Since the articles on this blog about Dr. Michael Heiser continue to be so popular, I will assume that there are a mass of people looking into this fellow to see if his material is of any value. Therefore, I will continue to write articles about his ideas so that people will understand that he is your average, run-of-the-mill Bible corrector. People shouldn’t read his material expecting any profit. As I’ve written before, you could learn more Bible from Dr. Ruckman or Dr. Gene Kim in a couple of hours than you would reading the entire body of material from Heiser.
That’s how valuable Bible Believing material is, compared to the typical Alexandrian hogwash that comes from Heiser and his ilk. (Without going into a long definition of the term, I am using “Alexandrian” to mean someone who doesn’t have a Final Authority in writing. This would include Steven Anderson, Pope Francis, Netanyahu, Bolsonaro, the Dalai Lama, Trump, the President of China, David Cloud, and all the Catholics that ran the concentration camps during WWII)
So today, we will be looking at Heiser’s article about Bible versions.
The ultimate issue is Final Authority. As such, we must always remember that Alexandrians like Heiser have no Final Authority in writing anywhere on earth today. He says that he believes the Bible but by his own admission, he has never seen a Bible one time in his life. These facts are easily documented.
We will not forget that the Bible says that, “For the love of money is the root of all evil:” 1 Tim 6:10. As any sinner with no Final Authority, Heiser will refer people to his preferences. He wants people to trust him to give us the correct interpretation. He will then, as a former employee of FaithLife Corporation, use his hard earned trust to point you to buy more material from his employer. He will then be rewarded with a generous monetary compensation. If you don’t believe that it works like that, then you need to grow up. What does the Bible say about it??? If you claim that the situation has changed because he no longer works for FaithLife, then you need to stop being so naive. His monetary gain remains.
With that brief introduction, we will look at Heiser’s article about Bible versions. Here is the link to the article. https://drmsh.com/bible-versions/
As always, my comments are in bold.
I frequently get asked about what Bible translation I recommend. In fact, I get asked so frequently that I thought I’d write this brief page as an answer. Sure, the Holy Spirit shows people that this is an important matter. Surely it isn’t secondary to the “Divine Council” slop that Heiser promulgates.
I also get asked about my opinion of the KJV and the Lamsa Translation. Those are touched on here, too.
Bible Translation Recommendation
The first thing I usually say is that the best Bible translation is the one you’ll read faithfully. Does the Bible say that? Of course not!!! We’re only a couple sentences into this article and he’s already spewing nonsense. What saith the Scripture? Look at: “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” Psalm 138:2. And also: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:” 2Thess 3:1. Do these verses sound like Heiser? Be honest. They don’t. I am far more concerned with that than staking a position on translation philosophy. Is that how God sees it or just Mike Heiser? I’m even willing to make allowance for paraphrases in this regard, though I really dislike them. “Like” and “dislike” are good indicators that this is just the opinion of a fallen man. Where is the “Thus saith the Lord.”? You won’t find that with Heiser. You ought to be reading some version with consistency, though. Exactly, the KJV.
Second, I always point out that there is no one Bible translation that is consistently superior to all others. Thus saith Mikey Heiser. What is the chaff to the wheat? The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream! Let God be true but every man a liar. What saith the Scriptures? (Though paraphrases are consistently unfaithful to the text, but see my caveat above). All translations have problems; they all take liberties; they all have strengths. Based on what authority? He doesn’t tell you. So I’ll tell you. It’s based on Heiser’s opinion and nothing more. If you are interested in comparing and analyzing Bible translations, I recommend the Better Bibles blog.
Third, I recommend that everyone read from more than one translation. Does God say that? It’s a good idea to become acquainted with the basic differences in approaches to translating the Bible. I speak here of “dynamic equivalence” and “formal equivalence” (usually referred to as “literal translation”). I prefer formal equivalence, “He prefers….” That wording ought to tell you everything you need to know, brother. We don’t go by preference. Or, rather, we shouldn’t. but I recommend reading from at least one translation that follows each approach. The above link contains a listing of how the versions stack up (at least for the writer of that article). “For the writer”… Notice how the relativism just seeps out of Heiser’s wording!
