After his first major book The Unseen Realm went viral and then he gave us ‘Angels’ now we get a full length treatment of demons, Satan, unclean spirits— all things dark and dangerous. I was beginning to feel like I was in a Dan Brown novel (cf. Angels and Demons) there for a while. This study, like his previous ones, is in many ways excellent— it’s well written, very well researched, Mike plays to his strengths which is his detailed knowledge of ANE and Intertestamental literature and the Biblical languages. While the text of the book can be read by any serious Bible student, the footnotes should keep the scholars entertained for some time to come. Mike doesn’t shy away from taking on sacred cows and turning them into hamburger— for instance the notion that the Bible teaches a pre-Edenic Fall of Satan and his minions. Nope says Mike, Rev. 12 is not about that— and he is absolutely right. It’s about the way the Christ event overcame the powers of darkness, establishing God’s kingdom and church on earth. He also thoroughly demolishes the ‘gap theory’ which tries to squeeze some sort of angelic fall into the first few verses of Gen. 1. Furthermore, he critiques convincingly the whole spiritual warfare stuff of Peter Wagner. The Bible does NOT encourage us to engage in WWE style attacks on the powers of darkness, or even to rebuke them. To the contrary Ephes. 6 calls us to stand and withstand the onslaughts of the Dark Lord by countering it with the Gospel, the Great Commission, disassembling false arguments with the truth.
Perhaps one of the most interesting major building planks of his approach is that he sees 3 divine rebellions in the OT— one in the garden in Gen. 3, one just before the flood, and one at the tower of Babel, as read through the lens of Deut. 32. And these do not all refer to the activity of the Devil himself. Indeed, as Mike says, that guy is nowhere called Satan or the Devil in the OT. Ha Satan, which means the adversary, in Job 1-2 is a member of God’s council who is allowed to test human beings, rather like a prosecuting attorney. Satan is never a proper name for anyone in the OT. This doesn’t mean the nefarious one isn’t in the OT, as some have thought. Another important point he makes is that without an understanding of the ANE context of the OT, much will be misunderstood or misinterpreted, just as one must understand the Intertestamental and even Greco-Roman contexts to understand the NT. The writers of the NT knew and drew on ideas from books as divergent as 1 Enoch, or Wisdom of Solomon, or Sirach etc. As I like to say, ‘a text without an original context is just a pretext for whatever you want it to mean’.
There are of course various points along the way in which I would disagree with some of Mike’s conclusions, as you will discover in the dialogue that follows starting in the blog posts tomorrow and running for a good while. Nevertheless, this is an excellent book that asks the right questions and helps us to better understand the Darth Vader of the NT and his legions….. One word of advice— do not read this book after midnight or you may start looking under your bed for things that go bump in the night!!!
In July, after the 4th, I will have an extended dialogue with Mike about his new book. Stay tuned.