Top critical review
An Average Book from Heiser
October 15, 2018
Unlike Heiser's previous books, I can keep this review fairly short - Mostly because I feel that it is only a slight expansion on his previous materials. Don't get me wrong! If this is your first Heiser book, then it is chock full of information that you may never have heard before. It also compiles the information into a nicely organized package and great footnotes. So it is a nice little package on angels even if the publisher wouldn't pay for an index.
Basically, I don't have any strong objections to the material that he included though I felt that he left out some of the more obscure areas of biblical angelology (ariels, spirit mountains, and the like). The latter is fine as they are obscure and, so, go a little far afield.
I do, however, have an objection in how he presents the material. As I have said about his books before (and he proudly proclaims), he is an evangelical, the Bible and Jesus are the absolute truth kind of scholar and this shows in his books. Rather than letting the texts speak for themselves, he insists on providing later theological developments to impose an artificial order on the presentation of the materials. Heiser has no problem in retrojecting Jesus into the Old Testament where his presence is, at best, hinted at and, most likely, not non-existent.
This extends to the theme of this book which is to show that Yahoweh and El are the same god and that the Elohim are subservient beings to Yahoweh Elohim. He provides impressive grammatical arguments and a casual dismissal of other theories. However, by making his arguments, he does a very good job of showing exactly where the weak points in this theology lie. As you read this, whether a believer or someone just interested in biblical mythology, just keep in mind that nearly all of these points can be argued on the side of Judaism beginning as an offshoot of Canaanism with the same exact gods (Yahoweh and Ba'al might, indeed, have been the same warrior king, son of El) which then evolved into monotheism during the Exiles. In other words, the original judaic polytheism was edited and updated into a judaic monotheism by later writers which is why all of these weird "glitches" in biblical monotheism exist. Heiser is just nice enough to show you many examples of the older belief system.
Let me add that, while Heiser has presented his intimate knowledge of Ancient Hebrew as very strong, he has forgotten to mention that the Old Testament texts languages and grammar span the equivalent to Middle to Modern English with a couple of chapters of a French-English Hybrid (Aramaic) thrown in for good measure. That is quite a range of language variation over which to maintain iron-clad grammatical rules (just think of the first time that you tried to read Shakespeare only worse). On top of that, the vowel pointings (on which he places much value), were not added until (I believe) around 800 years after the last book was written. Heiser even admits that the Masoretic Text (the one on which many english translations are based) was probably not the original version of the Old Testament as known in Jerusalem at the turn of the Millenium. He frequently refers to the Dead Sea Scrolls (sadly incomplete) and the Septuagint (which themselves show variations) for clarifications of passages so it is obvious that we don't actually have an accurate copy of the Old Testament. On top of that, a perusal of an honest translation of the Old (and, probably, New) Testament shows that there are many biblical passages for which the translations are guesses at best. Add that all up and the grammatical arguments that Heiser presents, in this book, are powerful but, ultimately, subject to significant margins of error.
Had he been a little more honest in discussing different possible interpretation of many of these odd biblical passages, then I would have had no problem giving this book a 4-star rating. As it is, I had to mark it down due to dishonesty deriving from his myopic theological background.