Fourth, you should pick a translation that is textually up-to-date. This is a strange departure from the typical Alexandrian cliche of “oldest and best”. Doesn’t matter. All this wording ends with no Final Authority. For example, I want a Bible that adopts readings in its running text from the Dead Sea Scrolls where they are demonstrably superior to the Masoretic Text. “Demonstrably”? That’ll be fun to prove to God that his words were lost for over a thousand years even though he said, “the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Is. 40:8. My test case for this is Deuteronomy 32:8 and Deuteronomy 32:43. The former should read “sons of God” (ESV; cp. “gods” in NRSV), or something like “heavenly beings” (NET Bible) or “heavenly court” (NLT) instead of “sons of Israel.” This is a strange hill to die on. It is far from some kind of “slam dunk”. That is because there are hundreds of scholars who would disagree with Heiser. Which scholars should we trust? This question is the essence of the Bible version debate. A quick perusal of the version shows that the ASV, HCSB, NSAB, and NIV disagree with Heiser on this issue. Why would I trust Heiser? Plenty of better reasons for believing the KJB can be found on my blog. Verse 43 should read “bow down to Him, all you gods” (ESV, NRSV) or something akin to it like NLT’s “let all God’s angels worship him.” Many translators disagree with Heiser on this including the ASV, Amplified Bible, Good News, HCSB, Living Bible, NASB, NET, and NRSV. Notice what he is about to say about the NET Bible… The preface of the particular version will alert you to such textual issues.
It is primarily because of my leanings “my leanings…” What does God want? toward formal equivalence and the desire to see more up-to-date manuscript readings making it into the running text of the translation that I recommend the ESV. It’s great that the ESV matches Heiser’s test cases, but apparently the other slop that comes from the ESV is no big deal to him. Hmmmm. Telling stuff. See Will Kinney’s article here. But, as noted above, it’s best to use more than one. For a study Bible, however, I like the NET Bible (free online). Somehow, he recommends the NET although he knows that it differs in 1 of his 2 “test cases”. Strange stuff, man. It has 2500 notes just on manuscript (text-critical) issues and thousands more on other items — all related to why the translators did what they did. It’s the best thing out there for that sort of information.
What About the KJV?
I’m arguably the only person in the world who has literally been through every syllable of the Masoretic Text, comparing it to the KJV translation. Seriously. I know the KJV and its relationship to the original languages very well. Why did I do this? It was part of my job at Logos Bible Software. I’m the guy who created our KJV reverse interlinear, OT and NT (by hundreds of thousands of hand links — Hebrew / Aramaic segments to KJV, Greek segments to KJV).1 None of this proves that he has any sense. In broad terms, I like the KJV since I’m used to it and I favor formal equivalence. “I like”. “I favor”. It’s all about him. Typical Alexandrian. The archaic language doesn’t bother me much, though it is admittedly impenetrable in places (did you know that “go fetch a compass” means “go around” or “proceed circuitously”?). This is your best example??? Yes I know that. I know people who didn’t graduate from Jr. High, who figured that out. And at the end of the day, it’s easier to figure out than the infernal tangle of Paleo-Hebrew and Ugaritic. Heiser doesn’t want you to make that comparison tho… Don’t feel bad; no one else does either. Demonstrably false. Aside from oddities like that which simply do not communicate beyond the 18th century, Demonstrably false.I think the KJV a good translation for the most part. It deserves its reputation as a quality rendering of the original languages. However, I will never trust it again in Job. Job is filled with weird things, such as words that are still uncertain in meaning (since they occur only once and nowhere else in Hebrew) and that must be “translated” by appeal to related (cognate) languages. Here is where the KJB translator’s erudition will shine through. Heiser’s credentials pale in comparison. Ugaritic has a special role in that process (Ugarit = ancient Syria). One of Heiser’s main theses is that we need to study the language of the people that were the enemies of God in the Old Testament in order to explain what is going on in the Hebrew Old Testament. Let that sink in for a second. Ugarit is an “Amorite” language. See what the Bible has to say about those people and then think about Heiser’s thesis. If you think that Ugaritic will help you “unlock” the Hebrew Bible, then I cannot help you. The answer should be obvious. That alphabetic cuneiform language is the closest linguistic cousin to biblical Hebrew. But not modern Hebrew? Come on. Really? Think, people. There were many words in the Ugaritic tablets (discovered and deciphered in the late 1920s-early 1930s) that are consonantal equivalents to difficult words in the Hebrew OT. The