yahweh. Same for apostles (they were likewise commissioned in the prophetic tradition). Consistency in these respects and others must be avoided to hold that view. This also does not explain Exod 23:20-23, where God specifically distinguished the angel by saying "me name [presence] is in him" and then later he is simultaneously present with that angel (Judges 6). Since Yahweh is present in Judges 6, there's no need for him to "put authority on" another figure -- his own presence should be good enough if that was the point. Also, how would this explain ideas like bringing sacrifice and offerings to the Name in the temple? That would mean another being besides Yahweh receives *legitimate* Israelite sacrifice. The language of the text just isn't congruent with the "agency" position. And the JW view simply ignores the NT writers' tactic of inserting Jesus into OT passages that have Yahweh as their subject. Also, did you ever try the "a god" translation for theos through ALL of John 1 (not just the first three verses)? Absolutely absurd."


 I won't be addressing Heiser's John ch. 1 and Jehovah's Witness complaints as they are utterly irrelevant to the topic at hand.

 Though Mike brings up a good point about consistency(on the surface anyway),I think you have to consider that not all agents and prophets of God had God's FULL authorized gifted authority.In the NT,for example,Christ ALONE is said to "have ALL things put under his feet"(1 Cor. 15:27)and "all authority in heaven and on earth" given him.(Matt 28:18)What other agent/representative/image of God/Son could say that in the NT?I think the evidence shows that,though Christ took this role in the NT,in the OT Yah also had a designated individual(or individuals,possibly I suppose) through whom he reached out to mankind because he was too holy and glorious to to be seen and heard himself.How and why would Yah send another individual equally holy and glorious?Not only would that be utterly nonsensical,it would also be impossible given the principles Yahweh himself set.Namely,that Yahweh the Most High God IS/WAS too holy and glorious to be seen by fallen mankind without them perishing.Notice the common sense biblical precedent here that has to go completely ignored by those who propose that a supposed "coequal" and "consubstantial" Yahweh WAS actually seen?!Has anyone ever seen God at any time?(1 John 4:12,John 1:18)Can you answer that without seriously nonsensical qualification that ignores God's own biblical principles?

 I can't help but notice,also, that Mike doesn't say that the Hebrew law of agency isn't a genuine biblical principle.Only that it should be consistent.However,there is no inconsistency at all in reality because most of God's agents weren't designated with the FULL AUTHORITY that would be conducive to their bearing of Yah's name.Apostles and prophets are generally said to be given only "measures" of God's spirit and authority,as opposed to FULLNESS thereof...The fact that God's name was in his Angel says to me,from what I hope is intelligible inference,that he DID have a full measure of spirit and authority to speak and act on God's behalf as God.(according of course to the Hebrew agency principle from which I also garner the idea that there doesn't have to be more than one Yahweh when this legitimate principle is simply acknowledged and not arbitrarily shunned to uphold a theological bias)So there's no "inconsistency" and "slipperiness" at all.

 Not only does Mike have to ignore some of the intricacies of the agency principle(whereby most were never given FULL authority with an unlimited measure of spirit and hence didn't have to bear God's name),but he also has to dismiss some of his trinitarian contemporaries' opinions to uphold the stance that he does.(though admittedly I'm unsure how dogmatic he is in his stance)Yes,the best testimonies to the lack of stellar solid "proof" for Christ being the second person of a so-called "triune homoousios" are the trinitarians one is bound to find for every "proof text" denying that it's necessarily "proof" at all.In this case,we find some claiming that the Angel of Yah may not have been a pre-existent Christ.

 The NIV Study Bible (which,if anything,should be quick to assume,like Heiser,that the angel of Yah is Christ because of doctrinal bias) notes:

"Since the angel of the Lord speaks for God in the first person and Hagar is said to name "the Lord who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,'" the angel appears to be both distinguished from the Lord (in that he is called "messenger"—the Hebrew for "angel" means "messenger") and identified with him. Similar distinction and identification can be found in 19:1,21; 31:11,13; Ex. 3:2,4; Judges 2:1-5; 6:11-12,14; 13:3,6,8-11,13,15-17,20-23; Zech. 3:1-6; 12:8. Traditional Christian interpretation has held that this "angel" was a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ as God's messenger-Servant. It may be, however, that, as the Lord's personal messenger who represented him and bore his credentials, the angel could speak on behalf of (and so be identified with) the One who sent him. Whether this "angel" was the second person of the Trinity remains therefore uncertain."

