By Tyson Thorne

May 7, 2019

Review UnseenRealm large

I've been reading a fascinating work by Dr. Michael S Heiser titled, The Unseen Realm. It is a lengthy work that covers a great many topics along a common theme — describing a possible organization of powers and kingdoms in the spiritual world. Due to its complexity, I won't be providing a detailed book review but I'd like to let others know what to expect should they have an interest in picking up this well researched tome. There is a lot to like about this non-fiction work, even though I don't agree with everything in it, but I have one primary criticism.

Dr. Heiser presents a variety of Bible passages and weaves them into a strongly argued tapestry that reveals a spiritual worldview not many Christians ever consider. He brings out a great many truths that I accept and have taught myself, but is less careful about delineating what we can know from what the Bible doesn't specifically say. In other words, he presents as fact ideas that are obscure in the biblical text. One example is the exciting and little understood beginning of Genesis chapter six:

When humankind began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humankind were beautiful. Thus they took wives for themselves from any they chose. So the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain in humankind indefinitely, since they are mortal. They will remain for 120 more years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days (and also after this) when the sons of God would sleep with the daughters of humankind, who gave birth to their children. They were the mighty heroes of old, the famous men.

While the people of Moses' day probably knew this story and the details, those details have been lost over the centuries. By the time of Israel's first deportation their was a question mark over who the "sons of God" were. The two predominant theories are that these "sons" are either a line of angels holding high authority or men from the line of Seth, Adam and Eve's son that was born after the death of Able. Admittedly, the more ancient tradition is the supernatural explanation, and the natural explanation has problems when trying to tie them to Seth (I prefer theorizing that they could be a group of human men whom had set themselves apart to serving God).

An ancient, non-biblical text called The Book of Enoch was written by Jewish scholars during the inter-testamental time, between 300 and 200 BC is often used to prove the supernatural explanation. In an early section of the book it introduces the reader to a supernatural group of beings called "The Watchers" who are the same group Genesis refers to as "the sons of God". It describes a rebellion of these beings leading to evil spreading across the globe and to God's judgment on the earth via Noah's flood. The story is quite detailed and fills in the gaps left out of Genesis.

This supernatural explanation of Genesis six isn't popular in modern Christianity or Judaism, but it does have some strengths. Clearly the Book of Enoch isn't inspired by God like the Bible is, but it was found among the Qumran Scrolls. Opponents would argue that other ancient Jewish texts were found at Qumran too, like the Book of Monsters, which no one would try to tie to Scripture. While true, the Book of Monsters isn't quoted in the New Testament, whereas the Book of Enoch is (Jude 14). Still, quoting a line from Enoch does not mean the entire book is truthful. I've used quotes from Batman and Star Wars to make a point or two in my articles, it doesn't mean that I support all the teachings found in those movies.

There is one more piece of the puzzle that must be wrestled with for those who would support a more natural explanation. While Peter does not quote from the Book of Enoch, a strange passage in his second epistle could be explained by its teaching (Second Peter 2.4). We know that the worldview expressed in the book was popular in Second Temple Judaism, so it is something that Jesus and the apostles would have been familiar with. While all of these arguments do not prove anything, taken together they do present a plausible explanation. That is as far as I, personally, am willing to teach. Dr. Heisman, on the other hand, accepts these arguments as concrete proof in his work.

I have theological issues with a couple of other teachings in the book as well, but those we'll pick up at another time. For now, I give a qualified recommendation of his book. It is very useful in helping modern Jesus-followers understand the belief system of the ancient world and the Second Temple era in particular, and in developing a better understanding of the possible nature of the spiritual order. While reading, however, compare everything to your understanding of the Bible itself and don't be afraid to disagree with Dr. Heisman.

Learn Biblical Hebrew Online


English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish



How to setup an RSS of Windows Reader Service