Dr. Darrell Bock was recently asked about his endorsement of Dr. Michael Heiser’s new book, The Unseen Realm. His response offers insight into how he approaches new ideas in Bible scholarship. (You can read the entire exchange in Dr. Darrell Bock’s Faithlife Group).
Justin Daniel said that conversations with professors, teachers, pastors, and friends left him feeling conflicted about The Unseen Realm. He asked Dr. Bock how much of Dr. Heiser’s new book can be accepted as truth.
Bock says there are some core questions we need to ask when we encounter new ideas in biblical scholarship:
1. How careful is the writer in handling Scripture and addressing interpretive options?
2. Am I nervous simply because this is saying something different than what I have heard?
3. Is that nervousness justified given the biblical evidence the writer presents?
4. On this particular topic, is it possible that I’ve been exchanging part of the worldview Scripture presents for a more material, Western-modernist way of thinking?
5. Is there anything really problematic in the big scale of doctrinal truth that is at risk here?
“What these [five] questions are getting at,” Dr. Bock says, “is if, like a Berean, I am open to examining Scripture in the face of what might be church ‘tradition’ in a less than biblical sense.”
In Acts 17, Paul and Silas tell Jews living in Berea that Jesus was the Christ—the fulfillment of the Scriptures. The Bereans “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). That’s how Dr. Bock suggests we wrestle with ideas or interpretations that are foreign to us.
He went on to say, “One of the reasons I reviewed [The Unseen Realm] positively is because I do think it met that mark especially on questions one and [four] above. At the least it is worth seriously exploring. The existential-emotional element you raised is what question two [and three] probes. It is all too easy to get in a defensive mode in reading Scripture and not be open to learning something fresh from what it teaches.”
We also have to consider who the new ideas are coming from. Is this person considered an expert in their field? How did they arrive at these new conclusions?
Dr. Bock says, “Mike is thoroughly trained in Semitic languages and the background that goes into Old Testament study. His dissertation was also in this area. I am certain he has spent more time in these texts than anyone you asked about it.”
It isn’t good enough to dismiss new scholarship because it does not align with what you are familiar with. Bock says, “If you have questions about it, ask yourself what biblical evidence would you raise against it, or what question worth pondering do I legitimately have . . .”
How do you approach new ideas in Bible scholarship? Tell us in the comments!
* * *
Want to know what everyone’s talking about? Get your copy of The Unseen Realm!