Hmm..looks like this Hebrew agency principle is acknowledged by more than just unitarians!

Similarly, the NET Bible notes:

 "Some identify the angel of the Lord as the preincarnate Christ because in some texts the angel is identified with the Lord himself. However, it is more likely that the angel merely represents the Lord; he can speak for the Lord because he is sent with the Lord's full authority. In some cases the angel is clearly distinct from the Lord (see Judg 6:11-23). It is not certain if the same angel is always in view. Though the proper name following the noun "angel" makes the construction definite, this may simply indicate that a definite angel sent from the Lord is referred to in any given context. It need not be the same angel on every occasion. Note the analogous expression "the servant of the Lord," which refers to various individuals in the OT (see BDB 714 s.v. עֶבֶד)."

So not only does the trinitarian-bias NET Bible note that the Angel may not be Yeshua, it goes so far as to say it "more than likely" isn't.Significant,huh?Not only that,the NET admits that more than one agent could have been this "Angel" on any given occasion.True,it can't even be proven that there was only one sole individual that was the Angel of Yah.Perhaps there were various ones that had his name if they were vested with full authority when they were appearing on his behalf.I tend to think it was probably only one,but that can't be presupposed,only deduced from assumption.

As for making sacrifices to the "name" of the LORD,who's to say "name" of the LORD isn't another way of saying ,well,the "LORD"?Fact is,even if the "Name" is referring to a separate entity(and that would certainly be a leap of serious & unwarranted assumption),it would be worship to Yah ultimately just like worship to the king was ultimately worship to Yahweh in 1 Chronicles 29:20,where it plainly says:

"And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, and the king.."

There may be some for all I know,but I couldn't find a commentary that identifies the "name" of Yahweh being the second person of Yahweh's substance.What an inference!I suppose it's possible that the Hebrews of the time spoke of the "Name" similar to how they spoke of the "Word."Not to describe a separate entity from God,but rather was a way of describing the father's outreach to & presence with man without compromising his transcendence.This is certainly not to say that when he reaches out to men through the agency of others that they can't then be termed God's "word","name"etc.They would then be vehicles/emissaries through whom God reaches out and speaks to the world.

The Angel in question even said,in Judges 13:16: "If thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD",distinguishing himself from the One true Lord.(& isn't there only one?Deut. 6:4)I know trinitarians recognize the distinction in the "persons" of their tripersonal God,but the big difference between "person" and "being" in their philosophy is imagined,made up to accommodate their belief.

There should also be hesitance to presuppose the Angel of Yah wasn't *really* an angel at all.(ontologically speaking)This is yet another questionable assumption made simply to accommodate a speculative dogma.If the trinitarian creed was explicitly stated in scripture,there would have been no need for men to have councils to put it in writing.

Also worthy of note,in contemporaneous- to- the- bible extrabibical Hebrew literature at the time,there are other heavenly figures called "God",proving that Hebrews at the time recognized this principle and did apply it to others besides the Angel of Yah.The dead sea scrolls take texts applied to Yah and apply them to exalted agents,like the heavenly Melchizedek in 11Q13 where Ps. 7:7-8 is used of him.(Yes,the name Yahweh is in the psalms there.)This gives us a good idea of true Jewish thoughtforms,whereby they didn't hesitate to use texts applied to Yahweh and also apply them to his exalted agents.

 According to the Jewish targums,the name of the Angel of the LORD was Michael the archangel.(in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan,Gen. 32:24)These are the folks(the early Jews that is) Heiser claims thought this angel was a second Yahweh.(not sure he'd word it that way because trinitarians are VERY sensitive about saying there's more than one understandably!)But I don't think Yahweh is the archangel Michael nor do I believe unholy fallen mankind can behold his glory without instantly dying.That's why he had to assign someone else,precisely.Keeping in mind that most trinitarian scholars are not keen on claiming the Angel was Christ(if they think so..they hesitate to say it for good reason),I can't take Heiser very seriously myself.

