I decided to purchase this book after watching many of Dr. Michael Heiser’s videos on youtube. As a Noahide, I have an obvious interest in Tanakh. To that extent, this book was right in my wheelhouse. However, Dr. Heiser is a Christian. Thus, it is also out of my comfort zone. Why did I ultimately decide to purchase the book? Because to me, process matters far more than the conclusion. Perhaps the best compliment that I could pay to this book is that unlike many Theologians, Dr. Michael Heiser has a great process.
The Unseen Realm and Rainbow Babies.
Do you know what a rainbow baby is? I didn’t, until this morning. Moreover, I never would have correctly guessed what they are. My first guess, as a Noahide, was that it has something to do with a promise from HaShem. Perhaps they are babies born into Noahide families? Wrong.
Then certainly it has something to do with the LGBTQ community. Perhaps it’s a baby carried by a surrogate mother for a gay couple. Alternatively, it could refer to an artificially inseminated lesbian woman. Maybe, it is a child born to a woman before she transitions to a man? Wrong.
Now to be clear, rainbow babies have nothing to do with Dr. Michael Heiser’s book Unseen Realm. Yet, they have everything to do with the book. A rainbow baby is a baby born to a woman after she suffers a miscarriage, stillbirth, or an infant death. If you, like myself, were unaware of this than you will draw some fantastically wrong conclusions like the ones listed above when you encounter the term.
The Process of Unseen Realm:
Tanakh was written to a people with a culture much different than ours today. Moreover, it was written with the assumption that the reader was aware of the culture. A proper understanding of Tanakh requires an attempt to learn that culture. This means being aware of other literature and ideas of the period and locale specific to the writings. Unseen Realm immerses you in that culture, and points out many of the cultural references and what they meant to the ancient reader. That is the upside of the process.
However, there is a downside to Dr. Heiser’s process in the book. Unfortunately, Dr. Heiser reinterprets Tanakh into the culture of 1st Century Jews. This is, of course, because he is a Christian. Therefore, he believes that this is the correct process. As a Noahide, I of course disagree with him theologically. More importantly, I disagree with him intellectually. The proper understanding of the text is the culture of the time, not the reinterpretation of a later culture.
Dr. Heiser agrees with my assertion when it comes to modern cultural interpretation of the text. We shouldn’t interpret it within our cultural context. However, he disagrees with me when it comes to ancient cultural interpretation. It’s fine for 1st century readers to read the 700 year old writings of Isaiah within their cultural setting. Why? Because Dr. Heiser starts with the presumption that Christianity is correct.
Why I recommend his book anyway.
Despite this problem, I encourage people to read Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael Heiser. No matter your views, you can benefit from his understanding of the culture of the time of the writings. Moreover, if you are trying to learn as opposed to confirm existing beliefs, you will instantly notice when he violates his own principles by adapting Tanakh to New Testament culture.
For my full thoughts on this book and further explanations of Dr. Heiser’s views, see the above video.