KJV translators had no access to that, nor did they have access to other cognate languages for the same purpose (like Akkadian), or the Dead Sea Scrolls. They also didn’t have access to the Chuckchi language of Kamchatka Peninsula, but it doesn’t much matter. If you actually look into the credentials of the translators, you will find that they were much more studious than Heiser. Look at Miles Smith, John Bois, and the rest who had more than sufficient knowledge of the material. They did the best they could and did it well, but in books like Job, it is easy for someone like me to know they are just simply guessing in places. It’s pretty easy to see that Heiser is just guessing in places. I also saw many places where one translator (the KJV was a committee translation) knew his Hebrew or Aramaic grammar than another guy, and hence did a better job. This little story doesn’t fit the facts. If parts were done poorly, wouldn’t the committee have caught it? Of course, but that fact doesn’t fit Heiser’s narrative. So he ignores it. But I’m digressing. Allow me to digress for a second here too. Where does all of Heiser’s Ugaritic junk lead him? It leads him so far into ridiculousness that he can’t find one of the main characters in the book of Job. This guy can’t find the Devil in the Book of Job. Wow. Let’s go a step further in our digression. Heiser thinks that Behemoth and Leviathan are mythological animals. All this to say that if you go against the KJB and spend you time studying the languages of the enemies of Jehovah, you will end up where you can’t find that Behemoth is the Antichrist. You won’t be able to find that Leviathan is the Devil. I would also guess that Heiser can’t figure out that Job is a type of Jesus Christ, Israel, and a sinner in hell or that the book is the greatest figure in the Bible of how NOT to do counselling. Job is an interesting book, just don’t try reading it using Ugaritic sources. You might miss a thing or two… I like the KJV and the reason I wanted to do the reverse interlinear for Logos was because I felt I owed the project to the translation, since I was weaned on it as a Bible reader.
The above should also inform you that I have little (actually, no)time for the “KJV debate” (aka, “KJV-only”). Apparently you have enough time for it to write about it… I taught bibliology and the history of the Bible in Bible college, so I know all the arguments defending the idea that the KJV is the best translation, or that it’s the inspired English translation, or that other English translations are heretical. etc. They are all lame arguments.2 If Carson’s book and White’s book are your best material, then you don’t WANT to know the truth about the subject. Neither Carson, White, nor Heiser have any Final Authority in writing on earth today. They are, as Doctor Ruckman would say, Dead Duck Onlyists. Not only are they lame, but this is really a NT debate (Westcott-Hort vs. the Byzantine Majority text debate). NONE of the arguments for the “KJV only” view work at all when it comes to the OT and the history of the transmission of the Hebrew text. False, read Doctor Ruckman’s commentary on Proverbs where the corruptions of the Hebrew texts are thoroughly demonstrated. They are DOA (dead on arrival). But KJV-only people usually don’t get into Hebrew. False. But this is also a digression. If you love the KJV, read it. It’s as good or better than anything out there, as all translations have weaknesses (some have more than others). False. Not one error has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt in the King James Bible.
The Lamsa Translation
I periodically am asked about this translation, which is an attempt to produce an English translation on the basis of Aramaic (Syriac) manuscripts of the OT and NT. Note: The manuscripts used for the NT are in Syriac, an eastern dialect of Aramaic that is *not* what Jesus spoke. There is no actual manuscript evidence in existence for an “original” Aramaic NT (even Matthew, which is about the only book that would make sense for). Sorry for the digression.
I’ve not used the Lamsa translation, so I can’t evaluate it. However, it has not received good reviews from translators and Syriac specialists. There’s a review located here. It speaks for itself. I’ve studied the Lamsa version and it is as bad as the JW Bible and the Douay-Rheims Jesuit Bible. Typical Alexandrian crap.
Hope this was informative in some way.
For what a reverse interlinear is and does, click here. I also did the NKJV Old Testament and many sections of the NIV OT, but people who ask this question don’t care about those other translations.
I recommend the following books about the KJV-only debate: The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism; King James Only Controversy, The: Can You Trust Modern Translations?
There you have it folks. By his own admission, there is no Bible that you can 100% trust. The argument has always been King James Onlyism vs. Nothing Onlyism. If you want to learn the Bible, stay away from Dr. Michael Heiser.
I look forward to your comments. Heiser fan-boys are a really interesting bunch.