 I think one of the purposes of Hebrews chapter one is to defeat the heresy that Christ was an angel from OT times.iIf he was clearly God himself,it would be absurd for the writer of Hebrews to try and prove his superiority to angels.The bible doesn't say whether or not the Angel of Yah was an angel ontologically,so for trinitarians to say he wasn't just demonstrates a bias and bold assumption.Most agents aren't God's mediator between him and men in the respect this Angel(or angels) and his Messiah were.As those vested FULLY with his spirit and authority,unlike others who only had measures of his spirit and were limited in what power and function they performed.

Another thought that comes to mind,briefly,are the numerous occurrences in the NT where an "angel of the Lord" shows up.Though usually the article "ho"(the) isn't used,it is on at least one occasion.Regardless,it would be impossible to prove any of these instances couldn't be the "Angel" in question from the OT.(Matt. 1:20,24,2:13,19,28:2,Luke 2:9)Only presupposed that it wasn't,which is far from an honest unbiased assessment.

 Just to sum up a few of the main problems with Mike's view:

1.He thinks tons of people have seen God tons of times.

2.He has to ignore the foundational milk and explicitly revealed identities and math of God(where I'm sure he qualifies simple words from the mouths of God and His Son to the point of butchering them)

 3.He has to presuppose the Angel of the LORD was only ever one individual and that he wasn't an angel.

 4.He has to assume that if the agency principle were valid for Yah that every agent could bear his name when he has yet to prove this.(not sure that anyone could ever prove such a thing since agents bearing the principle's name have to be vested with FULL authority)Why can't God designate specific ones(namely,the angel and Christ) with a FULL measure of his spirit and authority like no one else has ever had?

 5.If God's "persons" are coequal and consubstantial,how come only one of them is too holy to be seen without people perishing?Why is one of them able to be fully seen,heard,touched and felt without the consequences God made clear would actually occur if the true God was REALLY seen?

 6.He has to ignore as drivel the musings of his trinitarian contemporaries who aren't confident at all in identifying the Angel of Yah as a pre-existent Christ.Some of whom have gone so far as to say the Angel probably wasn't Christ at all.

 7.If Mike's correct,he would have to admit there's more than One Yahweh if mathematics and common sense mean anything at all.(denial is futile and desperate though rampant on this point)This,of course,would defy the unitarian creed of Israel by which even Christ lived and breathed when he said " "WE worship what we know."(Jn. 4:22)Who did he know as God?A tripersonal essence?Obviously not.God doesn't worship anyone,though his sons worship him.As did Christ profusely.(As if we shouldn't follow Christ's example but should instead imagine a new God,one that isn't "the God and father" of Yeshua.Scary thought,but that's what many do.)

 8.Heiser would have to also presuppose that none of the instances where an Angel(or "the angel") of the Lord shows up in the New Testament could be the one in question from the Old Testament.Convenient,but VERY assumptive,again.

 In conclusion,Moses was one of the greatest servants of Yahweh who ever walked this earth.Yet people like Heiser expect us all to believe that God would allow a bunch of people besides Moses,but definitely NOT Moses, to behold his glory.Even though the bible says no one ever did.Period.Another nonsensical notion to be sure!Lets examine what REALLY happens when the worthiest man alive(at the time) asks to behold the majesty of the One True God(and this is from my other blog about this subject):

 Exodus 33:17 And Jehovah went on to say to Moses: “This thing, too, of which you have spoken, I shall do, because you have found favor in my eyes and I know you by name.” 18 At this he said: “Cause me to see, please, your glory.” 19 But he said: “I myself shall cause all my goodness to pass before your face, and I will declare the name of Jehovah before you; and I will favor the one whom I may favor, and I will show mercy to the one to whom I may show mercy.” 20 And he added: “You are not able to see my face, because no man may see me and yet live.”21 And Jehovah said further: “Here is a place with me, and you must station yourself upon the rock. 22 And it has to occur that while my glory is passing by I must place you in a hole in the rock, and I must put my palm over you as a screen until I have passed by. 23 After that I must take my palm away, and you will indeed see my back. But my face may not be seen.”

Listen to Yahweh!How could you EVER read an account like that and think MANY saw God face to face and proceeded to live?The only explanation that makes sense and keeps the integrity of God's word intact is that this biblical agency principle as evidenced throughout all of scripture is applicable theologically to Yah and his Angel,in whom he invested his authority.Just like the other scriptural examples where agents are identified as and treated as their senders even though they didn't exist in the same "substance." For further study and contemplation,feel free to visit the following helpful links:

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