N.T. Wright’s Galatians– Part Thirty One

N.T. Wright’s Galatians– Part Thirty One August 6, 2021

Q. Michael Heiser, an OT scholar, who studied with M. Fox at U Wisconsin Madison, has written some fascinating books about spiritual beings (not just impersonal forces) in the OT and NT— The Unseen Realm, another on Angels etc. These studies are of relevance to the discussion of the ‘things (or is it beings) who are not by nature gods. I am not sure that Paul is talking about idols or beings with the stoicheia language but in 1 Cor 10 he does refer to the ‘daimons’ connected to idol feasts, and there it does seem he is referring to beings, not mere supra-rational forces. Some have found it a mystery that we hear so much about demons in the Gospels, but not under that term in Paul, or for that matter in other epistolary literature in the NT. Now I don’t doubt that ancient peoples, including early Jews believed in demonic beings. The evidence seems to me to be considerable and convincing. My question for you is, should we post-modern folks be doing the Bultmanian thing and de-mythologizing this sort of

language, or should we follow the lead of Heiser and realize there really are demonic beings and a real personal Devil we need to be wary of even today?

A. I think it’s not an either/or. I don’t think we have very good language for non-human forces of evil – and I don’t think they did in the ancient world either. In the nature of the case such stuff is elusive, tricky, sneaky. Demythologizing has many different sides to it and if it is used to mean ‘we don’t believe in such things now we have the electric light etc’ then we are thinking in a very shallow way. C S Lewis was broadly right – diabolical forces try to get people either to fixate on them and think of nothing else or to deny their existence. But they do most of their work under cover, including using political and social ‘forces’ . . .

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