How to (Mis)Interpret Prophecy

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, David Roberts (1796–1864)

There’s no shortage of advice on how to interpret the Bible. One maxim that I’ve already mentioned advises, “When the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense.” I’ve heard it quoted when it comes to biblical prophecy—encouraging people to interpret literally, at face value. Although that sounds like good advice, some New Testament writers didn’t get the memo. [Read more…]

Marxism and Biblical Theology Aren’t Synonyms

I’m a biblical scholar by training, but what most people don’t realize is that I’m also a political junkie. My undergraduate degree is actually in History and Political Science. Since one of my graduate degrees is in history (albeit ancient history), I was able to teach western civilization at the college level to help support myself through graduate school. I’ve also taught US History at a local community college. But while my interest in political discourse is high, I also have to confess to being an American political atheist—I don’t put my faith in any political party. The answer to the nation’s problems—to those plaguing a beleaguered world—is the kingdom of God, not a kingdom made by human hands, even American ones. [Read more…]

A Posture Toward Evil: The Christian Experience as Seen in Stranger Things

Editor’s note: The following is adapted from Michael Heiser’s new video series, The World Turned Upside Down, which examines gospel truths illustrated in the TV show Stranger Things. At times in the excerpt and video, Mike references chapters in his forthcoming book, also called The World Turned Upside Down. You can pre-order the book now and get the video series with it.  [Read more…]

Everything in the Bible Isn’t about Jesus

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1563

If you’ve been a Christian for very long or were raised in a Christian church, chances are that you’ve heard that the Bible is really all about Jesus. That cliché has some truth to it, but it’s misleading. [Read more…]

Unyielding Literalism: You Reap What You Sow

The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man, Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) and Jen Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625)

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m exposed to more than my fair share of interpretive incoherence because I’m known on the Internet for my paranormal fiction and for blogging on strange things people believe about the Bible and the ancient world. But that earlier [post] was about how historical circumstances produced challenges to biblical veracity and authority. Unfortunately, sometimes Bible believers have no one but themselves to blame for making the content of Scripture seem utterly absurd. [Read more…]

Bad Bible Interpretation Really Can Hurt People

Anyone who teaches the Word of God wants people excited about exploring Scripture. Ultimately, you want to turn listeners into competent students so that they can teach others. Along the way, you have to deal with a lot of mistaken methods and conclusions. But so what? Hey—having folks engaged in studying the Bible is more important than what they actually think they see in it. It’s no concern that what most Christians think is [Read more…]

Let the Bible Be What It Is

As a biblical scholar, I’m often asked for advice on how to interpret the Bible. I could refer people to tools (like Logos Bible Software) and techniques for analyzing the original languages, even for people dependent on English. But neither of those are my go-to answer. My own journey has convinced me there’s one fundamental insight that, if faithfully observed, will help more than anything. It’s the best piece of advice I can give you:
Let the Bible be what it is. [Read more…]

Are We Sincere about Biblical Authority?

In my previous post, I noted that the right context for interpreting the Bible accurately isn’t the history of Christianity in any of its creedal distillations or denominational forms. But I went even further—I said that the biblical context isn’t any modern world context, period. The right context for understanding the Bible is the context that produced the Bible. That seems simple, but experience has taught me that commitment to this patently obvious truth isn’t easy. [Read more…]

What Is the Proper Context for Interpreting the Bible?

The Four Evangelists, Jacob Jordaens, 1626–1630, commons.wikimedia.org

Anyone interested in Bible study, from the new believer to the biblical scholar, has heard (and maybe even said) that if you want to correctly interpret the Bible, you have to interpret it in context. I’m certainly not going to disagree. But I have a question: What does that mean? Put another way, just what context are we talking about? [Read more…]

If Bible Study Doesn’t Feel Like Work, You Aren’t Really Doing It

One of my favorite scholarly quotations about the hard work of seriously engaging the biblical text—what we popularly call Bible study—is that of the renowned Greek lexicographer, Frederick W. Danker (the “D” in BDAG). Danker famously said that “scholars’ tasks are not for sissies.” He was right, and I’m grateful he was willing to say what needed to be said. [Read more…]